Fiction — 06 November 2012

by

Kristine Ong Muslim

Every family had one.

So, when my sister came back from the dead, we accepted her. When she came downstairs for breakfast, we acted as if everything was normal. She smelled really bad — you know how human bodies could stink when they began to decay after two days in room temperature. We observed from the corner of our eyes how she sloppily buttered her toast and crammed it inside her mouth. How was she going to digest it?

“You don’t have to pretend to be reading, Beth,” I told her. “It’s been two days. The worms are supposed to come out of your eyes pretty soon. I don’t think you can still see.”

“I have to,” she said. “I’m going to be dead forever. It’s not like I’m going to live again. I might as well try to find ways to jump start my eyes. A blind dead is the worst kind of dead.”

“Let me know if you are ready for the formaldehyde treatment.” It was father. He did not look up from his morning paper. He never had it in him to care about anything except for matters related to his personal welfare. Those and boxing matches.

Outerbridge was particularly quiet this morning. The choir from The Church of Henry was strangely silent. Exactly four months ago, the government announced that the world was going to end on a so and so date. We did not pay much attention to it. Even if we did, we could not do anything about it. So we went on with our lives, what remained of it. Then one day, Beth died and came back to life. She did not have a pulse. She was very pale, and she reeked.

“Turn down the thermostat in your room as low as it can go and stay there,” my mother said to Beth. “I’ll call home service for your formaldehyde treatment this afternoon.”

She did not nod. She did not say anything, either. Maybe, she thought she did not have to. Or there’s the possibility that she had lost her hearing. Sometimes, the dead were completely misunderstood.

Beth continued on living because we could no longer bring her back to life. She stayed inside her room most of the time. There was no need to eat or drink. There was no need to sleep. There was no need to need anything. She kept on looking through the tinted glass windows to the children playing on the streets below. The children who rolled the red glittery things, the children who thought they could still live forever, the children who did not know that it could someday happen to them, that they could die then come back to life with all the accouterments of the dead.
The children could not see Beth by the window.

Beth could not see the children.

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012) and Grim Series (Popcorn Press, 2012). Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous publications, including Hobart, Southword, and Sou’wester. Her online home is http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com/.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Poor Beth!

    Great characterizations of the family and on this personal end of the world.

    Liked it a lot!

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