QUIETUS * Orson Scott Card Short Story

What would you do if one evening you would come home to your wife and kids just to find out you had no children? That you’re imagining a second reality where you are not a top manager but a lowly employee with two great kids. And your wife is not depressed anymore and you are not in a coffin in your study?

Quietus: death or something that causes death, regarded as a release from life.

The title could not have been more appropriate. The hero of this story wants to escape his dreary life, his big mansion but he loves his wife. After a few miscarriages, she had her tubes tied and she was never the same. Their friends and relatives were told not to bring their children along and their massive house was empty. No sound of footsteps, no children calling for attention.

Until he decides (unknowingly) to create a second universe where all of these things exist and are possible.

But this time he pulled away, put on a robe, went into the other room to quiet the child down.

There was no other room.

Not in this house. He had, in his mind, been heading for their hopeful room filled with crib, changing table, dresser, mobiles, cheerful wallpaper– but that room had been years ago, in the small house in Sandy, not here in the home in Federal Heights with its magnificent view of Salt Lake City, its beautiful shape and decoration that spoke of taste and shouted of wealth and whispered faintly of loneliness and grief. He leaned against a wall. There were no children. There were no children. He could still hear the child’s cry ringing in his mind.

Then there’s the coffin in his study. All closed down, he’s told it’s a person with no family who had to be given to someone’s willing care until the morgue was less full the next day. The lid is closed but a fascination attracts him to it, spending hours gazing at the box. He can’t understand why his wife would have agreed to it.

“They left a corpse in a coffin here in the house with you all day? With the kids?”She buried her face in her hands and ran from the room, ran upstairs.Mark did not follow her. He stood there and regarded the coffin with distaste. At least they had the good sense to close it.

There he goes, mixing up realities, telling his barren wife about the children he sees…

Mark sat in his chair staring angrily at the coffin. He had come home worried about his health. And found a coffin to greet him when he came.

By the time he opens the coffin lid, he is surprised to find an average Joe staring back at him. Smelling strongly of embalming fluid, that person could have been anyone. Could have been him. Then the attraction of the satin pillows starts. He climbs into the coffin in his living room and he rests, knowing that his wife and two children will take care of each other when he’s gone.

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