There once lived a man on the banks of a sleepy ocean town.
He was timeless. He was a coffin maker.
No one knew when exactly the man arrived, nor how old he actually was. Yet if you looked into his eyes, they would tell you that he was a man of decades and centuries. Each day the man would open his shop at exactly an hour after dawn, and close at six in the evening. Whispers within town would claim that the man was lonely, a recluse that was companion to the hammers and nails of his trade. Others said he was a thief from long ago, coming to the town trying to change his ways. The stories grew and took roots around the coffin maker’s reputation, creating a vivid and sad story about a man who never knew the feeling of love, nor the idea of a home.
The coffin maker was a quiet man, with dark brown hair that was pulled back in a small bun at the nape of his neck. He had eyes of grey, reminiscent of quiet and rainy summer days. While the coffin maker was strong, he was barely a wisp of a man; making his tall frame unnoticeable in a crowd, further encouraging his paradox of a life. His hands were firm, calloused with tales of hard labor and little pay. Looking into the face of the coffin maker, no one could claim the sight of wrinkles or lines of age. Yet his posture, his gait, they spoke of confidence and maturity; a man who held no traces of boyhood.
The coffin maker led an outwardly quiet and contemplative life of mystery, while leading an inner existence of turmoil and self-loathing. Carrying the burdens of lost, the homes he built for them; he created shelters for the cities of the dead, listening to their stories and holding onto them when they lost the desire to remember.
Within the same town there once lived a little girl, born with the heart of a weary and hungry nation, and the eyes of unabashed innocence.
She was a victim of age. She was a slave to time.
Her fiery spirit matched her head full of curls that refused to stay in place. Love fueled her soul, and passion filled her thoughts. Her name was Colette, for her parents saw that she was a child of victory. Bred from a ancestry of curiosity and wonder, she was orphaned as an infant, and came to live in a orphanage of lost dreams.
Matron Happenstance was their guardian, a woman just as lost as the children that came into her care. In the morning they would arise to a sun that whispered thoughts of fresh beginnings, and at night they would retire to a blanket of stars that bid adieu to their lost achievements. On weekends, couples would come, looking for children to adopt. Picking up little infants with clean slates, they would take them home to beginning copying stories down. Those with soiled stories, once containing far too many words for a couple to erase, would be left behind. They would be left to stay, cursing their heritage that was tattooed over their right to exist.
Within the orphanage the girl named Colette grew to be a beautiful child of barely twelve. The spark in her eyes matched her dresses with hems dipped in dirt: each telling of days filled with adventure and mischief. On rainy days, she had no need for an umbrella, for the rain was her friend, each drop kissing her freckled face and tender smile. Her childlike beauty was a town favorite, for no child that grew up in the orphanage should be so pretty. Perhaps she was a princess of a lost kingdom, or a bastard child of a heartbroken god. Regardless of her lineage, she wandered the town, befriending its partons and asking more questions than she gave answers. For this was the nature of a curious girl named Colette.
In a town of forgotten memories and malnourished hope, the coffin maker and the girl longed for winds of renewal. Together they would learn to question the gods and change their fates. One would become a belated thief, loving a heart that was already stolen. The other would become a writer, taking empty words and giving life to them. Together, the fed the nation with crumbs of existence, and taught ideas of legacy and power.
“Tell me a story,” she said one day, “tell me one that you have never told before.”
The coffin maker looked up from his work, watching the young girl fiddle with the instruments of his trade.
“What is it that you wish to hear? Dragons? A prince in disguise?”
She shook her head. “No, I wish to hear the story of you.”
He smiled, looking back down at the coffin in front of him. “That, my dear, would require me to tell you a much longer story.” He picked up a hammer from his work table, and placed a nail on the coffin.
“What story is that?” she asked.
With a firm stroke the nail became one with the wood, halfway nestled within the coffin’s siding. The coffin maker wiped his brow and looked up at the girl.
“It is the story of humanity.”