The Space Burial Bill

When the Space Burial Bill was passed, cryogenic suspension became a passing fad. The wealthy filled and invigorated Wallops Island and its outlying municipalities. Paying respect to the dead became a celebration where mourners screamed shrilly in space themed amusement parks and gorged themselves during private bacchanals inside world class hotels. The mourning period, if it could be called that anymore, culminated with the remains being blasted into space.

The options were almost endless. Body parts could be distributed into different tracts of sky for exorbitant prices.  Ashes were blasted into the stratosphere to be caught up and scattered by the jetstream. Or a combination thereof could be employed. One poet philosopher had his skull sent in a collision course with Halley’s Comet. A professional basketball player, who has yet to die, has willed his hands be sent towards the sun. The fact it had governmental funding made it weirder.

But there wasn’t a lack of competition. Houston, the original coffin slinger, was bought out by corporate conglomerates who revamped its infrastructure. It soon became a hotbed of neon sizzle decadence which earned it the nickname “The Vegas away from Vegas.” Corpses were ejected from the earthly body in a ten kilometer long rail gun. The rags to riches story of rock star Axon Storm, the macguffin of which was enough wealth to be launched alive into space, culminated in a live video feed that broke the world record of most viewers of a live televised event.

Eventually it became affordable, even feasible, for the middle class. The satellites of Earth orbit mingled with coffins, urns, ashes, and in some macabre cases, whole body parts. There were three competitors in the industry. Chain locations sprang across the world. Houston became seedy like Reno, and Wallops Island absorbed the ambience of Coney Island during its last days.

The first visitors to the solar system paused at the Kuiper Belt. They were a race of near immortals for whom death was the apogee of life; a combination of half-forgotten nanotechnology and natural biology made them impervious to the various forms of death. During the youth of their species they experimented relentlessly and recklessly with their life and were rewarded with near eternity. They danced within stars, their bodies repairing themselves from the abundance of hydrogen. It wasn’t a painless enterprise. They tried long epochs in vacuum, immersion in exotic compounds, centuries of starvation, and just about anything they could imagine. It took them a long time to come to terms with their mode of existence and they began to cultivate their lives as the Japanese did their bonsai. They trained to master skill sets. They hoarded experiences in all its minutiae, so they could be freed from the sheer baggage of accumulated existence when death did come.

Imagine their astonishment upon observing a culture flaunting death as freely as did the homo sapiens. The visitors came bearing gifts of faster than light travel, portal ships, quantum particle printers, and near-immortality, all the things that mankind would need to arrest starvation and death and gradually transcend the solar system. The otherworlders were repulsed and quietly left.

The residents of that little blue planet were none the less wiser, and went on with their old ways of living, loving, hurting, and forgetting.

Inspired by:


doodlebug barbie

A gathering of desperation in the hottest place under the sun. They had come from all the points of the compass, stumbling in the white heat that divided ground from sky, reeking of ash and charred meat.

In small groups they stumbled towards the cruel illusion of the clapboard structures. A facade left behind by a long dissolved movie project, it depicted an old west township down to the very last detail. The saloon with batwings and busted windows, the general store whose sign hung and swung in the cauldron wind, the brothel with its sun-bleached satin drapes.  It allowed very little shelter during the hottest point of the day and the chill of night. A water pump which curled above a battered trough was beaten to the sand in a moment of frustrated rage when it was found to be non-functional.

They sat in the shadows, disparate in age and race and sex, united in their thirst. The men would venture as far as they dared in search of water as the women comforted the children. Soon they became lethargic, slumped against the rough wood walls on the salt-water stains of their dried up sweat, dead eyes glittering from the shadows.

They saw her coming from the west, her hair a halo of white swirling in the constant wind.  It was a toddler in diapers, ambling with the grace of someone learning to walk. Her eyes were the same searing cerulean of the sky that they might have as well been holes in her skull. A red-haired Barbie doll dangled from her hand. A pink bow fluttered in her hair.

There was a wrongness about her. Her fair skin did not burn in the sun, and her lips were not cracked. Delirious laughter seemed poised on her lips. They were frightened and cried out as she came closer. Precious moisture trickled away in the tears of the children.

“A child of the corn!”
“An Amity bitch!”
“God help us!”

She smiled indulgently without showing her teeth, cocking her head slightly. She gripped the doll by its sun-softened legs. It drooped towards the sand and sand and sand. She stepped forward, questing. The Barbie’s hair was a swirling flame as it dipped, lifted, dipped, lifted. As if it were sniffing the scorched air.

“What’s she doing?”
“Demon child!”

The threads of the doll’s hair were growing taut one by one, extending to a point several yards ahead. The girl was yanked forward and she flew on her toes until the Barbie stopped, taut and trembling, in front of the whorehouse. The thirsty gasped, their cracked hands clawing in an involuntary warding off gesture. The girl let her hands drop to her side then she was again just a lost child holding a doll.

“Dig here,” she lisped, pointing to the ground. She smiled with feeling at them. They waited for her to disappear into the horizon before leaping to the indicated spot and tearing at the ground.

It was cool and sweet but poisoned; several weeks later a traveler wearing a calfskin hat and serape passed, warily regarding the mummified corpses arranged in a halo around a pool of sparkling water. He was thirsty but he knew a deal with the devil when he saw it.

the death merchant

He is a wandering ascetic whose religion is death. He traded in lead for souls for salvation in the final reckoning. He wears a wide-brimmed calfskin hat  tailored by someone who loved him even as he forgot how to love. A monochrome serape draped over his rail-thin frame hides his instruments of death, the cold and heavy descendants of the .45 Colt semi-automatic.

Seen against the low sun he is a frightful silhouette with a shadow that stretches for what seem like miles. He ambulates at a leisurely pace past the saguaros and clumps of sage, stopping occasionally to tear a button or two of peyote from the hardpan. These he places into his leather satchel as he walks towards the cooling horizon.

When the stars slide above, he hunkers down next to the charred husk of a  1953 El Dorado and builds a small fire with dry sage.  He sits with his back against the passenger side, the raw hunger of his stomach broiling with the peyote he has just consumed. The smell of asphalt mingles with the smoke and resurrects a pandemonium of memories. He waits patiently until it passes then thinks of nothing.

The desert is cold and, despite the fire, it seeps into his bones as he awaits the visions which will show the way into the future.

The Novel

Before the final draft of Hargarvard’s monumental masterpiece went to print, the author himself removed a single page from the manuscript. That page contained a passage of approximately six hundred words resolving the multiplicity of mysteries that plagued the Novel’s convoluted plot.

Hargarvard destroyed all the preceding drafts of the Novel along with that single page before committing suicide—an event of significance which would never be recognized by all but one of his admirers—in a most spectacular fashion which in itself was a clue to the enigma of the missing page.

The Novel gained notoriety for its dazzling prose, its wisdom, its intimate and tender understanding of the human condition, and, most profoundly, the legend of the circumstances surrounding its publication. The Novel was the subject of dozens of dissertations and cataclysmic debates among experts in the field.

The only person to unearth the truth of the missing page was an ancient scholar on the cusp of death.  He was found with a copy of the Novel spread on his lap, with the Hargarvard’s obituary placed at the missing page’s location. The nurse tending to the scholar reported that his final words were obscured by laughter.

a new god for a new time

White doves rose from his breast in plaintive sheets. His fingers conjured rabbits, pungent blooms, captured coins, plucking the thin air itself to create.The blue hue of his unreliable features danced like surf crashing on a black beach. His limbs, stolen tree branches, curved into fragrant sickles. An ecstasy of alligators snapped at his toes. Whirling clouds orbited his golden temples, pouring salty rain. Sparks ran along his evil grin to set fields afire.

His eyes, perched low and beady on a wedged nose, supported the true eye, the all seeing eye. It nestled on his forehead, sending corkscrewing rays of sunheat from the blood red moat of an iris circling  the blackest pupil, a student of evil thoughts.

Undecipherable secrets dripped from his movement and spattered on the ground, sizzling.