Scars

The letter came yesterday.

Besides being an outdated mode of communication, there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. Standard white envelope, plain stamp (a hand drawn flower and ladybug) on the top right corner, and handwritten addresses…again, nothing particularly unique about it.

The letter sat on the counter since I pulled it from my mailbox. It’s been sitting there because I didn’t have the strength to open it. Or throw it out.

The name at the top left corner, written in beautiful, familiar cursive writing, read Sara Colby.

My mother.

I haven’t heard from my mother in ten years. I didn’t know she knew where I lived. Never gave her an address. She never asked for one. Yet, here was this letter with her curly handwriting. The bottom of the Y in Colby underlined her full name and circled up at the end. There was no doubt, her signature.

And in my hand, another letter freshly picked up from my mailbox two minutes ago. The letter had a fresh stamp placed on the back, keeping the envelope closed.

This letter, from my best friend from childhood…it had to be a joke. But the name was printed clearly and in familiar slanted letters. Warren Poste. No mistake, it was his handwriting. I’d never forget it. But it couldn’t be from Warren.

Dead people can’t write letters.

The scars on my arms, back, neck, and chest ached. They remembered the night I received them, the fire in the old church back in Colden. Warren’s screams.

The burning.

I threw Warren’s letter on to the counter next to my mother’s as though it became a hot coal. A twitch in my right hand brought a gasp from my tightening lungs. I could smell the smoke, hear the fire roaring in my ears.

Grabbing the side of the counter I leaned my head against the cool tile. I took deep breaths, forcing the air through. “I’m in a safe place. I’m not burning. I’m safe,” I repeated over and over.

The moment passed, though it felt like hours, and I stood straight inhaling deep breaths. My eyes bounced from one unpleasant letter to the other. I debated which to open first since neither one stood out as the better choice. But I eventually decided the one from someone still living would be a good start…painful, but less painful.

Grabbing the pristine, clean letter, I caught a whiff of my mother’s perfume. Memories flooded back and I quickly tore through the envelope.

Dear Andrew,
I know it’s been a while since our last communication to you and I want you to know that your father still doesn’t want me to write you. Even about something as important as this. As you may…or may not know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Colden’s founding. There’s going to be a big parade and celebration. Your sister, Ellie, will be participating in the parade and she would love to have her big brother in the crowd supporting her. In fact, it was her idea to write you and she’s the one who found your address. She’s very bright with computers.

Of course, my sister. When I left home, she was the only one I kept in touch with, but eventually even that stopped. I didn’t want her to be easily able to track me. Obviously that hadn’t stopped her.

      Your father and I want to support Ellie as much as possible. If you could make it even just for the parade, I think that would be enough. You and your sister were so close. You were both also very close to the Poste boys, God rest their souls.
      She hasn’t been the same since you left, Andrew. I also know that you haven’t been the same since…the accident.
      Please let us know if you will be able to make it out for the parade. If not, we I understand.
       Mom
P.S.– If you do decide to come, we really need to know in advance so we can book a hotel room for you. They’re filling up very quickly.

Added at the very bottom of the letter, as an after thought:

I love you, Andrew.

I laughed quietly to myself. Of course if I decided to come back they wouldn’t let me stay in the house. If I was anywhere with my father it always ended badly.

The letter wasn’t exactly what I expected. But it wasn’t exactly a fantastic, happy surprise either. If I’d been born an only child I could’ve separated from them cleanly.

But I loved Ellie. Definitely enough to suck it up and go back to Colden.

My eyes wandered over the same sentence: You were both also very close to the Poste boys, God rest their souls.

I locked eyes on the second letter, the one from Warren Poste. It appeared larger, as though it had grown since I last saw it seconds ago. Laying mom’s letter down I gently, with a shaking hand, picked it up.

Was this a sick joke by Ellie? As revenge for cutting me off?

I had a little trouble tearing through the thin paper, but soon I managed to pull out the wrinkled notebook papers. On the top page was the date:

7-13-XXXX

My back ached. That date…same day as the accident. I didn’t want to keep going, but I had to. I opened the sheets of paper. The first paper was a drawing. I didn’t recognize it from anything, but felt I knew it, as though it was buried deep in my memories.

After the drawing, someone placed a sticky note over the beginning of the letter. I carefully peeled the yellow square from the wrinkled paper. Ellie’s big letters barely fit on the small note. The message simply said: Found this. Thought you should read it…I did. Sorry bout the name on the front, it was already addressed. Creepy, right? – Ellie.

I stuck the note on the letter from mom and, after nearly tearing the papers and throwing them in the trash, read Warren’s letter:

Hey Andrew,
       If you’re reading this, one of two things happened. We saved Eric…or we failed. I hope it’s the first, cause if it ain’t…that probably means I’m dead. If that’s the case then fuck, this must seem crazy. Cause if I know you and this town it’s probably been a couple years.
       Anyway, let me get right to the point, man. You gotta get away from the town. I hope by the time you read this you’re already thousands of miles away. I can’t really explain it in a way that makes sense, but trust me. STAY AWAY!!!
      We got ourselves involved in some serious shit, man. We should’ve listened to everyone and stayed out of it, but…fuck! You know I can’t couldn’t just sit around with Eric missing. I know this seems weird…it’s weird writing you in the future when I’m about to see you in like twenty minutes.
       Do you remember that symbol on the first page of this letter? If you don’t, don’t worry about it. It’s for the best if you don’t.
       Andrew, something big is happening soon. BE CAREFUL! I think they’re going to come for you. I don’t know who they are, but I’ve been hearing some fucked up shit from…well, doesn’t matter where, but trust me, it ain’t good.
Please, please, PLEASE, Andrew. Once we finish what we do (did) tonight, forget about Colden and STAY AWAY!!!!
Warren

Disbelief. The only word to describe what I felt at that moment. It wasn’t a joke. If it was, it was an awful, cruel joke. I could hear Warren’s voice in my head. He’d written this letter before the accident. Minutes before I saw him alive for the last time.

More terrifying, Warren knew he was going to die. Something in the town was wrong. What we’d finished years ago was only the beginning. If I went back what would happen? Would anything happen?

I grabbed my mother’s letter and read through it again. Then I read Warren’s letter again.

I had two choices. Ignore my parent’s, and Ellie’s, request to come home or ignore the last wish of my dead best friend.

A half-smile came to my lips as I crumpled Warren’s letter.

“Sorry.”

Colden here I come.

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