Words from a Funeral

Not too long ago, I took part in a small side-course, with the subject of “Interactive Screenplay-writing”. One of the many little exercises we went through, was the one I will focus on in this post, as I am actually quite pleased with the pieces I ended up creating. They are based from the simple premise of writing two segments of “10 lines” of text, which had to take part during a funeral and needed to be connected to each other in a way so that they could be read in either order. Despite that, there was total creative freedom. Great challenge.

Firstly, I need to emphasize that it was originally written in Danish, so my translation of it could potentially be a bit quirky at times, but I will do my best to keep it as close, either way. Secondly, I have written them in the order that seems to work the best, even though the segments can be read in either order.

The church tower stood like a spire overlooking the people, with a height that seemed like it was on its way to the skies. The crowd below was bigger than usual, despite the cold and dark weather. Each and every one of us hid under our black garments, in a desperate attempt to shut out the wind and keeping our bodies dry and warm. It had become a habit for me to observe these gatherings, which with time happened more and more often. Why I did not know. There was something calming about observing different people’s reactions, their way to process what they experienced, that one of their own had passed away, forever. A man on the other side of the crowd caught my glance. We locked eyes a few seconds, but it was obvious that it was not a coincidence on his part. His eyes narrowed and he fumbled after something under his jacket. He knew what I was. I spread my wings and took off from the spire of the church tower. With so few of my kind left, I knew that there was no way he should get a hold of a rarity like me…

And, with no further notes, the next segment.

It was an unpleasant time to be in the police-force. Just this month, it was the fourth homicide that had strategically hit the upper ranks. No one knew the reason or who was behind it, but everyone were scared. Commissioner Jackson had been an especially critical loss – both personally and for the force in general. His intuition was both inspiring and remarkable. My thoughts were interrupted by a man not far from me, who desperately fumbled after something under his jacket. His gaze, unlike everyone else who stared saddened down into the ground, fixed upwards in astonishment. I followed his gaze – the fascination was understandable. The cross at the top of the church tower was bathed in a cone of light which – for a very brief moment – had broken through the smog. After the industry had taken hold, the graveyard had become hidden in a house with walls of skyscrapers and a roof of industrial smoke. That the sun broke through had become a rare sight over time. Even though there were not much to be happy about, the forces above still managed to give us hope about a brighter future, with little signs like these.

Good stuff to work with, and was a nice way to get some creative free writing done. Still, it was done after getting a solid idea, a bit of planning and – most importantly – time. The challenge did not end there, however. At the day the assignment had to be done for, we were to write two additional segments, in a matter of a few minutes. The only requirement here, was that it had to bridge one of the two texts I had written and one of the texts another person had written. In this case, that turned out to be my second one. The choice was not of our own. The result of that was the following:

Death had always been a sinister taboo, for good reasons. Had it not been the case, the group which was gathered around the big lowered coffin would grieve and be outraged about the deep secret that was hidden inside. Because of the cause of death it had been a strict choice by the family that the coffin had remained closed at all times. No one had asked any questions. The pastor knew nothing. The gathering knew nothing. What would they really need the information about the contents of the coffin for? What difference did something that could not be changed make? What difference did it do if there were more things – or people – in the coffin than a dead man?

After that, there was yet another text. This one followed the same pattern, with the only difference that it had to bridge the text I had just written, and the other text the other person had written. Mind you, the two texts the other person had written were naturally connected to each other in some way already, so the challenge was – potentially – not as difficult as before. Still, the yielded result was this:

The toll had been big, but it had been a necessity in order for the secret to remain hidden. If the law enforcement got wind of what was hidden in the coffin – and why – the revolution would be set back years. Something that was simply not an option. There were much more than lives at stake. Mine was one of them.

… and that was it. Great fun, and lots of nice creative training. There was a fun session afterwards where the results of four people’s works with each others texts had to be combined in a way so that there were no contradictions and paradoxes, now that they were all connected in some way or the other. In the case of the people I was working with, that turned out more smoothly than expected, but as you can probably read from my two later texts, something had to be explained in a rather odd way. The problem I immediately ran into, was the fact that I had classified the person in “my” coffin to be male, while the texts that I had to fit into it all focused on the rather sinister cases of a girl child buried alive, the tough choices of the family to do this – while the exact reasons remained unclear. The last text was rather short, but the intended focus was to get a bit deeper into the problems. However, I had come to a situation where the former text already had described pretty much everything I wanted to cover in that regard.

In general, I liked the way of using the reader’s imagination to fill the gaps of the text, so that some details are never really said out loud. These theories are nothing new at all, and is something I have been looking into a lot for the past year as part of various reports during my studies – even my master’s thesis. In my original two texts, some of the other immediately thought of the “observer” on the church tower to be an angel of sorts, while others guessed at a bird. Originally, I did plan it as a raven, to have some classic references and the match with the black “coats” – but it worked much better being in the unknown. Then again, so many things had to be left like that, when both time and space was limited.

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