A man opened the door to let her enter and after a murmured greeting both went through the front rooms, the ones visitors never ventured past alive, into the larger laboratory in the rear.
The woman hung her coat and her companion brought in the man. She came over. The man lay there, his eyes stared up at her. She smiled a little and reached to a nearby table. She took two small discs with one smooth and one not smooth side and placed one over each eye and pinned his lids shut. "You don't need to see this," she whispered. Then she took a long needle and sewed his mouth shut.
Meanwhile her partner pushed by her the remains of yesterday's subject, this time a woman. He shoved the body into a giant oven and struck the head with a mallet, to crumble the skull in the heat. Soon this person would disappeared into the dust of ash and all recognition would be gone.
Thus another workday began at the local funeral home.
Another day, another dollar for sewing you shut and emptying you out. Dollar? You know how many dollars? Here's what it was ten years ago:
Professional service charges: $1,213
Other preparations (cosmetology, hair, etc.): $150
Funeral at funeral home: $350
Transfer of remains to funeral home: $154
Hearse (local): $185
Service car/van: $85
Acknowledgement cards: $18
Course you might take that ashes-to-ashes quote pretty seriously and plan on being tapped on the head with the hammer and cremated. That can also whack your wallet (somebody's wallet anyway) for $2,500 and there may be some of those other costs involved still, like tipping the preacher.
Maybe you are a true believer in the Church of Global Warming. No preacher tipping, perhaps, because you are going to have a eco-friendly Green Funeral. You certainly aren't going to be cremated and let any of your greenhouse gases escape from the retort to clog up the atmosphere. You're going to keep a nice small carbon footprint and let some tree roots suck up your rotting remains.
I've thought over the years about how to get around all this end of life control by third parties. If I had my druthers I'd be like the old elephant knowing the end is here and trudges off to the secret boneyard. It'd be nice to take that final hike into the deep woods and die in the overgrowth so far from the pathways I'd be nothing but bones if they ever found me; maybe not even that if the carnivores carried even the bones away.
I don't really want a funeral either. Why spend anything for a lot of silly folderol? I doubt anyone would come to my funeral anyway, except the Little Woman and the kids. And I don't want to see the kids get stuck with the bill. No, I'd rather skip all this nonsense.
I'm really getting to think about donating the old carcass to science. Let the medical schools have this shell to carve on and maybe learn something about anatomy. Seems like a good trade to me. What's the body to me? I'd be done with it. Sure, I'm a Christian and believe in the resurrection of the body, but I know God has the power to pull a bunch of dissected body parts together. He made us out of dirt, he can resurrected a body out of scattered ashes or the digestive track of a shark or the worm food moldering in the ground.
It's a good deal, don't you think? You kick off, your survivor makes a phone call and they come pick you up. No fuss, no cost whatsoever and you get to make some future doctor's skills better or find a cure or give someone a new whatever to keep their life going. Per mortem dandam scientiam. Then when they are all done with you, whatever is left over, they cremate and return to sender.
Somebody could scatter the leftovers on that prepaid plot and place a bench there next to my parents. Meanwhile, I could disappear from this world in anonymity.
Unless this happened. Oh no, eternally displayed and gawked at, famous in a grisly way. I wouldn't want that.