Short Story: Muffled Voices

Evalien Wiersma 8 July, 2019

“Miss Alwin?”

A startled Julianne quickly scraped her throat and attempted to fix her hair. It would not really matter: she had let herself go since her mother passed away last month. Brushing her hair had not been her priority. The young woman approached the reception desk of the Groningen Novus Cemetery.

The receptionist eyed her for a moment, saw that she was a bundle of nerves and then gave a pitiful smile. “First time?” Julianne nodded timidly.
“It will be a bit odd the first time you visit her, but know that we did everything we could to make her just like she was, yeah?” Another smile. Then, she dug out a form from the many trays and filled in a number of fields, in the hastily but precise manner only receptionists can. Then, she put a small card with a number on the counter. “We have put her in crypt B2.175, which is up the stairs and then to your right. If you need any help, we are glad to assist you, okay?”

 Some were crying, others were laughing, one or two yearningly touched the doors, behind which their loved ones lay

Following the receptionist’s directions, Julianne soon walked in a hospital-like hallway with countless crypts, beautifully decorated. Next to them, various grievers stood, softly mumbling into the walls. Some were crying, others were laughing, one or two yearningly touched the doors, behind which their loved ones lay.

Julianne passed crypt B2.170 in a slow and hesitant pace. 71… 73… B2.175. The number was engraved in golden letters in the crypt door. A tear rolled down her cheek as Julianne read the sentence beneath it: “Here rests Mary Alwin, liked by all, loved by more”. For a moment, as Julianne salvaged the memories of her mom, everything was quiet.

Although it would be a very difficult thing to do, Julianne knew her mother would want her to press it

Then, she blinked twice. She had not come to the cemetery to stand here passively. So, she looked at the small device right next to the crypt. She quickly skimmed the piece of paper with instructions beside the device and was fairly sure the process could not be that difficult. After all, the majority of the device was covered with a big, green button, saying ‘START’. Although it would be a very difficult thing to do, Julianne knew her mother would want her to press it. What’s more, Julianne wanted to do it, too, but was slightly afraid of what would come next. After a few more seconds of contemplation, she gathered all her courage and pressed it. The small device beeped and then crackled for a bit. Not long after, a high, sweet voice echoed through the hallway.

“Julie, you surely took your time to get here. It’s been over a month since I passed!”

Not believing what she heard, Julianne burst out into tears. She knew it was not really her mother, just a mere simulation of her, developed to give her comfort as she was grieving. Yet it was the first time she had heard her mother’s voice in weeks and all she wanted was to drown herself in every single word and submit herself to the comforting disillusion.

Before she knew it, she then started softly mumbling into the walls as well.