First Time Loser

30 09 2016

Alright, alright, gloomy title is gloomy. And I never really expected to win or even really get an honourable mention, but it still sucks.

So, a couple of months ago, I entered a writing contest for the first time ever. Just a small one with very small prizes, and it was really just to get over that horror inducing fear of putting my work out there, that I did it.

And I suppose I’m not all that disappointed, since the story I entered wasn’t one that I felt particularly good at. The brief was ‘It Came in the Mail’and there was a 500 (yes, five hundred!) word limit, which wasn’t all that inspiring to me, nor do I feel that I can really fit a good story in such few words.

Anyway, now that the results are in and I’m not a winner, I can share the story here. So here you have it:

His Final Advice

The first package was small enough that it fit through the mail slot, so Emily hadn’t had to open the door to sign for it. She’d thought it was someone’s idea of a bad joke when she opened the flat package and found a motherboard inside. But who would play such a joke on her? She didn’t have any friends or even acquaintances.

She’d put it away intending to throw it in the garbage and then forgot about it. Until the next one arrived a week later. This time in the form of a small box full of microchips. She’d had to sign for that, much to her chagrin, and had done her best never to meet the postman’s eyes as she did so.

And so it went; once a week a package would arrive with no note or return address, all of them containing various components of… something. She thought about reporting the mysterious gifts to the police, but that would mean talking to them and perhaps even having to invite them into her flat. But she allowed no one inside her home, let alone strangers investigating something that probably wasn’t even a crime.

Last of all, after several months of packages arriving on schedule once a week, the letter arrived. Just an instruction sheet on how to put the components she’d received together. Not that she needed any instructions. She’d been an electrical engineer before becoming homebound and she knew perfectly well what had arrived piecemeal through the mail.

It didn’t take her long to put all the components together once she started, but plugging the device in and turning it on was a different matter. It took her weeks to gather up the courage for it. She was scared. Scared of who might be on the other end and scared that she might accept the fact that she wasn’t as alone as she thought she was. Scared that she might be right about who had sent her the packages.

Finally, one late night, she turned on the communication device, waited a moment and spoke quietly with a trembling voice, “Hello? Are you there?”

Reaching across time and space, a voice from the past came over the speakers, telling her gently but firmly that she wasn’t doing him any favours by locking herself away in her flat. “Get out there and live again, love,” he told her in a tone that sounded sad and upset. A pause, then the bubbling laugh she remembered so well. “Start with the postman. I think he likes you.”

Years later, lying awake at night, she wondered if she’d made the right choice in building the device and switching it on. If that had really been her deceased husband contacting her from beyond the grave to tell her off. The only thing she knew for sure was that it had gotten her out of the flat, that she had started to live again. That, in the end, was all that mattered.

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