Spill or be Killed
I hate this town. Every single person in this dreary, unfortunate town, even the morons who never appear to be doing anything worth doing, have piles and piles of skeletons in their closets. Those skeletons, those secrets, they control everything; every aspect of every person. And yet no one seems to notice. This town is an asylum for the asleep.
I must wake them.
The false sense of naivety everyone has sickens me. People all around me self-implode constantly, from the force of nothing but their own secrets. And whenever someone inevitably combusts, the rest of them look the other way because they are too busy being eaten away at from the inside by their own mistakes. Paranoia is a parasite in the blood of these people. It is a virus, for which there is no cure.
I must heal them.
The First Letter
June 6, 2006
Tonight is the night. I seal the last envelope and place it carefully in my coat pocket with the others. I know it’s kind of cliche for me to wear a black trenchcoat, but they’re just more practical than most coats for someone like me. Also, it’ll protect the envelopes from this annoying, yet somehow appropriate downpour outside.
I walk out the door and lock it behind me. The first stop on my tour is Marline’s house. Marline. Even her name was bland, like she’d selected it for herself. Everyone in this town saw Marline as bland, anyway. Only I knew the truth. For now.
Marline’s house is close enough to mine, so I walk there in the rain. None of these people see me as I walk down the glistening, wet streets, and if they somehow do they will think nothing of it. A late night mail delivery in a rainstorm is pretty tame when it comes to these lunatics.
There is no one home when I get to Marline’s, but I ring the doorbell anyway and leave the envelope on the ground. I know it may be thought of as risky to ring someone’s doorbell when you’ve just handed them what I’ve handed them, but no one here knows me. They’re too busy keeping their own secrets to know me and mine. Truthfully, I know these people better than their own families do. Oh, how I know these stupid, stupid people.
Next on the roster, Karen. By this town’s standards, Karen is one of the good ones. She is too young to have too much to hide. She is Marline’s neighbor, and Karen would tell you that they talk all the time, but their only interactions occur while getting their mail. Often I find myself observing these people and their petty existences. All of their conversations never fail to stay at the surface.
Fitting, considering how shallow they all are. I chuckle to myself.
I trudge up Karen’s porch steps slowly, being cautious not to slip and gash my head on a banister or anything. Believe me, that’s the last thing Karen wants.
I ring the doorbell. It sputters for a moment, sparks, and then dies. It makes this whole thing feel like a horror movie. Which, if these people don’t open their eyes and break the shackles of the curse that plagues this sorry excuse for a city, it could very well turn into. Just saying.
I toss about ten more envelopes onto various porches around town. Most of my targets live in this one neighborhood: Whispering Falls. This place is my primary area solely because of its name. It is very appropriate for the people that live here.
I place a letter on a crazy old coot named Norman’s doormat. It is worn and looks like it used to say some sort of pointless greeting on it. Just as I’m about to move on, Norman’s idiot dog sees me from the backyard and starts barking its head off. I want to pull out my knife and stab this stupid dog, but I don’t want to have to clean my knife later, so I just book it out of there as fast as I can. This works flawlessly, of course, because Norman has a bad knee from a “skiing accident,” so it’s not like he can catch me. Old man.
I realize that my coat pocket is empty, and I head for home. I look up at the sky as I walk and it’s just dark enough to see the constellations. The stars seem dimmer somehow when they are all clumped together like that. My eyes wander and I spot a lone star to the far left of the constellation. It shines brighter than all the rest.
You see? I say to no one in particular, Even the stars will tell you it’s better to be alone.
I return to my house and crawl into my bed. My skylight comforts me as my mind drifts off into the possible problems my envelope experiment could cause. I’ve waited long enough, though. I know these people well enough now. They will do as I tell them. They have to. They’re simpletons.
I wake with a start to a knock on my door.
“Hello?” someone yells through the windows.
Good God, I can’t escape these people.
I crawl out of bed reluctantly and grab the envelope off of my nightstand. I slide on my slippers and walk briskly to the front door. “What do you want?”I ask, a small amount of aggravation in my tone.
“Sorry,” the woman said, “I didn’t mean to wake you. We were just wondering if…”
This felt like this was going to go on forever, so I opened the door.
My human alarm clock turned out to be none other than Karen. I take back what I said about her being one of the good ones. Why would she possibly need to wake me up? I could only think of one reason, and it had something to do with the crowd of people standing behind her, milling around in my yard like morons.
“Hi, sorry again. You were the only person left on our street who was still asleep, it seems. We’ve all received these letters from somebody, and we were wondering if maybe you got one, too?” Karen took a step back after she spoke, like when she said that it made her realize that it could have been behind this whole thing. It felt good to make Karen fear me.
I look at the clock before I answer. Noon! I needed to start setting an alarm. Though, it being noon gave me an alibi. This just kept getting easier.
“Oh yeah, I picked mine up this morning. I slept horribly last night, I was just taking a nap. I read the letter before my nap, though. What do you suppose this means?”I picked up my letter and twirled it around in front of her, hoping it would calm her down.
“No one knows. But there does seem to be some kind of pattern with the order they were dropped off in, and we all thought that since you’re the last house on the block, your letter might clear some of this up.”Karen kept gesturing to the people behind her whenever she said we, like I didn’t see that the entire town was corralled on my front lawn.
She tells me to read it, and so I do. I tell her mine states explicitly that we all must gather in the town hall and read the letters aloud or this person is going to start ‘exterminating’ people in the order of how the letters were distributed.
Karen’s eyes widen. I laugh internally because I know she is only scared at the thought of sharing what’s in that envelope with everyone. How pathetic.
I add, “I hope I’ve helped you. If I were you, I’d tell the others and arrange a meeting at the town hall sometime today. There’s no time like the present. I’ll see you there.” I give her a nod and shut the door.
June 7, 2006
I arrive last to the meeting. Everyone is panicking and confused. No one knows why they must spill their secrets to all of their neighbors, and none of them want to.
Just as I’d predicted, Karen volunteered to go first. “Dear Karen,” she began. “You are kind. You love to knit, you’re a teacher, and you’ve built quite the nice life for yourself. I don’t mean to put a damper on things, but isn’t it time everyone knew that you went to a reformatory school when you were a teenager for your shoplifting addiction and were later institutionalized for insanity?”
Karen stopped there and looked up at the crowd. They didn’t really care, they were all so worried about themselves. This town was like a who’s who of human garbage.
I read mine after her. I’d written some made up story about myself burning down a building one time. It seemed like something I might do. After this, maybe.
No one cared about mine. None of them knew me enough to be shocked by this. Besides, committing arson once is not as bad as some of these people’s sins.
Fifteen more people came forward, spilling their secrets, ranging over everything from kidnappings to embezzlement. Quite the fun group. There were much less people than there were secrets. A large portion of the people in our town moved away years ago, and their houses have been on the market ever since. Try selling a house here and see what happens. But I digress.
After about an hour of hearing people’s secrets, which is less entertaining than I’d imagined but entertaining nonetheless, the only person left was Marline. She stared at all of us and then started to speak. “I...uh...D-dear Marline, You are bland. You love your bland little life, and your bland little garden and you let it define you. But, at least to me, the main thing that defines you…”Marline trailed off and attempted to gather herself. “Is that time back in your younger days when you stole a car with your friends and got arrested for driving under intoxication.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I could feel my blood boiling and shooting through my veins. The only coherent word I could come up with was: Coward. Coward. Coward coward coward.
When I was sure we were done, I stormed out of the town hall and ran home. I slammed my door behind me, and started rummaging through my bathroom cabinet.
Well Marline, I was rooting for you. I hope this secret was worth it.
June 8, 2006
Marline Hanover was pronounced dead on June 8th, 2006. The coroner reported that she had ingested a rare type of chemical that can only be accessed at a pharmacy, where Marline happened to work. The police ruled it was a suicide. Our town mourned her death greatly.
Her funeral was the following week. Everyone in the town went. They wept for her, put flowers on her grave.
“These were her favorite,”Karen whimpered as she laid a bouquet of hydrangeas on Marline’s casket. Karen had obviously only learned this about Marline through meaningless small talk at their mailboxes.
Nearly every guest here barely knew Marline, and yet they wept for her. It was pathetic, and it was almost as if they were mocking the grief of the people she truly knew. Which, granted, there weren’t many of. She didn’t even have a husband.
They continued the charade by giving speeches about how much they’d miss Marline, which really got under my skin. You can’t miss someone you don’t know.
After everyone had said something, I took the floor. I stood next to Marline’s casket and I faced Karen and everyone else.
“Today, we say goodbye to Marline. I didn’t really know her, and neither did you. That letter was right. She was bland. But would a bland person steal a car and get a DUI? No. So something doesn’t add up, right? I’ll tell you what doesn’t. Marline was too bland to steal a car. As far as I’m concerned, the only interesting thing Marline has ever done is when she shot and killed her husband.”
And with that, I threw a fistful of dirt into her grave and spit into it.