The old man laying silently in the coffin on the other side of the room with his hands crossed over his chest in the shadow of a gleaming silver crucifix mounted on the wall was at this point in the morning just a centerpiece. These were the last moments' air or light would ever touch his flesh.
This was seven-year-old Grace’s first such function. She stood at the opposite end of the room glancing at the gold trimmed pine box. In the child’s mind death was associated with instant putridity. Her imagination conjured up images of lumbering zombies with blood stained teeth protruding from the decaying flesh of their lipless mouths.
That this could be the new form of her dearly departed grandfather chilled the girl’s blood. She did not think herself a coward. Even though her parents told her it was ok if she didn’t want to look she was determined to prove to them and to herself she could handle death. Who could such a concept as death be more abstract to than a child?
Grace quietly leaped frogged from one circle of conversing adults to the next. Some acknowledged her some didn’t. When she finally made it to the coffin her knees locked up, but she managed to drag her feet until step by step she was standing over the coffin.
She held her breath and looked down into the plush interior. Grace exhaled when she saw him. He looked different, but he wasn’t a monstrosity. His thin lips were painted red and his hairless scalp shinned as if it had just been waxed and buffered. There was something off about the hue of his skin. Grace couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was if he had dimmed.
Trepidation gave way to, and the child wanted to know what he felt like. She looked around to see if anyone was watching and steadily reached in to touch the old man’s face. She was jolted by the chill of his skin on her fingertips.
She gently pushed her fingers in, and the softening flesh gave way. In an instant, the area pressed under her fingers began to change to a mossy green. A stomach-churning stench wafted into the girl’s nostrils causing her to gag. The green coloration spreading across her grandpas face steadily changed to an oozing black color resembling a piece of rotting fruit. Bubbles began to appear under his skin and blood flowed from between his slightly parted lips. The rot quickly spread, and his entire face began to dissolve. In mere moments it caved in. The body rotted from the girl’s touch until the burial suit was nothing but a human-shaped sack of decayed human matter.