Death is never an easy topic to tackle. What death might mean in the future is even harder — especially if there’s a profit in it. This week’s Futures tackles the issue head on in Ted Hayden’s story These 5 books go 6 feet deep. When not pondering the criminal possibilities of a dead body, Ted writes, and you can read more of his work at his website. Here he reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.
Writing These 5 books go 6 feet deep
My dad gives tours of Chicago graveyards. Last Halloween, he led a group of high-school students from tombstone to tombstone, explaining who was buried underneath and what they had done with their lives. Unfortunately, the kids didn’t care about history. They wanted ghosts. Where could they see one, now, on this tour, before they went back to their bus and returned to class? My dad explained that the cemetery was full of bodies but thin on hauntings. These dead had no interest in the present. They remained in the past.
Years earlier and thousands of miles south of Chicago, a family put their recently deceased grandmother in the living room, where I was staying at the time. The rubbery, disgustingly sweet smell of her decomposition made it impossible to sleep. The next morning, out for a tired and somewhat dazed walk, I found the grieving son burying wooden crosses in the forest. I asked why and he responded with a word I didn’t recognize. I asked again, he tried to explain, and I still didn’t understand. Eventually, he shrugged, said “Terrorists!” and went back to burying crosses.
I recently asked a friend if he would inherit his family business. He told me, in complete seriousness, that science had made such incredible advances that soon, no one would ever die. His parents would stay perfectly healthy for centuries and, if they managed to avoid the occasional careening bus and falling air-conditioning window unit, possibly forever. He would never own mum and dad’s business, but he would have their love eternally.
The prediction struck me as more hopeful than likely. Personally, I give his parents five to ten years.
The dead don’t die. They haunt teenagers looking for kicks, demand sons perform cryptic rituals, and look down on their children from heaven.
Or they do die and we, the living, are deranged.
The former proposition strikes me as hopeful, the latter as likely. But I saw a ghost once, so my position is muddled at best.
Death is confusing. As technology evolves, I imagine it will only become more so.