THE

SANDALWOOD CASKET

Carol loved junk shops. This one was a real humdinger. It was long and dark,  with piles of mysterious objects. She worked her way along the side of the shop, looking at old lace, top hats, shoehorns, stuffed badgers. There was a wonderful smell all of a sudden, and it issued from the far corner of the room. Carol threw aside various pieces of rubbish, and found an ornately carved casket. It must be made of sandalwood, as the musky scent permeated the whole space.

 

It went through her with the speed of an arrow what she wanted to do with her life: to fill this wonderful box with even more wonderful things. Precious things. She would be a jeweller, and this box would sell her wares. Accordingly she began to design gold and silver to fill it. But not any gold and silver. The things she made took their inspiration from the sea and from the sky. There were rings that looked like gold  sea-pebbles - there was never shingle like this! - and there were bracelets with birds that flew across the clouds. 

 

Gradually she made enough to fill the box. She found a shop and placed the full casket in the window. People soon crowded to see it: they had never seen jewellery like this. Carol must have discovered a new kind of alchemy. The jewels had a very powerful relationship with their owners. Some of the necklaces were in the shape of seagulls, and those who wore them became convinced that they could hear the cry of the birds and the roar of the wind. They were with nature when they wore them. Those who bought the pebble jewellery found that if they cocked their ears in a certain way, they could hear the tide at its ebb and flood. They wanted to hear it forever. These were not gaudy, meretricious baubles: this jewellery put you in touch with who you really were. 

 

The sandalwood casket had to be replenished, of course. It emptied fast. But Carol was not its slave. It wanted to be filled, and it wanted to be emptied. And the gleaming, singing, warm, perfumed gems would always  wait for their right owner and and their right time. The casket’s hour had come.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |