Helena thought how clinical the whole process was. Crematorium staff, in soft voices, present the grieving with a receptacle of ashes to be sprinkled at the site of the loved one’s choosing. So neat, so easy, so modern.

But Howard was none of those. So, towards sunset, she donned a white shroud, draped his casket in white fabric and garlands of flowers and hired the ferry man for the Isle of the Dead.

Once on the shore, Howard’s casket was lifted by invisible pallbearers and placed on the stone pyre in the Amphitheatre of the Spirits. From clear sky, a single bolt of lightening ignited his mortal body as the sparks of his soul spiraled with the smoke skyward. She keened, wailed, and rent her clothes in the passion play of death.

As the fire died, the zephyrs swirled the ashes up into the starblanket sky. The Spirits faded back into the Isles’ labyrinths and caverns. Helena stepped out of her shroud, worn over an old t-shirt of Howard’s and a pair of jeans, to wait for the dawn, and the ferryman whom she had yet to pay.

Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge # 30: Isle of the Dead. As always, critique and criticism welcome. The text in italics is a change, suggested by Jane, as to how a heavy casket gets to the pyre and on fire without a superhero or lots of CGI. Thanks Jane.

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