Second Death Services
by Shondra Snodderly
Issue 6: Industry | 681 words
The girl sitting on the other side of Jared’s desk was the perfect picture of grief. She slouched in her chair, shoulders hunched, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
Her dead brother stood in an empty corner.
No one knew why they did that. Most people wrote it off as a way for the implant to get its bearings. Others thought it might be some sort of power saving mode. Whatever the cause, Jared had learned over the course of his career to keep one corner empty at all times.
“I just wanted my brother back. But not like this.” She pulled out a photo. Jared leaned in for a better look. A vibrant young man stared out at him—an athlete, if his letterman jacket was any indication. He bore little resemblance to the gray, slack-jawed thing in the corner.
She wasn’t the first person to fall for Renewal’s marketing tricks. Renewal was a corporation that profited off of people’s desperation. Their brochures all showed a smiling couple embracing under the slogan “With Renewal, you never have to say goodbye.” One member of the photographed pair was supposed to be Renewed, but the truth was, both parties were live, healthy models. Four words in fine print at the bottom protected them from litigation: Individual results may vary.
And since they didn’t believe in reversing the process, a lot of unhappy customers were left with no recourse. That was where Jared came in.
He reached for the girl’s hand. “You’re doing the right thing,” he said. “We’ll make sure your brother gets the peace he deserves.”
She turned to look at her brother for the first time since entering his office. “Will he suffer?”
He wanted to tell her that her brother hadn’t felt anything since the first time he died, but that would be unprofessional. Instead, he said, “We’ll remove his implant before the process. He won’t feel a thing.”
Once the paperwork was filled out and the payment processed, Jared showed her out of his office with instructions to come back at the end of the day. Her brother reacted to none of it, not even when she embraced him for the last time.
Jared checked the file for the young man’s name. The user interface wouldn’t work without it. “Okay, Michael,” he said. Michael snapped to attention. “Follow me.”
The interface worked best with simple commands: Come here; Sit down; Hold this. It wasn’t designed to handle anything complex. Rumor had it that Renewal had tried to include a speech function so the Renewed could hold a conversation with their loved ones. The resulting noise was supposedly so horrifying that they removed it just a few hours before it went live.
Jared led Michael to the cremation room, where he checked him over for rings and jewelry and removed his letterman jacket. His sister would want those back.
The device he used to remove the implants wasn’t strictly legal, but neither were Renewal’s implants. It was new territory, and that protected him from Renewal’s lawyers until the people at large decided what was right.
Once the implant was free, Michael went limp. Jared caught him and lowered his body into a pine casket in one smooth, practiced motion. Then he turned his attention to two figures hunched in the corner.
“Mom, Dad, let’s get to work.”
They snapped to attention, and he directed them to load the casket into the cremation chamber. His heart clenched as he watched them work, and he wondered if he should send them through next. It wasn’t the first time he considered it. They could even go together. He thought they would have liked that.
But then his watch beeped, pulling him from his thoughts. His parents would have to wait. There were people who needed him. He ordered them back to their corner and prepared to meet his next client.
Shondra Snodderly’s other works have appeared in Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors, Unearthly Sleuths, and Myths, Monsters, Mutations.