BURYING SAM • by Catherine J Gardner

The coffin rested on dour shoulders as the pallbearers marched forward. Hilda opened the door and bowed her head. She couldn’t form any words. Her fingers shook as she pointed towards the kitchen. The sounds issuing from within left no need for explanation.

Samantha sat crouched in a corner, studying her reflection in a collection of stainless steel pans. Every ten seconds or so she let out a pitiful howl then smashed a pan against the floor, the wall or her head. Dirt collected beneath her fingernails and a worm wriggled within her auburn fringe. It seemed trapped. Embalming fluid leaked from her nose and eyes.

As the men placed the glass coffin down on linoleum, Hilda sank into a chair. In the photograph above the television, her daughter grinned.

Grief knotted tight in her chest. The thing in the kitchen was someone else, not her daughter, not her Sam. She dabbed at fresh tears and formed a cement wall of denial between her eyes and her brain.

No, it was not Sam.

Though dressed in the requisite black, the pallbearers’ suits were made of rubber. Samantha lashed out at the men as they grabbed her brittle arms. Her screams spat and howled, and her legs kicked out as the men dragged her towards the coffin.

Hilda switched on the television to drown out the noise. The news was on. The news was always on.

“Inside the facility,” a reporter wiped sweat from her brow as heat blistered her skin, “there are seven thousand coffins.”

The tickertape, which ran along the bottom of the screen, agreed with the count. Scientists were studying the reactions of the dead via various inhumane methods. Regret seeped into her bones; Hilda did not allow it to take purchase.

“Ma’am,” a voice penetrated her wall. “Your daughter is ready to go.”

“It’s not my daughter.”

Within the coffin, Samantha’s fingers tore down her face and left deep welts in pallid skin. The worm freed itself from her hair, slithered down towards her screaming lips.

Hilda closed the door and pressed her back against the wood.

A pallbearer’s voice stole through the letterbox. “Not exactly Snow White, is she?”

Catherine J Gardner‘s fiction has appeared in various anthologies and magazines, dating back to the dark ages of the 1990s.   She resides at “The Poisoned Apple” which can be found at http://fright-fest.blogspot.com and she hopes you’ll pop on by for a visit.

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