My friends and I are talking about what comes after we die. Nothing about souls or the afterlife – the only one who believes in that stuff is Cassie, and we all know that’s her Pisces moon talking – but we are concerned about our bodies. Burial, we agree, is old-fashioned. Not to mention bad for the environment. Did you read that Times article about what formaldehyde does to the soil? Alicia asks. We keep killing the planet even after we’re dead. I did read that article, eyes wide as I absorbed that our sense of entitlement to a final resting place leaves a legacy of poisoned animals. I know cremation is no better because it releases toxic gasses into the atmosphere. Alicia wants her body donated to science, to be sliced and stabbed by budding medical students. There’s a company that composts dead bodies, Oliver says, it’s all over the West Coast and legal in New York now. That’s what I want. Eva asks is that the one that uses mushrooms to dissolve you and Oliver says no, that’s a different one. We agree headstones are pointless; none of us will need a little landmark to comfort descendants. We are all too content or selfish or ambitious or pessimistic to have children. I want to be made into food for shelter animals, says Lucas, who has four cats in his studio apartment. We stare at him incredulously and he says Why not? If our bodies can feed plants why not animals? and we concede he may have a point. Everyone looks at me because I am the only one who has not shared. What I want the most is to somehow be made into a tree. An oak or maybe a maple growing in a field where my three younger sisters can visit until it is their time and they are also made into trees that can grow beside me. Our branches will make high whispery sounds in the wind and sound just like we did when we were little and planning mischief. But this will never happen because they are all married and want kids, and that means family plots in cemeteries, his and hers headstones where offspring can weep over fresh flowers. So I say, just toss me in with the pet food guy, and everyone laughs.
Sophie Panzer grew up in New Jersey, earned her BA at McGill University, and currently writes and edits things from her home in Philadelphia. She is the author of the chapbooks Survive July (Red Bird Chapbooks 2019), Mothers of the Apocalypse (Ethel Press 2019) and Bone Church (dancing girl press 2020). Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and longlisted for Wigleaf Top 50. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, MAYDAY, Whale Road Review, Menacing Hedge, Lammergeier, The Hellebore, and others.