"Science fiction and science have always danced around each other. Science fiction is the subconscious of science."
- Greg Bear
||An entirely autonomous burial rite.
|The sweet odor of fresh-cut flowers filled the coffin. The flowers swayed gently before his amazed vision, tapping silently on the glass lid. Others sprang up until the coffin was banked with petals and color and sweet odors. Gardenias and dahlias and daffodils, trembling and shining.
"Rogers!" The sermon continued.
"--Richard Braling, in his life, was a connoisseur of great and good things--"
... A small panel in the side of the box flipped open. A swift bright metal arm snatched out. A needle stabbed Richard in the thorax, not very deeply. He screamed. The needle shot him full of a colored liquor before he could seize it. Then it popped back into a receptacle and the panel snapped shut. "Rogers!" A growing numbness. Suddenly he could not move his fingers or his arms or turn his head. His legs were cold and limp. ...
Another panel opened. Metal forceps issued forth on steel arms. His left wrist was pierced by a huge sucking needle. His blood was being drained from his body. He heard a little pump working somewhere. ...
"Now it is the time when we must consign this part of this man to the earth--"
Little shining spades leaped out of the sides of the casket. They began to dig. He saw the spades toss up dirt. The coffin settled. Bumped, settled, dug, bumped and settled, dug, bumped and settled again. Pulse, pause, pulse, pause. Pump, pause, pump, pause.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust--" ...
The last thing Richard Braling saw was the spading arms of the Braling Economy Casket reaching up and pulling the hole in after it.
|From The Coffin,
by Ray Bradbury.
Published by Arkham House in 1947
Additional resources -
Compare to the cold=pac bin from Philip K. Dick's 1969 novel Ubik. Also, in his 1954 story Of Withered Apples, Dick writes about a woman who picks the last apple from an ancient tree that is determined to live on:
Lori picked the leaf up. It was old and brown. Her heart skipped a beat as she slipped the leaf into the pocket of her jeans. Against her loins the leaf cut and tingled, a little hard point piercing her smooth skin and sending exciting shivers up and down her spine. She stood at the open window a moment, sniffing the air. The air was full of the presence of trees and rocks, of great boulders and remote places. It was time - time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted.
Thanks to Connor Lawrence for contributing this item.
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