the on-line diary of
ralph robert moore


the official website for the writings of
ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2017 by Ralph Robert Moore.

Print in HTML format.

Return to lately 2016.

life tip 516c
january 1, 2017

If you ever wake up inside a coffin, the first thing you should do is rap your knuckles up against the inside lid, to determine the seriousness of your predicament. This step should be the easiest of all to perform, since your hands, following tradition, will most likely be folded across your chest. (People who shut individuals who are still alive inside coffins tend to follow tradition.) If knocking above your face produces a hollow sound, you have been placed in a coffin that is still above ground. Give a small prayer of thanks. All you must do now is thrust your upturned palms repeatedly against the quilted underside of the coffin's lid, screaming if you need to, forcing the nails to begin lifting out of their wood, until the nails jump out of their tight holes and the lid has been dislodged, shoving upwards again until the lid lands backwards with a bang, and you're able to sit up in the coffin, head swinging, to see where you are.

However, in most cases, a rap up against the underside of a coffin's lid will produce a quiet sound, barely heard in the ears, meaning your coffin has been buried six feet underground.

Your first impulse will be to try to push the lid open. Do not try. The immense weight of the soil above your coffin will never allow you to open the lid. All you will do is exhaust yourself, and use up the small amount of air trapped like a best friend with you in the coffin.

Most people's second instinct is to pound the soles of their shoes against the coffin's foot piece panel. Always a mistake, because even if you are able to detach that small wall by your shoes, you will be unable to extricate yourself from the coffin. Calm down and think about it a moment. You cannot dig your way out of a coffin using your shoes, rather than your hands. If you try to free yourself from a coffin through the foot piece panel, you will only use up energy, oxygen, hope.

What the smart person waking up inside a coffin does is slide their hands in the cramped, pitch-black darkness up over their face, through their hair, so that the palms rest flat against the coffin's head piece panel. It is then a question of pumping the palms repeatedly against the head piece panel behind one's face, screaming if necessary, in an attempt to dislodge the head piece panel from the body of the coffin. These attempts are most often productive if the head piece panel is attached to the side body panels by nails, rather than screws. Screws, because of their structural configuration, their squeezed into wood steel spirals, are difficult to dislodge. Screws bind wood to wood more tightly than do nails. Many people who are buried alive fail in their attempt to escape their coffins because of a carpenter's conscientious attention to details.

If successful, dirt will spill in through the rupture, with its nostril-filling sourness, clinging to the part in one's hair, and to one's eyelashes. Since the compressed environment in which one is struggling is without any light, being temporarily blinded by soil in one's blinking eyes is not a disadvantage.

Because the soil in a newly-dug grave is loose, having not yet been compacted by the shoe soles of those disrespectful of graves walking across its plot six feet above, mostly teenage boys trying to impress teenage or pre-teen girls, sliding the head piece panel sideways, so that it no longer blocks egress from the coffin, is often described as a "piece of cake".

Now all you have to do is extend your hands past your scalp, push them outside the shoved-aside head piece panel, and using your fingertips, with some assist from your knees still trapped within the confines of the coffin, sliding those knees up the coffin's side panels, corkscrew your way out of the coffin.

Once you have extricated your body from the head piece panel of the coffin, head in a fetal bend towards your knees under the weight of the dirt outside that polished wood, I always encourage people to take a moment to give themselves a metaphorical "High five". Much has been accomplished.

Your goal now is to climb up onto the lid of the coffin as quickly as you can. In the softness of the soil in which you are suspended, the coffin lid's hard wood is the solid base you need to keep from sinking deeper into the grave. Once you are on the lid, get both feet under you, soles flat against the wood, and start wriggling your head up into the dirt, eyes and mouth squeezed shut, letting it fall on your hair, sweat-stained shoulders, until you have managed to bully your head as far up into the soil above you as possible.

Pulling your hands close to you, gradually raise them up your body, palms rising past your ribs, nipples, chin, bent elbows tiring under the strain of so much weight, until your fingers are lifted above your head, using your hands to clear away dirt above you, pulling down dirt as rapidly as possible.

Your goal at this point is not to climb out of the grave. That is not yet possible. Your goal at this point is to clear a vertical tunnel to the surface, to let air down into your hole before you black out from lack of oxygen. If you find yourself struggling to stay conscious during this step in the process, I've found from past attempts to dig myself out of a grave that thinking happy thoughts can be a great motivator. In these situations, I often recall a pleasant moment from childhood. An unexpected birthday party, different-colored words, blue, red, green written in cursive across white butter cream, spiraled candles burning like castles around the piped edge; a hug from my mother, the smell of her hair, alcohol on her breath; the death of a hated history teacher in a gruesome car accident involving sturdy trees.

If you are of average height, or even slightly below average height, and the coffin in which you were encased was buried six feet under, the standard industry depth, standing on the coffin's lid should put you within reach of the surface. Stretch your hands over your head in the blackness, and curling your fingers inwards, claw up until the dirt trickling down creates a rift between underground and above ground, and the sky is exposed above your efforts.

And now you have been successful in completing the most important steps in digging yourself out of a grave. You have pulled yourself out of the coffin, you have climbed up onto the coffin's lid, you have pawed your way upwards through the burying dirt to where you've exposed a hole to the surface through which you can receive fresh air.

All you have to do now is complete the climb out of your grave.

The soil in a grave, because it is newly thrown down, is loose. A great aid in forcing your head out of your coffin, and bending your body up onto the coffin's lid, but this same looseness, your friend in the early stages of extrication, becomes your enemy as you try to crawl out of the hole in which you've been buried.

If you attempt to climb up the side of your hole, you will discover that the soil's looseness will collapse under each foot's climbing effort, much like stairs whose steps crumble under each lifting of a shoe, as if trying to walk up a downward-descending escalator.

Do not tire yourself with these foolish attempts.

Instead, use your hands and feet to pull dirt from the sides of your hole, stepping atop each pile of dislodged dirt as it pyramids, using your weight to tamp down on that pile, creating a new base on which to rise further in the hole.

Continuing in this fashion, the top of your head will eventually rise close enough to the surface to where you can stretch both hands over your head, fingers grasping onto the grass at least half a foot from the hole, meaning grass whose roots are still deeply anchored in the soil, and not compromised by the downward thrusts of shovels, and hoist your body out of the grave.

And here you are, finally, lying on your back across the wet grass, breathing heavily from your exertions, nostrils snorting, dirty face staring up at the night sky, the stars, the moon.

There will be plenty of time to plot your revenge. But for now, what is most important is that once again, you have survived a vindictive burial. Rising to your feet, reaching down, brush your pants with both palms. Grave dirt is often dark and clingy.