For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“The Stateless One”

Danilo Kiš

Excerpt

He pressed the button and heard the humming of the old French elevator in its cage as it descended from somewhere on high. Suddenly it stopped right in front of him, abruptly, with a slight rattle, a polished black coffin, lined with purple silk imprinted with irises like the reverse side of a lustrous piece of crêpe de Chine; it also had a huge Venetian mirror, polished on the edges, with green glass like the surface of a crystal lake. This upright coffin, made to order for a first-class funeral and controlled by the invisible power of a deux ex machina, had descended from above, docked like Charon's ferry, and now sat awaiting the pale traveler standing there petrified and uncertain, the manuscript of his latest novel, The Man Without a Country, shoved under his arm (and through the grate he himself was observing the pale traveler in the mirror, standing there petrified and uncertain, with the manuscript of his most recent novel clenched under his arm). And the coffin was waiting to take him not into the “other world” but merely into the grim basement of the building, the crematorium and cemetery where glassy-eyed stray travelers rested in sarcophagi similar to this one.

We read it in The Lute and the Scars.