The Mortician is a creepy story about a man who owns a funeral parlor in a small town.
Bernard Sloane had the perfect family. They were always there, waiting for him when he finished work. Every evening at seven o’clock, he turned out the lights, locked the front door and went downstairs to the basement to spend the evening with his family.
His wife Jenny would be sitting on the couch, knitting a sweater. His mother was aways dozing in her easy chair. His son Ben and his daughter Emma were usually sitting at the table, playing a board game. Little Luke lay on the floor, playing with his toys while little Martha, the youngest, sat at the piano.
Bernard would sit down in his big comfortable chair and chat with them until bedtime. He told them all about his day and who had died recently in town. He would repeat funny stories and jokes he heard and tell them his views and opinions on any subject that came to mind. They always listened patiently and never argued or contradicted him, they were a great family.
When it was time to go to bed, Bernard would yawn and stretch his arms. He would go around giving them all a kiss on the cheek and saying, “Well, goodnight everyone. Pleasant dreams.” Then he would turn out the lights, climb the stairs and lock the door behind him when he went to bed.
Middleton was a small town and Bernard was the only mortician in the area. His funeral parlor was also his home and he got all the business there was. Although he didn’t have any close friends, he was well-known, respected and above suspicion.
Everything went like clockwork. People would bring their dead loved ones to him and Bernard would embalm their bodies and prepare them for burial. The funeral was usually held in the local church and the dead were buried in the local graveyard.
One day, as Bernard was cleaning up the funeral parlor, a policeman came to the front door.
“Can I help you, officer?” Bernard asked.
“I’m here about the Perriwinkle child,” the policeman said.
Bernard had a puzzled frown on his face. “The Perriwinkle child?”
“Martha Perriwinkle,” said the policeman. “The little girl who drowned five months ago.”
“Oh yes, of course,” said Bernard. “I remember now.”
“Well, I’ll level with you, Mr. Sloane. The family had her body exhumed. When they opened the coffin, they got quite a shock. There was nothing but stacks of old newspapers inside it.”
“Oh my God,” said Bernard. “How terrible.”
“Now look, Mr. Sloane,” the policeman said. “Theft of a dead body is a criminal offense. If you cooperate, we’ll go easy on you. The family just want their daughter’s remains so they can give her a proper burial.”
Bernard was highly offended. “I’ve been in business in Middleton for twenty years,” he said. “Everybody knows me. How could you think I would do such a thing?”
“Then you won’t mind if I search your house,” the policeman said.
Bernard’s face suddenly turned pale. “I certainly do mind,” he said. “This is my home as well as my place of business. I know my rights as a citizen. I’m not going to have anybody snooping through my private property without a search warrant.”
“If that’s the way you want to do it, that’s fine by me,” the policeman growled. “I’ll be back in an hour with a search warrant. In the meantime, I’ll leave an officer outside to make sure you don’t try to get rid of any evidence.”
Bernard watched as the policeman turned and left. He shut the front door and stood there thinking for a few minutes. Then he went downstairs to the basement to see his family. He opened the curtains and let some sunlight into the room for the first time.
His wife was still knitting, his mother was still dozing on the couch, Ben and Emma were still playing their board game, Luke was still playing with his toys and Martha was still at the piano. Somehow they all seemed a little withered, less like living people than like mummies. Only Martha, the new girl, looked as fresh as she had been on the day she drowned.
Bernard let out a deep sigh. He picked up a container of gasoline and began splashing it around the basement room. He splashed it all over his wife, his mother and each one of his children. Then he kissed them all on the forehead and sat down in his chair.
He loved them all so much and he couldn’t bear to see his family torn apart. He reached into his pocket and took out a box of matches. He selected one match, struck it and the entire room burst into flames.
“Pleasant dreams, everybody!” he screamed as the fire engulfed him. “Pleasant dreams!”