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I was a mailman.
I got crates of mail twice a week on Monday and Thursday, and then I had to sort them and deliver it all on Tuesday and Friday respectively. All in all it was a pretty simple job and in general I found that it helped to clear my head. I sorted the mail, took it to my designated neighborhood and then walked around while I listened to music and shoved envelopes and whatnot into all kinds of mailboxes.
The first street of the neighborhood started out fine. I grabbed the first bunch of letters and counted down (because I started at the end of the street with the higher numbers).
And so on. I had the world’s greatest trouble finding out which house was which because the inhabitants apparently thought themselves too good to put their house numbers in plain sight. Some numbers were skipped altogether. I managed to make it through and when I was done I put the street behind me and moved on to the next one.
The next time, I arrived at the same street. I did my routine, started at number 30 and made my way down while being polite to the people I met and the kids riding their bicycles through the street.
When I reached number 22 and I’d shoved the mail into their mailbox, I caught a glimpse of curtains falling into place and a figure behind the window scurrying away, as if they’d peeked out to see who it was.
I thought nothing of it, because it wasn’t the first time someone had glanced through their window to check whether I was a burglar or a salesman. So I put it behind me and moved on to the next street.
This continued for a few weeks. Every time I reached number 22 of that street I would just catch someone moving away from the window as I was about to move on to the next house.
Then, after having been the mailman of that neighborhood for about two months, it started getting… stranger.
Whoever was behind the window at number 22 grew bolder. Before, they would run off as soon as I looked in their direction, but gradually he or she stayed behind the window for longer periods of time. I still had no idea who it was because they always stood behind their curtains. The sheer type. Just translucent enough to make out that there was a figure there but not enough to clearly see who it was.
After a while I grew frustrated. Everyone else in the neighborhood now recognized me as their mailman and they all greeted me in a friendly way. Except for the people at number 22.
They still acted as if I would break through their front door and rob them of their valuables and their lives.
It was the first Tuesday of the fourth month, after passing by number 22 and seeing the man or woman staring at me, that I decided to react. I lifted my hand and casually waved while putting on the most friendly smile I could manage. The person stood still, and then he or she was gone.
I didn’t recall seeing them walk away, but the damage was done. My frustration with number 22 was born and I knew that this was the one house that I had come to dislike above all others in the neighborhood. I buried my frustration as best I could so as to not ruin the rest of my day, and I moved on with my route.
On Friday I was fated to return. The street was empty but everything else seemed the way it always did. Only this time, when I reached 22, the curtains moved before I even got to the mailbox. From the bottom left corner of the window, a pale, ashen face slide from behind the sheer curtains and I froze.
Empty, expressionless eyes set in deep eye sockets stared at me as if my soul was the next thing on the menu. The woman staring at me had long, dark-brown hair that fell around her withered face like straw and she had bags under her eyes of a color I’d never seen before. A sickening blend of purple and dark green; as if she hadn’t slept for months.
Her mouth opened and produced an faintly audible, dry sound that filled me with a sense of danger. I could feel my consciousness slowly slipping away and it wasn’t before long that I was completely zoned out from reality.
When I came to my senses she was gone and I can’t tell you how fast I shoved the mail in the mailbox and practically ran away from the house. I briefly wondered if I’d hallucinated the whole ordeal and during that entire day I thought I could see her dead, empty eyes staring at me from every window I passed by.
The next Tuesday I approached the street with more than a little caution. As I reached the first house, I figured it would probably be best to get it over with as soon as possible. So I started making my way down the street faster than I ever had.
I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the house I clearly recognized as number 20. My eyes flicked back and forth between 24 and 20 and I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was seeing.
I must have been standing there for a while because by the time I snapped out of my utter confusion there was a teenage boy on a bicycle standing next to me. He looked up at me and asked “Are you okay, mister?” while staring at me with a confused look.
“I’m fine kid,” I replied, my voice trembling slightly while I glanced back at where number 22 should be.
“I’ve got some mail here for number 22, don’t suppose you know where I can drop it off, huh?”
Before my very eyes I could see the kid’s vibrant, childish expression change into the same dead and empty gaze the woman from number 22 had given me. The whites of his eyes filled with black and his eyeballs seemed to visibly sink back into his skull. When the kid opened his mouth, a voice crawled out of it that sounded like the screeching of the Devil himself.
“22 does not exist. Neither do you.”
He didn’t say another word and just sat there on his bicycle, staring at me while I stumbled backward. It took a few seconds before my instinct kicked in and I ran away. I ran as fast as I could and even when my legs became deadly tired I kept on going until finally, out of pure exhaustion, I fell to my knees in the middle of the street.
In my peripheral vision I could see the curtains of every house around me falling back into place and shadowy figures scurrying away from the windows. In my panic I hadn’t paid attention to where I’d been going, but now that I was on the ground I got a good look at where I was. Exactly where I had run away from.
The boy’s black, empty eyes got a good look at me too. It was the last thing I saw before I found myself behind a window; peeking at people who passed by my door and scurrying away whenever the boy rode by on his bicycle. I recognized the street as being the same one I’d delivered mail to. The front lawn was all too familiar to me. The lawn of number 22.
And then it all clicked.
The window was the locked door to my cage, behind which I would suffer for all eternity while He drained me of everything I was.
I had become one of many.
Credit To – Ouroboros