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THE PHOENIX

    Once a phoenix considered having itself embalmed.
    Why bother rising from the ashes again and again, it wondered? Why continue as a bright symbol of new beginnings? Nothing much was being made of that opportunity anymore, so far as the phoenix had observed. Those given a chance at a fresh start seemed unable to think of what to do with it except to make out the same old wish list once again. 
    They wanted power if they’d had none; they wanted to be squillionaires if they’d ever come up short a dime; they wanted to be beautiful and lucky in love if they’d been plain and heartbroken; they wanted to live forever if they’d been sick a single day. If all they hoped for was permission to cancel their disappointments and call it a new life, what purpose was served anymore by going through the flames on their behalf?
    Was no one longing to be reborn as a person even imagination hadn’t breathed life into yet? Was no one longing for a future burned clean of the past, freed not just of regrets and failures but recycled desires too? Ready at last for anything but a return to what they knew only too well? If not, then a mummified phoenix would be just as good as a live one, wouldn’t it? 
    Certainly better than allowing itself to be cloned, as some urged, and becoming a symbol for the shallow attraction of replaying the present again and again for the highlights. Only to find oneself instead with a lifetime to come of mornings spent staring at some dead guy’s DNA profile in the mirror and wondering where that queasy sense of déjà vu came from. 
    Still worse would be for the phoenix to agree to retro-engineer its aging-gene and end up standing for the eternal fantasy of never having to grow old and die at all, let alone seek a new start. Reduced to appearing in infomercials everlasting as the preened shill for retirement spas thronged with twenty-something bodies and brains trying to make sense of experience at one hundred? What kind of life would that offer?
    A trip to the embalmer definitely seemed more promising.