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Split Obsession – by Tree
William was the only thing written on the envelope sticking out of the mailbox; his name had been scratched in black ink, like a hen had clawed the farmyard ground. Nothing indicated whom it was from. William Stadler glanced over his shoulder to the area leading up to his front door. A stone walkway separated two lilac bushes on a dimly-lit, corner-lot. Shadows were cast across the yard, but none created by someone waiting. He was alone and now curious.
Inside the house, he removed his shoes and arranged them alongside others on a mat in the hall. His jacket now hung on the coat rack. The scented, spring breeze that followed him in added life-like features to the floral painting on the wall beside him. He entered the living room and retrieved a pen from the coffee table to open the letter. Inside was a folded piece of unlined paper. Nothing else.
He sat on the leather couch and sank into the cushion his body had spent years molding. He unfolded the paper. On the single page, centered, were three paragraphs. The type looked oddly spaced and ink filled in some of the letters. Definitely not from a laser or inkjet printer. Also, there were no salutation or closing words, just the three paragraphs.
His brow lowered. He had last seen a typewritten letter when he was a child. His father, a middle school teacher, used an old typewriter to complete report cards. He remembered the frustration his father had when ink from the ribbon got on his hands while trying to unjam it. Now at thirty-two it looked archaic to him. He began to read aloud but his voice trailed off to a whisper. A sudden adrenaline rush coursed through his body and made his hand unsteady.
|Her right arm is broken. I told her not to struggle, but she didn’t listen.
They never do. They fight as if their lives meant something to them.
Yet they insisted on poisoning their bodies with drugs and alcohol.
I had to slit her throat to silence the cries. The power you feel from
their helplessness only lasts so long before the high is gone.
You get addicted to the rush. But enough about that for now.
Does it still sound exhilarating to you, William?
Don’t do anything stupid. In time you will understand.
“What the–?” His eyes widened as he instinctively looked around. Hairs on his neck rose and a tingle rode down his body like a wave. What the heck is this? Was this some kind of joke? Who would send something like this? His mind raced as he shifted thoughts between the people he encountered over the years. Then his head jerked forward. Logan. Relief set in and his heart-rate lowered.
You see, Logan regularly played jokes on his friends to get a rouse out of them. Once, back in college, he wrote a letter to a friend, Teddy. He confessed the love of a girl Teddy spoke about from his Sociology class. Well, poor Teddy was an emotional guy and thought his dreams had come true. He approached her with flowers to express how he felt as well. Much to his surprise, she in fact didn’t like him and her friends had a good laugh watching his sad retreat.
William reached into his pocket to retrieve his cell phone. Speed-dial 6.
After a few rings, a deep voice answered. “Hey, Will. What’s up?”
“Man, ya had me going.” William shook his head and sighed, the letter still in his hand. “Ah, that was a good one.”
“What was a good one?” Logan answered, confused.
“The letter you put in my mailbox. For a second I thought it was real.” William laughed as he dropped the letter on the coffee table. “Wouldn’t that be messed up.” He walked to the kitchen to get a drink.
“A letter? Dude, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What letter did you get?”
William closed the fridge and put the carton of orange juice on the counter. “You’re telling me you didn’t try to prank me with a fake letter?” His hand held the carton of juice in place until a muffled bang came from the direction of the back door and made his grip release. He spun around to face the door located just off the hallway leading to the kitchen. “One second.” His voice lowered.
With the phone by his side he crept around the corner to the door. The inside-light was off and it gave him a clear view outside. He put his forehead against the cold glass and looked around the dark, gravel driveway between the houses. No one was there. A ladder rested on its side next to his neighbor’s wooden fence. The wind must have blown it over.
William turned his head. “Okay, I’m back.” The phone returned to in front of his mouth.
“As I was saying,” Logan’s voice lowered and sounded sincere. “I didn’t send a letter. What did it say?”
“It just…” William was a little on edge about that eerie last paragraph. Don’t do anything stupid. Would telling someone about the letter be considered stupid? What would happen if he did? Logan might not have pranked him, but it could still be fake. “…talked about a cruise for three hundred dollars to the Bahamas. Insane, right?” He decided it best not to mention what it really said yet.
“Ah, man, throw it in the trash. We get those at work over the fax machine all the time. Hidden costs are crazy.”
William finished the call and grabbed the letter on his way to his bedroom. Light colors accented the clean and well-organized room. He sat at a desk in front of his laptop and shook the mouse. A beach view brought the screen to life. He logged into his email, just to double-check, and found no new message related to the letter.
Shaking his head, he closed the laptop and re-read the letter. I had to slit her throat to silence the cries. The words still blanketed him with an uneasy feeling. But at the same time, curiosity grabbed hold of him. He had written a paper in college on the suppressed emotions serial killers harbored inside. Also, spent a whole semester trying to solve the Zodiac cryptograms. Whoever sent the letter certainly picked the right guy for this psychological dilemma.
This can’t be real. Why send it to me? William wanted to shrug it off. In time you will understand. William dropped the letter onto the closed laptop. “Understand what?”
Categories: Critique Group