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News & Features » November 2017 » “Roll Over” by Patrick Hackeling

“Roll Over” by Patrick Hackeling

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, grave robbers learn the real value of gold…

Roll Over
by Patrick Hackeling
3000 CE

All truth is crooked; time itself is a circle. —Nietzsche 

“Remember Bill?”

“Who?”

“Bill.  We buried him last week.”

“Oh right, Bill.  That was an unusual case.”

“I’d say.  Not often we lose a corpse and keep the coffin.”

“The family find him all right?”

“How should I know?”

“I don’t know.”

They took a break from shoveling the fresh dirt.  It was getting to winter quick this year and after a day wasn’t so easy to move.

“They still paid, right?”

“The family?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh yeah, up front.  All at once.”

“Grieving people, they got no sense.”

“Agreed.”

They started digging again and soon after made contact.

“I wonder if he’s buried in the same plot.  Has to be, right?”

“Who?”

“Bill.”

“Oh yeah.  I’m sure.  Something in the law.”

“Hm.”

The lock picked easy.

“Careful.  Lid’s heavy on this type.”

“Gotcha.”

“One, two…”

The smell wasn’t so bad.  The mortician was a fan of formaldehyde.  Not a lot were this far west.  Once they had thoughts of cutting a fellow in.  But he croaked and they got his cross too.

This one had that—maybe silver—as well as a bottle and wedding band.

“Nickel silver.  Both of ’em.”

“You sure?”

“Yep.  Surprised this ain’t a pauper’s casket.”

“His hands ain’t swelled.”

Ain’t.  He’s frugal, family’s religious, he’s dead.  They get the say.”

They repaved the dirt and stretched out their backs.

“So you sure Bill’s at the same plot?”

“Should be.”

“That’s around here, right?”

“It was daytime but yeah, I think so.”

They passed the bottle back and forth.

“His mama sure smelled of perfume.”

“Did she?”

“Oh yeah.  The real good kind.  Could taste the money.”

“How old was she?”

“Eighty, ninety.  I don’t know.  Old.  Why?”

“Love to catch a whiff of her sometime soon.”

“You and me both, brother!”

They finished the bottle when they finished Bill’s plot.  The sun was beginning to show and the morning vapors were like ghosts to haunt them.

“Oo-wee, that smell!”

“Smell of success.”

“Is that what that is?”

“Was, bud.  You hear that?  Those birds?”

“Yeah?”

“They’re looking out for us.”

“Hey man, I been meaning to ask—”

They walked back to town for a bath and comfy night’s rest.

“No if it was you, no way I’d throw my back out digging when I already know you ain’t got a red cent to you.”

“Red cent?  I got gold, stupid.”

“Means you’re broke.”

“Did you not hear me?  I’m rich!”

“Broke and you can’t be fixed.”

“You know any proctors round here?”

“Yeah but he’s out of town.”

“Doing what?”

“Should’ve asked when you seen him.”

“Who?  Bill?”

“Mhm.  And his mama runs the inn so we got some walking to do.”

“Aw hell.”

Next sunset they made a graveyard.  Best man standing did all the work.  The ground was hard but least this time there was no heavy box to lug.

“Pray for our sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”

Half a mile that sunrise there was an itch to double back for his boots.  The first snow of the year prevented that.  It didn’t stop for six feet.  Hard living off only gold for that amount of time.  

The natives who found him must’ve known this.  

We come from the dirt and go back to it.  They believed that and saw to it.  Naked as sin, rich as hell.  Till springtime came.  The greatest robbery of his life.  

***

PATRICK HACKELING is a roustabout from New York playing writer in LA. The Monkey Collective, Pagan Publications, the Oak Wheel, the Michigan Journal of History, and the Phoenix have all featured his works. He also makes films. Since 2013 those films have won Best Picture at NYC and Oregon film festivals and been nominated in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and abroad. 

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 1, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , ,



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