Something terrible happened after the delivery of the letter that would come to hunt Mr. Peter for a very long time. In truth, it wasn't really terrible depending on one's perspective. Indeed the milkman would have shrugged and been on his way should a letter such as the one sent to Mr. Peter on Wednesday have come for him. Even David from across the street would have laughed it off.
The letter did not come in any particular order, so to speak, and Peter was half asleep when it came. He had a wife and a child but they were on holiday, staying with his parents in their farmhouse. So, technically he was all alone in the house when the letter came.
This is how it happened.
On Wednesday morning, Peter woke up with a headache and stayed in bed for minutes that soon stretched thin. He called the office where he worked as a journalist and told them he was sick. He wouldn't be coming to work. After which he took a hot bath and called his wife. It rang twice and then a familiar voice said, "Hello, Dad."
"Kyle where's your mum?"
"Are you okay, Dad? Mum went out a couple of minutes ago with Grandma. You sound groggy."
True, but at that moment Peter did not notice nor think of it. He simply wanted to talk to somebody else. He said to his fourteen-year-old son, " how's everything over there? You sound excited about something."
"I wrote a song and I've been humming it. It sounds great."
"I certainly do not doubt that. When you get home you'll play it so I can hear it too, right?"
"Of course. I love you Dad."
"Well, you have to. Who's going to pay for your next year's fees?"
They shared a good laugh and Peter hung up. He walked into the kitchen, drank cold tea and tore open a packet of tasty cracker biscuits. He only ate about three biscuits before giving up on it. He left the open biscuits on the kitchen counter as he made his way to the living room.
He switched on the tv, just like every other normal person, and scanned for channels. He found one about a firearm documentary. He got interested in the first half and discarded everything in the second half. He put on Netflix and settled down comfortably when he suddenly felt dizzy. He closed his eyes and started to sleep.
And he would have, you know if the doorbell hadn't rung then. It was one of those rings you ignored for just a second due to fear or something else. Peter walked to the door, pulled it open to have a paper falling to the floor in front of him. He picked it up and closed the door after him. It was a letter.
He tore it open and read the contents once. No, twice. Or was that the fifth read? He honestly couldn't tell. But the letter was real simple and precise and direct. It simply said, "FRIDAY WILL BE YOUR LAST!! EXPECT THE KILL."
Ok, there were other parts too but only the first words registered. He had been marked. Suddenly, he wondered why people who'd taken time to write a letter to him would do so with words all written in capital letters as if to make their point clear. It was clear, alright. And strangely, Peter already knew why.
A month ago Peter, so full of life and certainty, had written about a government scandal that shut down a prominent senator's campaign. Basically, the report made sure the Senator and all his supporters went up in smoke as well as his "soaring" campaign.
And if it wasn't the Senator, Peter could swear in front of God that he'd hang himself to death.
They said Friday. This was just Wednesday. They were only bluffing. And yet as Peter told himself these things, he felt himself being childishly naive. They would come for him as promised.
He took the note and drove himself to the police station miles away from home. Maybe he did it for security reasons or not. But the point is Peter went into the police station at 2:46 pm on Wednesday and came out at about 3:05 pm looking confused.
The police had told him they would watch over him as a hawk watched her prey. It was meant to be a lighthearted joke but apparently, Peter had taken it to be more than that. He trusted no one at this point. So he left.
He went back home. By 6:34 pm Peter was munching down cereal and praying the night would not come. He slept a minute past midnight and awoke three hours later with a start. In his neck, were beaded sweat and he cleaned them up with the back of a palm.
In his dream, he was being held close to the sea by angry-looking men who wore dark goggles and dark clothes and had tattoos all over. They were going to kill him. Humans dream all the time and were told they could control their dreams but Peter had not come close. They had dug a knife into his chest and he had cried out in pain.
He sighed deeply as he got up from the bed. He made his way to his bathroom and sat in the seat for long minutes. He was sleepy but he fought the need with scalding acrimony. He would not sleep and by morning, could slip his hands through the circles underneath his eyes.
Thursday was the worst. He drank milk in the morning, ate canned noodles in the afternoon and buried himself in a mountain of work. He was scared and rightly so because, at exactly 7:00 pm on Thursday, a second letter came.
Peter grabbed it in a hurry and read through the contents. It was written in capital letters as the first and the message was clear: PETER JACKSON MORLINSON WOULD BE DEAD TOMORROW.
He wanted to run and hide. To be fair, he tried to run. But once he discovered he had to face his fears, he stayed behind. He did not sleep but he wasn't so scared anymore.
Then came the Friday when Peter would say and breathe his last. He called his wife. She took it at the first ring, "oh honey. I know you've missed us badly but not to worry. We'll be home tomorrow as promised."
But he did not care if they came on Saturday or the day after that. He'd be dead by then.
He said, "I love you so much, Amy. Don't forget that, okay?"
"Why does that sound like a goodbye?"
"It isn't. I'm just... I love you, really."
"I love you too." She replied. There was hesitation in her voice as though she did not believe her husband was fine.
She knew she had to tell the truth. She said, "I can guess you're sounding so off because of the letters. It's all my fault, I'm really sorry."
"It isn't your...wait! How do you know that?"
"I wrote them. It was only met to be a joke to keep you busy. I didn't think...oh honey I'm so sorry."
He should have felt anger or fear or shame or even pain. But he hunged up, smiled to himself and put on a Netflix show. Somewhere across the street, someone was singing Lorde's "Royal" off-key and Peter never, ever found a voice as beautiful as the voice of the singer from down the road.