"Damn it!" she yelled. She began screaming her lungs out and pounding the walls, but she knew the plush silken padding would stifle any noise. She stroked the puckered silky side board. It would have been a pleasant feeling if it did not accompany the faint smell of formaldehyde, moth balls and wilted lilies. This particular smell brought on a swell of disturbing memories: her great-grandmother's house, which great-grandmother insisted on taking care of until she collapsed one day on the dirt and feces spackled floor; the nursing homes she had caroled at with her religion class; old Mr. Linis, the senile neighbor with his pilled sweater jackets, always ready with a batch of ginger cookies and a lecherous leer for the altar boys and boy scouts; the dissection of the fetal pig in eighth grade science when one animal gushed its succulent piggy juices all over Miss Dragovich, whereupon she deposited her stomach contents in a nearby azalea. But all the same. This stale combination of formaldehyde, moth ball and flower gripped her mind as a smell of death.
It was only natural the coffin she was trapped in should smell as such.
That there was a coffin backstage in the first place was actually quite normal. It was needed for the first scene in the show. Anne's job was to make sure the coffin was preset on stage with fresh flowers daily, the old flowers simply being pushed further underneath it. After Scene One the coffin was wheeled back into the sawdust ridden construction room at the back of the theatre where it remained for the rest of the show.
It was Saturday, after the last scene change of the night. Intent on taking a short nap before clean up duties, Anne grabbed some gummy bears and a brownie from the costume ladies and went to the construction room. She crawled into the plush soothing coffin, a real coffin. She had just begun dozing when the marching anthem song commenced on stage; a lively number with lots of percussion, brass, and tapping shoes. Becoming irritated at this intrusion of her peaceful world, she shut the coffin lid. Then she heard the lock snap. It struck her that perhaps coffins did not have handles or lid knobs or any such useful attachments on the inside. While frantically looking for any kind of handle, it also occurred to her that no one would think to open the coffin until next Thursday night, and that possibly, even if she survived that long with a mere six gummy bears, brownie and no water, this coffin might be air tight, granting her only a few hours of breathable air.
Thoughts of what to do next ran through her mind. She tried prying the padding loose with her finger nails and kicking through the floorboard to safety. She bounced back and forth, to get the coffin to lurch off its wheeled platform and shatter on the floor, but the coffin weighed too much. The air inside the coffin had become sweltering and stuffy. Exhausted, her mind drifted off. She envisioned Casey, Tom, Joe or one of the other stage hands realizing her absence, and, through some miracle of enlightenment, thinking to look for her in the coffin. Suddenly, amidst her daydream, she heard a knocking. It was slightly muffled. Someone was knocking on the coffin! A bright shaft of light struck her and she winced upwards, seeing Tony, the friendly curtain guy, with a big grin on his face. "We found her!" He yelled, simultaneously lifting Anne out of her quilted grave. Then they walked onstage together to begin clean up duties. Anne looked out at the now empty theatre and stared into the effulgent cat walk lights and smiled to herself.
Or at least she thought she did. What Anne didn't realize was that the lack of oxygen was causing her to hallucinate. She was really in the beginning stages of a prolonged asphyxiation. Gradually, she lost consciousness and Thanatos reared his ugly black sickle as Fate laid down another card in her twisted game of poker. Oddly, Anne had been right about being found on Thursday, she just didn't imagine under what circumstances.
Act One, Scene One: The curtains open and the coffin is carried on stage in a processional. One of the bearers jokes to someone beside him. The coffin is set down as normal and opened for the priest to bless the empty encasement. Well, normally it is empty.