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“I want to be interred after I die,” Mr. Peters said. He made that clear to his family while he was still lucid, before old age and illness rendered him unintelligible. Seventy wasn’t that old, but he recognized the symptoms that were creeping up on his ailing body – the aches, the fatigue, the feeling of helplessness and despair. Despite his daughter’s attempts to assuage his concerns, he sensed his own mortality.

The worst part about dying, Mr. Peters thought, was what happened afterwards. Even since he was a small boy, he had been afraid of fire. He could never forget the scorching heat of the orange flames searing his skin, the dark billowing smoke entering his nostrils. The time that his house burned down, the fire almost took him with it. How ironic then, to escape the fire only to be fed into it after death.

So one day, he sat his son and daughter down after dinner. “I want to be buried whole,” he said, emphasizing the “whole”. “I do not want to be cremated. After I die, put my body in a coffin and lower it into the ground. As simple as that.”

His daughter Lucy gasped. “Don’t talk about that,” she said, flustered. “It’s unlucky.”

Mr. Peters waved her away with his hand. “Everybody dies sooner or later. I’m letting you know now so you can start preparing. No cremation. Understood?”

Lucy and his son John nodded their heads.

“Good,” Mr. Peters said. He stood up from his chair and made for the door. Suddenly, there was a stabbing pain in his chest. He groped for the back of his chair blindly, but failed, and collapsed onto the floor.

Within hours, Mr. Peters was dead.

 

If Mr. Peters was right about the inevitability of death, he was wrong about the simplicity of a burial. In the seventy years he had lived, more people had died and were buried while the land mass had stayed the same.

This was something Lucy Peters Green understood. It was with trepidation that she dialed the numbers of the cemeteries in the city, and her fear was realized when the caretakers told her that all the cemetery plots were full.

“You’re outdated, ma’am,” the caretakers told her. “No one buries their dead anymore. Everyone does cremation.”

Lucy hung up. She then proceeded to call the cemeteries outside the city. They were all but full too, with only a few plots available. Lucy bought a plot with her meager earnings despite its exorbitant price. A simple service was held, and the coffin that held the body of Mr. Peters was lowered into the ground and covered with soil. A tombstone was erected, and before she left, Lucy placed a wreath of yellow carnations on his grave. They were his favorite flowers.

                                                                        *

Who knew that it would be more expensive to die as time went on? But it makes sense, if you think about it.

                                                                        *

“Bury me…” the old man mumbled in his delirium. “…in the ground…I’m burning…”

His wife, his children, his grandchildren and two nurses scurried about him, applying cold compresses, squeezing his hand. To no avail. There was nothing they could do to bring old Mr. Scott out of his delirium.

“What to do…what to do,” muttered old Mrs. Scott as she squeezed her husband’s hand. “He wants to be buried, but that’s not possible…”

“Mom, we’ll have to cremate him. That’s the only option,” their son replied. “There is no more space. No one has been buried for years.”

Just then, the old man’s eyes popped open. His family gasped and all leaned towards the bed, anxious and eager at the same time.

“When I die…” the old man whispered in a moment of lucidity, “bury me in the ground, where I’ll be safe from the flames. Bury me whole…do not burn me…leave me in peace…” With that, Mr. Scott again fell into his delirium.

His wife and son looked at each other. “He has spoken,” she whispered.

“But burial is illegal,” the son protested.

Old Mrs. Scott shook her head. “You can’t deny a dying man’s last wish, especially if he’s your father. Charlie…”

Charlie Scott sighed. “Yes, Mom. We’ll figure something out.” He glanced at the body of his father ruefully. Seeing the gaunt face, outline of the bones stretching his paper-thin skin, the beads of sweat trickling down the face of the man he loved so dearly, Charlie knew that something had to be done.

 

 The caretaker led Charlie through rows and rows of graves, pausing here and there to assess their potential. Finally, he came to a stop in front of a sandstone marker. It was full of scratches, but Charlie managed to discern the name. Jonathan Peters, 1950–2020.

2020, Charlie thought, that was the year his father was born.

“No one visits this grave because the man has no living descendants,” the caretaker said.

Charlie paused to examine the spot. Weeds poked out from the soil, and a rotten stench wafted towards him from somewhere nearby. But it was the best he could do.

“Alright,” he said, and handed the caretaker the check. “You get the other half of the payment after this deal is completed.”

The caretaker nodded. A date and time was arranged.

After the caretaker went off, Charlie stood at the spot for a while longer. It was sad, he thought, how money could only buy this dilapidated plot in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere. He shook his head. If he were richer…

                                                                        *

The caretaker felt exhilaration and guilt at the same time. Exhilaration, because in his hand he held a check that contained more money than he had earned in a lifetime. Yet, he could not gaze at the coffin of Mr. Peters without a sense of pity. Poor man, he thought. It was too bad his children died without having children of their own. In this day and age, it was essential to have someone to guard the grave.

As he stood there wondering what to do, he suddenly hit upon a solution. With his newly earned money, he had Mr. Peters’ body cremated and scattered the ashes in the river. It was only the right way to pay respect to the body, he thought, satisfied with himself.

With his conscience clear, he bought a car, a brand new Ferrari, and drove it home to show his family. 

A story written for my school's literary magazine, with the prompt "underground".

critique: For some reason, sta.sh is not letting me add the link here, so I've put the link to my critique in the comments!

1. What are the themes that you feel are expressed in this story?
2. Does the story make sense? Do you get a sense of irony?
3. Does the story flow from one perspective to the other?
4. How is the characterization?
5. What do you think of the title?
6. Overall impressions? Any other comments?
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2013-01-05
The Price of Dying by ~Clevina is aptly titled and elaborates on the cost of death with an ironic twist. ( Featured by thorns )
:iconcrematedman:
CrematedMan Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013  Student Writer
Very beautiful, transitions are smooth.

I think the first line would be better. 'Despite his daughter’s attempts to assuage his concerns, he sensed his own mortality.'
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :)
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:iconcionie:
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
This was pretty awesome. I definitely felt the sense of irony and I thought the title was very fitting. When I first read the title I thought it would be a story about the family paying off the debts of the funeral but this was quite an interesting twist on the theme.

Good job!
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :hug:
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:iconzireael07:
Zireael07 Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is brilliant!
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :aww:
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:iconpitalia:
Pitalia Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   General Artist
This is an amazing story!!!!
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   Writer
Thanks! :D
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:iconpitalia:
Pitalia Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   General Artist
Your very welcome!!! Seriously It is amazing :)
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:iconbrassteeth:
brassteeth Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013
Lovely burst of Cynicism.
Congratulations on your D.D!
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :hug:
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:iconcrumbledwings:
CrumbledWings Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
very nice :D
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :)
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:iconforeverforwards:
foreverforwards Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
I found this really amazing. unexpected and exciting. But I felt the last sentence was kinda pointless or not quite right words, more almost rushed. Sorry :(
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thanks! That's alright haha. :)
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:iconunclegargy:
UncleGargy Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think relatives should respect the wishes of dead relatives as much a possible. My own mother did not want any stones or monuments of any kind. If I want to 'talk' to her I use a scented candle of her favourite flowers (Sweetpea) and a photo. She passed away 18 months ago and I have nowhere to mourn her which is a good thing as lots of people trapse to graveyards Xmas eve or even Xmas day which is frankly morbid!
When I go I want it to be as cheap as possible. If there is enough money then I'll be under a tree in a forest graveyard if my family have no money then I'l be dontated to medical science.
We are just so much 'meat' in the end.
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:iconany59:
Any59 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
1. Respect the afterlife
2. Yes, yes
3. yes, but if you had put the years it would have made more sense
4. I don't know what characterization is
5. You come in thinking the story is about someone dying and thinking about how the did things to deserve it, but it is actually about two men fearing fire and cremation
6. it was a nice take on the future, an aspect not usually looked at
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013   Writer
Thanks for your comments. :)
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:iconany59:
Any59 Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
sure thing
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:iconthemadkatter13:
TheMadKatter13 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Very depressing I think. One last wish you have, and it's granted to you, but only for such a short time. And then in another hundred plus years, the same thing, or a Poltergeist (film) thing will happen to Mr Scott and it's such a harsh, unloving cycle.
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013   Writer
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've never thought of it as a cycle before, but it makes sense. :nod:
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:iconkngfishergrl:
Kngfishergrl Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
This is precisely the reason I don't want to be buried in a cemetery. I'd rather someone bury my body under a tree, or plant a seedling as my grave marker. Then at least other living things can thrive even when I'm gone.
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:iconunclegargy:
UncleGargy Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Know what you mean. The idea of tree roots hugging my bones is strangely comforting.
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:iconlostgryphin:
LostGryphin Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Amazing and well-written - congrats on the DD
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :D
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:iconcanveysue:
CanveySue Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Great writing, I loved it, it kept me intrigued and made me think really hard about the subject. There is a company where I live in Essex UK which does turn ashes into jewellery, at: ashesintoglass.co.uk, but not actually into diamonds! An intriguing tale, it gave me the chills, so well done on the DD :clap: :clap: :tombstone:
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you for your comments and the fave! :D
I visited the website, and wow, the jewelry they make is actually really pretty (especially the paperweight)! But do people actually wear earrings that contain the ashes of their loved ones? Personally I would find it kind of creepy haha. :hmm:
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:iconcanveysue:
CanveySue Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
I know, they're very pretty, but oh no I wouldn't want to wear them either, way too creepy, I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere too lol - hmm :hmm: !!!
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:iconcatluvr2:
catluvr2 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Whoa. Congrats on the DD! :+favlove:
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :hug:
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:iconnldarkstripe:
nldarkstripe Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
wow that is soooo good....
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
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:iconnldarkstripe:
nldarkstripe Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
ya its so cool!
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Congrats on the well deserved DD! :dalove:
Have a nice day! :heart:
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :hug:
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure :happybounce:
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:iconfractamonium:
Fractamonium Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Congratulations on your DD. I made it today also. It's my first! Let's hope it won't be our last!
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you, and congrats to you too! :dance:
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:iconfractamonium:
Fractamonium Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Thanks! Did it take you by surprise like it did me?
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:iconj-ko:
J-ko Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013
1. You can get your wish at your death, but no guarantee your wish holds for eternity.

2. It made sense. There was irony, but also a sense of a cycle - one guy dies, demands to be buried, some other guy dies, wants to get buried too but the other body has to be burned for it. I can foresee that if there was another part this guy was going to get exhumed and cremated too.

3. It did seem abrupt from the change of names, for a while I thought there was a typo.

4. Since it's a short story, there's not much to say. I'd say the evolution of society (how perceptions change from being outdated to just illegal) was the main character than any of the humans.

5. Doesn't seem suitable - there's no concrete description how much they spent. How meagre is meagre and how exorbitant is exorbitant? Have the prices of Ferraris increased to a few million in the distant future? While I can imagine, the setting wouldn't mesh with what I have in my head. Maybe something about the irony and cycle of post-death would be more fitting.

6. A bit too many commas in the last line. Suggestion: "His conscience clear, he drove home a new Ferrari; he couldn't wait to see the looks on their faces."

Congratulations on the DD! It was a good short read. :)
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Hello! Apologies for the super-long wait on your critique ^^;

Thank you for providing questions to answer - it really does make things a bit easier :XD:

1. Thematically, I didn't really find much to be honest. Perhaps something about carrying out a last wish, but I don't think the moral ambiguity was pushed hard enough for me to really get behind that. If the characters struggled with trying to carry out those last wishes, then perhaps, but they accept and find a way to carry them out very quickly. I think there might even be a better story on your hands if it were told from the POV of the crypt keeper and if he had to fight with his conscience over this issue.

2. It does make sense, though I can't say I got any irony from it. The two families have nothing connecting them to each other, so there's no irony in the fact that one was dug up to make room for the other.

3. This kinda ties in with the above; there is no connection between these families except for the plot (haha). If there were some other thing tying them together - the fathers went to high school together or were on rival sports teams or something - then we'd get that sense of irony I think you're going for. But two random families is kinda boring, especially since we can all see the ending coming. We KNOW the first guy is going to end up cremated after all. The only twist I can think of by leaving it like this is to have the grave keeper take the bribe, but not bother with the work of digging Peters up and cremating Scott instead.

5. I'll come back to number 4, but I really like the title a lot. I think it's pretty much perfect.

4/6. I put these two together because I know I've been pretty critical and my overall impressions tie into characterization - I'm not being harsh because I think this is bad, but because I think it's underdeveloped. There's not really enough characterization for me to comment upon. I don't even remember the names without scrolling back up to look. It's an ambitious story because you have two perspectives, technically two separate stories, and neither one really gets fleshed out; thus, the whole thing suffers for it. WHY is it so important to the fathers that they be buried whole? That seems like the crux of the whole matter and it's never touched on. It would be especially interesting if they had two completely different reasons for their last wishes.

I hope this was helpful! :D
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:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by =DailyLitDeviations in a news article that can be found here: [link]

Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article. Keep writing and keep creating.
Reply
:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012   Writer
Thank you so much! :dance:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012   Writer
Featured for the rest of November '12 in my journal. Thank you.
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012   Writer
Thank you! :hug:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012   Writer
:iconyourewelcomesignplz:

Happy Thanksgiving!
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:iconsleyf:
Sleyf Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think you make an interesting and valid point. I mean I remember when we had my grandma cremated, that was expensive enough, and I think it's ridiculous that people should have to pay such a huge amount of money for a place to be buried (even to bury ashes) and imagine all those people who can't keep up the payments, what happens to the bodies of their loved ones? You'd think dying would be free, but even after people are dead others are still squeezing money out of them.
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012   Writer
Thank you! I'm sorry about your grandma. :(
That's true. In the future, having any plot of land for the dead may become a practice only affordable to the elite. :hmm: But it'd be interesting to see how our practices evolve. I was reading about this topic, and apparently there is technology available that is able to turn ashes into diamonds, since both people and diamonds are made of carbon. :O (But then that's probably expensive too.)
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:iconsleyf:
Sleyf Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That's alright, and thanks :hug:

Oh yeah I heard about that too! But can you imagine turning your grandma into a diamond necklace than wearing her around...sort of creepy and somewhat disrespectful i think
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:iconclevina:
Clevina Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012   Writer
Haha yeah that would be creepy!
If I were to use that technology I definitely wouldn't wear my relatives as jewelry. I'd arrange the diamonds in a book of sorts...like a 3D family tree, I guess. Or display them in a glass case. There are lots of possibilities! :giggle:
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