CREMATE YOUR DEAD
by Carl Bluesy

Lem’s eyes were sealed shut and felt heavier than when he lay down for bed. He found getting back to sleep was a more laborious task than he expected. As he attempted to re-position himself, Len found this to be as impossible as his attempt to fall back to sleep.

No matter how hard Lem tried to roll onto his side, his body refused to move. As fear took hold of Lem, he tried to open his eyes to see what was holding him in place. Lem’s eyes refused to open. Sleep became the last thing on his mind as fear became a full-blown panic. With great determination, Lem concentrated on forcing his body to move in any direction. With no success, he lay in bed in a petrified state as minutes passed to hours. The longer that Lem lay there, the more his clothing irritated him.

The singing of the birds gave way to people driving their cars and mowing their lawns. Lem’s confinement became a vicious cycle. The more Lem panicked, the more his bed aggravated him. This made it hard to concentrate and calm himself. After lying in a state of fear for a long period, Lem was able to relax, despite not understanding his situation. The itching sensation in his body became more of a tingle. Having a loved one on the way to help offered Lem some solace.

A wave of relief flooded his body when the doorbell rang. “Help is here,” he thought. 

The voice of Lem’s daughter’s echoed through the halls. Lem tried to call out to her, only to find he could not move his lips. She made her way to the bedroom. Rebecca dropped her keys to the floor and ran the rest of the way to her father. She grabbed Lem by the shoulders and shook him to wake him. What had begun as gentle rocking with her soothing voice soon became a violent shake with her heart-breaking screams begging Lem to wake up.

“Wake up, Dad! Wake up!”

Lem was shocked to hear his daughter call him Dad. He had lost the title of dad long ago. Finding him in such a predicament was not the best way to start the birthday he had promised her. Lem told her he would make more time for her since he was had been forced to retire. At first, it hurt when she rejected him. Although he could not blame her. He knew he was a poor excuse for a father. After a few months of calling her, she agreed to meet up with Lem for breakfast on her birthday. Rebecca didn’t waste time once it became clear Lem wasn’t going to wake up. She ran out to the phone Lem kept in the hall; it was the only phone Lem owned.

In less than ten minutes of Rebecca’s phone call, the paramedics had arrived. Lem felt so thankful to feel their helping hands examining his body. 

“They’ll get me back on my feet,” he thought.

Lem tried to think about how he was going to thank Rebecca for getting the help he needed.

“I will treat her to dinner, a spa day, or buy her a house,” nothing seemed big enough. This was when Lem overheard the paramedics pronouncing him dead.

“DEAD! DEAD? That’s absurd,” thought Lem.

He tried to yell at them, to let them know he was alive. All the effort he gave was for nothing since Lem was unable to move his lips. Rebecca sobbed in the hallway outside of Lem’s bedroom as the paramedics removed Lem him from his bed. A zipper was pulled up from his feet and past his head. Soon they lifted Lem onto a gurney and pushed him through the front door of his house. It sent a shock through his body. Lem found himself in disbelief at what was happening.

A crowd of people gathered in front of Lem’s house, they murmured to one another when the paramedics rushed him outside. No vehicles passed by Lem’s street as they moved him. He found this odd since this was a busy street in the morning. The quiet allowed Lem to listen to the pleasant chirps of birds once again. The birds singing drowned out the sound of the gossiping community.

A sweet song of birds calmed Lem and gave him the hope things would be okay, despite how bleak it seemed in the back of the ambulance. The irritating babble of the crowd at the front of Lem’s house soon drowned out the pleasant sounds of the birds. When the ambulance doors shut, Lem wondered if he would ever see his home again.

The ride to what Lem assumed was the hospital seemed endless. Upon his arrival, they rolled him in and did not stop until what Lem believed to be an elevator. From there they rolled him into a cold room. Lem was sure he would end up with frostbite. His inability to move his body made the cold spread much faster.

Not only was Lem freezing, he was experiencing hunger pains, leaving no part of him free of pain, from his chilled exterior to his internal organs.

Lem could feel his stretcher being pushed, he could only assume he would be presented to a physician. He heard a ding and the sound of mechanical doors opening. He was now sure he was on an elevator.

Following another ding, the stretcher began moving again. People yelled out from every direction. It was all so overwhelming for Lem. He then found himself pushed into a room free of chaos.

A man with an authoritative voice entered, he gave directions to all around him.

“When did he get in? Bring the tray over here. Pass me my gloves,” he said.

“This must be the physician. Thank God, there’s still hope for me to survive,” Lem thought.

The doctor asked the nurse to prep the patient. 

“Soon I will be put to sleep.

“When I wake up, my life will return to normal, then I will put this harrowing experience behind me where it belongs.”

Lem assumed they would soon put a mask on his face. Why he was surprised when they gave him nothing for the pain, he could not say. A cold scalpel cut into his skin as if he were a piece of raw meat. It was like nothing he had ever experienced. All he could do was lie there and accept it. With no sedative or painkiller, they cut his chest open with force. Lem’s body might have been unmoving and silent on the outside. But on the inside, he was screaming in agony.

The excruciating pain remained constant from start to finish. In a unique way, he felt his insides as their hands and tools entered him. Lem’s insides chilled as they pulled his organs from his body in a way he never expected to be possible. They dug deeper into him than he ever thought they could, it was as if they were cutting into his soul. Soon there was nothing but air filling the region where his innards had been. The breeze inside him sent chills through both his body and his soul.

It was as if Lem’s mind was trying to repress the memory even while it was happening. The pain was still unbearable after regaining awareness. When Lem’s eyes opened for the first time since the ordeal started, he got a glimpse of the white room. He could see a surgeon standing over him, bloody scalpel in hand. That was before a bright light blinded him again. His eyes were too sensitive to light after having them shut for so long.

When they finished removing Lem’s organs, they pierced his skin with what he assumed to be a needle as they stitched him back together. It did not take long, but it was a wasted effort. Without his organs, Lem would be dead before any infection or disease could kill him.

When they finished sewing Lem’s body back together, they pushed the gurney back down to a freezing room. Lem was sure he would be dead in a matter of minutes. They had taken him apart, he thought to himself.

“I will need a miracle to survive the next hour.”

Lem tried to come to terms with his fate. He reflected on his accomplishments, his kids, his career, and all the wonderful times he had enjoyed. A calming peace washed over him.

He should have stopped his thoughts there, with the happy memories, and not let his head fill with the dark images. All Lem had never done. The moments in his children’s lives he would miss. Lem dreamt of the day he might walk Rebecca down the aisle, a dream he realized at this point would never happen.

Lem continued to reminisce, wishing he could relive his life with less regret. As he lay there motionless and freezing, he hadn’t a clue about what was keeping him alive or if he even was alive. He could only assume his sense of time was off. With nothing to keep him distracted, all the pain worsened. 

“Just a little longer,” Lem kept telling himself. Each time he believed it a little less.

“What an outstanding length of time for a body to carry on functioning with missing organs,” Lem thought.

Lem assumed he had passed away and transcended into limbo until someone pushed their way past the door and grabbed onto his stretcher. He was moving once again. 

Lem was loaded into a vehicle. The sounds of the vehicle’s engine along with the hum of voices was a pleasant change from the sounds of silence he had become accustomed to. When the vibration from the ride ceased, Lem was clueless about his destination. 

They moved him into another quiet room. Hands manipulated Lem’s body as they dressed him, the clothing, and the new surface Lem was placed on were soft and comfortable. The room was a comfortable temperature, Lem was thrilled his body had a chance to warm.

The sounds building in the room worried Lem. As people entered, they came closer. He did not recognize the voices until they came closer to his body, at which time Lem recognized the voices of many family members. Still, some remained a mystery to him. It broke his heart to listen to them as they sobbed, relating past events they had shared.

After a few guests had a private moment with Lem, the voices quieted down to a whisper as selected people gave their speeches. Nothing shared was even close to how Lem thought he would be remembered. He lay there coming to terms with the fact he had died, he would never see his friends or family members again. Lem listened to their last goodbyes. This brought him great emotional pain, surpassing the experience of his organs being removed.

A gentleman talked about the time they had spent on the golf course. He spoke of how Lem always kept his cool, even in the hardest of times. It must have been a co-worker speaking, Lem realized. Anyone who knew him in his personal life knew Lem was quick to anger. He would always yell over spilled milk. Those things seemed insignificant to him as he lay there.

There was a brief break between speeches in which they played Lem’s favourite song. No matter what the situation was, the old folk song always rang true. This situation was no different.

The speeches ceased. Lem never thought he would experience this part of life. Or death. So many questions about what comes next filled Lem’s head. The doors opened as they wheeled him outside. He enjoyed the sweet lullaby of the nearby birds, singing him down to his last sleep. The songs of the birds were cut short by the shrill, wailing sound of bagpipes playing an old cliché song. Lem lay there like a scared child, as the priest said his last prayer. They lowered Lem down into his grave, a slow and dreadful process.

When people faded away one by one, Lem found himself surrounded by silence again. Yet the darkness was worse, as he knew it surrounded him. Still better than freezing to death. Lem reflected on all that had transpired in his life. His life seemed to happen in an underwhelming flash, filled with missed opportunities. There was a rhythmic pounding above him. It did not take long to understand the source of what struck his coffin was dirt being thrown down on it. Lem tried to keep calm with peaceful thoughts, but they were soon replaced with anxiety and fear.

The sound of a small fly buzzing inside his coffin broke his solitude six feet under. The fly became a great annoyance, making it hard to focus on anything else. Lem was searching for something to kill his anxiety in the dead silence. But this buzzing wasn’t a suitable method of relief. 

“The fly’s life will be short,” Lem told himself. “And it will soon be dead like me.”

The buzzing of the fly did not cease, instead, it grew, as the annoyance gained company. Various parts of Lem’s body itched from the incision wounds. The pain worsened as time passed and became impossible to ignore. Lem’s skin was moving, the parts in motion grew sore. The skin on different areas of his body broke open. The skin around his neck was the first to break, causing fluids to leak out. As it continued, Lem noticed a sensation to it, as if it were squirming its way out of him.

Lem felt little legs crawling all over his body. He was aware of something still buried under his skin as flies picked away at him. He could not understand how so many flies had got into his coffin. Dozens of flies seemed to surround his body. With a sickening thought, Lem realized they had been with him since their birth as maggots. They rose from the dirt, followed by them eating their way into his skin and back out again in a cruel cycle. They feasted away at what remained of Lem’s festering body.

The discomfort grew to tremendous heights as they broke more ground, eating away at his body. Lem lay there with an empty stomach as breakfast passed to lunch, and lunch to dinner, and dinner back to breakfast.

“When will this nightmare end?” Lem wondered.

His body had died, but his thoughts were still very much alive. What would happen when these flies and time completely removed all his flesh until nothing but bones remained? He did not know for certain, but it couldn’t happen soon enough. 

“The end must be near. Please, let the end be near!” Lem begged. 

Lem thought back to the days leading up to his death. If he could have one last conversation with his loved ones, he would tell them to “Cremate your dead!”



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