Read Coffin Island Online

Authors: Will Berkeley

Tags: #school, #fantasy, #magic, #weird, #wizard, #experimental, #bizarro, #speculative, #dark wave, #hallucinatory

Coffin Island (6 page)




How do you like the skull
and bones room?” Madison asked.

It’s lovely,” I said. “I
like it when the dead come back to life.”

Particularly after the
vultures have done their dirty work,” Madison snorted.

We were walking through a world of
bones. Skeleton war horses were stamping around with skeletal
horsemen aboard. Skeletal footmen were fighting each other with
cutlasses. The whole world was in bone and it was in an uproar. It
was a little more horrifying than it sounded. Why would an entire
world of bone go to war? Who could possibly gain from

It certainly lives up to
its name,” I said. “The skeleton men don’t mind us?”

There is treasure buried
under these bones,” Madison said. “The bone warriors are tasked
with protecting it.”

What good is treasure to
us?” I asked. “Why bother digging it up?”

“That’s why the bone warriors are
fighting amongst themselves,” Madison said.

They don’t care about us?”
I asked.

They’re picking bones with
each other because they’re bone warriors,” Madison

That’s a relief,” I said.
“I was getting a little concerned for a moment there. How do you
fight a bone warrior?”

You smash him in the
skull,” Madison shrugged.

I suppose like anything
else,” I said.

I wanted to show you this
room because sometimes witchcraft is just a fizzle on Coffin
Island,” Madison said. “It can backfire the other way. There was
some serious malicious intent here but it just didn’t pan

Don’t tell that to all the
bone warriors,” I said. “It seems if they hack the spine out that
ends it.”

Just don’t let the bone
spiders bite you,” Madison cautioned. “The bone venom takes hours
to kill you.”

At least there is something
deadly in here,” I said. “I was getting a little concerned that
something was not actively plotting to kill me on Coffin Island. We
wouldn’t want to sully the fine reputation of this institution.
You’ve got to keep those coffins full.”

Thank goodness for small
painful things like bone spiders,” Madison said.

It’s kind of hard to see
the bone spiders because everything is bone,” I said.

Try to walk more gently on
the skulls,” Madison suggested.

I wouldn’t think of
insulting the dead with anything but light treads,” I said. “This
is a nightmare.”

Do you want to go back to
the library?” Madison asked.

I’ll take my chances in
here,” I said.

I was just kidding about
the bone spiders,” Madison laughed.

Nothing can kill us in
here?” I asked.

Only greed,” Madison

I’m too busy working on
hubris,” I said. “I don’t think that I can swing this Headmaster

You don’t want to be
Headmaster?” Madison asked.

You could say that,” I

You’re doing fine,” Madison
said. “That was a stroke of genius back there in the

“We see what learning does for those
stitches,” I said. “Then we decide if we want to learn

“Chances are the next time we go in
there,” Madison laughed. “The library will be back upside down. The
stitches will be back in the books. And Flash will be his old
ornery self.”

“We just don’t go in there,” I

Getting an education at The
Coffin Island School for Witches is probably a bad idea,” Madison

Something is bound to
backfire,” I agreed. “You get ignorant like the

“I can’t decide if I want to tackle the
trolls in the kitchen,” Madison said. “Or the black cats on the
catwalk with the keys attached to their skeletons. There are also
some elephant parrots that need to be corrected.”

“They all sound pretty bad to me,” I

“One won’t feed us,” Madison said. “The
other two won’t let us off the island.”

“What about the hourglass?” I asked.
“Isn’t that the key to it all?”

“It’s not much of a tourist
attraction,” Madison said. “You’re going to be very discouraged by
that particular piece of witchcraft. Why don’t I show you the
cauldron or the broom first? You won’t get as discouraged by your
situation. Trust me. They are both totally scandalous.”

“I want to see the hourglass,” I

“You better lower your expectations,”
Madison laughed. “It’s extremely advanced witchcraft, Headmaster

“Can you please not call me that,” I
said. “It’s totally upsetting that I’ve been put in-charge of this
magical disaster.”

“Perhaps you would prefer that I call
you, Headmaster Booster,” Madison said.

“It seems more suitable to the prestige
of the position,” I said. “Can you believe that I might be stuck
with this job forever?”

“Maybe someday you will get promoted to
Janitor if a more powerful witch comes along,” Madison laughed.
“Professor Coffin called it a prestigious position.”

“I can only imagine the honor,” I

I don’t blame Professor
Coffin for drinking,” Madison said.

“He figured out how to get rum on
Coffin Island,” I said.

“It appears for the Janitor out of
necessity,” Madison laughed.

“His flask is bottomless,” I

“It would have to be,” Madison said.
“Take my hand.”

“I don’t want to fly again,” I said. “I
don’t think that’s for me. Something tells me that I’m not supposed
to fly.”

Madison grabbed my hand.

“There is no way that I am taking the
staircase,” Madison said. “Mount Coffin is the Mount Everest of

“Where is the hourglass?” I

“You’re going to have to be careful
with that power now that you are Headmaster,” Madison laughed.
“However I am thrilled that you can take passengers. What a

We were standing on the top of the
world. The peak of Mount Coffin was where the prayer flags were
kept. If you’re going to plant a prayer flag it might as well be
seen from the heavens. We could see the curvature of the Earth. Or
whatever contrivance of a planet we were on. Perhaps we were on the
Planet of Witchcraft. Some poorly assembled test planet to try out
ideas. It was far, far away and far out. It was far too many
things. That’s far sure. I aimed to smash it.

“I can teleport myself around the
island?” I asked.

“What an awesome power,” Madison

“How could anybody be in-charge of
this?” I gasped.

“The Coffin Island Mountain Range,”
Madison snorted. “This is your reign, Headmaster Boo.”

The Coffin Island Mountain Range was a
total disaster. It was in a continuous state of earthquake.
Mountains were imploding. Mountains were exploding. Tidal waves
were crashing over the continental rubble. Volcanoes were dumping
lava on top of everything. The island kept reconstructing itself
only to be destroyed again. The summit of Mount Coffin was the only
safe spot. You might as well be at the top if you’re the man at the
top. How else can you locate your position on the map? This wasn’t
good. Perhaps I was Headmaster after all. I was hoping it was some
sort of magical ruse.

“Civilization can’t get a very good
foothold in The Coffin Island Mountain Range,” Madison

“We’re living in that?” I

“Technically we’re under it except up
here,” Madison said. “Our castle is subterranean but it’s solar
powered somehow.”

Can we leave the castle?” I

“Perhaps with your power,” Madison
said. “But I have never been able to get past the black cats.
They’re guarding the perimeter.”

“What about the emerald ocean,” I

“It’s under everything,” Madison said.
“It’s a subterranean ocean.”

It sounds like a sewer when
you put it that way,” I said. “It’s actually quite

Our ocean is a beautiful
sewer,” Madison shrugged.

“I might as well go look at the
hourglass,” I said. “Trying to escape through that rubble looks
like a death sentence. Then there is the open ocean after

“That would be the general gist of it,”
Madison said. “But appearances are deceiving on Coffin Island. Try
to jump off Mount Coffin.”

“Are you nuts?” I asked.

Madison stepped over the

“See,” she said.

Madison was standing in thin

“Eventually you will walk into an
invisible wall,” Madison said. “Or an invisible box will trap you
if you try to escape from the island. It’s like we’re living inside
some sort of dream, you know? Coffin Island is a hallucination of
sorts. A madman is behind this test. Of this much I am

“I keep forgetting that this whole
world is just a test,” I said. “There is so much trickery

“All the razzle-dazzle lulls your mind
into complacency,” Madison said. “You just forget that you’re in a

“This world is really wonky,” I

Madison stepped back onto the summit of
Mount Coffin.

“I’m surprised it didn’t trap me,”
Madison said.

There is an invisible box
around Mount Coffin?” I asked.

How else could the island
contain us?” Madison asked.

You hit an invisible wall
if you try to fly off the island?” I asked.

It’s a little worse than
that,” Madison said. “Sometimes it won’t permit me to fly up the
staircase and forces me to walk. It takes days to climb up here. Or
it won’t let me fly back down. Or it just traps me in an invisible
box. I have to sit in the trap until it drops me. But you don’t
have to worry about that with your powers. You could teleport out
of any trap.”

I’m not too crazy about
that power,” I said.

Let’s check the hourglass
off the list,” Madison said. “I want to try to eat or try to get
past the black cats. Then we’ll grab a quick scrub in the bathtub.
Rub a dub, dub. Two witches in the tub.”

Where is the hourglass?” I

I had to actively tell myself not to

It’s in that piece of
rubbish nailed to the sun over there,” Madison said.

There was a cuckoo clock nailed to the

How can a cuckoo clock be
nailed to the sun?” I asked.

The sun is cold because
it’s been stopped,” Madison said. “You could probably put up a
clothesline if you like. Hang up some socks.”

Time is stopped?” I

Take a closer look,”
Madison suggested. “It won’t hurt you.”

The Coffin Island School for Witchcraft
was under The Coffin Island Mountain range? There was a cuckoo
clock nailed to the sun? The sun was cold because time had been
stopped? What are you going to do? This is witchcraft.

This cuckoo clock is
stopped at five o’clock,” I said.

The witching hour,” Madison
snorted. “Or happy hour.”

It’s always five o’clock on
Coffin Island,” I said. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

That tiny birdhouse runs
our lives,” Madison snorted. “Or rather the hourglass that is
within the tiny birdhouse controls our lives. It’s actually a
little more unsettling when you look at it from that

The hourglass is equally
unimpressive,” I said as I peered into the cuckoo clock. The sun
was strangely cool to the touch. “The hourglass is an egg

A little hour glass for
boiling an egg,” Madison confirmed.

How insulting,” I

It’s a cheap hourglass
too,” Madison said.

That’s what controls our
lives?” I practically shouted.

“Put your finger in the bird hole,”
Madison said.

Is something going to tear
it off?” I asked.

You’re the most powerful
witch in creation, Headmaster Booster,” Madison snorted.

I put my finger in the bird hole of the
cuckoo clock.

Something pecked my
finger,” I said.

That’s witchcraft for you,”
Madison said.

Whoever did this is a total
jerk,” I said.

Yup,” Madison




Professor Coffin looked guilty. He
looked like I had caught him doing something that he shouldn’t have
been doing. Perhaps guilt was just his base expression. All the
years of treachery were carved upon his face. He lit up like a
jack-o-lantern when I appeared. He was also wearing that pirate
costume. Perhaps Halloween was just part of his charm.

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