Letters from nowhere

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
a man starts receiving letters from an anonymous woman.

Submitted: May 15, 2016

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Submitted: May 15, 2016

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Letters from nowhere

"I should begin by telling you that I will speak to you only on one condition; that you keep my name out of the official record," he said, hesitant. "as I don't wish to be associated with any of this."
"You understand that we need you to talk to us," said Detective Hardy, with a tinge of unpleasant vigor in his tone.
"Oh, I understand," said the young man flashing a smile. "I am ready to help you, but I wish not to become part of anything even remotely related to this. I haven't known much about this for a while."
Detective Hardy looked at his assistant for a moment. Michael didn't seem to have any problem.
"I'll give you a moment to ponder over this."
Detective Hardy gazed into the man's blue eyes. They were soft, full of stories. He knew they wouldn't take the risk.
"Yes," said the Detective, "we will keep you out of it."


In a suburban town, miles away from places that mattered, lived Mark Forrester. There wasn't much to know about Mark, nothing unusual or queer. He had a normal childhood- I know because I was part of it. During his adolescence, he spent most of his time looking for jobs, looking to educate himself in a way that was entirely his own. He was always looking and he thought of himself being a part of something grand. I've forgotten how insecure he used to be, but that's only because of the time I'd lost. It took a lot of time for Mark to understand the world, he didn't know it the way we did. He didn't come with a sense of multilateral faith about people. He always questioned goodness, he doubted peace. It's easy to classify him- we all classify people around us.

We could say Mark was troubled in a way, triggered by his parents' divorce, and abandoned by trust. But, that's what people would say. I held his troubles, and we sailed through the disappointments, and I admired his complexity. Every bit of what made him also broke him. His life was a culmination of check posts, and within each check post would be my signature- a sign that I was there too. I didn't enjoy watching him writhing in pain, but it was always comforting to know that he was there. I don't remember when I met Mark, it seems to have been lost somewhere in my memories. Mark and I, we were strong together. At the time, I could have sworn he needed me as much as I needed him. There was Beth, the girl he was seeing, but he pretended around her. The world never suspected it.
It never surfaced, that caring for him was an organic process to fix myself.

"You are coming to the office party, aren't you?" he asked me.
"I can't."
"Why not?"
"I don't want to."
"William, it's not for me. I'm not asking you to come to keep me company," he said, "well, if I did, you'd come."
"I cannot come, Mark. Not for you, not for anyone else."
"There will be so many editors and publishers, think about it. You've been talking to me about the book you haven't shown anyone yet. You could show it to one of these people," he whispered smiling.
"It's not finished yet. I don't want to be surrounded by so many people. I want to have a quiet night."
"All by yourself."
"That's right, all by myself."
"I can't change your mind, can I?" he asked sincerely.
I didn't have to say anything.


"Audrey, are you here?"
"Yes, I'm just leaving," she said, dragging her bag down the stairs.
"I was hoping I'd see you before you felt," I said.
Audrey and I were living together. She was a journalist, and she spent most of her time traveling.
"I'll be back next week," she said.
The door closed, and a wave of revival broke into me. I started writing, I don't know what it was, but it kept coming and I was thankful for all the words. It was only after midnight that I realized the passage of time. I felt good about myself, and about my work. I wanted Audrey to read it, I wanted anyone to read it.
"Willy, open up!" I heard somebody's voice at the door.
"Mark, why are you here?"
"I thought I'd walk here," he said stumbling in.
"Where did you walk from?"
"I took a train. It was so depressing," he mumbled.
"Did you have a bit of that champagne you wanted to try?" I asked, sarcastic.
"I had some, not a lot," he said, trying to stand straight.
"Do you want to sit down?"
"Thank you," he said, sitting next to me.
For an hour, we stayed there cuddled by the silence. I didn't speak, I didn't want to be heard. Mark had trouble keeping his eyes open. I could only hear him breathing. And yet, even in the closeness, I felt alone. I was away from him.
"There's not many people that have been kind to me, Willy," he said, reading my mind.
"Nobody cares about anything."
"We're all so different, yet so alike. We're all so ignorant."
"Are you just discovering that today?" I said, amused.
It felt surreal, Mark pulled into me. It made me wonder why Audrey wasn't there. It wasn't entirely unusual, Mark expressed his wild feelings in the most subtle words.
"I don't know how long it can go on like this," he whispered.
"What?"
"The world, all of us," he said.
I wanted Mark to move away. The intensity was unsettling. I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted or something that scared me.
"It won't always be this way," I whispered.
"What?" he asked, getting away from me.
"The world," I stuttered. I wasn't sure what I was talking about.
He looked at me, bewildered.
"Would you like some coffee?"
"No," he said firmly.
He looked at me once more, he was reading me. I felt exposed, like I was an animal at the zoo.
"William, I'm not- I'm not that person."
"What person?"
"The one on the couch, next to you? I'm not that person."
"What are you saying?"
"I don't know. I don't know why I'm saying it, but I know that I shouldn't have to," he said taking his coat.

I didn't try to answer his fundamental question that night, and even though he hadn't said the words, I knew the nature of his accusation. The disturbed look on his face pricked me, I couldn't explain myself. He hadn't waited for me to deny it. I couldn't even be honest with myself. It was like I was thrown into darkness, denied any sense of direction. I could not go back to him, it would just prove him right. I don't know what I was scared of; being queer, or being that in his eyes alone.
There wasn't much to look forward to after that day. Mark disappeared. I wanted to tell him it was a mistake, but he'd stopped listening. In the cold, a sense of loneliness enveloped me, and many like me; we blanched, we twitched and preyed on ourselves. Soon, there we no words, only silences.

 



While William suffered in silence, Mark paraded his happiness. He moved away, made new friends, found another playground. Only this time, it wasn't poor William. Mark made a lot of money, he wasn't running away anymore. Allowing William's sacrifice, Mark found liberation. He found all the missing pieces, and began an adventure that would be his own.
"I'm sorry, why are you standing alone?" Mark asked a young woman he'd observed from a distance.
"Oh, it's just an appointment," she said smiling.
"Are you interviewing with Greg?"
"Yes I'm interviewing for Greg," she corrected him.
"Do you want me to go?"
"No, that won't be necessary. Who are you?"
"I'm Mark."
"Oh, thank you. I want to know who you are in this company?"
"I apologize," he whispers, "I work with Greg."
"You know Greg then," she said embarrassed.
"Quite a bit, actually."
"I'm sorry, I don't mean to insult your position."
"You want me to stay?"
"Or take advantage of it," she added nervously.
"It's alright. I'm not going to be telling this story for days," Mark laughed.
"I must go now, I'll get in touch later. I'm sorry," she said walking away.
"Don't worry about it," he whispered standing alone.


Mark spent most of his evenings by himself, drinking wine and preaching solidarity. He was well aware of what he wanted, and even in the silence, he didn't expect companionship. His path was now was filled with new checkpoints, shreds of clarity he took with himself. But even in his solitude, he was never alone. He caught everyone's eye. It wasn't luck or concentrated work, it was just meant to be that way. Mark's allure and charm poured over his darkness; an empty bucket without a name.

One of those mornings, he hurried over to his desk and packed up his things. He was going away to a place where nobody knew him. He dreamed of walking new streets, seeing people that didn't know he mattered. All of Mark's troubles had evaporated over the years. The change was the quotient that dominated most of his liberation.
He had begun to question his happiness, but he was too scared of losing his peace. He wouldn't give it up. In a steady stream of unwavering delight, Mark longed for mild turbulence. He wished to question everything and everyone. He longed to be tormented.

He picked up a letter from his desk, one he hadn't seen before. The crimson envelope invoked in him a familiar sense of strangeness. He untied the bow very carefully.
"Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes seem to whisper, 'I love you',
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
Dream a little dream of me."
The letter fell to the floor and met its end as the name appeared for the first time; Carol.


"Did you get the job?"
"I got the job," she said smiling.
Mark had run into the young girl he'd spoken to outside his office.
"I hope you like the job," he said warmly.
"Oh, I think I will. I wrote to you after Greg said I could join."
"Do you like that song too?"
"What?"
"I got your letter, you sent it to me yesterday. You wrote some lines from a song."
"I didn't send that letter."
"No, but you did."
"You must be thinking of someone else."
"No," he said, slamming a bottle on the table. "It was you. You signed off, in the end, Carol."
"I'm Claire."

 



"Zelda?" asked Detective Hardy. His voice was weak. He was staring into a piece of paper.
"Yes, of course. Zelda was a good friend," said the man adjusting his glasses.
"Where is Zelda?"
"She died."
"That's right, cancer," said the detective scratching her name off the list with a sense of conviction.
"Beth?"
"Oh, yes. But, Beth had left early on."
"What about Claire? Did you know Claire?" asked Detective Hardy, medicating himself with coffee.
"I didn't know her, but I'd seen them on the paper."
"Which paper?" asked the Detective, ruffling through the papers on his desk.
"They had announced their engagement in the local paper. I never met her. You see, we hadn't been acquainted for long."
"You spent most of your professional careers together," he said dryly.
"Yes, and that ended really soon. The company keeps transferring the employees."
"Well, I think we've asked you every one of these names on-"
Detective Hardy's assistant Michael pointed to something.
"Oh," he said disinterested, "Carol?"
"What?"
"Did you know a Carol?"
"No, I didn't."

 



"Why don't you talk to me?"
"I do," Mark said sincerely.
"No," Claire petitioned, "not about work."
"What can I say, Claire? I'm not a man of words."
"I've spent a lot of time with you," she whispered dejectedly.
"Do you not want to?" he asked, concerned about the answer.
"I want to. I do, I want to," she said.
"I just- I don't want to spend a lot of time on you, trying to crack you open so you'll confide in me."
"I trust you, Claire. I do."
"It doesn't seem right. I still don't know you."
"Do you have to leave? You can spend Christmas here."
"I can't. I don't want to."
"I don't know what I must say to change your mind."
"I don't want to, but I will come back here in January. We can think better when we're apart," she said standing up.
She looked at him, waiting for a response.
"You're really smart," he grinned.

 



Supported only by the lights on the Christmas tree, Mark spent his Christmas eve sober and alone. He found his thoughts increasingly returning back to Claire. Her smile faded away in his memory, and his long, guarded fear came alive. He didn't want Claire to be an experiment. He stared into space as if waiting for an answer. And the answer did come on Christmas morning, in a red envelope that sat seductively, waiting to be unwrapped.
"Claire, is that you?" he whispered, ripping to shreds the crimson that swathed the letter inside.
"Do you feel alone, Mark? Is there nobody with you? Do you miss your troubles, Mark? Does anything belong to you?
Do you question reality, Mark? Do you worry nobody will find you?
I'm not there, but I wish I was sitting across from you. Not to complete sentences, not to discover hidden meanings.
The answers, you abandoned them. The meaning, you laughed upon. Now, you lie here, scattered, open, vulnerable. I know what you are. You are me; incomplete.

Carol"

Mark felt like he was being watched. He didn't like to be on someone's mind; someone he didn't know about. He dealt with it the only way he knew. He threw away the letter. He was disturbed, but his thoughts kept swarming around the person. This person, Carol, she didn't sound doubtful. She knew what she was talking about. She wasn't making assumptions. Was she pretentious? Did she truly know him? Was this somebody who really liked him, but was too shy to reveal herself?
All these questions went unanswered, and in his mind, Mark knew that he couldn't let himself think about it. This was a game he didn't want to play.
He gave himself to Claire. His work started to control him, and the charm of this mysterious woman remained, only to be revisited in desperation.

 



"What got you interested in Psychology?"
"Oh, the human mind is interesting all on its own," he said.
"Did you study it?" asked the Detective, staring at him.
"No, I write novels based on concepts."
"Right, I've read one of them."
The young man had been there for a long time, and restlessness had taken over him.
"I heard you know Detective Harkevy," he said, prolonging the conversation.
"Yes, I did."
"Not anymore, though?"
"No."
"Why is that?"
"I moved away."
"Why did you move?" asked Detective Hardy, his interest reignited.
"I didn't see a future for myself there."

 



"Attention, everybody! Please, I cannot stress this much. Can you all gather around?"
"Ron, you don't have to," said Mark laughing.
"I don't have to, I want to."
Among the hushed whispers, Ron started to speak.
"I've known Mark since he moved here, two years ago. I don't know Claire, but I'm very excited to learn about her," he laughed.
"There aren't many chances we all get in our lives, and so we don't care about savoring the moments. So, here's to Mark and Claire, they are making every moment count."


"Claire, could you get that?"
"Get what?"
"I think someone's at the door."
"Oh, that's just the postman."
Mark's senses were immediately alerted.
"What's the matter?" Claire asked, amused.
"Are you expecting any letters?"
"No."
"Are we expecting any letters?"
"Our wedding was five months ago. I don't think anybody's wishing us health and happiness after all this time."
Mark sits down.
"Aren't you going to see what it's about?"

 



"I'm not scaring you. I'm a person, not a spirit. You know me too, more than I know myself. For us to be complete, we need to be together. Have you thought about me at all?
If you have, write to me. I can't tell you where I am, but you can leave the letter in the box, and I'll know.

Carol"

That night, Mark didn't sleep. He kept thinking about the letter. The words "Have you thought about me?" were ringing in his head. For six months, she had been sending letters, all of which he had destroyed. Now, a part of him wanted the letters to come. He wanted to hear from her, whatever she had to say. Mark was aware that the idea of subjecting himself to this was crazy, but thoughts had taken precedence over feelings.
He scribbled something on a piece of paper and went back to bed; hoping and wondering if she would ever see him.

"Yes."

 



"I hate to leave you all by yourself for so long," Claire whispered kissing Mark.
"It's alright, you have to go."
"Will you come visit?"
He smiled.
"I'll see you," she whispered softly.

Claire's arrival into his life had limited his time. Mark felt detached from himself, and although growing closer to Claire was something he had longed for, he found that he was growing more and more apart from himself.
After the one word response, he had left for Carol, she had written him many sentences, all of which captivated him dearly. He was attracted to her, the power of her words slayed him completely. He didn't want to analyze it. He'd lost the ability to question its lucidity. He knew Carol, and although he hadn't met her, he had touched her, felt her presence, and longed to continue the little repartee of words and thoughts.

Mark was only aware of that part of Carol's effect on him, the part that made him feel secure, the part that made him feel loved. He never once tried to run away, Carol was his trouble, and she was his salvation. His darkness, fuelled by Carol's ravishing appeal grew stronger by the night.
But, he didn't want to lose his family. He wanted to protect Claire from his truth. And this sense of survival came not from battling his desires, or the awareness of his ludicrous and twisted affair with Carol, but from Carol's luminosity that held him bewitched, and completely at her mercy.
He loved her vigorously, even the phantom in his brain, and the pieces of her that he found in the letters. He wanted so much more, without wanting anything from Carol. He didn't long for her to reciprocate, he didn't wait for her answer. He didn't want to sit next to her, touch her or kiss her. Just the idea that she was still out there, carving the words into the paper kept him satisfied. His relationship with Carol had gone far past being exciting.

"Carol,
I don't know the words, I can't find the words, you've left me with nothing. I live every day for your charm. I'm smitten, I'm enraged and I've been claimed by your tantalizing bait. It pains me, what Claire thinks; that what we have is real. I'm so deeply embedded into this lie, that I can't control it. I still can't find the words, Carol. Maybe you think of me as a fool, maybe I am a fool. But, I know you understand this. I know you can find the words."

 



Detective Hardy returned from his break. He brought along with him a bunch of letters, letters that he thought could give him the answer.
"These are some letters Mark kept receiving throughout his marriage with Claire," explained Detective Hardy.
"Did he ever leave Claire?"
"No, we think he was too scared to."
"What do you want me to say?"
"Does this handwriting look familiar to you?"
"No, it doesn't. Have you asked Claire? She might be able to help you with this."
"We've interviewed everybody. It was only toward the end that we tracked you down. It was certainly really hard to find you."
"I wasn't here for five years, why did you need me?"
"I thought you could help put the pieces together," said Detective Hardy.

 



"To let you live this way betrays me, it reduces us to those who write each other lurid love letters. Their words are empty, their imagination is their truth. I can't explain this to anybody, not even to Claire. But, I need you to know, that this is everything I've wanted. You have me. I'm not unassailed. It scares me to think that you could break me. But, you can. You have the power.

Carol"

And for days, this continued. He writhed beneath her desire and their attraction grew almost destructive. It was only after Claire's return, Mark found himself in the presence of a revelation he thought impossible. Carol was unassailed no more. He had wanted her, and now he had her. She was entirely his.
The wanting had stopped. The arousal did not sustain. He grew closer to Claire, whom he had pushed away. They had spent one night together, and remembered the the time they had lost.

"We're having a baby," Claire had announced, only days after the thoughts about leaving Carol had begun stirring in his mind.
With Claire completely in the dark, the knowledge of his dalliance with Carol grew tedious. He wanted to disappear, run away from it. He was ready to bury Carol, who had become nothing but a piece of history, a fluttering memoir in his brain.
He wrote to her, clearly explaining his intentions and this time, he found all the right words.

Please, she begged, that was her first response. She pleaded him to reconsider. What would come of their relationship, she questioned. All of Carol's essence melted until in his mind, she was reduced to a common, unreal human being, drained of all magic. All of Carol's shades had become boring. Despair grew in Carol's heart and Mark saw her endless rant as his exit.
And so he crafted his last letter, ready to embrace his future with Claire.

"Carol,
I feel it's necessary to inform you that this is the last letter I will be writing. It is true that we were real, I won't deny it. But, I was a man lost, searching for a safe place. We found each other, and that was meaningful by itself. I strayed from Claire, and I don't blame you for that. You guided me back to my reality, which for several days I did not want to see.
As I write this letter, I'm wondering about the future and the surprises that it will bring.
I love Claire, and I can't wait to meet my son.
Please find your peace,

Mark"

 



Detective Hardy sighed.
"We're not getting anywhere with this investigation," he explained.
"I'm trying all I can to help," said the young man genuinely.
"I know that you are. There is just one big loophole. Nobody's seen this Carol woman."
"You suspect she killed Mark."
"You're smart," said the Detective.
"Well, you cracked the case."
"I can't prove that she killed him."
"Maybe she didn't kill him."
"I can't twist evidence," he whispered to himself.
Detective Hardy took a deep breath and began to explain the case to the young man, who had lost all interest.
"The guy plans a holiday with his pregnant wife, right? So it's April 19, and she leaves first. He stays back to finish work. He's near the kitchen counter around dinner time. Somebody walks in- and remember, this person probably has the key- and they stab him repeatedly until he dies."
"Well, that could be anyone. What makes you think it's... that woman-"
"Carol," said the Detective loudly. "He was reading her letter when he was attacked. That gives us the motive. Also, the height of the killer suggests it was a woman."
"Why would she want him dead?"
"He told her that it was over. She killed him for revenge."
Detective Hardy didn't look convinced.
"It's too simple."
Detective Hardy got up to leave.
"Well, I'm going to track down this woman."

"She probably stole all his money too," said the Detective laughing.

"I doubt that," said the young man,  "these are crimes of passion."

"Thank you for your time, William."

 



On William's bed, there lies an unopened letter.

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you,
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you,
But in your dreams, whatever they be,
Dream a little dream of me

Carol

 


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