The funeral march by Chopin sounds through the foyer. A sign that the funeral is about to start. The doors open and I enter. The coffin is situated on the sage in the auditorium next to the pulpit. It’s a nice coffin: clear varnished wood and tightly finished. I take a seat in the front row. Next to me there’s a man I’ve never seen. The undertaker closes the doors, walks up to the front and takes his place on the podium. He opens the ceremony.

“Welcome. We are here today to commemorate a special woman. She was an author of multiple books and always very helpful. She at everyone’s beg and call and obliterated herself completely.”

I take in the master of ceremonies from head to toe. The man is impeccably dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, with a Windsor knot if I’m not mistaken, and cleanly shaved. His dark hair is plastered against his head. His voice sounds flat, but respectful towards the deceased. “Let’s listen to the next song that was picked for her.”

The undertaker steps aside and a new song sounds through the hall. This time it’s from Ed Sheeran, Supermarket Flowers:

When the last notes of the song have died away, the undertaker speaks again. I see him swallow visibly before he continues. “I’d like to ask the city poet who has composed a poem for Martha.”

I startle: the man next to me rises from his seat and walks up to the stage. I look around. There’s no one there: the auditorium is completely empty. Not even my neighbours have come to say their last goodbyes. The city poet only comes when there are no family or friends to pay their respects to the deceased. “So, the man on stage is the city poet,” I find myself thinking, “That’s why I didn’t recognize him.”

So is there no one who wants to say goodbye to me?

During my life, I have been convinced that you will attend your own funeral. You were there when you were born, so why not participate in your own funeral? So here I am, a spirit, attending my own burial, where no one has had the decency to show up.

The voice of the city poet rises and falls in measured cadences, but I cannot hear him. My mind is racing, memories and thoughts go by in my mind’s eye. At high speed I look back at my life. What happened that I am to be buried alone? I helped people, I was kind and friendly, I was a best seller author, everybody bought my books. I don’t get it. Now certain details are standing out: no flowers are decorating the coffin, no wreaths are surrounding it. The coffin is bare.

Again the undertaker speaks. I perk my ghostly ears; maybe he will say something that will help me understand why nobody came.

“Martha was a very well-liked guest at various talkshows and thoughtfully opinionated, but in recent years she withdrew from society and didn’t let anyone in anymore. She died alone. Her neighbours found her body months after she had past away. An unfortunate ending for such a famous woman. May she find peace. This concludes the ceremony and we will start with the cremation.”

The last song is played, while the coffin with my semi-decayed body is pulled into the oven slowly. The crackling fire takes care of the rest. Transparent tears flow down my ghostly cheeks. The last years came back to me in full intensity and loneliness, tearing my apparition apart slowly.

The undertaker sighs, shaking the hand of the city poet. “It is intensely sad, a funeral without people there.” The poet confirms: “I don’t know which is the sadder: loneliness during life or during your funeral.” Both men sigh again and then go their own way.

The loneliness was nice in the beginning, but after a while, I didn’t know how to go outside. My social suicide online eventually turned out to be my offline social suicide. Out of online sight out of offline mind was probably the most accurate way to describe this. During the last years of my life I was alone, but I didn’t want to be. Even now, at my funeral, I am alone. The fire takes the last parts of my body until the last lonely flame dies out and there is nothing more than gray ash and small pieces of bone that weren’t consumed by the fire.

Nothing Else Matters by Metallica is almost finished. I look up at the sky. “Nothing else matters,” I think and I rise up to the cold loneliness where no one will wait for me.

JJ Ying

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