The streets leading up to the cemetery were lined with fans. Five miles out, that's all there were, the fans, but as the procession drew nearer to the gates, increasing numbers of mobile broadcast units could be seen weaving in and out like barracuda through schools of fish. At two miles out the crowd started to be hemmed by a line of uniformed police officers.
As soon as anyone caught sight of the hearse they screamed; the crowd noise rose and spread out from the passing vehicle like the wake of a crawling bullet. Cameras clicked and whirred and in the rear lines telephoto lenses craned outward. Even in the bright of day, flashbulbs burst without respite. The crowd of fans pushed against the police, testing them, trying to get just a little closer to the line of cars.
The verge of the cemetery road was a large circle of cobblestones and it was ringed by two rows of police in riot gear; outstretched arms of the Vatican palisades in chitinous black.
The people they faced guardedly were not the kind of fans who would have attended the well-orchestrated funeral nor would have been satisfied by one last glimpse of their idol. They did not cheer or scream; they gazed upon the approaching cortege with an expression of rueful need, muttering to each other. Some shouted at the policemen, shoved at the human shield and were met by perfunctory blows of a baton. The squads did not like their position and focused on holding their lines.
No photographers stood here. Any newsie who ventured too close to the end had their equipment removed and forcibly disassembled, and were threatened with the same. After a while the word got back and the media set up at a distance with ample cover.
At this terminus the funeral cortege arrived. A hearse of ethereal mint green carried the casket. It made a broad three-point turn, backing to the gates as though delivering freight; a safety alarm peeped until it came to a halt. Two men, the mortician and his assistant, emerged from the vehicle. One popped the rear hatch while the other moved to greet the pallbearers, who were emerging from a black Cadillac.
The mob suddenly went slack and quiet. They ahhed as though an impressive magic trick had been performed.
Lavender's four bandmates shouldered the casket and rose, passing through the cemetery gates.
The gates faintly clanged as they shut. As though some surreptitious signal was given, the crowd rose, roared forward, shoved the armored riot squads and broke their ranks. Instantly canisters of tear gas flew accompanied by the hollow coughing of their launch and the concentric circles of police and mob dissolved into chaos one great noise of rage filling the air.
The pallbearers followed a path through close-growing poplar trees. It wended deeply enough into the grounds that before long the crowd couldn't be heard or seen. They were suddenly alone with their dead goddess.
Their footfalls made no sound except a weird not-noise, for from the gates to the mausoleum the way was knee-deep in flower petals, white and pink and red; a chilly spring breeze swirled them into the air and let them flutter down, everything covered in dots of color, made indistinct, turning the scene by moments into a giant monochrome Seurat painting. Every jot of color was moist and lightly clinging and en masse they did not readily give up their ground. They resisted passage like a sultry bright snowbank.
The coffin was better likened to a bier, bounded by a continuous railing, a framework of gilded titanium upon which had been laid dethorned roses of white and pink, the box ornate and golden and worked so that it resembled a gothic cathedral in miniature, spires rising with incidental lethality from its perimeter, the whole of its surfaces glazed-- crystal, one would say --giving uninterrupted view of its occupant.
She within was sheathed in iridescent white which picked out her faint verdigris tint, her maraschino hair tousled in a meticulously offhand manner, in repose looking as natural as ever, lain in a comfy cloudbank of pillows and silks. Little makeup had been applied to her face, and of the wound which had stricken her there was no sign.
They understood they were probably burying their careers that day. Disbelief-- something inside held that this was just part of their act and Lavender would be back for an encore --surfaced as irritation on their faces as they trudged. The four of them gazed blinkingly at the acidic overcast, across the grounds. At least it was quiet in the end.
The guest list for the funeral service had numbered at least a thousand, not including the crew, and included pivotal industry players, reporters and columnists, virtually any entertainer whom Lavender had ever worked with or near, including every musician on her label, fan club officers, merchandisers, and her official biographer, who was drafting the final chapter during the service. Most of the record company's upper management was represented, as well as dozens of mid-level suits who had petitioned for an invite as a way of making connections. Anybody who wanted to inflate themselves and had fiat to taste of the departed's enchanted flesh was present. Some of the guests had won admission in contests and promotions. For the benefit of the invited, a simple buffet and bar service was arranged in the vestibule.
The aisles of the cathedral were observation areas. Completely segregated from the service, they were partitioned from the nave with temporary walls of transparent plastic. Ticket holders streamed slowly, endlessly up one aisle, out and around the back of the cathedral, then back in and down the other; guards were stationed at intervals to move stragglers along.
Scheduled were a half-dozen eulogies ranging from the somber to the irreverent, along with a similar number of musical acts, mostly the company's other stars, covering her songs. Encores and unscripted tributes were expected to extend the service at least an hour past schedule.
News cameras weren't allowed inside since all broadcast rights had been previously sold for the global pay-per-view broadcast-- 'The Lavender Muse Funeral Service: A Heart That Floats To Heaven' --but the media were otherwise welcome. Interviews were taken in hushed tones between the pews; the arms of the transept were taken up by broadcast gear and the set where the commentators were broadcasting.
Outside, there was no such restriction. Mobile news units canvassed a crowd estimated at thirty to thirty-five thousand, eliciting insight, getting flavor. Reporters would buttonhole visitors emerging from the observation queue and capture their thrilled reactions. News helicopters orbited the event continuously.
Merchandising rights to the funeral had been licensed to a very reliable company which the label had worked with in the past; the label got 40%. Past the ticket booths and concessions stands, official souvenir booths sold funeral t-shirts and collectable programs and a few exclusives which the mail-order division didn't yet have. Bootleg t-shirts could be had a few blocks from the event.
The record company flung its tentacles outward to have Congress declare March 13th to be Lavender Muse Day, a paper holiday which would go unobserved except by her more devoted fans. On this day next year they were issuing the video, a companion to the soundtrack album being pressed in a week's time.
The band insisted that the interment should be for those close to Lavender alone. Absolutely not, said the label, the burial was the most dramatic part, the most emotional. The part with the biggest, bloodiest guts. The band stated that unless this part of the funeral was private they would withdraw their services from the company, sue to get their contracts nullified, and generally be an enormous pain in the ass. It was an essentially toothless threat. In the end they had somehow gotten their way, it was never clear why. The company used it to leverage further exploitation of the funeral service.
In life Lavender had taken few into her confidence and had no family whom anyone knew of. The higher her fame had taken her, the more everyone else seemed to fall away.
Fifty feet before the mausoleum the rosepetals ended so cleanly and abruptly that they could have been held back by glass. Vulnavia and Worm Turn kicked clumps of them into the clearing and trod upon them, the bearers navigating between vast sprigs of crimson blossoms, rising like blood fountains, which flanked the path to the doors.
Inside, there was only one other mourner.
"Gentlemen," said Clive Snake, "I would've rather been reacquainted under better circumstances."
They all hated him but it was he who had sent them on their way, and Lavender would have wanted him there, they'd decided. Their second manager never would have made the cut.
No chaplain was present, no ceremony was planned for the entombment. No religion could claim her as an adherent. Toothless metal jaws locked precisely into the handrail of the casket as the bearers set it down. A bathysphere for dirt, poised for descent.
The little group stood around it for several minutes, regarding the unmoving figure within, the silence broken only by Worm's occasional half-whispered "This is so fucked," which hissed and rebounded in the bare chamber. It was as accurate a litany as any of them could have provided.
"C'mon, I want a smoke," Vulnavia finally said, and walked out.
They emerged into the tremulous spring afternoon, Clive bringing up the rear. He paused, looking around, as though something remained to be done; this did not make itself clear to him and he followed after the band. Though he was more confident than they regarding what waited in the outside world, he made no haste to catch up with them. Behind, the two groundsmen, who were waiting at a discreet distance, entered the mausoleum.
One took hold of a dangling control pod like that of a freight derrick, pressing its green button. Lavender's casket descended into its sepulchre with a refined whir of concealed motors, a ballistic missile in reverse, withdrawing to its silo to anticipate.
The other workman, wielding a huge caulk gun, applied a thick, suggestive bead of adhesive around the rim of the sarcophagus... the instrument clacked querulously as it regurgitated its pasty black guts. Together they hoisted a cement slab onto the epoxy; one man drove bolts into the lid with an electric wrench while the other swept the floor perfunctorily. Then the groundsmen gathered their equipment and left.
The bronze doors shut silently and bolted themselves from within, committing Lavender's failed group-sister Lily to the embrace of cold concrete.
even when she was dead she wasn't really; impulses from faintly functioning nerves grew to operatic magnitude
everything around her happened with frightening speed; she could sense the microbes battering against her skin, seeking entry
what dreams had the dead?
like a slowed-down recording
the hole had its own dull pain and she imagined herself as a vampire staked through the heart
Lavender's eyes clicked open. The lid of her wooden coffin had been thrown open and she looked up into the face of a wild-eyed man, well-dressed, an erudite foreigner yet possessed with a madness normally the domain of her kind. The villagers had summoned a vampire hunter, he had the temerity to violate this her place of rest and hammer a stake into her perfect pale breast, and she sensed the axe for her neck was not far behind, but even compromised like this she was faster, better, and much to the surprise of her guests she rose from her casket even with the ashen stake protruding, she had no need for a heart, the heart was a lie. She rose up before them, they all fled before her, an unnatural gust of wind blew the crypt doors shut and extinguished their torches and she was laughing, laughing, in the glow of her eyes
"Is that easier for you to get at now?"
"Yes, that's much better... and that's the inferior vena cava. The superior, next. Could you give me some suction there? Thanks."
"Are we going to be replacing the thoracic sequence today, as well?"
"That's second shift."
"She's really a mess back there. We almost could have done the pulmonaries through the, uh, exit wound."
"Innominate next. Somebody bumped the table."
"No. She moved her head. Want me to restrain it?"
"Nah, she should be fine. We're almost finished here."
"She's smiling. She must like your work."