The Crystal Dead. Short Story.

“This place gives me the creeps.”
“It’s like watching ants, just mindless drones going about their business.”
“So? It’s just the way they do things here.”
“I know, but it’s creepy, why do you need so many people to look after the dead anyway? They’re not going anywhere. There must be thousands of people in here, all racing back and forth.”
Jenny sighed, “They went over this before we arrived, weren’t you paying attention?”
“I was. I don’t care if they think their dead will come back to life one day, it still doesn’t explain why there’s so many of them, or what the hell they do all day. There’s only so many times you can dust a corpse you know.”
“They don’t decay like us, they crystallise, I asked about it, apparently if they’re not stored correctly they’ll shatter.”
“It’s still weird.”
“Yeah well, it is what is it.”
Jenny turned from the railings and started moving towards the stairs, “Are you coming? Or are you going to gawp all day?”
Adam shook his head and followed after her.

If Jenny was being honest the place creeped her out a little too. The walls were smooth and curved outwards, like pipes, the colours were a mixture of purples and reds. The way it all came together reminded Jenny of veins, like the entire building was just the empty carcass of some giant being. She shuddered slightly as she realised it could be true. They knew very little about this planet and its people, sure there was the general history and introductions, but she didn’t know their legends, their myths. They could have had giants roaming this place once upon a time. She passed two people in red robes, they were sponging some silvery liquid onto the walls. She suppressed another shiver. She had seen them do that to the bodies before. She took a deep breath and released it slowly, they were here on a mission of discovery, have a look around then report back once they were done. She had been on worse missions, but for some reason this one unnerved her.

“Here we can see bodies that have recently come to us, the process hasn’t started yet, you can see their skin looks a little oily. We wipe it away with cool water and then apply a moisturising mixture we create ourselves. Our ancient ancestors would simply bury their dead in bog land, as it would have a similar effect. We don’t do that now as we find it tends to give the skin odd and unnatural tints, most commonly green but occasionally we also come across purple and red. We also find that it makes it easier to store families together, as well as allowing visitors to visit with their deceased easily.”

The tour guide moved passed the alcoves, supplying more information as they went, the deeper they went the older the bodies. They really were quite beautiful, sparkling gently in the light. The tour guide brought them into a small room, “This is one of our rooms for the oldest bodies, as you can see the colour has completely drained away leaving a clear, crystal structure.” Jenny leaned in for a closer look, it was incredible, it looked like someone had sculpted an entire body from smooth, clear crystal. “Our prophesies tell us that when the gods return to this planet the veins of our dead will run with gold. There was a brief time, about fifty years ago, when a few of our scientists tried to experiment with some of the bodies that were badly decayed or too close to shattering to save. This practise was outlawed though, as we felt it was wrong to tamper with somebody without their consent, as they didn’t give it while alive, and cant now, the area of study was shut down. We still have the option to give consent for medical testing once we are gone. Most people consent to the non-invasive testing, however none have consented to anything more since the laws have been put in place.”

Jenny had stopped listening to the tour guide, she had the strongest urge to reach out and stroke her hand across the crystal, to feel it, cold and smooth, beneath her skin. “Are you alright?”
“You looked a little…distracted there.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, they’re just so beautiful.”
The guide smiled at her, “You may touch one if you like, we do so on a regular basis with our own loved ones or while providing care to others.”
Jenny reached out slowly, “It’s warm.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, I should have prepared you for that. I’ve been told that you have similar structures on earth, but they’re created in the ground?”
“Yeah, we have gemstones, precious stones that are small and coloured, but they’re cold, and nothing like this.” She looked at Adam, “You have to feel this. It’s incredible, it’s smooth and warm and it feels soft. How does it feel soft?”

Adam reached out and touched it.
“Well-” the tour guide froze, a gentle golden light started to fill the body, Jenny and Adam snatched their hands back, the crystal being started to vibrate, every inch of it glowing with that wonderful golden light. There was a gasp, the creatures chest started to rise and fall slowly, it blinked and sat up, it looked at Jenny and Adam and smiled. Around them they could hear shouts from all over the building, it was happening, the dead were coming back to life.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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