Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
So, I discovered the meaning of life. Or at least, that’s what my eager customers are led to believe. You see, two or three times a month, I post a listing titled “The Meaning of Life” to various auction sites. I couple it with a sappy picture of a sunset or rainbow and a description that reads “All views are subjective. Results may vary.” Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at such a ridiculous listing, but there are some gullible folks out there that take the bait. When the bidding ends, I usually take home anywhere from $5 to $12.
After I’ve received my money via Paypal, I ship out the item. What is the item, you might ask? Well, I scribble down an inspirational quote or life lesson onto a piece of paper and mail it out in your standard, letter-sized envelope. The quotes are usually from famous writers, historical figures, or the Bible. Some of them include:
“If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” (quoted from Rumi)
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But People will never forget how you made them feel.” (quoted from Maya Angelou)
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” (quoted from George Eliot)
And that’s it. One stamp, a drop in the mailbox and my work is done. It’s as simple as that.
You might call me a scammer or a con-artist, or perhaps even a plagiarist – and in truth, you are correct. I’m taking advantage of the naive people out there who are probably just looking for a sense of purpose in life – all so I can make a quick buck. But I’d like to think most people know it’s bullshit and purchase my listing just to see what I’ll send them. Besides, I’m a bachelor right out of college. So long as I can make a small dent in my phone bill and eat a packet of ramen each night, I’ll sleep just fine.
As you might imagine, I receive quite a bit of hate-mail. I’ve learned to ignore angry emails and private messages on the auction sites. As soon as I see that it’s from one of my customers, it gets deleted. I do, however, receive the occasional snail mail. It’s unavoidable, as my PO Box is listed on all of the envelopes I send out. It would be pretty easy for me to toss these letters in the trash with the rest of my junk mail, but I never can. Something about receiving a physical letter from someone, good or bad, compels me to read it. I feel that anyone who takes the time to write one deserves to have their voice heard, even if I don’t really care for what they have to say.
The more physical letters I receive, the more amused I am by them. To paint a better picture, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the “fan mail” I’ve received over the years:
“You’re nothing but a glorified fortune cookie service.”
“You’ll rot in hell for the sins you’ve committed. Mark my words.”
“You’re a real f***ing piece of shit, you know that?”
It’s reached a point where reading these letters has become the highlight of my week. I’ve even tacked up some of the better ones on a cork board in my bedroom. You might think that’s sick and a little messed up, but I think it’s hilarious.
Not all of the letters I receive are bad. There’s one guy by the name of “Red” (no last name -that’s all he ever writes above his return address) who mails me constantly. He sends me inspirational quotes in exchange for mine. I assume he’s a repeat buyer who enjoys paying for and receiving cheerful messages in his mailbox every now and again. A man of class and dignity; my kind of customer.
The first quote Red ever sent me was “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” from Mark Twain. This was a great first impression, as Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. The return quote was much appreciated. As such, I hung it up next to the hate-mail on my cork board.
Some of the things Red sends me, however, are not cork board material. Some of the quotes he sends are morbid and depressing, and other times he’ll mail me small packages containing little trinkets that I have no use for. It’s a little weird, but I figure the guy is depressed and just needs a friend. Maybe the quotes he buys from me are the only thing he has to look forward to each morning. Perhaps the things he sends me are his way of saying thanks. To me, it’s validation that what I’m doing isn’t completely sleazy.
But here’s where things get weird. Today, I received another envelope from Red. I smiled when I pulled it out of my PO Box. His letters and gifts, no matter how odd, were just as much, if not more of a highlight to my week than the endlessly entertaining hate-mail. Upon opening the envelope, however, my smile vanished.
Inside was a photograph of me, taken up close through my bedroom window. On the back of the photograph was another one of Red’s quotes:
“You look so alone. Where’s the meaning in your life?”
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