Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014
The small, white chapel had a neon sign that read Kum & Go. Below it another sign read: Funerary Services, open 24/7. Nathan had never been to a funeral before. It wasn’t that he didn’t know people who died. This time, it mattered.
The black coffin dominated the chapel. Dark veneered benches offered a place to sit. Nathan didn’t recognize any of the other four people looking bored or comm-zoned in the place. The chaplain had the good taste to look sad, at least.
Nathan found a bench in front of the casket and sat, seething. Alexi’s death hadn’t been an accident. She was too good a Savvy to overlook equipment in danger of breach. The casket lie closed, to not distress the fainter stomachs in the room. Explosive disruption of implants were an occupational hazard.
Nathan ignored the gathered group, wondering what had happened to Alexi in the three days since he’d lost contact.
The chaplain stood up to speak. The group settled to their chairs, deigning to pay attention to the deceased.
The heavy wooden door to the tiny chapel swung open, catching Nathan’s attention. He spun to see an enormous man with a bright green mohawk, a wide grin, and a full length leather jacket. The stranger filled the chapel with his presence.
“Fellow denizens of the Green Dome of Seattle, please do not get up. I’m only here for the beer and pretzels…” He trailed off when his eyes lit upon the casket. Nathan noticed that his grin faltered slightly before he continued. “Ah, the cooler! Fear not, your refreshments are at hand!”
“Who do you think you are?” One of funeral goers stood up. He came up short against such an enormous man. Nathan estimated his height at over seven feet tall.
The big man’s expression hardened briefly before resolving back into his big grin. “Why, sir, I’m the bartender, can’t you see? And I fear we all need a drink.”
He walked over to the casket. The chaplain was white with fear, and backed away, muttering prayers and crossing himself. He brandished his cross towards the interloper but did not step forward.
Nathan’s hand fell to his gun. He didn’t know who this meat muppet was, or why he upstaged Alexi’s funeral. When he grabbed the lid of the casket, Nathan hit his limit. He shot the man in the arm.
The bullet flattened against the leather, leaving a gray ashy mark before falling to the floor. The shot ringing through the air galvanized the others into action; they all ran for the door, screaming.
“Ow,” said the big man. He heaved the coffin lid up and looked inside.
“You piece of shit, you get away from her!” Nathan launched himself at him, no longer caring that he was two feet shorter than the interloper. He started pummeling, his fists slapping against the reinforced leather.
“Will you look at that?” The big man said, unperturbed.
Nathan’s head snapped around, and he immediately wished he hadn’t. Alexi lay on her back, eyes closed. Her skin held the pallor of death. It wasn’t the mess he’d expected, and that made it worse.
“Look here.” The big man said dispassionately. “Behind her ear.”
New, unhealed wounds pouted, showing red edges and hasty sutures. Despite the bloodless appearance of his deceased friend, nothing indicated massive equipment failure.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Nathan shouted in the chapel, his voice echoing off the walls.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” The big man assured him.
“Who are you?” Nathan felt as though his mind was starting to melt from overexposure to unbelievable circumstances.
“My name’s Jack.” His eyes flicked to Alexi, and Nathan could see the wistful sadness that showed briefly. “Alexi knew me as Orochi.”
“I’m Nathan. And I’m all ears.”
This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!