Immortality makes it difficult to put together a proper funeral ensemble. My dead wife’s long-lived guests had the option of black casual or black formal this morning. Some went jumper, some went cocktail dress. This stew of styles mixes about on this ambrosia-hued, sunshiney cliff’s edge. A funeral’s stereotypical stormy weather, like deaths and funerals, weren’t had been engineered out of Earth’s system.
And what did I dress in for this most auspicious of days, you ask? Formal wear, I answer. No better time to beat the moths out of the ol’ tuxedo than at a celebration of your wife’s life.
My wife’s life was rife with strife so she put herself under the knife. My wife’s life was rife with strife so she put herself under the knife.
You don’t have to tell me. I know that I’m too content for this occasion. It seems my daughter has spiked my bacon and eggs. Mood enhancers. Many mood enhancers. Many, many mood enhancers. The overdose isn’t her fault; she hasn’t been a practising psychiatrist for 150 years.
Hmmmm. What’s it like being blissed-out at your significant other’s memorial service? Picture yourself drowning in the hap-hap-happiest well you ever did see. Got it? Now imagine yourself upside down. I keep straining down to take in some of the cold grey grief water. But my muscles give out and I bungee back up.
Everyone else is as unsure in their behaviour as in their dress. It’s 2518, and we’re all the better part of 400 years out of practice for this kind of thing. Some have only seen funerals in old-timey movies. Some dribble their drinks on their face to simulate tears. The whole of the congregation looks surprised by the fact that they put on shoes this morning and stare straight down, trying to decipher the make and model of their footwear. It’s hard to tell if they’re pretending to be a proper funeral crowd or if they’re just uncomfortable. My pills and I don’t care very much.
Here’s a topographically interesting blonde at the bar. I can’t help talking to her. She can’t help talking to me.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she says.
“You should be,” I reply. We both giggle. I order shots. I don’t want to.
“She was such a good woman.”
“She was, wasn’t she?”
Why did such a good woman decide to drop dead? All the wonders of the modern age couldn’t keep her will to live alive. Virtual reality and teleportation and junk food without calories and sugar and spice and everything nice. And don’t forget you, Tom, I remind myself. You weren’t enough either.
My drug-addled brain attacks the thought like white blood cells on a virus. I’m suddenly mesmerised by the paisley pattern on the side of Julie’s urn. Oh, Julie requested that I cremate her. No easy task. Immortality took care of crematoriums, too.
Unless you torch me, there’ll be too big a temptation to bring me back, she said. Like we did with the kids’ dog. It’ll make it easier on everyone, anyway. They can pretend I moved to the moon or something.
“It’s not natural.” Julie’s mother has approached me, reformed into an 18 year-old Japanese girl. Unlike me, she’s respectfully not overdosed on happy pills this morning, but was it really too much for her to slip into a body more becoming of a grieving mother?
“It was her choice,” I reply. I don’t recycle Julie’s arguments with anyone; they might become my arguments. I might get temporary insanity. The insanity to be temporary.
You’d only be temporarily insane, because you’d be temporary. And insane.
My daughter nudges me. It’s time for the eulogies.
The swell of muscles that is my son moves to the podium. David tells the crowd that his mother wanted this to be a joyous occasion, that she wouldn’t want to see tears.
In my head, I yell, Hey, Davey! No one knows how to cry but your teen-Asian grandmother. But the pills keep my voicebox from vibrating.
David tells the story of finding a dead, smiling seagull with Julie when he was little and how she told him that it had gone on to a better place. A smiling seagull? A smiling seagull. He knows she is in that better place now. With that dead seagull. Flying.
I can only just begin to hope he inherits his mother’s death wish before I recoil back into the happy air.
The crowd applauds his attempt to put them at ease. My daughter is next to immortalize her mother in her own words. She does reiterate my son’s plea for good times and a call to celebrate her mother’s 467 years. She doesn’t mention Julie being in a better place. With a dead seagull. Flying. I always liked Jenny. But that could be the pills.
She finishes, and it’s my turn. I stand there. I search the sky for something that will contradict what my children said. But there’s nothing in the clouds but the outline of a funny, little elephant with a taco for a body. I don’t do that crumple down with emotion thing. I don’t ask Julie to take me with her. I just stare and smile. The crowd searches the ground for loose change.
“This is all my fault,” Jenny says. “Really.”
She takes my arm again. It’s time to return my wife to the cosmos. We pop the lid on the urn together, and with four hands, empty my wife, the pile of hoovering, off the cliff and into the sea.
Ready for the big finish? Can you see it coming? The crowd doesn’t. Now, I don’t think about this; I just jump. It’s the only way around the happiness. As I’m falling into the dust storm that is my better half, I hear the crowd’s collective intake of breath. This group vacuum really should suck us both into their super-charged lungs. They could imagine Julie moving to the moon, but my death would brand their brains. There’d be a queue at memory-erasure clinic tomorrow.
Would I soon be in a better place? Flying with dead birds? A smiling seagull? A smiling seagull.
That’s when it hits me. No, not the rocks below. The drugs. They’re finally working with me. We’re both telling my brain that everything’s going to be just fine. Death’s not so bad. Nothing unnatural about it at all.
The drop is too low for anything more profound, and the rocks are too sharp for anything close to agony. I am bayoneted and will be dead within minutes. I look up to see only my son and daughter looking down. Celebrate this, kids. No tears please.