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The Vanity of Arthur Dent

by Sophie Bachard

Business Tycoon Arthur Dent awoke in darkness, wondering where he was, and feeling hemmed in by an unusual pressure.

When his fingers touched hard wood, his heart hammered violently, for he realised his worst fear. Some fool had mistaken one of his cataleptic episodes for death and buried him alive without embalming him.

Barely controlling his panic, he took shallow breaths, terrified of wasting the oxygen, but he’d heard somebody above, the priest probably, reading his eulogy in tones sonorous enough to penetrate the coffin. That meant he wasn’t underground yet.

Hope pulsed in his throat. I’ve got to get a message to them somehow, he thought, breaking into cold sweat. Searching with trembling hands, he fingered the cuff links, Rolex, and expensive suit buttons, and realised they’d honoured his Will by burying him in his finest regalia, which meant his priceless cane must be here too.

He found the cane by his side, and grasped it, gasping with relief. Call me vain now, he thought triumphantly, feeling vindicated. I bet they thought me vain being buried with my riches, but vanity will save me now when I use the cane to alert them.

His face swelling, lungs burning as his air supply dwindled, he prayed fervently, promising that he’d change, become a better person, as he twisted his wrist painfully to angle the cane head, and began rapping out his SOS against the coffin lid.

But it was soon clear that he competed with a louder sound, so loud that it shook the walls of his confinement. His Will included a stipulation that the London Philharmonic Orchestra play him out, worthy of a vain emperor, and by the time they rose to a hellish crescendo, Arthur’s tired arm dropped back, his air had expired and he’d suffocated, clutching his priceless cane.

Copyright © 2007 by Sophie Bachard

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