“This is my worst nightmare,” Ethan says. Next to him, curled in white bed sheets is Melanie, drinking from a green cup.
“I wish you wouldn’t say that,” she says.
“I don’t want this,” Ethan continues. “I never did, you have to understand.”
The room is gently rattling to the rumbling train in the distance. Its whistle sounds like a siren; confetti falls from the ceiling in the bedroom. Someone comes into the room. It’s Ethan’s uncle, the one who helped arrange for his parents' funeral.
“Uncle, what are you doing here?”
“We have to see to the burial, make sure it's proper,” his uncle says.
“But uncle, the funeral is long over. They’re already buried in the ground.”
“We must check to make sure it’s still comfortable, my boy. We will be exhuming them this very afternoon.”
The train is getting closer now and the picture frames begin to fall from the walls. The siren blares loudly filling the entire room. A cacophony of sound of cracking glass, the cranking of loose floorboards retching up, and the joints of the house cringing and bowing. The confetti stops falling and the walls are suddenly transparent with floor to ceiling windows revealing the countryside and the green train barreling up the tracks between evergreen hills.
Ethan is whispering into Melanie’s ear, he is telling her that he loves her. The bright and hazy light washes away all things but each other. He moves back and forth watching her face, her closed eyes, her mouth sounding the sound of pleasure.
“I think I should tell you something,” she says.
“I don’t want this.”
“It's already done.”
“Isn’t there something that we can do?”
“Just love, Ethan. That is all.”
On the train, Ethan stares out the window. Melanie is laying on the couch in the corner with her green cup rubbing her belly.
“Have you thought of names?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I don’t want them! I’ve never wanted them!”
“I have names picked out, but I wish you would participate.”
“I have to leave. I have to go.”
Ethan is following a path through a garden. On either side of him are tall pink flowers on thick green stalks. A butterfly flaps its wings across the sun. He can hear someone talking. The path ends and he is standing in a col-de-sac of flowers. There is a small opening and he pushes back the stalks peering out into a pasture where a funeral is happening.
In front of a large headstone the priest is reading from the bible. Ethan’s uncle steps forward and interrupts the priest.
“We have to know how they are. We have to exhume. We must know their condition. Please join me...” he says.
Those present drop to their hands and knees and begin clawing at the turf, pulling up dirt and tossing it behind them. Melanie appears and grabs Ethan’s hand and says, “I'm so sorry. They were wonderful people.”
“I found it!” someone yells from the hole that is now in the earth. Looking down, Ethan sees an entire dinner party situated on fine marble floors, and in the center, acting like a table, is the casket raised on saw horses.
Ethan steps forward and now he is down in the grave which seems at least a mile deep when he looks up. A crow passes across the opening, the sky is deep blue. Someone hands Ethan a glass of sparkling wine and he sips it while he inspects the intricate and colorful casket. It's made of fine wood and gold inlays and is covered in foreign inscriptions. Those who have gathered are all strangers to him and from their seats around the casket they begin to pound on the sides with forks and knives.
“We shall exhume!” Says his uncle at the head of the casket, “and consume!” Those with forks and knives begin to chant, “EXHUME, CONSUME, EXHUME, CONSUME,” pounding their forks and knives against its side, shaking it in its place with dull thuds. Someone hands Ethan a pair of silverware wrapped in a red dinner napkin. His uncle lifts open the top of the casket with strenuous effort and it creaks open. What emerges, very gracefully, is a lovely couple in fine dress. They rise out of the casket like two magician pawns, hovering there, smiling down at Ethan, they say, “enjoy.” The ravenous lot pulls them down and there is a great mess of gore that explodes within the turning ball of grotesque consumption. Ethan is suddenly plucked from the grave by a hand the size of a truck. It is Melanie and her body has grown very large as she peers down from above. She pushes the dirt from around the hole entombing the carnage.
“I have your ticket,” she says, now normal size, and hands it to him. Moments later the green train arrives and they board.
“Have you changed your mind?” she says to him.
Ethan watches a cartoon playing on the wall as he eats a hot dog that he can’t be sure isn't made from corpses. When he examines it more closely he can see within the clear casing black meat and a quivering maggot.
“Did you hear me?” Melanie says.
Ethan drops the pulsing hot dog.
“Did you hear me?”
“Death....” he says.
“Not death, silly. Life,” she parts her legs and there, staring at him, is the face of his child. The small hands emerge and it pulls itself out and falls to the floor like a limp doll. Then another face, then another, and face after face his children plop out of her and begin to bounce lifelessly around the cabin filling it with newborns. He picks one up and he stares lovingly at the infant. Someone hands Ethan a black hotdog on the end of a fork and he feeds it to the babe in arms. The smell of rotting meat touches his nostrils as the infant chews through the casing and the sick hot juices squirt into his face.
The ceiling. The bone white ceiling. It's morning. The way the sun comes in through the windows reminds him of his childhood. This room is the very one his parents had once dreamt in each night. When they died one summer ago he inherited the country house. Next to him Melanie is sleeping. He turns to look at her, her pregnant belly rises and falls in the dappling light. He reaches out and touches it, sweat dripping from his face. Melanie wakes and notices his wide eyes.
“Ethan, are you okay?”
“I had the worst dream. It was a nightmare.”
Melanie pulls him close and turns to look out the window at the tall pink flowers standing in front of evergreen hills. Pressed into the side of her belly, Ethan is buried. A gentle kick lands on his face, so light it's like a heartbeat.