BY SOU SAITO
Translated into English by Toshiya Kamei
Copyright is held by the author.
AS THE age of space burial dawned, people began to have their bodies blasted into space after their death.
A clerk at the funeral parlour weighed the body and calculated the flight distance with great efficiency.
“Considering his weight, if you would like his own voyage, we recommend the fifth planet Balu. It will take him quite some time to get there, but there are no asteroid belts on the way, so we can guarantee a safe journey. Here’s the photo.”
The widow looked at the picture. The planet’s surface was covered with a layer of green gas. Its environment bore no resemblance to Earth’s. Being an old-fashioned woman, the widow still preferred earth burial.
“My husband has lived on Earth for a long time. Or rather, he has never left here, so I’d like to have him buried here.”
“In that case . . .”
The clerk’s fingers drummed on the computer keyboard, making little clicking sounds. Monetary amounts showed up on the screen, which were beyond the price range of an ordinary elderly woman like herself. On Earth, land plots suitable for burial had been almost exhausted, and the rich were scrambling for the remaining few slices of pie.
“If you desire earth burial, how about the third planet Tenmei? I think your husband will be able to rest peacefully because it’s similar to Earth.” The clerk took out a file. It showed a planet teeming with large green trees where insects and primitive reptiles were seen. “I would say it corresponds to the Cretaceous period on Earth. It doesn’t have an intelligent life form yet, but the dinosaurs have evolved steadily. The air composition is similar to ours. It’s a nice environment.”
“I have heard good things about the planet, but they say it’s quite far. I wonder if my husband can make it with his weight.”
“Just between you and me, we have been inundated with customers wanting to send their loved ones to the third planet Tenmei, so we have decided to dispatch a large-sized hearse ship. We are calculating the total weight now, but if we add your husband’s weight, it will probably reach the required amount. Due to the nature of our product, we can’t postpone the departure date. I’m sorry to hurry you, but I would appreciate it if you could make up your mind right now.”
The widow glanced at the photos several times. She didn’t want send her husband’s soul to some strange gassy planet. But this one was full of plants and animals…
“All right. My husband was a very fond of dinosaurs. He could spend his time enjoying the evolution of living things slowly. He may not mind a long journey to the burial place if he’s surrounded by a lot of people.”
“Thank you very much. I will start the paperwork right away.” The clerk’s clear voice echoed around the room.
Now Einstein’s equation E=mc2 could be applied directly to power, and spacecraft technology had made remarkable progress. Anything that had mass, in other words, any matter, could be used as fuel to launch a spaceship from Earth.
The energy generated from the mass was enormous.
This energy was used to vaporize any matter and eject it at near light speed to obtain a powerful thrust.
Nonetheless, in order to reduce costs, spacecraft had been stripped down to minimum weight and volume.
Dead bodies were used to fuel the hearse ship. While the bodies were burned and used as materials to be vaporized and ejected, the ship continued its voyage to its destination. When the hearse ship reached the burial site, it opened its empty fuel tanks that had consumed the bodies.
Machines didn’t know anything, nor did they feel anything. Even with the power of science, they never grasped the meaning of things. However, at that moment, the souls that were waiting quietly in the hearse ship flew wherever they desired. With our faith in this, even as civilization had advanced, humans would continue to launch spacecraft deep into the universe.
When the hearse ship finished the operation as programmed, it closed the fuel tanks as if nothing had happened, switched the fuel cocks, poured the fuel into the power system, and embarked on its return journey to Earth.