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Attending Your Own Funeral: An Etiquette Guide

Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, and other places, and her debut novel Stay Crazy was released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.
1. Dress properly. You owe it to yourself to look your best.
Tori straightens her skirt and fluffs up her hair. She steps out of her Volvo and plants her high heel in a pile of muck.
A forest, she thinks with a frown. Why would I have chosen to be buried in a forest? Did I turn into some kind of hippie in this timeline? She rolls her eyes and heads into the grove of evergreens. She's missing an important hearing for this. That oil refinery can't represent itself.
Beyond, a group of women mills about, many of them wearing long white robes. Tori always thought you were supposed to wear black to funerals.
2. RSVP, for goodness sake. That way your alternate selves will know how much food to order.
When Tori got the invitation for her own "passing ceremony" a week ago, she'd assumed it was a joke. She'd thrown it in the trash. Another one had instantly appeared in the mailbox.
"They really want you to go," said her brother Kyle, who'd been staying at her converted loft apartment for the past two weeks, on a vacation from his non-existent job. Rent-free, she thought, naturally.
Tori checked the date against her calendar. Surprisingly, nothing was scheduled against it. "Fine." She scribbled her initials on the card and tossed it in the mailbox. It disappeared in the blink of an eye.
"Spooky," said Kyle.
3. Speak freely to any of your other past and/or alternate selves who may be in attendance. Your timeline is yours alone and cannot be contaminated.
Tori stands at the clearing's edge. Dozens are already there, talking and laughing. All of them are women.
Didn't I ever have a husband? She notices that they all have her curly red hair. Or a wife?
A little girl tugs the hem of Tori's skirt. "I know who you are."
"I'm you," Tori says, feeling strangely calm.
"You're the sad one." She scampers away, her spangled dress glimmering in the sun.
Tori edges in next to a group of selves positioned near the card-table buffet. One of them is wearing fatigues. Another is dressed in a tee shirt, her right arm missing at the elbow. Yet she's smiling the biggest of them all. The rest are in the white robes. Everyone falls quiet when she appears.
The sad one, Tori thinks bitterly.
One of them, a Tori who looks to be roughly in her fifties, takes her by the hands. "Welcome, sister."
Tori doesn't like to be touched, but she supposes this is okay. It's not as if the woman is a stranger. "What is this place?"
"A celebration. A time of great joy."
"It's a joy to be dead?"
"A return to nature," says the Tori, "can be a time of healing."
Hippies, Tori thinks.
4. You don't have to look at your body. But if you choose to, be respectful.
Tori looks down at the shroud. Her withered body is curled in on itself, a dead bug. The chalk-white skin hangs on the bones like an old sack.
"Sisters," says a woman with Tori's face. "We have come to celebrate the passing of one of our own into the Great Unwinding. Sister Victoria was born in the year 45 B.C."
No I wasn't. Tori jerks her head toward one of the other versions of herself. "Before Christ?"
"Before Cataclysm."
She listens to the rest of the memorial. How the invasion started only ten years in the future from where Tori--her Tori--is now. How so many of the Toris had fought valiantly on the field of battle against the otherworldly forces, and others had toiled away on the home front. How the collapse of civilization turned out to be a blessing "for Mother Earth and all her daughters." A Tori with a crew cut and muscles grunts.
"In my timeline, we win."
"And what happened then?" Tori asks.
"We stole their tech, tried to spread out into the galaxy, accidentally vaporized the atmosphere, and everybody died."
"Oh," Tori says.
5. Funerals can be emotionally taxing events. Listen to your own feelings, and honor them.
After the shroud is placed into its shallow grave, Tori samples the food on the rickety card table. Bland and tasteless.
"So this is the future," she says to a random white-robed Tori, who doesn't look so far from the grave herself.
"No," the woman says. "It's a possibility."
"A pretty likely one, though."
The woman nods. "Ninety-nine percent, by our calculations. Maybe you're the one who got away." She says that like it's a bad thing.
"Is this supposed to be a warning? Should I tell everyone to get into shelters, hide ourselves?"
The woman laughs. "They'll think you're crazy. And there aren't enough shelters for eight billion people."
Tori crosses her arms and looks up into the canopy of trees. "Then what should I do?"
"Go back. Live. Be happy. Stop worrying so much."
When the passing ceremony breaks up, Tori walks back to her Volvo. She looks at her calendar. Then she tears it clean down the middle.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 27th, 2017

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