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Standby. I got a bordeaux murder magic mystery comin.

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My dad said he bought this chest from a street merchant in Vietnam. He was told it was handcrafted from locally-sourced wood, and the intricate design was done by the shopkeeper's grandfather. His grandfather's vision was mostly gone, but woodwork was mostly muscle memory. My dad was told that it is a Vietnamese belief that carrying a small chest with you will keep you and your secrets safe. My dad had a lot of secrets. One of those secrets sent him home early from the Vietnam War. But he was able to bring the small chest home, along with his newfound addiction to cocaine.

My dad had a lot of secrets. Affairs went into the chest. Relapses went into the chest. Broken promises went into the chest.

My dad told me the story about when he first acquired the chest, many times. Each new apartment he would unpack his few belongings into. Each time I would find the chest on his nightstand and I would ask if I could play with it. Each time, after ignoring his demand that I not play with it, and he found me using it as a casket for my G.I. Joe's. I would once again hear the story.

My dad sold and/or traded most of his possessions in life. His military issued rifle. His jewelry. His family. But he always held onto that chest. He always held onto his secrets.

Now I'm holding onto the chest, and my dad is with the county coroner in his backyard. He had a stroke. I think back on his story. I think back on his secrets. I look around this room that I have no connection to, other than this is where my dad had been sleeping for the last few months, and think about how this goddamn chest is the only constant he and I have ever had. Our only connection.

I wonder if this chest would be big enough to hold his ashes. I open the lid to find there is already a baggie of white powder inside.

My dad had a lot of secrets. And as I gently closed the lid and examined the chest further, I discovered the shopkeeper had a secret as well.

Printed on the bottom of this chest were the family words: Made in China.

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I've inherited a "Casket of Secrets" from my aunt, who was weird old Hollywood folk and smelled vaguely of brandy. Long story short: I let the junk haulers take everything but this Casket thing from her house (I also took her furs, forgive me -- because the damage has been done and Baby's got bills).

That's me, Baby -- my real name, one that gets me lots of laughs and an inevitable full-body swipe at tha Club. It's fine, I can be your baby for a bit; like The Casket, let's see how profitable this is for me. Warning! I cut you loose quick when profitability stops!

The Casket could be lots of things, once I dig it out of its protective bubbled sleeve. Since it looks like a middle schooler's overserious jewelry box, I put a necklace I own in it: plain. The Casket coughs it up, halfway across the room.

No jewelry, or shitty jewelry, I suppose.

I pivot.

Out of a drawer in my bedroom, I fish a tiny oil painting from Italy I bought from a pauper/artist. Beauty without value. The trip was with an ex boyfriend with huge balls. The painting fits, but looks impoverished in the boxpomp, out of place like a busker at string quartet concert.

The painting is put back in the drawer.

I find natural things look silly in it, too; a peony wilts and falls sideways when I prop it up. This is not an eighth-grader's treasure box. I need to offer this Casket something worthy.

Several hours later, I lay a delivery kung Pao shrimp carefully in the box. It is the best I have done; no spasms of the Casket, so I leave it.

I fall asleep to old episodes of the X Files flashing dimly from my hand me down TV from a poorly cable channel.

It's morning, and I hope you'll forgive me that I woke up to an angry Kung Pao shrimp who has fought his way out of The Casket. My home, the neighborhood, they're how he left them: it is chaos. The roof is ripped from my house,

This shrimp is sentient and has the power of The Casket. He is my prince, and I will follow him to

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This first recorded account of this box occurred in 1493, on a Caribbean island. It was said to house a tooth from a slaughtered pirate -er, "privateer" - left behind by Columbus. The box was light and easy to carry.

The next recorded sighting was from 1510 and at that time held the tip of a broken spear which once belonged to the Conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, along with other assorted bits and pieces left behind by Europeans. The box was heavier, though, and it's not known how it traveled from island to island.

In 1895 the chest once again made an appearance, this time in Cuba. It was said that archeologists were unable to move it without a crane. Inside, however, they found a corner of a parchment that was believed to be part of the agreement between Spanish and American forces. It contained Cuba's independence.

In 1974 the create was unearthed in a basement in Puerto Rico. Unable to be moved without an elaborate systems of ropes and pulleys, the box was opened in situ. Inside, along with all the past items and other accumulated tidbits from previous centuries, were hundreds of uteri that had once inhabited the bodies of women who had been sterilized without their consent.

The relic has not been seen in recent decades. It's believed it's contents are too burdensome to allow it to be moved. Legend has it that once the islands of the Caribbean are freed from colonialism, the box will once again be found and used, newly emptied of its cargo.

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A sliver of faint green light hits the eyes. Was it dawn or dusk? The hermetic seal on the bed broke open. The cold rush of stale air and dank stones was the first sign of disaster. Cold sterile light of a clean room should have lit up the senses. Now the sudden flood of fear was a threat bent on expiration.

The source of the light was the answer. The metal whined as it broke apart under each finger. The slick scent of iron was drawn in with every breath. Hands were wet with it as they tore into the womb that once gave hope to humanity. It was a failure. An experiment with the goal of extending interstellar travel. Now just a carcass of technology held deep underground.

The glow filled the room. It didn’t sting as much as catastrophe. Its luminescence would last thousands of years, along with adequate radiation to kill a person. Time enough for one last look at her and quick enough to avoid suffocation.

In the void under the footrest is where she lay. A casket is what they had said when she was put away. A protocol violation, but they let her stay. It was a Father’s Day gift and the last one ever given. The stained wood and metal spoke to the end of civilization.

In the light she was shone a final time. The beautiful image of a girl. A relic birthed its final act. It waits to tell its secret. What unknown thing will finish the story and learn from our folly. It feels almost warm as it slips away. No sadness, just empty as it tumbles to the floor.

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For a negotiated-case-by-case fee, I will lovingly honor your grandmother’s, cat’s, dog’s, husband’s  every wish and deathbed whim. Whatever their dead little hearts desired. I have solid training in crisis and grief counseling. I will sit as quietly as your most loving pet and carefully listen to the stories of loss, grief and stress without interruption. As a graphic designer I can design invitations, letters, notes, and envelopes. If circumstances allow, I am able provide consultations regarding how to style your urn so it will indeed compliment your 3,000 dollar sofa. As a writer I can write gorgeous, sincere, eulogies about Grandma, Grandpa, Mittens or Buttons.

For a negotiated fee I will write and recite poetry and reveal your buried emotions and articulate the words you could never confess to your long lost love. The one that got away. For an additional fee I will cry on queue and grip my snot covered hanky as I provide them details of a relationship that could have been. The kids, the house, the dog and white fence. I will provide your love with a memento. A small, wooden casket with mother of pearl inlay that hold ashes of you. A perfect trinket to perfectly compliment their Italian leather sofa.

For a negotiated fee I will pour your ashes from the beautiful box into a mixture of pigs blood and drive to the nearest Wal-Mart on Black Friday. As soon as the doors open I will unleash the ungodly mixture from spray cans and douse customers and products alike with the sticky, disgusting, liquid. I will make your friends and family proud.

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Ancient Magi ~

When he was done with the final piece of inlay, Balthazar perfected his last five etchings. The lettering must be perfect for it to work. He then started the finishing process. One coat of linseed oil, then the most important final touch.

He placed a sheaf of dry shredded boswellia herbs into the basin of the tiny hinged chest. He moved his magic candle close and picked up the blade of black obsidian. It glowed with a rich darkness. A deep slice in his left ring-finger flowed ample blood, barely a squeeze and the fibers were almost covered. Perhaps he'd cut too deep, perhaps the liquid portion would be too much. No matter, if two of their three spells were to go according to plan, a new world will be born.

This was their last chance for the next 2,029 years. The three kings of Zoraster’s magic had been in-hiding, deep in their caves, further perfecting their spells since Octavian became Augustus in 27 BC and continued his reign of terror. The secret magi had been researching, practicing, and slowly deciphering an answer. An end to the power of the dark golden god. If they fail, the legends buried inside the fragrant seeds will only bear fruit for the deceitful once again.

Another drop of blood went into the candle, dousing the wick to extinguish the flame. While the wax was still hot, the magician poured the shining impregnated liquid into the adorned box, dripping it over the sacred plants while saying his chosen spell.


uohT ohw yam nrub eniht esnecniknarf edisni, yam yht traeh eb erup ot peek eht eniviD esimorp, ot htrib a wen dlrow. fI uoht eil htiw ecirava ro tieced, eeht llahs eesrevo eht wols htaed fo eniht htrae. yrevE emirp raey tsap eht dnoces ainnellim ecneh htrof llahs tnarg ruoy txen ytinutroppo.


Balthazar closed the ornate box and held his uncut right hand above the lid, almost touching. He licked the ring on the finger of his other, then carefully drew a dark red circle on the back of the floating hand. His eyes rolled back to white as the box began smoldering inside.


Modern Anointment ~

I found the strange gigantic jewelry box buried in a disgusting old storage unit. The garage door of the shed barely opened until one of the springs snapped, the auctioneer jumped out of his boots and dropped his hat. I'd won the bidding easily after a rapid-fire fifteen seconds, since nobody else was there at 7am on the Monday after July 4th, 2027.

It didn’t weigh much at all, but it looked heavy like a miniature casket. The moment I touched it, it was like feeling the weight of the world radiating from within. That was frightening, almost horrific.

The chest lived on my mantle for nearly six months. It called to me in a dream one night, three days before the winter solstice. Literally, I had a vision of the hinged top opening like a mouth, speaking to me but with smoke instead of words.

The next morning I woke early, went down stairs and did nothing for an hour, just watched it sitting there. I hadn’t pissed yet, and the discomfort instigated me forward. I picked it up and sat back down to inspect it once and for all. The box was empty inside. Nothing much to see. After closing it I set it down hard on the coffee table. Something felt loose inside, or sounded odd upon impact with the hard surface. I picked it back up and poked around inside, finding a small crack in the bottom panel, I dug in with my fingernail and pried it off. A hidden compartment, a trapdoor with dark-amber-red chunks of some strange fragrant material. I don’t know why--or how--but it begged to be burned. I went and found a copper bowl and a box of matches in the kitchen.

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Anatman bowed his head and unwrapped the shroud of cloth from the brick shaped object that sat upon the stone table. His audience frowned at the tired wooden box that remained. Anatman settled his gaze beyond the sea of heads,

‘There is great magic within for those that seek it,’ he said. Walking away, he lowered his head while frenzied cries echoed behind him.

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Just wanted to say I love the magic Rock table your generosity has created ❤

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Finally! A place to store my collection of teeth, bone fragments and other crime scene paraphernalia.

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Jun 6, 2022·edited Jun 6, 2022Liked by Chuck Palahniuk


The Casket of Secrets:

House of Mirrors.

Pictures in pictures.

Reflecting reflections.

Fissures to fissures...


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(Since you gave us until Friday......)

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Dimensions? I know, I know. But I'm one of those sticklers........

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Which It Is


I won this little box back when I first started writing and entered this

Writing contest held by this

Prominent writer for his

Loyal followers in his

Corner of the internet where discomfort and the absurd were packed and unpacked again.

I’ve forgotten what I’d written for its submission, probably just some sort of trickery that I’ve always written.

Storytelling was their religion. So of course, when it was announced that the prize was a box, it was also said to be an item of fatal power capable of bringing those with its possession tremendous wealth or enormous misfortune. They all liked this sort of stuff too much.

So when the box arrived at my door, I just set it on my desk and kept the cheap tobacco that I always smoked inside.

I was what you would call a non-believer as in “don’t look for magic where there isn’t any,” as in “randomness and the false hope of meaning is the only story of all of us.” So when my friends asked about where I got this wooden tobacco box, I said the Sunday flea market.

So I was pro-choice, because I didn’t believe in the premise “the sanctity of life.”

So I was always a big fan of Anton Chigurh, because there is such beauty in the illusion of a coin toss.

So when my ex-wife asked me if I still loved her, I asked, sincerely, “what does that even mean?”

So at my Catholic father’s death bed, I never mentioned a better life after this and just promised I would take care of things after him and that I would always cherish my memories of him and be grateful for all that he’s provided.

So I never became a really good writer. Magic was never allowed in my words. Meaning was always beyond reach. I guess ultimately, I realized what I wrote all these years was just affirmation of what I already knew. I never inspired myself.

So when the doctor told me, I’ve got only a few months left from lung cancer because of the cheap tobacco that I’ve been putting inside this box and smoking all these years, I laughed in his office for hours.




“I think I’m gonna put my baseball cards in it, Uncle Randy.”

“Don’t put things in it, Ollie. Don’t put things in it. It’s a magic box.”

“Well, what should I do with it, Uncle Randy?

“Anything but put things in it. It will become just another box, which it is.”


*Shout out to Anton Chigurh

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