No matter how advanced the civilisation, everything eventually died!
Scutnik and Sons had been in the funeral business for millenia and business was good! At the worst of times, it was steady and dependable, at the best of times they were run off their feet. Kleon had inherited the business from his dad who, after living to the ripe old age of 422 had shuffled off this mortal coil by accidentally colliding with a meteor. It was quite a spectacular and “old school” way to go and made the news all across the galaxy, not least because of the irony of the deceased’s profession. Old Wesley Scutnik had still received a traditional burial rite in the manner of old Earth and Kleon had taken care of things with aplomb, launching a grave marker at the co-ordinates of his fathers death. These grave markers required special permission as they could be quite a hazard to passing traffic unless they were fully registered, but Kleon being Kleon and his business being what it was, had all the necessary leverage and licences to do exactly that. Every time a ship passed within a light year of the marker, the marker would flash his dad’s grave marker tag line: “Here lies Wesley Skutnik, father, son, undertaker. He will be missed, except by Asteroid DV776.” It was also excellent for business.
Wesley Skutnik, had all the implants and engineering required to keep him chugging along for centuries. He had been a fan of regrow and would often spend a week in the regrow bed to rejuvenate his aging and ravaged body. It was not just the body that needed rejuvenating, it was also the spirit and for that, he would often get his memory temporarily wiped and dropped into one of the hubs controlled adventure worlds. Afterwards, he would remember everything including the recent thrill of the unknown and the danger although it did come with the returning knowledge that it was actually completely safe and controlled. Wesley Skutnik lived and died in the 890th cycle of the reign of King Clegg the Almighty, wielder of the 4 sceptres of truth and conqueror of Praxus Minor. It was an age of enlightenment so there was no such thing as suing for negligence, this concept had disappeared after renewable sustainable quantic power was discovered and no one wanted for anything. People still made mistakes, Humans, Gamman’s, Regulan’s and all the other races were still fallible but it was considerably difficult to screw up with the intelligences that shared the universe with the physicals. Adventure worlds were, apart from the occasional bruised joint or bent antennae, completely safe and coming back from a mem wipe adventure on one of these would be a great high but it was also tinged with the knowledge that it had been in fact, quite safe. Wesley, intimate with death for so many cycles, had wanted to get closer to it, the real fear, the ultimate, definite end. Death! He was getting jaded with it all and yet, there was something fearful about death even after all these years. He wanted to feel alive, not just be alive and so in his 422nd year of life, he decided to do something dangerous for real. He snuck out the back door of his house without leaving a note and sabotaged his own navigation system with a bar of iron and then shot off on an unscheduled flight to Arcturus 7. Arcturus 7 was one of the homes of the Intelligences and rumour had it, that if you actually got there, you were not the same if you ever got back. Amazingly, he managed to make it about 4 light years out of the local system when he accidentally got caught in the path of the meteor. Boom! No more Wesley.
Kleon knew all this because every move his father had made had been recorded of course, including his fathers ship’s live stream and his fathers last moments. Kleon knew that Wesley Skutnik had not even known what had happened. Again, ironic really. Kleon knew his dad was going through some kind of middle age crisis and figured out the why of it pretty quickly. He was pleased with the funeral and thought his dad would have been proud with the send off although he was quite surprised at the lack of beings that had attended. He figured it must be because everyone Wesley knew was dead already. Wesley had no spouses and no lovers, a couple of friends that he played games with and a couple of old friends from when they had been educated together but that was it apart from his only son. When he buried his dad, they still used that old word, Kleon took stock of his own friends and loved ones, it would be the same for him and weirdly that did not sadden him but it did make him think about things even more. Kleon was made of different stuff from his old man, he never really wanted to be in the business but had no bloody idea what else it was he wanted to do and as time passed and he became more competent, he found that he was doing more of the leg work while his old man was off on some escapade. After his father had passed away he spent a lot of time thinking about things and realised that there a few things that he wanted to do that he had never done and would get on with doing them before the meteor with his name on it came calling. He wrote the list on some vib ribbon as follows:
1. Run the Vrekrr Race – crossed out… that was corny, it was everybody elses dream not his.
1. Find out what true love was…
2. Be the funeral director for King Clegg the Almighty…hahahah
3. Find out if the Intelligences also died..…. to find out what they really were.
That first one was surprisingly difficult to write, the second one came quickly and the third, well the third seemed to spring from nowhere. How the hell was he going to find that out? He looked at the list again. Whatever true love was, he had not found it after 200 years of life doing what he normally did so he figured that had to do something abnormal. Ok that made sense but not much he could do about that right now. Moving on to number 2 for the moment, he had to wait for the King to die and even then there was no guarantee that he would be chosen to perform the funeral rites for the King of the Universe. He pondered a moment and scribbled that one out too. He would actually enjoy the pomp and ceremony but he did not really want to do funerals anymore and the idea was just to ease the tension that had come from writing number one anyway. He may come back to it, if he was ever offered the job. Number 3. He leaned back on his chair. If everything died, which it seemed to, then what about the all powerful, invisible, omnipotent intelligences? He sat there thinking about that for a long time, just staring at the ribbon. He realised that he really wanted to know the answer.
“That, Kleon, is an excellent question!” Said the voice that echoed around him. Kleon threw the ribbon up in shock and his legs at the same time. The momentum pushed him back and then, after teetering on the knife-edge of gravity for a long moment, he fell backward over his chair with a crash. He slowly peered up over the edge of the chair and looked about him. For a moment, there was nothing but the empty room and then, shimmering into substance in front of him, a vague figure of light appeared. The voice returned. “Shall we find out together Kleon?” Kleon nodded on automatically a couple of times and then his eyes rolled backward into their sockets and he fell backward again, this time with more finality.
Copyright Faramond Frie © 2016