The Night of the Funeral

“Johnny stop that,” Mister Hodges shouted across the room.

Kenneth Hodges, owner of Hodges’ Funeral Parlor, crossed the preparation room at a near jog.

Johnny Williams, his assistant, stood over the embalming table with a trocar poised to enter the body of Harold Zigler who lay dead and uncaring on the stainless steel table.

“What’s the problem sir? I was just preparing to embalm this guy.”

“Mister Zigler is a special prep case,” Hodges said. He was panting with the minor exertion of racing across the fifteen foot wide room.

“The family has requested no embalming or any other modifications to the body. We’re also to dress him in unaltered clothing.”

“Well that’s gonna suck,” Johnny said. “He’s gotta weigh 240 and wrestling him into uncut clothes is gonna be a bitch.”

Standard practice at Hodges’ was to cut open the back of pants to make easing the corpse into them easier. Once the deceased was in the coffin the family could not tell that the clothing was damaged; out of sight, out of mind.

“I think it’s something religious or cultural,” Hodges said. “The wife seemed European, interesting accent; just make do.”

Johnny grimaced at the expected physical effort but he as he put the trocar on its hook he at least was mollified by not having to deal with fluid disposal.

The sun had just set when the first cars pulled up to the funeral parlor. Mister Zigler was displayed in the finest mahogany casket Hodges carried. His clothes were immaculate, jewelry was displayed prominently on his folded hands and his hair was groomed in the style of a famous movie star his family had requested. The only negative in Johnny’s eyes was the graying skin. Normally Mister Hodges and he would apply makeup to the embalmed bodies to provide a natural appearance; most families did not want the rudest parts of death shown to them. The Zigler family obviously wasn’t bothered as each of the mourners, dressed in black tie and gowns, filed past the coffin remarking on how good he looked.

“Is it just me or are they a bit festive?” Johnny said to Hodges where they stood near the doors.

“Different culture,” Hodges whispered. “Maybe they treat death like they do at a New Orleans funeral, brass bands and dancing.”

“Brothers and sisters,” an extremely tall man in a tuxedo said from beside the casket. “It has been three days since our newest brother received his sacrament. Tonight we gather to celebrate.”

A cheer ran through the crowd. Hodges was shocked to see several people pulling on tacky paper birthday party hats and blowing on noise makers.

“Most unseemly no matter the culture,” he whispered.

A hand fell on Johnny and Hodges shoulders. They both started as they realized that a heavy set man in a baby blue tuxedo had somehow materialized behind them.

“Youse guys did a great job with old Zig,” he said. “Why dontcha come up and join the party.”

“Oh sir, that would be improper,” Hodges said.

The man’s hands squeezed and both men felt as if a vice were crushing their shoulders. They felt themselves being pushed forward.

“If you insist sir,” Hodges said through gritted teeth.

Hodges and Johnny were steered through the crowd of mourners — celebrants? — until they were beside the coffin.

“Our hosts,” blue tux said and the crowd cheered and tooted their party horns.

“It is time,” the extremely tall man said and the crowd rose to its feet.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present our newest brother, Harold Zigler.”

Blue tux turned toward the casket, dragging Hodges and Johnny around by his motion as if they were paper dolls. Hodges’ face drained of color as the corpse sat up and blinked its eyes sleepily.

“Hi everybody,” Harold Zigler said. “I’m famished.”

“Brought you a youngun,” blue tux said and pushed Johnny toward the casket.

Zigler grabbed the young man as fast as a striking snake. Johnny barely had time to register the long fangs that appeared in Zigler’s mouth before he latched onto his throat and began to feed.

“Happy rebirth day,” the extremely tall man shouted.

The crowd cheered.

“Now we feast,” he shouted.

The crowd of vampires pushed forward for their taste of a Hodges’ cocktail.


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