The Coffin Maker

The Coffin Maker

A Story by Tea And A Cheshire Smile
"

A coffin maker becomes obsessed with a young, wealthy woman who is more than slightly out of his league. But what lengths will he go to in order to make her his?

"
  I breathed in her sweet scent as she brushed past me. She was such an exquisite creature, with her cascading red locks and her piercing green eyes. And her smile! How I longed to touch that smile. Just seeing her smile brightened my day instantly, and gave me a reason to live. But, no matter how soft her smile, there always seemed to be a hard edge to her jaw, almost as if her smile was false and was fixed in place in order to hide the pain. I would give anything to take away that tension; to hold her while she cries and then kiss away her tears...
  With a sigh, I returned to my work. There was no use going through such unlikely, no, impossible scenarios in my head. A dead man had more of a chance with her than I would ever have. After all, who on earth would learn to love a coffin maker? The loner whose only company was his work? No, she was completely out of my league. 
  In an attempt to push her out of my mind, I refocused myself on my work. Today I had been commissioned to craft a coffin for the town's blacksmith, James Peterson. He had been a strong, stern man; a true traditionalist. So, of course, only a traditional coffin crafted from the strongest oak would do. The hinges had been crafted by his own hand for a customers door, however, they would be just as fitting for his final resting place. More so, in fact. They would add that all important personal twist which made every coffin unique, only it would do so without taking away from the tradition. 
  As I pressed my chisel against the wood and began carving the intricate pattern that would frame the lid, I became lost in the beauty that was my work. Yes, I viewed my work as beautiful. You can laugh, but, when you see the amount of death that I do, you learn to appreciate the significance of your time and what you do with it. My job is to ensure that everyone's final resting place is no less than perfect. True, it is unlikely that the residents of my work would complain, but I believe that everyone deserves to journey to the afterlife in comfort. Call me a perfectionist, but I feel like I'm cheating both myself and the customer if my work isn't one hundred percent true to the person. After all, if you were a minimalist, your resting place should reflect that. If you didn't really care for detail in life, then why should you be presented as someone who does in death? 
  Within moments, nearly half the pattern was done. At least, it felt like moments. I can never really tell, you see? Because, as my chisel flies along the wood and my creativity flows through my hands, I go into what is almost a trance. The beauty and significance of my work overwhelms me and I can think of nothing but exactly that; my work.
  And her, I thought. My hands stilled even as my heart beat faster. Only she could distract me like this. I did not even know her name and yet, I was obsessed with her. Without thinking, I began to move my hands once more, carving an entirely new pattern that stretched across the entire lid and swirled around the crucifix on top. I continued like this for hours, in an entirely new trance, until the clock struck quarter to twelve and I looked down at what I had created.
  It was beautiful. The pattern was made of a dozen red roses with vicious looking thorns and numerous buds coming off of the stem. The roses overlapped and entwined in a pattern that very closely resembled that of a Celtic knot, and their twelve flowers bloomed around the crucifix, framing it in a way that could only be described as stunning. The sight of it took my breath away. It was a coffin fit for a queen, no, even better; it was a coffin fit for her. Only a beauty such as she could deserve such a magnificent resting place. I could only imagine what she would look like in it... I had a feeling that she would be even more beautiful in death than she was in life. 
  But, alas, I would never see her in such a way. I would most likely die before her, after all, I was nearing twenty-five whereas she was only seventeen. I could never have her. With yet another sigh, I put the lid to one side and began afresh on a new piece of wood. I could hardly present my previous work to the blacksmith's family.

  I got up early the next day, in the hope of catching a glimpse of her on her mornings walk. I had seen her wandering the streets in the early hours of the morning numerous times before, you see, so I was fairly certain that she would follow this pattern today. I got dressed quickly and crept down the stairs of the boarding house to find her. 
  As if by fate, I sighted her standing outside my place of work as if she were waiting for something. Gathering my coat tightly around me, I crossed to meet her.
  "Good day," I called to her, my voice shaking slightly. This was the first time I had ever spoken to her. 
  "Oh!" She jumped, clearly startled to see me. "Good day coffin maker!" Her voice was every bit as beautiful as the rest of her; it was music to my ears. I caught my breath as she extended a hand towards me. 
  "Please, call me Thomas," I replied, extending my own, shaky hand and raising hers to my lips.  Her skin smelt of orange blossoms and was silky smooth against my lips. "And you are?"
  "Elizabeth," she replied, smiling at me. Oh that smile! So soft yet so bright! And what a beautiful name. Elizabeth. A beautiful name for a beautiful soul. "Thomas," she said in a business-like manner, interrupting  my thoughts. The sound of her saying my name sent shivers down my spine. "I have come to see you on a matter of great importance," she continued. 
  "Well, my dear, do come inside!" I unlocked the door to my workplace and ushered her into the warmth. Taking a seat on my work bench, she explained upon what matter she had come to see me. 
  Her mother, it had turned out, had recently died and she had come to see me about making a coffin for her. I can't say that I listened to all of what she was saying. I was, instead, drinking in every detail of her face with my eyes and imprinting it onto my memory. At one point a rather dark thought had crossed my mind, but I had immediately dismissed it. However, it remained at the edge of my mind throughout our conversation, nagging at me until I gave in. 
  "Elizabeth," I interrupted, "Would you say you are the same size as your mother?"
  "Oh, well, yes. I suppose so..." she replied, clearly taken aback by my out-of-the-blue question. I nodded before continuing. It's not too late to stop this madness, I told myself, but, by that point, it was too late. I knew exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to go about it.
  "You see, I have a dilemma. I think I already have the perfect resting place for your mother, however, I fear it may be too big..." I allowed my voice to trail off.
  "Too big?" 
  "Yes, you see, if a coffin is too spacious for the person, it can make said person seem larger than average. I should hate for that to happen to your mother." I raised my eyes to meet hers. "There is a way I can check the size however," I whispered, leaning towards her. "But I will need your help."
  "Of course," she said, smiling at me.
  "No, don't say yes straight away," I whispered. "You see, it may make you feel a little... uncomfortable." I looked at her meaningfully.
  "How so?" She asked, a confused expression on her face. I just continued to look at her until she began to understand what I was implying. Please say yes... I thought. This was the only chance I would ever have to see her like that. "I suppose, if it must be done," she began slowly, "then I am willing to help."
  "Brilliant!" I leapt to my feet and gestured for her to follow me. I made my way to the back of the workspace, where my most beautiful work lay. "Beautiful isn't it?" I said, turning to her with a satisfied smile on my face. 


  What have I done?  I asked myself. It was never meant to go this far. All I had wanted was to see her; to picture how beautiful she would be after death. I had never meant to kill her... No. Maybe I didn't. I couldn't be sure of anything yet, could I? I mean, sure the pounding had stopped but that didn't mean anything. 
  It had been two hours since I had lowered her into the coffin; two hours fifty-five minutes since I had knocked the lid shut. I hadn't meant for it to happen - the lid closing, I mean - but after it had happened, I found myself frozen to the spot. At first, when I had realised what had happened, I had rushed over and gripped the lid tightly, but then, before I lifted it in order to let her out, yet another dark thought crossed my mind. 
  She would be yours forever...
  
No, I couldn't... could I? Yours forever. The same words echoed inside my head. That was when I knew exactly what I would do. And then, as the pounding grew louder and more desperate, I sank to the ground in tears, waiting for it to end.
  Now, as the clock struck ten in the morning, I rose to my feet and lifted the lid once more. It was time to face what I had done. Gazing down at her, I gasped. 
  Her face was a chalky white and her lips were their usual pale red. Her green eyes still seemed so full of life and, as she smiled up at me, I could've sworn that I saw a flicker of acknowledgement in them. She's alive... She had to be. No dead person could ever seem so full of life, so... beautiful. No one could wear death that well, not even her. But then, why isn't she moving? 
  She's sleeping, I reasoned with myself, extending a hand to close her eyelids. She's just sleeping, that's all. Brushing the hair from her face, I smiled down at her. She was every bit as beautiful as I had thought she would be, and she wasn't even dead. With a smile, I lowered my lips to hers and kissed her goodnight. 
  How long had I dreamed of being able to do this? Being able to stroke that hair, to caress that face, to kiss those lips? Seizing the chance, I explored her face with my fingers, tracing the outline of her full, tender lips and stroking her eye lids softly. Her rosy cheeks, her tender skin... she was not dead. She couldn't be. I kissed her tenderly and leant close to her ear. 
  "Wake when you're ready, my love," I whispered. And with that, I closed the lid once more and left her for the night.
  She was mine. 


  I met with my secret lover every day after that; same time, same place, same purpose. I only wished that I could've been there always in case she woke up alone. You can laugh if you like, but she wasn't dead. She was alive. I could tell. Elizabeth, my sweet Elizabeth, was sleeping. She would awake when she was ready.
  In the meantime, I would treat her body with nothing but respect. Admittedly, I succumbed to passion once or twice, but never without stopping myself before it got too bad. Besides, I knew she would forgive me. 
  Every time we met I would perform the same rituals; I would bathe her in orange blossom scented water - after all, she would want to be clean when she woke up-, comb her long curly locks and then I would dress her in the latest dress I had purchased. Finally, after performing all of these, I would lay her back in her bed and talk to her while she slept. 
  On some nights, I would curl up with her. She would never acknowledge my presence, but I could tell she was grateful for the company. However, perhaps this was my one error. 
  You see, it was on one of these many nights that everything went wrong. 
  Earlier that evening, I had crept out of the boarding house and curled up in the coffin with my love. Breathing in her delicious scent, I had barely been able to reign in my passion as I kissed her lightly. Pulling her close to me, our kiss grew deeper... that was when I heard the scream. 
  It was Jennifer, the blacksmith's daughter. Lowering my sleeping love's body back into the coffin, I climbed out and walked cautiously towards her. 
  "Jennifer..." I began, but she ignored me. Instead she merely pointed and began backing away slowly. 
  "You... I saw you... and her..." She spluttered, clearly not believing what she had just seen. 
  "It isn't what it looks like-" 
  "She's dead!" I wanted to grab her. To shake her and scream at her how she wasn't dead, she was just sleeping. Why was it that I was the only one who could tell? 
  "No, she isn't-" I began, but Jennifer cut me off with yet another scream. She spun around and ran from the room. 
  No... I thought. Everything was ruined. She would run and get the sheriff no doubt, and he would have Elizabeth buried. I slammed my fist down on the work bench. "Why is it that only I see it?!" I screamed at no one in particular. What was I to do now? How could I protect her? She would wake up alone, ten feet underground and there was nothing I could do about it... or was there? 
  "He's over here, hurry!" I spun around at the sound of Jennifer's voice nearby. Running towards the door, I slammed it shut and dead-bolted it. Almost immediately afterwards I heard the pounding.
  "Let us in here," came a low, gruff voice. I flinched at the man's obvious anger. 
  Turning around to face my love, I realised what I must do. You might die, I argued with myself. And, of course, I was right. I could die. But what did it matter? My life wouldn't be worth living without her. And so, with a last glance around my work space, I climbed into the coffin next to Elizabeth and pulled the lid shut. 

  
  And now, here I am, cuddled next to my love in our shared final resting place. I'll wait here for as long as it takes for her to wake up. But for now, I must sleep...

  

© 2011 Tea And A Cheshire Smile


Author's Note

Tea And A Cheshire Smile
This was inspired by "My Boy Builds Coffins", a song by Florence and the Machine. It is, admittedly, a little twisted... It's actually my first draft though, so there may be a few mistakes.

For an updated version, visit dA by clicking the link below.
http://teaandacheshiresmile.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2u7ndb

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Featured Review

Absolutely beautiful. Just wow; completely beats my story "His Beloved Wife"...
I'm a bit messed up so I didn't find the fact that Thomas killed Elizabeth and then performed few naughty things with her (lol) disgusting; I found that extremely romantic and sweet. The way you told this story from his point of view is fabulous; I'm pretty much in love with this story room.

P.S. I adore Florence and the Machine, and the song "My Boy Builds Coffins" is my favourite song done by her...well, them :)

Posted 10 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I just had to leave another review. liked this a lot

Posted 9 Years Ago


Twisted alright ... really great, though. Gave me the creeps ...
I wouldn't call it beautiful. I'd call it fascinatingly revolting.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

One of the most beautiful romances on WC. The only one who comes even close is Entity Sylvir (http://www.writerscafe.org/Entity-Sylvir)

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

After I read this, I knew I had to finish reading all of your other pieces, and I wasn't disappointed!

This story is so eerie and beautiful all at the same time. I had mixed feelings for every one of your characters. I found the coffin maker to be both adorable and...honourable? I know that's not the word, but that's all I can think of. He thinks of himself as an outcast because of his line of work, yet he's so determined to believe that Elizabeth is still alive. Even the little things, like how she smelled of orange blossoms, make this story all that more meaningful and deep.

I know this story probably comes to a close here, but I would love to see future spinoffs! Keep it up!

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wow this is so dark and beautifully written. Well done.

Posted 10 Years Ago


Absolutely beautiful. Just wow; completely beats my story "His Beloved Wife"...
I'm a bit messed up so I didn't find the fact that Thomas killed Elizabeth and then performed few naughty things with her (lol) disgusting; I found that extremely romantic and sweet. The way you told this story from his point of view is fabulous; I'm pretty much in love with this story room.

P.S. I adore Florence and the Machine, and the song "My Boy Builds Coffins" is my favourite song done by her...well, them :)

Posted 10 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

a finely crafted piece of work . . .

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

As twisted as the coffin maker's thoughts are, it's beautiful. The love he feels for her is real and true to him, despite his way of going about it. "...my creativity flows through my hands, I go into what is almost a trance." is one of my favorite lines. It's how I feel when I'm writing, like I am able to escape reality for a while. The story is well written, beautifully dark, and just amazing.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Ok. Creepy, but a good creepy. The man loved her so much that he couldn't see that he had accidentally killed his lady love. I didn't see any mistakes, except in the beginning: This sentence I would change 'cries' to 'cried'=I would give anything to take away that tension; to hold her while she cries and then kiss away her tears...
You are a wonderful storyteller. I think if you could figure out a way, you should continue this story. Maybe have him continue as a spirit or something? In heaven or a literal ghost town. Where all the ghosts of the local dead continue to live their lives or something.

Posted 10 Years Ago


This is one of the best short stories I read in writers café…..
My congratulations…..


Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on May 31, 2010
Last Updated on May 7, 2011

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Tea And A Cheshire Smile
Tea And A Cheshire Smile

London, South-East England, United Kingdom



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NOTE: I'm hardly ever online on here now. I'm spending most of my time on my dA account, which is probably where I'll post my writing first. The link's on my profile. Feel free to add me on there too .. more..

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