Inspired by Welcome to Night Vale. 

I live in a town of idiots. I’ve been studying them diligently throughout my work, even when I was an apprentice. I’ve seen these people, their families, their insides, how their minds work, and I’ve decided there’s no better explanation for this entire community. 

Inside 198 Grand Ave, the town’s mortuary, the bodies lay on their slabs, chilled and chilled and chilled. I look up from my work, glass vials hitting other glass vials and I watch the fluorescent lights cling to the last electrons the power supplies are willing to offer. I roll my eyes and switch on the standing lamp next to me, bending it for convenience and I focus on the materials in front of me. I thread a needle and let it fall to the metal table, cherishing the tintinnabulation as I knot the loose threads at the other end.

Later I walk upstairs and  I pass the pearl blue, partially opaque scrubbed windows and I hold on to the worn-down moulding around the staircase since no one ever bothered to install a railing. But it’s never really been a concern since we aren’t afraid of death here.

I open the front door, reading the out-ward facing slogan painted in gold letters: Bringing Life to the Dead since 1969!, and head to the supermarket down the street. It’s midday but rats still skitter across my shoes, unafraid of the death humans could bring, unafraid of the aura of death perpetually around me. I hug my jacket closer against the autumn winds and glare at every crack in the sidewalk I can see. The cracks protect microscopic life that could potentially grow out of hand, making an even bigger chasm in the sidewalk and in taxpayers’ wallets. This town should know better than to leave it so horribly unmaintained. But they don’t know better, so here we are.

I walk into the grocer and somehow it’s even grosser than outside, even worse than the mortuary. Complete with nausea-inducing lights, uneven shelving, and the whole she-bang I make sure to keep my head down and close my eyes for the majority of the time I’m in the store, working mainly off my faultless memory. I grab tomatoes, a to-go sandwich, and a bag a chips. On my way to the register I almost hit a couple that I didn’t account for with my closed eyes. They are admiring the chocolate display. I watch them as I continue my trek towards the registers, the two of them standing there, obstructively in the middle of the isle like a crack in the sidewalk, wrapped around each other like two sarcophagus fighting to enclose the other first. They’re like two intestines that can’t decide who’s the big one and who’s the small one and I as I look at them I realize that I just want one thing, and it’s not tomatoes or a sandwich, not off-brand Let’s potato chips, not a better job or even an actually warm winter coat, no, I just want someone, anyone, to ask me—

“Paper or plastic?” Without responding I put a $10 bill on the counter, cradle everything in my arms, and walk out of the store. 74 cents and going commando is a small price to pay to limit my human interaction. I almost slam into the glass door of the store on the way out because it’s a pull not a push and all of a sudden I know it’s true: I live in a town of idiots. I walk down the street and kick a rat, but it doesn’t miss a step, it just keeps skipping across the asphalt of the road like a rough stone on a rainy lake and I realize the idiocy of the rest of the town is not only infectious, but it has a root cause. I realize it’s because we aren’t afraid of death here. None of us. It’s the impending storm and no one’s even bothered to buy an umbrella.

In fact, everyone in this town is satisfied just walking right by death, like rats, without knowing any better. Without knowing that had they been one inch closer, or one in father, or in one more incredible circumstance they would just be another body on one of my slabs, and I would be one datapoint closer to truly diagnosing this town with clinical stupidity. But no, no one cares about the what-ifs, they only care about those stupid chocolate displays or the photo-op of a dandelion growing through a crack in the sidewalk. As I walk back into the mortuary for my lunch break, I meditate on the distinct lack of intelligence in this town. At the same time, I think about the gold lettering peeling on the front door, I am suddenly and overwhelming grateful. Yes, they complete imbeciles, but I’m grateful for each and every simpleton in this city, all the boneheads in this burgh, because it’s them that keep the lights on. Call it irony or whatever you want, and I’ll call it a career that keeps the lights on here.

I sit down and open my to-go sandwich and a fly escapes the plastic wrap, unphased by its sudden journey from kitchen to mortuary office, and it heads up up up to the fluorescent lights, just like all the other half-wits.