I wrote this in response to Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press.
I chose the last photograph to work with (see below).
I have written the first letter.
I now invite a response from any of the readers/writers of either my blog or Indigo Spider’s. I think it would be fascinating if there was more than one response to this letter. Anyone up for the challenge?
Thanks very much to Indigo Spider for the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed it yet again.
The darkness grows. It is worse than when I last wrote you. Uncanny shadows continue to spill like the black ink on this page and absorb our light with a patience the townsfolk find unsettling. This unexplained darkness is a cancer and we have been unable to find a bleach with which to eradicate it.
Three days ago Markus and Bjorn left the town perimeter and entered the shadows that now engulf us. They were due back yesterday, but have not yet returned. It is too soon to jump to any conclusions, yet I feel compelled to send Bessy to you with this letter. As you well know, she is my prize pigeon that couriers only vital cargo. I implore you to care for her as your own.
I was sworn never to impart the information I now disclose to you in this communication. In lieu of recent events, however, I have reconsidered my oath. Time will make known whether my decision is rash or wise.
I mentioned the darkness has grown. Thin blades of light pierce the deep shadows of our world, but suffocate and stutter while the encroaching blackness continues its march. The sun no longer moves across the sky. There is daylight. And then there is none. The daylight hours last less than four hours at a stretch.
We do not see birds in the sky, nor creatures on the earth anymore. The rivers no longer run. Our plants have perished. Our food supplies are spoiling. Our water will run out by the end of a month.
Markus and Bjorn are not the first reconnaissance team. In the last fortnight, there was Frederick and Samson. Earl and Hendrick. Joshua and Paul. Not one of them has returned.
Two days ago I was summoned to Chief Peter’s house. It was there I was threatened with life and limb were I ever to tell a soul what I was about to see.
Peter and Shaun led me to a bedroom. It was hazy with smoke from an unseen fireplace in an unseen corner. They were burning eucalyptus.
Columns of dim light fought their way from the small windows to the back of the room. We waded through the waves of smoke until the naked body of a woman, stretched and bound to a bed, became visible.
I was fearful. Shaun waved one of his large hands in the space above her. The smoke whorled and billowed and drew open like a curtain to reveal Kerry’s face.
I looked at Peter, ashamed to see his wife like this. Instead of sadness, his face was a scowl. It took him a moment to recall Shaun and I were with him, so engrossed was he with his own thoughts. He admonished my chivalry with cruelty befitting a commoner, insisting that I look at his wife.
He asked if I noticed anything unusual about her. I examined her cautiously from where I stood. Out of respect for Kerry, I will not go into detail about what I saw except for that which was atypical.
It took me some time to grasp that because her wrists and ankles were bound with rough rope, and that because she had put up a terrible struggle to free herself, Kerry’s skin in these areas had been grated. Yet there was no blood; only minced flesh.
I examined the wounds closely, as well as the bedclothes underneath. Not a drop of blood.
I questioned the two men with my eyes. They shrugged.
Then Peter reached a hand to Kerry’s neck. He was hesitant. Self-conscious. He looked closely at me and then, with a thumb and index finger, parted a thin, deep incision that ran the length of her throat. It was so fine I had not noticed it before.
I thought I would retch, but was so startled by what I saw, I froze in place. Instead of the grisly mechanics one would expect to find under her skin, there was blackness. No sinew, nor veins, arteries or muscle tissue. Only darkness.
I did not sleep that night. Peter told me that he had hoped I had read about the affliction somewhere. I told him I was unable to recall any such reference. He then begged me to scour my libraries for any mention of what I had witnessed.
I have found nothing.
And this, dear John, is why I now write to you again.
When you passed through our humble village not too long ago, you captured the hearts and imaginations of the townsfolk with your sprawling stories of travel and adventure across the globe.
Everyone except for me was captivated. We had our disagreements and yes, the reason I sent the last letter was my childish attempt to make you jealous that finally something exciting was happening to me.
I regret my haughty tone. Please, John, if your stories are true and you are the man you proclaim to be, then scour your memories for any recollection of an ominous darkness that swallows countrysides and villages.
If all continues at the current pace, then we will no longer exist less than a month from now. I do not plan on running. I desire to examine this phenomenon. Perhaps there is hope for us yet.
I will update you of my findings as regularly as I can. Get back to me as soon as possible.
Yours in the spirit of adventure,