THE UNDERTAKER OF UNKNOWNS, a short story

It’s a rancid smell. Not the rotting, decaying corpses but the stench of insignificance. It covers this planet like a suffocating blanket. The bodies don’t help the nostrils breathe easy either. Thankfully they’re under the dirt within twenty minutes of their arrival.

That’s why I’m here. The fastest grave digger in the whole galaxy. At least that’s what I tell myself some days. Other days it’s a belief that I’m the sacrificial lamb. The only one for the job. The only one selfless enough to care for these unattended souls that once were. But in reality, I know the truth. I’m here because no other planet wants my criminal record staining their population. With no job offers on the table and no serious potentialities in my future, I ended up taking the only available work I could find.

The Undertaker of Unknowns sits and waits. That really should be the job description rather than responsible for burying the John and Jane Does of the galaxy. Yes, that is the job. The other planets don’t have room, or at least say they don’t, for burying the nameless. So, they send them here. This barren, desolate planet. But it isn’t just sitting and waiting, it’s also unfortunate amounts of thinking. Frightening lengths of time trapped inside my mind.

Sometimes I daydream about the resurrection of the Unknowns and a rebellion against the rest of the galaxy, me as the leader of course. Other times I ponder what their names were. I’ll write a ‘Francis’ here or a ‘Beatrice’ there. A simple fingertip in the dirt above their grave and by dawn it’s already disappeared. But that’s fine because that day they feel more like a ‘Margery’ or sometimes you even get a ‘Leopold Archer IV’. But that’s rare.

The housing is a mere shack built with plywood but it’s better than the alley I used to reside in. Even the worn-out mattress with the springs bursting out of the sides is better than the concrete one I used to claim. The others used to laugh and mock me when I told them I was going to be the Undertaker of Unknowns. They scoffed from their corner of the alley, saying I was a trader or called me ‘part of the system’. Well, who’s laughing now?

They probably are. In all honesty, I’d love to spend a minute back in the alley just to shoot an apple core in the dumpster. I had the best jumper in the group. They’re likely celebrating my departure knowing there’s an opening for top shooter.

But they don’t know what they’re missing. And actually, I’ll see them soon enough. They’ll all end up here. We all do. And I’ll bestow them with a name. Something no one else was willing to give them.

And as for me? Well, I can only hope whoever my replacement is when the time comes will be as generous as I’ve been. Maybe I’m a ‘Carl’ or I could even see ‘Bennet’. I guess I’ll never know. But that’s the fun of it, right? A name is just that, a name.

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