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The two men stared at the corpse sadly.
“The poor young’ns before his time,” one said as he hoisted the boy into his arms.
“Naw, he got what was comin’ to him. I think all children deserve the same,” The other man stared at him in horror, and he smiled. “Just joking!” he said with forced laughter. The man seemed satisfied with his answer, and returned to delicately placing the boy in the cart. They then proceeded down the dusty street; picking up the rest of the village’s dead, and finally returning to the funeral home to prepare each corpse for its burial. The past few weeks had been extremely busy; villagers dropping like flies to the ravishing plague. It was nearly midnight, and each of the tired overworked employees wanted desperately to go home.
“I think that’s all of em,” a man said scanning over the now neatly dressed deceased. Their faces covered in several pounds of heavy makeup and bodies dressed in elegant dresses and tuxedos made them look as though they were each merely napping, each going to wake up to attend a fancy ball or a wedding. The men working all nodded at each other and closed up shop.
One of the young boys, perhaps only eight years old, stirred. He looked around the darkness nervously. He waited for his vision to adjust, and when he realized where he was, he screamed. The bodies around him were beginning to smell, and each one looked almost ghostly in the dim light. The boy sat up on the table and stared at the caskets surrounding him. His eyes stopped on the one directly in front of him. “Jonas.” It read. Jonas ran to the door fearfully and tried the knob, locked. He tried the windows, locked. Tears streamed down his face, and he sat back down on the table, dread weighing down his body like lead. Jonas ran his fingers over the shiny plaque with his name on it, unable to fully comprehend what was happening.
“I will just tell them in the morning,” Jonas said aloud in a shaky voice. He lay down on the table, and his eyes slid closed. “I will tell them in the morning.” He mumbled again, and Jonas drifted off into sleep.
“I don’t know, it just doesn’t make sense,” a man stared in disbelief at the child. “I’m tellin’ ya’, he moved.”
“Don’t be insane,” the other man responded with a roll of his eyes. “Now c’mon, help me load the child up onto the wagon; we got a burial to do.” They arrived at noon in the graveyard, and they met his parents with a false sympathetic smile so often used and perfected that only someone who had known these men forever could distinguish the difference. After a brief speech from each attendee and a few goodbyes, the casket was closed and lowered into the ground. The boy’s mother burst into tears.
“My baby,” she cried. “I’ll never see my baby again!” The man pulled her into a graceful well practiced hug and smoothed down her ruffled hair.
“Not to worry ma’am,” he said with a soft chuckle. “The boy’s in a better place now.”
“I-I just,” the mother said, trying as hard as she could to pull herself together. “I feel as though we made a mistake; that he was still alive.” The man wiped away her tears and pushed away his annoyance at her overreaction.
“Listen ma’am,” he said. “If that boy o’ yours is still alive somehow, he’ll just ring this here bell.” To prove his point, the man pushed the golden bell dangling outside the casket. She nodded, and the men ushered the family back to their hut.
Jonas wiped his sleepy eyes and yawned. He had never slept this well before, and he was reluctant to wake up just yet. Jonas tried to flip over onto his side, but he found there wasn’t enough space to do so. His eyes shot open, and he looked around in alarm.
“No!” he wailed when he realized where he was. Jonas took a few deep breaths, and tried to remember what he had learned in school. “Inside each casket is a string connected to a bell, so the buried alive can alert others.” Jonas had though it was useless information at the time, but now he thanked the lord he had learned it. Jonas grabbed the string that had been placed near his hand, and pulled it with all his might. He rang it over and over again, hoping someone would hear it.
The man was walking back to the funeral home, and as he passed the cemetery, he heard the bell. The man ran over to the grave of the little boy he had buried earlier.
Jonas looked up, in excitement; he heard footsteps above him.
“I’m saved!” Jonas exclaimed happily. He then coughed; air was growing thin in the small coffin.
The man looked around to see if anyone was near. Once he confirmed that he was alone, he snatched the bell off of the post.
“Children, ugh,” he said as though the word were bile. He then walked away, satisfied with himself.
Jonas’s smile faded with the footsteps. The farther away they grew, the bigger his frown grew too. On top of that, the bell suddenly didn’t work.
“Help,” Jonas called weakly, but he knew it was pointless. He lie still on the hard wooden casket, and allowed his eyes to close; suddenly, sleep felt like the most wonderful thing in the world. Jonas snapped awake suddenly, remembering his predicament. He was dizzy from the lack of oxygen, and he forgot the bell had stopped working. Jonas tried to reach for the string, but his body seemed too heavy to move, and a heavy fog settle over Jonas’s mind. Jonas closed his eyes again, and this time, Jonas allowed himself to be carried off into sleep.