Dead Coffin

It would seem that even a simple artisan like he can make a living off poets. However, since the government launched the Artists For Social Welfare program, the use of artists for industrial purposes has become increasingly common. You see, they aren't good for anything else. So the public benches of the park are now made of landscape painters and the water supply network of the city is provided by poets. They are carrying buckets of water under the ground. Nevertheless now here's this coffin maker...

Earlier, I had made a living writing farewell notes. My clients were suicide candidates all wrapped in grief wrinkles who couldn't write proper suicide notes for themselves. So they came and paid me to make one for them. And how good was I? Once a friend of mine put me to the test. He asked me to scribe his farewell note over a mug of beer. I have never met a more cheerful man, but his eternal smile faded when he skimmed through the text. Next day, they found him in his living room. He hanged himself. I was that good.

However, then the Artists For Social Welfare came in and there were a few top dogs who decided that suicide doesn't really benefit society. So they found me a new job: I became a handrail on an old, rickety local bus. The job wasn't so easy, I had to stand there and let the people hang onto me while not falling on to the floor myself. Furthermore of course I had to stay quiet. This was the hardest of all; I kept talking to the passengers all the time. I couldn't get rid of my old habits, and began to tell the morning travelers what they should write in their farewell notes if they decided to kill themselves one day. Soon, less and less people chose our bus and the driver who was lifting his foot increasingly angrily on the cubist painter whose job was to be an accelerator pedal finally lodged a complaint at my supervisor. So my career as a handrail ended. After a long talk with my supervisor, we decided that a) I'd meet this coffin maker guy and talk with him about a job opportunity, and b) the supervisor would kill himself that night, because his life as a gray official clerk was meaningless.

And now here's this coffin maker... He says that he creates unique artistic coffins, and he has a special customer base. To serve it, he needs great talented artists just like me.

"Everyone is chasing immortality, even after they die." He begins his monologue. "What's the point of blaming if we bury the body anyway, and no one's gonna see it? However the family members don't like to think about decomposition, the ashes to ashes line is just an empty saying when it comes to your loved ones. We like to believe that our dear ones under the ground look as if they have just tottered out from an aromatherapy treatment. They look maybe a bit tired, but they wouldn't cancel a dinner with us. So I'm exploring the new ways of preservation. Moreover since I read that art is eternal, I know I have to make my new coffin out of artists! Just think about it! Whomever will lay in that grandiose coffin, the genius of immortal artists will preserve him for all eternity.

What a coincidence: the lucky dead one is no other than my former supervisor. I sign the contract: the idea that they're gonna bury me isn't so bad. I don't want too much from the upper world anyway, and it doesn't seem to want much from me.

Next day I meet the other artists at the coffin maker's workshop: the team includes a sculptor, a painter, a poet and myself. The procedure is rather simple really: the coffin maker staples our legs and arms so we're gonna form some kind of four sided skin-socket. By that time the dead body, like meat in the sandwich, is gonna lay beside us. When we ask him what we are going to eat and drink down there, so we don't die ourselves, he tells us: "You should start thinking of yourselves as one singular giant organism. You don't have to stay motionless like the other coffins. If you learn to move together, you'll find plenty of nourishment down there."

Then he brings the staples.

"This is gonna hurt a bit," he tells us, and the blood begins to flow.

They hold the burial the next day at noon. While lowering us into a moist grave a few grey clerks are shedding their tears onto us. Then they begin to shovel the mud and darkness surrounds us.

For a while, we just lay there deep under the ground, in an expanded side cavity. We breathe really slowly, so as not to use up all the precious oxygen molecules before we learn to move together properly and start to dig channels. Learning to work jointly isn't that hard: soon we are bending our knees and elbows like we were just swimming, and the cocoon made of human bodies, this ovary, with the dead body inside, begins to wave and burst forward in the mud. We dig tunnels and start to hunt: we chase a mole but it is too fast. Looks like we have to synchronize our body twitches more precisely if we want to catch one. Though of course every side of the coffin must eat equally because every side of the dead body has to be preserved. The idea of equivalent achievement makes me uncertain. What if one of us is a much greater artist than the others so therefore one of the corpse's sides gets preserved more than the rest? I try to push the idea out of my head.

Finally, I manage to catch a mole with my teeth. The animal wobbles and struggles painfully as I keep bitting it. My fellow artists are waiting patiently while I finish my dinner, then the hunt continues.

As we are stitched together with our faces outside, we urinate into the ground, but the excrement exits into the inside of the coffin. So to speak the supervisor doesn't complain. Well, I should. Most of the time the dead body weighs on me, and it keeps poking my back. Maybe the good old supervisor has a post-mortem erection and I feel kinda awkward that a corpse is trying to flirt with me. It's his growing nails only, I keep telling myself. However this thought is also quite uncomfortable: what if the nails will grow into my skin and flesh, like the corpse was an eagle digging its sharp claws into its prey?

Time goes on. Finally, we are a perfect single organism, we know each other's every move. However when the clerk inside of us starts to rot, I realize: someone didn't do his job as he should.

First, some kind of stinky fluid begins to ooze out from the corpse, that wets my back. Then come the gases: we stretch around the supervisor like a balloon. Fortunately there are a few narrow gaps between our body-staples, so after some time we deflate. However the worms in the ground will discover these little gaps too, and begin to work themselves into the coffin. Moreover the rising smell is just further evidence of the inner rotting. Seems like one of us can't prevent the decomposition. I can't believe I have to form a single organism with a mediocre artist. One day, I can't hold it inside anymore and while I'm trying to get rid of a mole intestine-piece stuck in my teeth I yell: "One of us doesn't deserve to be called an artist!"

My partners realize that I'm right. We decide to hold an interrogation. We give an account of our artistic qualities one by one. The sculptor and the painter are quoting from the critique exhibitions. The poet recites one of his poems he knows by heart. And me... Well, I improvise a personalized suicide note for each of my partners. What a success! They don't say a word after that. They even forget to eat. They just stare into the mud, thinking about their futureless lives.

Slowly my comrades starve to death. At first I notice it's getting harder and harder to move forward, then I can't move at all under so much dead weight.

Now I'm lying here, considering writing my own suicide note for the first time in my life. If they would just realize up there that we are dead down here, maybe they would dig us out and they would catch a few others artists to make a bigger coffin to preserve us for eternity. However maybe the bigger coffin would die too, and they would have to dig us out to bury us again in a much bigger artist-casket. And so it would repeat, until one day the fat little planetoid made of all the dead, stitched together artists would split out of the body of the planet and would begin its lonely journey into the dark unknown. Furthermore who would believe that the inner core of the artist planet is one insignificant little grey office clerk.