The Embalmer

Simon woke up to the smell of bacon filling his nostrils, god he loved weekends. As a hearse driver, he didn’t always get weekend mornings off so he wanted to make the most of it. As usual, his wife had been up for hours as he had a cup of coffee next to him and his newspaper. It was as much for her as it was for him, he had a tendency to be a bit grumpy in the morning so the thirty minutes in bed helped him wake up, kept him out of her hair and let his bad mood lift. Reaching for the paper, a smile crept across his face. No missing people reported today either. There had been a pandemic recently and the newspapers had really been hogging the headlines with them but it seemed to have quietened down. A great way to start the weekend.

“Simon, breakfast” his wife called from downstairs. That was his cue. Pulling on some trackies, Simon felt ready to face the chaos that would inevitably ensue once the bedroom door was opened. It was like a barrier. From when he closed it at night, to when he opened it in the morning, nothing outside of it mattered. If the kids cried out in the night, Claudia would see to them. She really was a fantastic mother and wife, Simon made a mental note to order her some flowers, or steal some leftover by grieving family members. Well, it would save him forty pounds and its not like the dead were going to miss them. Resolute in his decision to grab some today, Simon made his way downstairs. Although it was a weekend, there was a lot to be done before the funeral later that day. First, he stepped into the kitchen and kissed his family hello. Autumn and Kim were sat colouring in, their breakfast would have finished long ago and now Claudia was trying to keep them entertained. In the corner of his eye he could see the hearse. It was shining in the sunlight, freshly waxxed and ready to go. He just had to go and load the coffin.

“I’ll need to take the car for a spin before work” he took a bite of his breakfast. Bland. Everything was bland now salt was banned in the house. Thank god for McDonalds.

“Why? Its just been serviced, hasn’t it?” His wife asked, struggling with Kim who had decided she would rather colour the table than her paper.

“Yeah but I need to check the brakes. I don’t want to be driving and suddenly have Mrs. Curtis on my lap now do I?” He laughed morbidly and kissed his wife goodbye, heading to the door before she had time to protest. “Plus you know I like to give everything a once over before I work. Its a big day for my clients, almost as big as their wedding day, it has to be perfect.”

Closing the door behind him, Simon felt his heart start to race. The world around him transformed from a crisp, sharp, vibrant place to a blur with only the hearse in focus. He sat behind the wheel and turned the key, the soft hum of the generator whirred in the back and helped him get focused. He drove through the town, the excitement building within him until he could barely keep still. He turned up the radio and haphazardly sung along to whatever crap was playing on the local station. It wasn’t long before the 12 o clock news came on – politics, politics, murder etc. Simon was tuning out, simply enjoying driving the country lanes when something caught his attention

Another victim in Southgrove makes twenty two missing in just over a year. 50 year old Velma Grace from Turnstyle road has been reported missing after her family hadn’t heard from her in 3 days. She was last seen…’

Simon clicked the radio off. 22 victims? Was it really that many? Maybe he did have a problem. He giggled to himself, he knew exactly where Velma was. Of course he did. She was here, with him, in his car. He’d been driving for about an hour now so most of her blood would be in the tanks, replaced with embalming fluid while she slept. She had been his easiest victim to date; so relaxed, so happy to find someone to talk to that she hadn’t seen the chloroform coming. He had put her in the car and had her hooked up to his makeshift machine last night but his wife had wanted him home so he had to leave her in the boot. Still, the generator had kicked in as soon as he was driving, one machine draining her blood whilst the other simultaneously pumped her through of embalming fluid. It only took about 30 minutes for her to lose consciousness fully, despite being drugged, so he didn’t worry about her making noises. Driving to pick up the coffin for the funeral, Simon was pleased to read that today’s was a cremation with an internment to follow soon after. He whooped internally, that made it so much easier as their was no delay. Sliding the coffin onto the display platform, he opened the two little doors beneath it and checked on Velma. She was cold and lifeless but felt a weak pulse. It wouldn’t be long.

As he drove the procession, followed by the deceased family and friends, he was giddy. The kick of killing someone whilst surrounded by people was why he had been doing it so long. Of course, like any addict, he told himself he could stop any time he wanted. The 22 people that year meant otherwise. He clicked open the built in lighter and pushed down. He had transformed it into a switch years ago after a near miss with a nosey neighbour which led to him moving. This way, he could make the switch on the go and nobody would be any the wiser. While his assistant walked the first mile in front of the hearse, a small clicking started from the back. The bottom of the coffin slid open and Velma was pushed up into it. The creaking of the coffin let Simon know the job was done but it was a tight fit. He would have to be careful who he choose next time but part of the danger was whether they would fit or not. Another clunk let him know that the bottom had moved back into place. As his assistant stopped and started walking towards the car, Simon heard the whir of the makeshift drill screwing the bottom back into place. The last screw finished just as the passenger door clicked shut.

As the pallbearers paraded whoever was in the coffin into their service, Simon bowed his head out of respect. In just a day or two, all evidence of Velma would be gone. He had told himself she would be his last one but, as he got back in the hearse and drove to his next funeral, he found himself thinking about what he could do better next time…

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One thought on “The Embalmer

  1. FROM AMANDA ON FB: Wow Sarah-Jayne Collins I can relate to this one alot. My god I am still afraid of the dark. I run from the concervatory when locking the door at night. Also when I was younger I remember holding my breath with blanket over my head feeling something walking up to my face, thinking holding my breath it would go away……it was the cat lol. But I’m still afraid of the dark that has never left me.

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