Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Microstory 1737: Phornax

I received my new furnace yesterday. No, this is not the furnace you keep in your house. I own a crematorium. It’s our job to make sure that your loved ones rest in peace, according to their wishes. I have a little bit of help with the administrative stuff, and customer-facing responsibilities, but I pretty much run this myself. I come in when I please, and work at my own pace. It takes some time for people to schedule funerals and memorials services, because friends and family have to come from out of town, so it’s not like I’m ever on a time crunch. I got into this industry because I knew I could do it. More to the point, I knew I could stomach it. I’m not a sociopath, but death has never bothered me. It’s an important and inevitable fact of life, and I’m happy to do whatever I can to help ease people’s pain. Better I deal with all the dead bodies and cremains so someone who hates it doesn’t have to. All that’s been missing up until now is some decent equipment, which it looks like that is what has come in. I had my receptionist look into the newest and most affordable models, but I didn’t actually ask her to order anything for me yet. Anyway, I trust her, so I’m sure this one will be fine. It certainly looks nice. I’ve already seen the line item on the expense sheet, so she apparently took that affordability mandate seriously. It’s called the Phornax, which I imagine is just a stylization of the word fornax, meaning furnace. I read the instructions, and most of it seems standard. I won’t have to learn anything new. I will say that it’s rated to take about twice as long as my last furnace, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I imagine that’s where the affordability comes in. It must be designed for energy efficiency, not speed.

Once I have it installed, I decide to test it on my next subject. Here we have a Mrs. Pollyanna Bartolotti. Forty-two years old, widow, used to work as a dental hygienist. She died of complications from something called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Her husband, a tractor dealer died recently, so that was probably her ultimate cause of death. It’s also known as broken-heart syndrome. I place her in the furnace, turn it on, and leave to binge seven episodes of this show from fifteen years ago that I just discovered. When I stop to take a pee break in the middle of the last one, I hear a banging downstairs. Great, it’s a horror movie, and I’m about to die. I creep back down to the basement, and open the furnace, where I find a perfectly healthy and alive Pollyanna Bartolotti. She’s freaking out and confused. Now I know why they call it the Phornax. It’s a pun. I’ve seen this movie before, though. They don’t come back right. If I’m not careful, I could spend the next eighty minutes running for my life from evil zombies—except we don’t call them zombies. She definitely doesn’t act like one. She’s coherent, and everything. I explain to her what little I know, just hoping she doesn’t suddenly jump up and try to eat my face. She eventually starts begging me to do the same thing for her husband. But he’s been cremated already, I remember, so I don’t know if it’s possible. Still, it can’t hurt to try. She gives me a key to her apartment, so I can steal the urn, and come back to give it a shot. I’m surprised to find it works. It actually works. The damn thing must indeed cremate the body first, and then spend the rest of the time reconstituting the cremains. He’s just as pleasant and grateful as she was. I wait for them to turn evil over the next six months, but they never do. So now I’m no longer in the death business. I’m in the phoenix business. Come on in. Let’s see what we can do for your late grandmother.

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