The Funeral Home: Part 2- Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Midnight, ebony, night sky . . . blacks of every shade and texture surrounded us that morning. The day had come- the day of Melinda’s great great aunt’s viewing.
I’d never seen a dead person before and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Would she look peaceful? Would she look human?
I’d had fitful dreams the night before about the stinking mushrooms Mel had brought to the cemetery. We’d sealed them in a mason jar and left them in the grounds keeper’s shed, on top of the mini fridge with a note for Pete the grounds keeper not to open them. “DON'T OPEN! These smell like death!!” Melinda had written.
I followed Kyle, up the concrete stairs, through the front door, into the large meeting room of Beatrice's Funeral Home. A mingled scent of roses and musk filled my nostrils. I heard Melinda let out a surprised snort from behind. No stink. No mushrooms . . . at least not in here.
Kyle motioned for me to follow him to an open corner. Melinda trailed behind. We found a few free old tufted chairs gathered around a tray of grapes and cheese cubes. A decanter of deep red wine sat off to the side of the tray.
We were the youngest people in the room by far; I’m guessing by at least 2 decades. We looked painfully out of place, even with our dreary funerial attire.
“Where were the mushrooms?” Kyle asked, turning his back toward the crowd of mourners.
“In the casket sales room” Mel answered, popping some cheese in her mouth. She chewed nervously.
“Where?” I asked. Mel pointed toward a doorway with a deep red curtain off to the back of the room.
Just then a woman in a Jackie-O looking black dress tinked her wine glass with her obscenely large wedding ring. “I have a few words to say about Althea,” she said in a soft voice, a tear escaping her eye.
“God, I HATE Suzette Clancy.” Mel mumbled under her breath. “She’s not even RELATED to my aunt. She’ll do anything to get the vote for mayor.”
“This is our chance” Kyle interrupted, doing an awkward crouched walk toward the corner.
“You look suspicious!” I whispered, and Kyle crouched even more- so that he looked like an awkward old man. “Not what I had in mind . . .” I trailed off, tiptoeing around seating toward the curtain. Luckily, everyone was looking at Suzette. Mel slinked off in another direction, decanter in hand.
“This town is great because of women like Althea . . .” Suzette said, as the three of us backed through the red curtain into the pitch black of the sales room.
“What was that?” The three of us asked in unison.
“Where’s the light?” Kyle asked.
“Above us somewhere. It’s one of those singular bulbs with a string. You’re the tallest, Kyle.”
Warm yellow light illuminated the room in waves. Below our loafers, black heels, and boots was a perfect winding path of black mushroom caps growing from the deep purple carpet heading straight to a plain wood coffin in the corner- a tiny coffin fit for a child. No smell came from these mushrooms.
“Follow the yellow brick road.” Mel said, humorlessly.
“But It’s black and made of mushrooms,” Kyle said, confused.
Mel didn’t reply. I turned, surprised. No quip?
Mel looked through me, toward the coffin, standing as straight as a pin.
“Do. You. See. That??” Mel asked, her lips barely moving.
“Levitation.” Kyle replied, in barely a whisper.
There at the end of the mushroom road, the tiny coffin had begun to float, carried by an unseen force. It swayed in an unseen breeze, just like the curtain I’d noticed on the top floor months ago.
I took a small step forward, my heels crunching another row of mushrooms. The familiar stink of last night’s mushrooms filled my nostrils and lungs, making me choke. The levitating casket seemed to have awaken the fungus.
I expected to be overtaken my fear, but it didn’t come. I didn’t feel afraid or apprehensive. I didn’t feel the need to flee. Instead, I was filled with curiosity- a curiosity so all encompassing that nothing else mattered. There was no funeral home. No friends. There was just me and the coffin. I had to unlock its secrets. I had to figure it out. No matter the cost.
I walked faster, the stink becoming unbearable- barely breathable. I fell forward, gasping for air, my hands sinking into the putrid mushrooms, the stinking caps soaking into my black pantyhose.
“Morgan, stop!” Someone said, but I ignored them.
I was almost there.
The casket floated just inches away, swaying like a baby in its mother’s arms. I reached up, my hand covered in black stinking juice, my palm making solid contact with polished warm wood.