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Coffin Coffee Table

by Dawn Vogel

I found the schematics for the coffin on the dining room table. “What’s this?”

He gave me a charming smile. “Coffee table, I was thinking.”

I smiled back. “Kinda spooky, but alright.”

“It’s got hinges on one side of the top, so we can keep blankets and pillows inside.”

“What for sleeping in?”

“No, for when we’re watching movies and you fall asleep on the couch.”

It sounded so sweet, I had to believe it.

#

The wood he picked was heavy and sturdy, not just plywood like I anticipated. “That’s going to be a beast to move.”

He frowned at the wood and nodded. “Yeah, but it means we don’t have to paint it.”

“What about the edges?”

“Oh, I’m getting some custom molding made. Same wood. For the lid and the corners.”

“You’ve got this all planned out, huh?”

He shrugged. “More or less, yeah.”

Should have worried about the less. Maybe the more too.

#

When the bolt of satin fabric arrived, I tried to tell the delivery driver that there must be a mistake. “I didn’t order purple satin.”

He swooped in from nowhere. “Yeah, that’s mine, thanks.”

After I closed the front door, I looked at him, my brow creased. “What’s that for?”

“The inside of the wood’s a little rough, and I don’t want the blankets catching on it. So I figured I could whip up a lining.”

“That’s not as easy as you’d think. You want some help?”

“No thanks, I’ve got this.” He kissed my forehead. “You look tired, go back to bed.”

I was tired. I wasn’t normally up at this time of day.

#

It was just after nightfall when I woke up, and I luxuriated in the soft sheets, stretching my arms out to the sides as I regained consciousness.
My left arm felt leaden, just before it thumped against something solid.

I fumbled for the switch on my bedside lamp, surprised at my clumsiness. I turned the knob but shoved the lamp off the table in the same gesture. My earlier trip downstairs had taken more out of me than I’d expected.

The coffin coffee table was on his side of the bed. In the bed.

An IV line in my left arm trailed through a small hole between the hinges.

“No.”

I became aware of the blood leaving my body, even as I reached to pull the needle out of my artery. My hand froze when I saw the note propped on the lid of the coffin.

Joining you in the dark, my love.

I’d told him “no” a million times. It wasn’t the life I wanted for him. For us. Undead couples don’t last.

I pulled the line from my arm, pressing my thumb over the hole the needle left behind.

The coffin’s lid was heavy. He lay inside, arms crossed over his chest like a cheesy movie, the last of the blood he’d stolen from me slipping out of the IV line.

I lifted his eyelid to see how his pupils reacted to the light. They contracted like a human’s, not lightning quick like mine. The transformation wasn’t complete, but it was far enough along.

“This is not yours to take,” I murmured. “It was mine to give, and I said ‘no’.”

He’d always kept stakes in his bedside table. To defend me, he said. On my more cynical days, I suspected he also kept them in case I lost control.

Either way, they were handy now.

But I moved him to the bathtub first.

Intentions aside, it was a gorgeous coffee table he’d built.

Dawn Vogel’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is being published by Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at http://historythatneverwas.com or on Twitter @historyneverwas.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Coffin Coffee Table”?

“Coffin Coffee Table” came out of my personal take on Drawlloween (also known as Artober in some circles). I challenged myself to start a new piece every day during the month of October, based on a set of prompts for Drawlloween. To complicate matters, I spent nearly half of October travelling for work or on a vacation with my sisters and mom. However, I did succeed at my goal, completing a number of pieces of flash and poetry, and starting a number of short stories. “Coffin Coffee Table” was written for a prompt of “coffin/grave,” and was drafted on a plane on the way to my hometown of St. Louis. The story came out almost entirely in the first draft, with just a few tweaks for the final version to streamline it.

The inspiration behind the story involved both an ex who had wanted to build a coffin coffee table and my desire to examine the question of consent as it applies to vampires. So often, vampire media shows those being fed upon or those being converted to new vampires as victims, but in this case, I reversed that trope, making the vampire in this story the victim, but also one who had the power to put an end to the victimization.

News

Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.” Congrats to Christopher Allen for being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions is now open. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period closes June 15, 2019; submit here.

Upcoming

05/20 • Clint Margrave
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05/23 • Nance Van Winckel (1 of 8)
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