Diary Excerpt 2: “Crowdfunding For Deaths”

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The Diary of Leya Raynor
“Crowdfunding For Deaths”
Gu, 13b-05-2332

So it turned out that the deceased man’s daughter, Ti, was still two rotations out; she was taking the Megashuttle. This service was, in reality, anything but “mega”, and stopped at every so-called planet and ramshackled space station along the way. Clearly she wasn’t earning very much on Rykan. But then, Rykan wasn’t the sort of planet you work on if you’re trying to get rich. No. It’s the sort of planet you work on to have a good time. They don’t call it the “Party Planet” for nothing.

This meant that I was waiting around with the grieving family for a little while. Over time, I even became quite familiar to many of them – so much so that I became involved in the funeral preparations. To properly understand Gulien funerals (and, therefore, what I was up to over these rotations), you need to know a little history of the planet.

Gu was initially abundant in natural resources – even more so than most planets. As a result, their economy boomed for hundreds of cycles, and they became a key trading hub for the Iron Sector. Over time, the inhabitants got lazy, began to rely on these natural resources to sustain their wealth, and didn’t truly do anything to remedy this situation until the resources were almost completely depleted. By then, of course, it was too late. Surprise, surprise!

So suddenly everything became unaffordable. People had to adapt, and they started to reuse, recycle, and generally just become less wasteful. But that’s not where the problems arose.

The issues came about when all the businesses started to go bust, people lost their jobs, and then income and wealth tax revenues plummeted. Government budgets shrank by over ninety percent in less than one cycle. Suddenly all their services, their programmes, their subsidies and benefits were no longer viable investments. People, now, had to get by on their own.

So death rates spiked for a few years, everyone cut back on having children, people were generally miserable. They have a name for this period in their history… but I don’t remember what it is.

[Note to self: look up the name for the period of economic downturn on Gu, and try to remember to edit this bit of the entry later. If you’re reading this, and your name is not Leya Raynor, then, woops, I forgot – sorry.]

I’m not sure any other planet has gone through so much economic turmoil as Gu. Or, at least, there’s none that survived it with a written record. But the Guliens did – I guess that speaks to the ingenuity (and, I’ve come to realise, the obstinancy) of these people.

So, over time, the Guliens worked out other ways of providing the services that the population needed. Teachers would work for food, clothing, etc from the families of the children they taught. Guliens sold their bodies for medical testing from trans-galactic corporations so they would cover their healthcare bills. Many emigrated from Gu, and sought out new employment (and new lives) amongst the stars.

You get the idea; people changed. It’s funny how there’s that old adage that “people don’t change”. Gu is living proof that they do – when they have to.

Then, somewhere along the way, some Gulien had a bright idea. Out of work and in desperate need of a new shuttle, she reached out to strangers to ask for small donations towards her own personal investment. In return, these strangers would be given advertising space on her shuttle, in proportion to the number of Units they put forward.

The more successful local businesses jumped at the idea. So-and-so’s grocery store took a big chunk of the rear. Some mister’s tailoring service was plastered over the hoverpads. And the Rykan tourist board, bemused by the idea, paid enough to have the front of the shuttle dedicated to their new spa/hotel complex. (I suspect, perhaps, this wasn’t a great move on their part, seeing as most Guliens couldn’t afford off-world travel at this point.) Hopefully their ad man has since found other employment.

The out-of-work Gulien got enough Units for her shuttle, as well as enough to start her own electronics store. It was a rousing success! Hooray! People, both locally and across the globe took notice, and started to draw up their own plans…

So it was then that the Gulien crowdfunding phenomenon began. 

The reason all this is relevant is: Gu, still, to this day, does not provide public funeral care. So when this family that I was staying with lost their patriarch, funding became an issue. People emptied out their pockets, looked behind their proverbial sofas, and called up old friends for help. As I suspect is often the case on Gu, doing all this did not cover the full bill. And, as we know, whenever there’s a bill to pay on Gu nowadays… they turn to crowdfunding.

This left a grieving family, sat around their father/brother/uncle’s body, wondering how on Gu they were going to come up with a funeral idea novel enough that people across the galaxy would donate to them. At this point, while they were sitting around, having been up all night and craving a cup of U’kka, a stranger knocked on their gate. This stranger, of course, was me.

While I was waiting for the daughter to arrive with the information that I was after, I made myself as useful as possible. There were only so many cups of U’kka that I could make, however, and soon I was roped in to helping in other ways. The family sat me, an unbiased observer, down on the sofa to listen to their various crowdfunding pitches. I, they told me, represented the intergalactic community, and therefore if I liked something, there would be enough demand for it to be viable.

The first pitch, from the deceased’s two younger brothers, began with a sigh from all the other participants. They weren’t happy with this idea, they told me, but the brothers insisted that they were given a fair chance to present their concept.

They began by reminding me of the typical Gulien funeral process; words would be said about the deceased, before the body was covered in a local (highly-flammable) mineral, and set alight. The attendees would typically watch as the fire died out, and once there was nothing but ashes remaining, they would begin to celebrate the deceased’s life.

The brother’s twist on this would be: they would shoot the body up into the sky, packaged with huge amounts of the mineral, with a short fuse on it. The body, as well as few other explosives, would be set off in the sky, producing a brilliant light show for everyone in the vicinity.

They were perturbed when I said that this reminded me of an old Terran ritual, and when I brought an example of a fireworks show up on my holodisplay, the novelty of the idea quickly dissipated.

The sister, pitching next, began by playing some soft, gentle Gulien jazz from her console, setting the mood. Her idea, she said, was a classic – and a classic for a reason. She had heard of wealthy people on Terran who seek out and collected chunks of pressurised carbon, which they would often wear on their wrists or around their neck. Her idea was that they would collect the crowdfunding donations as a loan, use these Units to get the body cremated, and then pressurise the remains with overclocked sonar devices. The carbon, she explained, would be pressed into the form that Terrans so often sought out, and so she could sell the remains of the body at a profit. These profits would go back to the crowdfunders, thereby giving them reason to invest.

She was sad to hear me explain that diamonds had long-since gone out of fashion on Terra, and so I wasn’t convinced there would be that much of a market any more. Her dejected face made my gut twist with guilt, and I apologised – but she said there was no need. It was better, she figured, that they find that out now rather than later.

Finally, the son, Lo, came to pitch, bringing with him stacks and stacks of something I had barely ever seen before: paper. He dumped it down on the table in front of him, and declared that this was his father’s life’s work. Other families chimed in: he always was a madman, imagine using paper in this day and age, how wasteful, etc etc.

I asked Lo what exactly was written out here, and, more importantly, why it was even written out. I was told that it was some kind of medical study, but was largely incomprehensible to him. His sister, when she arrived, would be able to explain more. All that Lo knew, all the he’d ever been told, was that it was important – so important was it, in fact, that his father had refused to digitise it for fear of the information being illegally accessed.

Lo’s plan, therefore, was that something kept so secret must inherently be worth something. He would sell this work to the highest bidder; it felt fitting that his father’s life’s work would pay for his death.

In lieu of any better concepts, it was this last idea that the family agreed upon. The group of us – the grieving family and I – began to scour the pages to try to understand what they contained… and hoped that the sister would bring with her some illuminating knowledge.

It took even longer than expected for the dead man’s daughter, Ti, to arrive. Some unexpected meteor shower around Yrgg had meant that the landing queue times grew to over 24 hours, which was particularly frustrating for Ti, considering that she wasn’t even getting off there.

Anyway, she remarked when she arrived, she was here now, and they could get on with it. She was a decisive sort – the type of person that everyone listens to when they say something. I think I’m like that a little bit, so we were two like minds.

Ti put the seal of approval on the son’s funeral funding plan, and that seemed to be enough for the whole family to commit – except for one of the uncles, who studied her with wary eyes. He was weird, though, so nobody paid him much attention.

Once Ti had put to bed any remaining loose ends, she made some time to speak with me. Lo, Ti and I sat the father’s study, and Ti began to explain…

She didn’t know exactly what her father’s life’s work was allow about – he really did keep it that hush-hush. But, being only a young child at the time, she had allowed herself to eavesdrop a little. She remembered her father talking to another man about this work, almost as though the other man was in charge. Ti didn’t recognise the man at first, but soon became used to him slipping in and out in the night. Once, even, he showed up during the day, and Ti and Lo were allowed to speak with him.

This was where Lo spoke up. This strange man, he was sure, was Ira Raynor, my father. I showed Ti a picture of him, and, although she wasn’t completely sure about it, she seemed to agree.

Now that I had confirmation, I pushed Ti on it further. I could taste how close I was to finding him already – and it had only been a few days!

But Ti grew quiet, afraid, and did not like the idea of saying more aloud. Both Lo and I encouraged her to share what she knew, and, eventually, she did give in.

There was one thing she’d overheard my father and her’s discuss: telepathy.

Hearing this, all the memories I’d repressed flooded back: the way he’d been able to control me, to control Syl, even.

Of course, none of it was ever done out of malice, or ever intended to cause harm. It was all to protect us. It was to keep us away from potential partners he thought might hurt us. Or it was to keep us inside when the climate was dangerous. Whatever it might have been on that particular occasion, the protection of his daughters was at the heart of it.

But while he thought he was keeping us from harm, we were damaged in a wholly different way. That internal way, that damage to the heart, that might make a mother take ‘Liks to forget, or might make a daughter turn to alcohol to suppress.

In that moment I knew that I needed to own the dead man’s work, to understand what its value was to my father.

Although it wasn’t quite enough, Ti allowed me to purchase the documents with the contents of my savings. I worried that they’d struggle to send their father off properly if I didn’t pay the full amount, but the siblings simply smiled at me. They’d find a way, they told me; Gulians always do.

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