November 21st, 1948, a young girl died in her sleep at the St. Augustus Orphanage in High Wycombe, England. As her mortal essence was carefully lifted from her body, her friend Eloise, who lay in the bed beside her, witnessed something that she would carry with her – quite literally – for the rest of her life.
An entity stood over the corpse of the child, not quite there, a wisp of something, not evil, not malign, but almost passive. As it cradled the non corporeal vestiges of her friend, Eloise saw something tumbled to the floor, she attempted to cry out, but her words were silenced, and as if what she has seen had never happened, her friend and the presence were gone.
At the foot of the bed, seemingly undamaged, but very old – was a small black box. The box was unlocked, and within was a letter, addressed to “whom it may concern”. It read:
“If this box is found, then I have unfortunately misplaced it. Please keep it safe, until we next meet. Yours, D.”
The girl kept it with her until she was 86. Upon her death bed, she held it in her arms, awaiting his return, her final days were not in fear, but anticipation. And when he finally came to carry her away, she saw the look on his face, a look of joy, as his coffer was finally returned to him.
Death – the grim reaper – a benevolent force personified and manifested through the conscious thought of all living organisms. Given flesh by those who wish to be carried forth to the hereafter. He is as old as sentient life, as wise as stars and as imperfect as those who call for him.
Contents / Details
This is his keepsake box, his coffer – an object that contains his tools and possessions.
Carved into the lid of the box is his journey, his reaping of souls – two silver vials of embalming fluids – to purify the flesh. The volume of names from his days work – although a day to him is mere moments for us – half filled and unfinished.
The box has two layers, the top layer holds his oil stone – to sharpen his scythe when separating flesh from soul. A small brass bell that rings every time something dies. There are two keys, engraved with an H. There is a feather quill for writing names. On either side of the keys are a collection of old coins.
In the drawer below this is his toll box. For every soul he collects, he is willingly paid a toll. This toll is either a child’s keepsake – be that a toy soldier, a piece of ribbon, a trinket of some sort.
If there is no keepsake, he will take coins, usually those placed over the eyes in ritual.
The keepsakes here are labeled, each carefully placed, and cherished. A crucifix, a Nazi emblem, a tin Indian on a horse, a small China doll’s head, a metal bat mobile, amongst other things.
The items are dated from 1901 until 1976. His box has no chronological order, therefore its contents can come from any time.
There is a deck of tarot cards, and of course the letter.
If you come into possession of this box, then please keep it safe for him.
This work was inspired in part by the novel “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.