It was the most efficient machine ever introduced to the Lavoot Home for the Mentally Disturbed, and it hadn’t cost more than the four nurses he’d sacked. Professor Clarke added up his neat columns of figures again, and shook his head with regret that it hadn’t been built in time for last year’s accounting. The little stuttering inventor from the next town had been thrilled to get an order, less thrilled with Clarke’s negotiating.
Shiny and squat, it was a low cylindrical shape, wired in to the new electricity down in the basement. Like an indoor thunder-storm it hummed and snapped after being switched on, and gave off a hot stink somewhere between slaughterhouse and the jungles he remembered as a boy.
In fact, the whole basement took on a steaminess, and a peculiar yellow haze after a few hours of grinding. Things growing in that dark secret place would be encouraged, he thought, but it would be a minor cost to fumigate bi-annually. The mushrooms sprang up on the bodies anyway, after a couple of weeks. He shuddered, remembering when Barnard had tasted one. ‘Salty,’ he’d murmured, chewing the pale white stub thoughtfully. The man had been a porter for Lavoot for the last thirty years, but now whenever Clarke heard his name he imagined the moment when the big man had painstakingly peeled the mushroom from a woman’s dry eyeball.
Anyway, it was best to keep busy. Just like the jungles with their sweating creepiness, some things got stuck in the mind and began to echo. Clarke took a moment to light his pipe, trying to steady his breathing. Before too long all thoughts of Barnard and the tiny ripping sound the mushroom had made were gone from his head, and his neat column of figures had grown considerably.
He screwed the top back on his pen and folded his arms in satisfaction. Efficiency was everything, and finally the mountainous backlog would soon be depleted. He could force the gardeners to grow far more vegetables and save even more money up in the kitchens with that mineral-rich compost. It tipped out of the bottom vent all meaty and black. In fact; they would be making enough to stock a couple of the local farmers, he was sure. Lavoot would be on the map! The world’s first Automatic Corpse Grinder. What an investment.
Carolyn Ward is fuelled by biscuits and generally in agony from standing on Lego. She lives in Wolverhampton in the UK and is @Viking_Ma because a dentist told her that she was once a Viking.