Mail

You can’t be serious.

NO.

THIS IS NOT HAPPENING AGAIN.

I was back. Back on Memory Lane. The door that I’d just come from was the front door of (hell) Mailman’s house.

I screamed.

GODDAMMIT      

                            WHY?

HELP

and slammed my hand against the door,

BAM

                                             BAM

BAM,

               I gripped the knob in my hands and threw open the door

WHERE ARE YOU!

WILL!

On the other side was Mailman’s house, just as empty and decrepit as it was when I’d left it.

I walked into the house and sat down at the table across from Mailman (NO! HE DOESN’T EXI–). For the next couple of hours I wept. The memories (William…) had come back, just as raw, just as tender as the day I’d first received news of his death.

Later I emerged from the house. The sky was overcast, per usual, which was fine by me. It suited my mood perfectly. I stumbled through the barren street like a drunkard, with my suit half-undone, calling out to the sky, asking the world to answer for the injustices of this fucked, misfortunate life. I screamed and holler’d, trying the past and willing the gods to hold it accountable for its crimes. Wishing desperately for a chance to go back (Please let me go back. Please oh please oh plea….).

However, if truth be told, it was really myself that I was angry with.   

At length, my fit subsided. I was lying on the ground toward the bottom of the cul-de-sac. My house was down the street a-ways and now I lay opposite an edifice that I’d given a once over not once, not twice, but a hundred times before. On any other day, there was nothing of interest inside, just the usual assortment of ruins and fading effects (memories). Today, however, was different to say the least. Today I heard strange sounds coming from within. They began mechanically, like the jagged wail of rusty iron on iron, soon followed by the sound of compressed air being released in great, billowy steam clouds.

I picked myself up and walked down the pathway to the front door. Not that I was getting my hopes up on this most lucky of days, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, he would be on the other side of that door. Taking a deep breath I pushed against the wood and stepped inside the house. Instead of being greeted by the usual creaking sound of wood, I was met by a cacophony of inorganic sounds. Pressurized steam being freed from within the web of interconnected metal pipes that surrounded me like a cocoon, and the deep reverberating echoes of metal beating against metal while I stood on a grated iron catwalk.

For a moment I forgot my own troubled state of affaires and took some time to explore my surroundings. It was as if I had crawled inside the belly of a great metallic god, the whole chamber contracting and expanding as the divine being respired. Looking below me, it seemed as if the factory or whatever this was extended on forever. The same could be said for everything above. The house had become a kind of paradoxically industrial column.

At first, I believed that I was alone inside the improbable abiotic construct, being that there were so many other distractions going on around me, I didn’t notice the other occupants that glided slowly along every surface.

I noticed the first snail. It was right in plain sight, but never having seen a snail this size before, I suppose I didn’t understand what I was witnessing. There it was, on one of the catwalks suspended above me: a giant snail, with its shell about chest high on me, sliming its way across the metal grating. As I looked around me, I began to notice dozens of other giant snails, and still more–there were many snails of all sizes roaming around here, some of them on catwalks, while others clung to the walls. Some of them crept up ropes that dangled from the infinitely distant ceiling.

Attached to all of their shells by little bits of string were envelopes.

My best guess was that each snail was carrying these envelopes to some far away, centralized location. I hadn’t the slightest idea how they were going to drop off the letters once they reached their destination, but alas, they carried onward regardless. On a railing next to me there was a tiny snail with a single envelope being tugged along behind it. I reached over and plucked the letter off of the snail. Upon doing so, the snail shrunk back into its shell, and it floated off the railing and drifted up into the vast empty space above me.

I opened up the letter and dropped it to the ground immediately, my blood freezing in my veins. The letter shattered like an old rum bottle upon the ground and fell as shards through the perforated catwalk and down into the abyss below. Now, in a state of near panic, I knew that I had to make sure that what I had seen was real.

“Oh, you’ve got to be joking me…” I muttered under my breath.

Running to the next little snail, one that was hanging from a rope by my walkway, I snatched the letter off it. Like the snail before it, this one floated up and away.

It was the same letter.

“NO!” I screamed, enraged. Crumpling up the letter, I threw it against the wall where it shattered.

“Who is doing this?” I called out into the factory, “Why would anyone do something like this?”

I ran down the catwalk and climbed up a ladder leading to another walkway.

“Is this funny to you? A joke?”

Level after level, ladder after ladder, I continued to pick up letters, sending snails of all sizes up into the darkness above. Every letter was the same. For ten minutes I navigated the factory before finally giving up and coming to rest against one of the railings.

Next to me, a tiny snail was making its own way along the walkway, trailing across the metal beam I was leaning against. I reached over and plucked the envelope off it, not even bothering to open it, just tossing it over the edge. The snail retreated into its shell and started to rise. This time, instead of watching it drift away as I’d done before, I reached out and palmed the little creature. The shell pressed against the inside of my hand, struggling to get free– to continue its journey into what lay beyond.

That gave me an idea. Releasing the little one, I moved to the next walkway where there was a more sizable snail. Saddling up next to it, I mounted it– or, well, tried anyway. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should just wrap my arms around it, or straddle it, or what. So I gave both a try. Ultimately I ended up being one human sized band aid, but the desired results were mine nonetheless. The snail turned one of its stalky eyes toward me and my tomfoolary, then continued on with its crawl.

Reaching behind me, I yanked off the bushel of letters that was attached to my mollusk. As you might expect, it withdrew slowly into the recesses of its shell, and we both began to rise through the air.

To those who may not know this, floating snails are not the most stable steeds of all time. This one was certainly no exception: at times I found myself upside down, clinging on for my life to the grooves along the sides of the shell. The snail didn’t appear to obey any sort of set laws of physics and would rotate periodically in random directions, seemingly on its own accord. We rose through the factory for a while, all of it looking pretty much identical. In time, I saw the end of the column, which we rose over, revealing that this was but one in a collection of columns that lay adjacent to one another in a grid-like fashion. We seemed to be drifting over a sea of these strange constructions, like a never ending industrial beehive.  I saw a few of the other snails that I’d released into the sky floating just ahead of us. We were all heading in the same direction, like a group of balloons caught in a breeze.

We came to what looked like a giant black honeycomb. It was suspended by a series of dark grey cords that didn’t seem to be arranged in any particular fashion. I couldn’t quite say what they were made of, only that they appeared to be dripping a mysterious liquid down into the columns below. I saw the shells drop off one by one from the flock to enter the honeycomb through one of many thousands of holes. Soon it was our turn to pass through it.

I wasn’t sure exactly what the liquid was that dripped from the honeycomb, but as we moved through what turned out to be a very long tunnel, I became drenched in it. It felt like water, and it had a slightly salty taste to it. It made me think of the many times I would go with my family to the beach as a child–the taste of the air by the sea was very similar to the taste of this fluid. It gave off a slight bluish glow, and servedas a very minimal source of lighting in these ominous depths.

After a couple of minutes floating through the tunnels, my shell entered a large cavern. The base of the cavern held a sea of vacant snail shells, and running from one side of the cavern to the center of the sea of shells was a rickety wooden dock. Unfortunately, my snail took it upon itself to land about fifty yards away from said dock. Slowly, and as carefully as I could, I crawled my way through the shells, occasionally falling on my face when the shells shifted under my weight. In time I made it to the bridge, and pulled myself onto the wood before starting towards the wall of the cavern.

At the end there was a door. It opened to reveal an unexpectedly bright room. As my sight slowly adjusted to the influx of light, I forgot, if only for a moment, my anger at the letters.

I was standing on carpet. Not wood or metal grating, but a plush carpet. The walls were plastered with floral wallpaper–it seemed to me as though I’d walked into an office.

Across the room from me, sitting at a desk, was one of the more peculiar apparations I’d encountered yet.

Perched in a black office chair, staring back at me, was an improbable sight: a snail wearing a business suit. Or rather, a man’s body with a snail shell for a head. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was alive at first, but then I saw that it was twiddling its fingers as it looked at me. Or perhaps it wasn’t looking at me. The eyes may not have been eyes, so it was entirely impossible to tell.

Now, as weird as this figure was, it didn’t do anything to quell the anger welling up once more inside my gut. I stormed up to the desk, producing a copy of the letter that I’d saved and slammed it down on the desk, where it cracked, but did not shatter.

“What is this?” I hissed at it.

The only response I received was the tilting of the being’s head. It seemed to be looking down at the letter now laid out upon the desk.

I repeated myself, “What. Is. This.”

Around me the room contracted slightly. It was as if the walls themselves were about to speak. Then came a voice, emanating from what may have been the air itself–there was no placing it. It spoke in a deep, reverberating monotone. It did not at all sound like the kind of voice that a snail would have.

“Dear William,” It began.

I stepped back from the desk, “Stop…” I exhaled, trying to distance myself from the voice. It couldn’t be done though; it was everywhere.

“I’m sorry that I took so long in responding, things have just been so busy.”

“Shut up! You can’t do this to me!” There was no stopping it though. I ran into the door, breaking through, and landed in a heap on the dock. It just got worse, though. The voice echoed through the entire chamber, rattling all the snail shells, as they bounced along to its deep bass notes. It sounded like an orchestra of bones clicking and clacking away.

“I meant to come by the hospital, but you know how it is with work and all. It’s tough to make time, I’m sure you understand.”

The dock was shaking beneath my face. My brain was jarred around my skull, making it difficult to think about anything other than what the voice was saying. Though, through my suffering, I did manage to formulate a plan to end it all.

“I hope you’re doing okay. I got your letter, but I just don’t think the army is right for me. But power to you, I hope things work out.”

I was crawling along, aiming for the edge of the dock. If I could just pull myself over the edge and into the sea of shells, maybe I could drown (myself.) out the sound.

“I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time now. It’s just that every time that I write one of these letters it doesn’t sound right, and I end up throwing it away. But I’m definitely mailing this one, that’s for sure. I finally got your address, too; you wouldn’t believe how hard that was. I was surprised your mom didn’t have it.”

At the edge now I could see the shells rattling just a few feet from my face. I didn’t have any fear for what was coming to pass: the only instinct left was one of flight.

“Anyway, what I really want to say is that I miss you, Will. I hope you know that you’ll always be my friend and-”

My face collided with the shells, but contrary to what one might expect, they gave way almost like water. There was an intense rushing feeling, and I must have descended a hundred feet before I felt my body come to rest gently on something solid. The world around me was changing too quickly for me to comprehend what was going on, but the next clear picture that I could make out was that of cool concrete stretching out in all directions. There was a brisk breeze against the one cheek that wasn’t pressed against the ground that soothed my pounding headache, and just before I passed out, I muttered a single pair of words under my breath.

“I’m sorry.”

Next Chapter

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