I never expected to get a letter from myself. From the future. But there I was, walking up the street to the mailbox like every other day, enjoying the evening breeze and the silhouette of trees against the sunset.
“Hey, George!” I waved to my neighbor, mowing his lawn.
There was my favorite house with the lilac bush, the house with the annoyingly loud dogs, and the house with the yellow door that marked the end of the street. I crossed the road to the mailbox, fumbling for the keys in my pocket. As I flipped through the advertisements and insurance updates, one letter made me stop dead in my tracks.
Beeeeeeep. I realized I had started wandering back into the neighborhood road while lost in my thoughts. Backing up to let the car pass, I gave a grateful wave to the driver for not squashing me into the cement. Tucking the mail under my arm, I quickly headed back towards my house, not bothering to say hello to George this time.
With my impatience building, I did my best to shove the envelope in my jacket and yanked the front door open. The rest of the mail was carelessly tossed on the kitchen island as I charged up the stairs and into my room. My parents could get a greeting later.
After an eternity of anticipation had passed, I leaned my back against the inside of my door. My hands pawed through my jacket, eager to see the letter again.
There it was. A letter addressed to me, with no return address, and no question about the handwriting’s identity. Some letters curved into the next ones, almost like cursive, just like mine. The writing was neat and very readable, but the lines weren’t perfectly straight, just like mine. It was messier than my normal handwriting, and looked like the handwriting I produce when I’m scribbling down a timed essay. There was no variation whatsoever between my handwriting and that of this mysterious letter.
My dog scratched the door, her way of asking to come in, and breaking my trance. I opened the door and happily welcomed in her wagging tail and sparkling brown eyes. She laid her head on my legs as I sat down, still staring at the envelope. I flipped it over, but there was no indication of a special marking or any clue. As far as I could tell, it was an ordinary envelope.
The seal was finally ripped, and I pulled out a single sheet of lined notebook paper, clearly being hastily folded from the uneven creases. I checked the inside of the envelope one more time, but there was nothing else inside. I carefully unfolded the letter, holding it as far away from my face as possible, as if I was expecting it to explode. The letter was surprisingly short, only about half a page long. The author hadn’t even bothered to sign their name.
“Dear Rachel,” it began. “You might have already noticed something familiar in this handwriting. This is yourself from the future, exactly four years from the time you’ll read this. To prove this, I know that you took a math test three days ago and got a 76%. I also know that you won’t tell anyone because you never tell ANYONE if your test score isn’t an A or B.”
That was very true.
“You also have a habit of singing and talking to yourself when no one else is around, which isn’t a bad habit, but you’re just a little embarrassed to tell anyone. You also stubbed your toe on the way to the bathroom during class today. You also haven’t told anyone that you have a crush on Mark because he’s dating a classmate of yours.”
My eyes almost bulged out of their sockets. I hadn’t even written about those things in my journal. There was no possible way for this person to know . . . unless it was me.
“I’m writing you this letter to inform you that in four years, a mad Russian scientist invents a time machine, and long story short, WWIII has been going on for several months now and it’s been a catastrophe for every country in the world. Almost a billion soldiers and civilians have been killed, and there’s no saying when this will stop.”
The letter ‘p’ in that last word had a sudden jagged end, as if this other Rachel had jumped in surprise. That’s not too uncommon for me. The handwriting became even more frantic.
“I hear gunfire nearby. I think they’ve found me. I’m a spy for the US and found the lab of the scientist, so I need to get this letter in the time machine as soon as possible. I need you to kill the scientist Sergey Popov and destroy his work to prevent WWIII or everything you know and love will be destroyed. I trust you’ll do this.”
I read the letter again and again, letting the words sink in. World War Three? Me, killing someone? The thought of even slightly hurting anyone revolts me. Would I really have the guts to kill someone?
I’m not sure how long I sat there, mulling it over in my mind. I finally came to the conclusion that this has to be done. I have to find and kill Sergey Popov.
I finally emerged from my room, still trying to wrap my head around what I learned.
“Oh, Rachel!” My dad called me from my parents’ bedroom. I slowly walked in, grave with the burden I now carried. “Did you know you sleepwalk? I just remembered that a few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night from a noise coming from your room. I opened your door, making you jump, but I could tell you were still asleep. You were writing a letter, with what I'd call very neat handwriting for someone being asleep, walked downstairs, put the letter in an envelope, stamped it, addressed it to yourself, and walked up the street to put it in the mailbox! How funny is that?”