They made coffins. Coffins of every size. Coffins for the small, caskets for the very fat, the last and settled silken tombs for the old and freshly birthed alike.
The building was grey and sat like cubes sit, there and immovable.
‘A coffin factory.’ Cold, wooden words, together, together.
Coffin factory. Where the dead rotted to dust and became the dirt. Where the dead wore their uniforms, shaping, nailing, turning, and, occasionally, sweeping, for floors must be swept.
The coffin factory. The dead worked, and the worked were dead, and not literally, but they may as well have been.
Borghas was a skilled laborer, a man of a particular eye, a perfecter of angles. He was a coffin builder, of course! Creator on high! He crafted the vessels which carried one down and down and down, back to the earth, grim of soil, damp of worms.
Borghas hammered one final nail, tightened one final bolt. He lifted the lid. Closed the lid. He did this twice more.
‘Parfecto,’ he chuckled. ‘Tis parfect. Parfect een eevry wey.’
Borghas gazed into its cool, violet interior. The frills smiled at him as he followed their path along the coffin’s inner walls. The bedding sheened, glimmering in the factory light. He crouched at one end of the coffin, peeking over, staring at the opposite end. Borghas stood.
He frowned, running his tired and callused fingers through his beard. ‘Ees a byartiful caffin.’ Lines of tears rivered down his cheeks, cutting a delta through the forest. The tears dropped to the factory floor in small, salty puddles.
‘Ees juss me size,’ Borghas cried. ‘A caffin beelt juss fa me.’
The coffin wiggled. The coffin coughed. The coffin fell from the work-table. It stood tall before its creator. It stood without legs or feet. But, it stood all the same.
‘Built just for you, and built by you, no doubt,’ the coffin brayed. ‘Borghas, my fellow, how good you appear!’ It bent like it was made of rubber, its slick wood inches from Borghas’s face. ‘Green eyes, such loveliness, sir, such loveliness.’
When it spoke, its lid opened and closed, a shining rectangle jaw. ‘I see the old emerald isle in there, I see the sheep, and the women, I see their red hair, I see that hair, like so much red fire before it, I see their slurring, wicked, jealous men, I see burning, I see burning, Borghas.’ The coffin shuddered, and returned to its full stature. It turned away. ‘Close them, sir, please, close your green, emerald eyes. I don’t want to see those men burning those red haired women.’
And, then, there came a new sound. Borghas placed his hand upon the coffin’s back. ‘E’ve neever hyeard a caffin croy bayfore,’ he admitted. ‘But, den’t be shoy, den’t held beck ye tyears.’
It did not. The coffin howled, sobbed, shrieked and cried, weeping splintery puddles, which pooled all around. ‘Oh, Borghas, I’m so sorry,’ it choked out amongst spasms of melancholy. The coffin turned back to its creator. ‘Beautiful man. Look at me, sir,’ it gestured to itself with a brass handle. ‘I am solid and one shape – me – one big square. But, you, you and the others like you, you curve and nothing is a straight line, like you were drawn by a drunk, and sculpted by a scurvy ker.’ The coffin nodded in agreement with itself. ‘Shapes, so many shapes you are, and all slightly off, roundness and firmness.’ It nudged Borghas, and tapped his joints. ‘What do you have in there? Bones? Bones, right? Bones wrapped in a pink texture. Muscle? Muscles, right? Maybe a little extra fat on you, too, huh?’ The coffin laughed at that. And it twirled.
Borghas had never seen a coffin twirl, and he clapped with joy. ‘Ye look loik a wheerling dorveesh!’ Borghas laughed and clapped.
The coffin stopped and stumbled back to its creator. ‘Oh, my friend, take me out. Take me dancing.’ Beads of sweat clung to the fresh, shining wood.
‘Er,’ Borghas mumbled, thinking. ‘Okoiy, I teek ye darncin.’
It was tough work sitting a coffin in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, but with enough pushing, shoving, and wiggling, it was done, even if it was a tight fit.
The truck sped along the highway, and slowed traveling down side roads, and the coffin kept the window down. ‘Oh,’ it sighed, but not unhappily. ‘I feel the wind, and it feels like life. And what are those smells, sir?’
Borghas rolled down his window, sniffing, catching the earthen smells, and how crisp and yellow and orange and red and brown they were. ‘I smeell the doid larves.’
The coffin breathed in. ‘Yes, those dead leaves. I smell them, too. Dying and falling. And those which have fallen, why, they are exceedingly crunchy upon the ground, are they not?’
‘Aye,’ Borghas concurred.
They pulled into a parking lot, and Borghas turned the engine off. He helped the coffin out of the cab, pulling and yanking, the coffin giggling.
‘Where are we?’ asked the coffin.
‘Ees a bar,’ answered Borghas. ‘Thar’s a jyukebarx eenseede. War’ll pyut a quittar enn, en war’ll darnce.’
Inside the bar, Borghas pulled a chair out for the coffin, and it tumbled onto the seat, smiling with anticipation. The coffin maker approached the jukebox, finding a quarter in his pants’ pocket. In he dropped the coin, and it tinkled down, clunking into some slot within.
A beat played, the snare drum tinny, and the bass drum having no real kick, no power behind it. And then, a ridiculous voice crooned and weaved a tale of ghouls and devilish beasts.
Borghas ran to the coffin, taking it by a handle. ‘Toime to darnce!’
The coffin spun and jigged and moved in a jerky dance with its creator. ‘What is this glorious song we’re dancing to?’
‘”The Myernster Mush!”’ shouted Borghas over the music.
The coffin hopped about to the rhythm. ‘It’s beautiful! A mash of monsters! A monster mash! Brilliant!’
The two were an oil painting, but melting and alive, alive, very much alive! Alive on the dance floor, creator and coffin, a sight to only be dreamed of.
‘I want this played at my wedding!’ the coffin hollered.
Borghas shimmied, not caring about the bar patrons watching and laughing at the coffin and him.
Bobby Pickett was done singing, and the song ended.
The coffin fell into Borghas’s arms, almost bowling the man over.
‘And now?’ asked the coffin. ‘What now?’
Borghas shrugged under the weight of his dance partner. ‘Ye tyell moi.’
‘Okay!’ the coffin bellowed, standing on its own, again. ‘A sunrise! I want to see the sun come up!’
Borghas checked his watch. Sunrise was not for eight more hours, and he was feeling tired and unusually weak.
The coffin stood in the center of the dance floor, smiling, softly, and if it had had arms and hands, it would have had its hands clasped together, looking young and hopeful.
Borghas nodded. ‘Erkay,’ he conceded.
And back to the pick-up truck they bounded, the coffin squeezing itself into the passenger seat, for it knew how to adjust its form onto the seat, and did not wish to trouble Borghas.
Once more, they were speeding over the highway. The moon was rising high in the sky. ‘A moonrise,’ said the coffin. ‘An exquisite wonder I didn’t consider, until now.’
Soon, they were parking the truck, and stepping out to a dark beach.
‘Fyeels deefferont een Uuctubre,’ Borghas commented. ‘Fyeels deefferont on de boich een Uuctubre.’ He sneezed.
The coffin and its creator plopped themselves onto the sand. And waited. And the night moved, the stars moved, they ran their course across the arc of the Milky Way.
And beyond the horizon, where the water fell off the edge of the world, the beginnings of a flood of orange. The sun peeked its head over. It wore a green hat, but only for a moment, and only as an optical illusion.
The coffin sat in wonder. Here was born a giver of life, of all life, life within and without. The sun brought forth the trees, which brought forth the wood, which brought forth the coffin. And the coffin leapt up and gasped. The sun continued in its way, rising and rising, king of the local planetary system, giver, giver, and again, the coffin was shocked, feeling the full actuality of life.
But, also death.
The coffin stared into the light of the king sun. Because death! The sun brought death, as well, not only life. The sun brought forth drought, which brought forth famine, which brought forth three more horsemen, steady on their steeds, dry and dead in their hearts, and above all, violently indifferent.
‘Death!’ shouted the coffin. It turned to Borghas. ‘Why, death!’
But, Borghas was lying on the sand, his eyes closed.
‘Sir, are you asleep?’ asked the coffin. ‘Of all the times to be asleep, now is not the time, my friend! You are missing the sunrise! And my incredibly confused epiphany! You are asleep and missing it!’
The coffin hollered on, but still, Borghas lay silent and unseeing.
The coffin bent over and shook its creator. And quickly pulled away. For Borghas was like ice.
‘Sir?’ whispered the coffin, to which came no reply.
The coffin fell beside Borghas, its friend, caressing his cheek, touching his forehead, gentle as bee feet. The coffin released a wail, and relinquished itself to a quiet cry.
It held Borghas.
‘Come close, my friend,’ the coffin hiccupped. And in it pulled Borghas.
The coffin wept, closing its lid, cradling its creator within.
The beach held the coffin. Water lapped at the shore, moving farther inland. Gulls alighted and pecked at sealed shells. Above, clouds formed, covering the growing daylight. The sunrise became grey.
There was a breeze, and it pushed the sand, lightly, some here, some over there.
The coffin lay still, sand collecting on it, waiting to be buried.