Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mr. Regali's Coffin

This is a (very) short Horror-ish vignette I wrote some time ago when in the mood to try my hand at something like what Thomas Ligotti's accomplished in Noctuary's "Notebook of the Night." It's a bit too simple to really evolve into a full fledged tale, but I do enjoy its mood and figured I would post it on here in case any of you do as well. Enjoy...

The shop is the center of town. The windows give glimpses of nothing, and the swaying wooden sign bears only a name: MR. REGALI. The townspeople come every year to tell their stories. Each has their own sheet of paper, and, while they speak, Mr. Regali draws with calculated abandon, pencil veering wildly up and down to create bizarre, shifting lines that encompass every word they've said. When the paper is filled, every glimpse of lively white smothered in sterile graphite, he announces their time of death, and they only come one more time to his shop.

The people who tell their life stories are a destitute lot like any other. The aggregate of their stories is a helpless picture, an image of man locked in a cage and dreaming of being free. The various protagonists Mr. Regali meets are helpless and hopeless, and he wishes he could save them. But he can only help in one way.

Mr. Regali is not some factory provider of garden-variety caskets for garden-variety corpses. He does not believe in one size fits all death, and each coffin is custom ordered, tailored to its occupant like a fine suit. Merchant of the paraphernalia of death he might be, but his work is no less essential than any of life's other major purchases - tuition, house, car, ring - and is arguably the most long lasting of all those ephemeral boons.

Every one of the coffins is the same. They are eighty-four inches from toe to head, twenty-eight from left to right, and twenty-three from ground to top. None have decorative fittings. The coffins are all identical, but they are made unique. Mr. Regali keeps no standardizing blueprints, consults no limiting specifications. He reaches the same conclusions in a different way for each individual, crafting the disparate pieces to match the heights and depths of the future occupant's oh-so-generic soul.

Mr. Regali has a masterpiece. No one's ever seen it, but I think I know what it is. I think that it's a coffin like and unlike all the others, being built piece by piece over the decades that his shop has been the climax of town life. I think that, somewhere in the backrooms of the establishment, there is a piece of paper for Mr. Regali and erratic pencil lines to mark his life. I think that, someday, Mr. Regali will shut the lid over himself as he's shut it over so many others - leaving us alone, adrift at the edge of death with no guide to lead us beyond.