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I wrote this piece for a short story unit in AP Language Arts and decided to submit it. I don't usually work with melancholy storylines but I am certainly proud of this one!
The stained glass windows shook from the wind, rain beating against them like a thousand bullets, hiding my quick and quiet entrance into the cathedral. The door squawked and screeched like a dying animal, in tune with the crack of thunder. I sat in a pew pushed against the wall, shadowed by the overhanging levels above me.
My funeral had been arranged wonderfully. Colorful flowers on a black coffin and a photo to the left. Not the right. They picked a good one too, I half-expected my mugshot. It from the team photo that was taken the day I was brought on. We crowded around a desk, smiles on our faces. The twins were wearing matching suits, each holding a gun to my side while I nervously laughed. I think the only one not happy that day was Alexander. I can understand why: he hates me. I mean, they all hate me. They have to. Even Matthew. Oh god, why is he standing up? I don’t know why he came, I bet he’s glad I’m gone. Oh good, he sat back down.
“What truly makes a person evil? Were they born that way or are they shaped and molded and beaten into it? I think that we say evil is a permanent title. A title that Cane Thompson should not have had to carry with him to the grave, He fought beside all of us in the end. When given a choice between a path that benefited him, and one that did not serve a health insurance plan—” He cut off his speech with a gasping sob, wrenching forward slightly with his mouth hung open. He doubled over, draped like a discarded towel over the pew in front of him. He’s just being dramatic, I bet. “He chose to save lives. Not to end them.”
Matthew shook like a frail sapling in his seat. Like anyone else at a funeral, he wore all black, even going as far as to wrap the cast on his arm in black fabric, hiding the well-wishing signatures and neon green hard shell. His head remained down, thick and black hair obstructing the view of anyone that tried to look at him. Even while giving a speech, Matthew remained seated.
“Cane was never evil, only an over-glorified inconvenience.” That’s an understatement. “He robbed banks with robots, blocked traffic with lasers, things that rarely ended in death.” Except for the time I derailed a train. “The only thing that ended in death was his fight for life. I will miss Cane. I will miss his smile, his laugh, and his,” the tone in his voice grew lighter as he reminisced. “His constant threats to report you to HR or to liquify your spleen.” Ah yes, liquifying spleens. A practice I have yet to master. He sniffed a few times like he was crying. Wait, did he actually care about what happened to me?
He stood from his row and shuffled his way out of the pew, tripping over beaten bibles and his own feet as he made it from the center. There was a symphony unlike any I had heard as he walked towards the casket; The creaking of ancient wood that laid almost quiet under the sonophorous clatter of footsteps and rain against fogged up stained glass. I could almost hear whispers from the rafters while he talked against the blaring horns from the traffic outside. The air smelled of sadness, as if someone had bottled the nostalgic and wistful feeling you get in your chest, and then sold it to anyone they could find with no care as to why they wanted that smell to infiltrate and pillage the senses of anyone that came into contact with it. I’ll remember that for later.
Why would Matthew say such nice things? He didn’t have to do that, I’m not around anymore to bother him or grovel for affection. He can take back everything that I had stolen from him. The part of his office I used to turn his toaster into a bomb, the spot on the couch I claimed whenever I invaded his house, and his cat Martin. Martin doesn’t like me.
“Before I finish, I want to share a story. If that’s alright.” Please don’t be the story about Martin, I hate that one. “Three days after he joined the task force, there was a noise at my fire escape. ” I covered my hand with my face and slid down the seat until I was on the floor, wedged between two pews. Of all the stories he knows. “It was midnight and I went out to see what was happening and I was greeted by Cane halfway out the window with Martin tucked under his arm and a strange tool in his hand. He dropped the cat and came inside, making up some story about how he got locked out of his place and accidentally went up the wrong fire escape. Then he shot me with a tranquilizer dart and stole my cat.” Matthew stopped talking and I looked up to see why. He was standing in front of my casket, smiling. That wasn’t something to smile about! I knocked over a lamp.
“The next morning I woke up in my bed with a note and the tool he was carrying the night before. He apologized for shooting me, claimed to only be borrowing my cat, and that I could keep the tranquilizer darts for a while, to shoot him later.” He wiped his face with the cuff of his jacket and turned away from the pews, both hands on the casket. I still can’t understand why he would be so upset about my death. Everything I have ever done has been nothing but awful, I don’t deserve a funeral or a second chance. I hope that the next time I die, that I don’t get one.
Matthew shook the casket slightly, he looked like he was going to faint. It was quite a dramatic thing to do, but it wasn’t like I was going to stop him. The bouquet of poisonous flowers—daffodils, calla lilies, tulips, marigolds, all of my favorites—slid from the lid and onto the floor, unleashing themselves from the loose black thread that bundled them together and cascading down the steps to the altar.
“I loved him, and I hated him. I wish others loved him too. Goodbye, Cane Thompson. You will be missed.” He looked out at the empty rows of pews. He had prepared such a lovely speech. I feel bad for him, assuming that anyone would come to my funeral. I doubt that he meant a word of it. He said he loved me. Nobody could truly love me, I’m unworthy of it.
With his hands on the casket, he muttered something. Matthew turned to walk away and slipped on the tarnished bouquet. And, like a grieving widow that lost her husband at sea from one of those god awful plays Matthew took me to see, he ended his monologuing with a bow. His bow was more of a dangerous fall to the ground, as he fell he grabbed the casket and there was nothing I could do, it was too late.
It splintered open next to him with a hard and finite crack. The top had broken off and slid down the stairs to reveal that it was empty. The white silk lining was untouched, the ruffles shrinking away from the dim light of the church. That wasn’t supposed to happen. None of this was.
I was supposed to fake my death and change jobs. Nobody was supposed to claim my body, nobody was supposed to give a speech. Nobody was supposed to care. I peaked around the end of the aisle and looked to see what Matthew was doing. He stood up and looked down at the casket in shock.
He’s going to be mad at me. He’s going to hate me. I’m going to try to talk to him and he’s going to end up yelling at me and he’ll finally see the monster everyone else thinks I am. He’ll see the disgraceful human that I saw in the reflection of the casket when I picked it out three days ago. I have to think of something to say.
In a movement out of my control, I stood from my hiding place. I stepped into his direct line of sight, a speech already bubbling up in my mind. I couldn’t say a single thing or move or even breathe. Matthew walked up to me, a daffodil petal entangled in his hair. I froze, expecting him to hit me or shoot me or scream. With misty eyes he hugged me, gripping to me as if I was the only thing keeping him tethered to the ground. “Thank God.”