Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 34
Autumnal Equinox, 2019

New Works

Emily Harrison


My man carves the coffins, his fingers steady with the blade.
The role is an honour — that's what the Higher Up name it. My man says it's a burden, one which pays him well. My man used to craft beautiful furniture from the remains of Mother-Earth before the Higher Up came knocking. It was the midwinter of 2101; the former coffin carver had fashioned his last. Someone skilled was required to build the coffins quickly, another sacrifice was to be chosen — another to be buried.
My man was reluctant. The Higher Up promised he'd be exempt from selection.
He is heavenly pulpy; prime sacrificial meat.
My man said yes.


The sacrifices began when supplies got low. We'd greedily exhausted most of our stocks and reserves — Mother-Earth dying of her current enervated cycle. Cities were ravished to hollow cavities. Folk fled to small holdings and villages on the coasts where flora and fauna were relatively fresh despite the rising seas. The exodus led to secular societies — miniature districts ran on different laws and opposing rules.
The Higher Up established themselves through trade — set the prices, bartered across district lines and held the township under strict decrees. Rarely were you granted permission to leave.
The sacrifices became their way of wielding power. The first was necessary — or so they claimed. I was in my third year of life when it happened.
A woman was plucked from the steeped cobbled street that ran parallel to the ever-darkening seafront; her body ripe with succulent youth. She was sacrificed to attract Mother-Earth and her creatures. The Higher Up snared the animals that fed from her crisply dead body — feral foxes, wild savage dogs, sea-birds and the like. Insects too. They collected their sacrificial prizes and rationed them out to the townsfolk in small doses, enough to keep them mortal.
Her purpose fulfilled, the young woman was left to rot until only her pearl bones remained. She was buried Historic then — that's what we call it. Her bones encased inside the wood of the carved coffin and sunk in the clotted marshlands that leech from the sea.


I meet my man in his workshop, his bare torso soaked in intricate sweat. It trickles across him in the bloom of bloodshot eyes.
"Another one?"
He nods his reply. I set down his dinner — dried pigeon breast on the wooden station he keeps his tools in. He tells me to "keep it for yourself, I'm not hungry," and so I tuck it back into my knapsack reluctantly.
"Anyone close?"
My man cannot answer — the Higher Up swear him to secrecy. He gives me nothing but a single tired shrug.
I step near and walk my fingers across his forearm, towards the blade and hold his hand under my own. He has a tattoo underneath his line of life of a river salmon. My man has handsome hands. He can do more than build coffins with them.
He lets the knife that has been working a delicate section of toadflax and cranesbill drop softly to the bench. The coffin is a beauty — the wood a peculiar reserve, one only felled with permission or paid for generously. It must be someone special. The Higher Up rarely sacrifice their own but perhaps times are changing. They consume the most, they'd be the ideal offering.
I extend my index finger in time with his, pad on his blunt nail — we trace his work together.


My man is restless and warm by my side when there is a rap on the door, knocked four times in a stilted rhythm. He pulls himself upright and goes heavy footed to their calls, striped shirt in hand. I fumble for the nightgown he pulled from me hours earlier, my hands running across the floor in the dim wax candle light. I hear a murmur through the heavy doors.
I meet my man at the worn kitchen table he built as the Higher Up take their unwelcome seats. There is no offer of refreshment. One of them has heliotrope and scabious woven through the button holes of their hemp dress jacket. The Higher Up decorate themselves in wildflower for spectacle. They speak in unison.
"We've come for the sacrifice."
My man doesn't usually hand over the sacrifice. He just builds the coffins. I press my incisor into my bottom lip. He sets a hand over my upper-thigh for comfort. It doesn't feel like an anchor.
The Higher Up repeat.
"We've come for the sacrifice."
The coffin my man has been carving contains a baroque of swallows near the tip where the bones of the legs will lie. We've teased out wishes together where we drift across Mother-Earth, wings tied to our feet. We could escape this township, the endless toil, and gaze at the remains of the devoured from on high.
"We've come for the sacrifice."
My man has promised this gift to me.

Emily uses writing as an escape from reality and doesn't drink enough water. She has had work published with Ellipsis Zine, Storgy, The Molotov Cocktail, Retreat West and Riggwelter Press to name a few. She can be found on Twitter at @emily__harrison