Friday, July 17, 2015

The Corruption of Things Which Were Once Alive

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is Random Phrase, where you visit a website that gives you a random phrase and write 1K words including that.  My random phrase is "forensic souring".

The Corruption of Things Which Were Once Alive

   Lester never really loved his job.  It was just something he did, on the way to finding his dreams.  The economy had crashed right after he graduated college with his degree in graphic design.
   He loved art and design.  It was his life.  In his younger years, he dreamed about working at a cutting-edge advertising firm, or designing for his favorite magazines.  The possibilities seemed endless -- that was, before he got a taste of the real world.
   He felt like he was really good at what he did.  He worked hard.  He had talent.  He had passion.  But what he didn't have was a job lined up for when he graduated.  
   One by one, his friends around him were offered internships and full-time jobs.  But for some reason, he couldn't seem to get his foot in the door.  He sent letters to firms and businesses around the country, just begging for someone to give him a chance.  But competition was fierce, and he was somehow always overlooked.  He took freelance gigs whenever he could, but those were few and far between.
   After three months of living as a starving artist, he reluctantly took a job as a mortician's assistant.  The pay wasn't much, but it was just enough to pay the bills, and to buy him an occasional night out.  He promised himself that he would keep applying for jobs, that maybe it would become easier now that the pressure was off.  Maybe he would have better luck now that he wasn't so desperate.  Maybe.
   After about a year of learning the trade, the mortician took a higher paying job at a competitor, and he was automatically promoted.  It meant a huge upgrade in his way of life.  He couldn't pass it up.
   Lester was perfecting his craft.  Corpses seemingly came to life as he painted their faces and stitched their wounds.  Sure, it wasn't his original passion, but it paid the bills.  He was coming up in the world.  
   Over time, he was practicing design less and less in his free time.  His freelance work went from being put on the back burner to being thrown away completely.  His hair was greying, his skin wrinkling, and his dreams decaying, smothered by the life he created for himself.  In the bustle of everyday life, working to survive the real world, he forgot about his dreams altogether.  
   That was, until Frances Englebert was wheeled into his lab.  
   "Old Frankie!  Man, it's been a while.  I'm sorry to see you like this."
   He sighed in remorse, wishing for one more opportunity to speak to Frankie.
   Frankie was a talented artist, and Lester's friendly rival at the art college.  He looked up to him, envied him. Especially when he was offered a job at a big design firm in New York City.  Lester read in the funeral program that he had made quite a life for himself.  He worked his way to the top, and started his own firm.  He had a beautiful family, and plenty of friends.
   And now, here he was.  His death was a tragedy, but his life was an inspiration.  His legacy lived on through his children and his business, all of which had flourished.
   Lester felt tears roll down his cheek.  It was the first time he had felt anything in years.  It suddenly dawned on him -- all this time, he had put all of his energy into living the practical life.  He was surrounded by decay, spending all of his efforts trying to make death look as pretty as possible, painting an illusion of animation over the forensic souring that corrupted that which was once alive.  
   The reality sank in that night as he prepared his old friend for his final presentation to the world.
   The next morning, the funeral director came in to see his mortician crumpled on the floor with tears in his eyes, his face puffy from hours of crying.
   Lester was mourning, not just for his friend, but for himself and everything in his own life that he had allowed to die.


  1. Hard to follow a whole life in just 1k words, but you did it with poignancy and cold, hard truth. Nicely done.