Ashes to Ashes by Dana C. Kabel.....

I walk through the door and right off the bat she has to start in on me. Do I know what time it is? Where have I been? Dinner is cold. Blah Blah Fucking Blah.

“Stopped off for a beer,” I tell her.

“A beer! There’s a whole case of them in the refrigerator!”

Don’t I know it. If she keeps it up I’ll have to drink every one of them tonight.

“You know I need to wind down a little…after what I do all day.”

The eyes roll. She thinks my job is cake and I’m just a big pussy.

“You burn dead people. Big deal! Somebody has to do it.”

“I put people…people that used to breathe the same air you and I breathe…through the fire. I send them on their final journey. You have no idea how that wears on a man…that kind of work. Day in and day out.”

“Give me a break. You push a button and some dead schmuck rolls through an oven on a conveyor belt. Then you scoop their ashes up. End of story. That’s all there is to it.”

I can feel the heat from the oven as she talks. Two thousand degrees Fahrenheit on the inside of the oven. The smell of burning flesh and hair and bone. Blood boiling and organs exploding inside the used vessel of a body as the flames just start up to do their work.

“There’s more to it than that,” I say. “Much more than you’ll ever know.”

“Pfff…not my fault you work in a mortuary.”

After my cold dinner I sit crumpled in my easy chair listening to Brahms and opening my fourth beer. I am almost as drained of life as the bodies I burn. The music and the alcohol and the sheer exhaustion draw me into a trance like state.

I almost forget that I am not alone until I hear a noise from the garage and I wonder what the hell she is doing out there. I…AM…ANNOYED.

She is opening the trunk of my vehicle and I can’t believe what a nosey bitch she is being. Then I see the open eyes peering out at her and the bag of garbage on the floor by her feet.

She must have been taking the trash out and heard some rustling from the trunk. Shit! Must not have drugged him enough.

“Mmmmmph….mmmm” is the sound that comes from his duct taped mouth.

She takes a step back and gasps. I can tell that it doesn’t register with her sense of reality. She doesn’t know what to make of what she is seeing.

When she turns around I am there smiling. Before the word “what” can form on her lips I smash my beer bottle against the side of her head and she drops to the cold concrete floor.

I get the works from the back seat and tranquilize her. Then I shoot some more dope into the bastard in the trunk.

They’re all sinners, the people I send on their final journey. I find them all the time…walking the streets, in movie theaters, restaurants…department stores…I have a sense for the evil inside of them and know what I must do.

When the opportune time comes I take them. I drug them and bind them. Put them in the trunk. Then when I go to work I put them through the crematorium along with the bodies scheduled for cremation from the funeral home.

I give them another shot to wake them up just before I send them into the fire. They need to be awake for the flame to purge the evil from their souls.

It will be a long day tomorrow…putting two of them through the fire along with the regulars. Each body takes about an hour and a half to burn. Then I have to grind the remaining bones…sort out any metal that may have been in the body such as fillings or surgical pins. Then I have to divvy up the ashes of my sinners and mix them in with the commissioned bodies.

A long day. But at least I’ll have some peace when I get home.

Dana C. Kabel’s work has appeared in The Flash Fiction Offensive, Out of the Gutter, Yellow Mama, Mysterical-E, Powder Burn Flash, and Muzzleflash.


David Barber said...

This is a great story, Dana.

"...They’re all sinners, the people I send on their final journey..."

Sinners indeed! Nowhere near as bad as the narrator but he's a great character. Loved the directness of this and the matter-of-fact way he looked at things.

Well written throughout. Very well done!!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Hot stuff! Great story.

David Cranmer said...

His job should be easier now without the nagging.

Christopher Pimental said...

This line was flash fiction gold--so revealing:

"I give them another shot to wake them up just before I send them into the fire."

Rick Carr said...

"Then I see the open eyes peering out at her and the bag of garbage on the floor by her feet."

Did NOT see that one coming! Nice work!

M. C. Funk said...

Nice. A story as simple as fire and just as capable of leaving a burn mark.

You built a classic, functional psychosis and put it through some beery pathos in less than 1,000. Thanks for divvying up the ashes.

Chris Allinotte said...

You gave yourself a fantastic, detailed setup, got us totally invested in the sad-sack "Cremator", and then totally spiked the ball with the twist and the follow-through. Evil, creepy, and tightly written.

Well played!

Bill Baber said...

"At least I'll have some peace..." and I'll do anything to have it! Very well done!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Well written and an excellent story.

Erin Cole said...

A great twist and a fabulous voice to match it. Nice and evil, Dana!

Dana C. Kabel said...

Thank you, everyone.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic work. I would love to see some new peices from you Dana. I highly enjoy reading your stories. Good job.