The Letter from Hell

By Rachel M. Walaskay

The clandestine letter arrived too late to fulfill its weighty purpose. Upon being deposited into the mailbox by the postal carrier, it sank to the bottom, buried under the accompanying pile of junk mail consisting of advertisement fliers and coupon booklets and lay heavy with remorse. At a glance, the envelope itself was unremarkable – the names and addresses of sender and recipient scrawled out on the face by an unsophisticated pen. Yet, the contents enshrouded within the folds of that envelope carried a significant burden. As her hand reached in to remove the contents of the mailbox, she almost missed the plain envelope resting unobtrusively at the bottom. But as she began to ease the door closed, she noticed the lonely post. Dipping her hand into the mailbox, she scooped it out and absently sorted it into the pile she had already gathered up in her arms, and retreated back into her charming cottage. She set the parcels in the usual spot, atop a small waist-height hallway cabinet that served as a sort of low-priority dumping ground for superfluous correspondences. Some time later, she returned to the spot where the letter now sat buried under the mountain of junk mail. Spring cleaning compelled her to clear out the clutter so that she could revitalize her domicile and begin the process of collecting anew. At first, she began by simply sweeping the entire lot into a trash bag. This, of course, resulted in an avalanche of parcels cascading onto the floor like a waterfall. So, she took a different approach and started sorting through the articles a dozen or so at a time. Once she got her rhythm, it didn’t take long for her to

work through the bulk of the refuse. And, soon she would be rid of all of the excess print materials that plagued her entry-way. As she shuffled and sorted, she nearly missed the letter, which was sandwiched between a Macy’s sale advertisement from last October and an expired pizza coupon insert. However, one crisp, white corner jutted out revealing the misfit envelope. Delicately grabbing the corner between her thumb and forefinger, she gently slipped it out from the pile to reveal the missed message. The handwriting of the sender seemed vaguely familiar, but she did not recognize the return address, so she was unable to surmise who might have sent the item at a glance. Carefully, she slid her finger under the flap to ease the top of the envelope open and reveal the contents. The envelope was sealed irritatingly tight, and to her frustration, she could not open it without effectively destroying it; finally, she managed to rip it apart. Securely tucked inside was a single unharmed sheet of tri-folded paper. She liberated it from the massacred envelope and unfolded it to reveal a solitary message scribed in black ink. It read, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me, ~B~” She froze in startled recognition; such a gesture was completely unexpected. Shock kept her fixed in the spot where she stood. Never had she expected him to finally acknowledge his wrongdoing, nor to suddenly develop a moral compass guided by conscience and compassion. Was this some kind of a joke? How was this even possible? He had died suddenly in a car accident nearly six months ago, and here she was holding an apology, hand-written by her interminably unrepentant, long-time absent ex-husband. More questions raced through her mind, and like a hand reaching out from the grave, she felt him clutching at her heart, making it furiously race and pound with the familiar sting of bitterness and resentment. “No,” she thought… “I will not give him power over me again.” Long ago, she had made this promise to herself. She was free of him, and she would never allow him to manipulate and control her again.

“He is dead and buried,” she declared aloud. “May he burn in hell right where he belongs!” And she marched into the kitchen. Sliding open the drawer next to her classic model gas stove, she retrieved a lighter, which she promptly lit. The flame flickered to life. Lighting the corner of the letter, she walked over to the kitchen sink and placed the burning paper in the tub, where she watched it smoulder until it was nothing but ash.

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