Friday 23 August 2019

The Delivery

by Allison Symes 

Lemongrass and Ginger Tea

I knew the third letter was coming.  I was warned.  It is difficult to ignore anonymous letters especially when in the last week I’d already received two and I knew the third would be the most significant.  There are certain rules here everyone knows from age five up.

It is possible to ignore said letters but difficult.  They linger in the mind especially with the language used.  Oh it wasn’t foul (unlike the writer) but let’s just say the letters are not designed to put the mind at rest or to encourage any thoughts of continuing to have a happy and healthy life.

I recall, on getting the first letter, I entertained a vague hope the red ink was ink but given who I managed to offend I knew that was unlikely.  It’s odd, isn’t it, how the mind can make you look for false hopes like that at times even when, deep down, you do know better. I suppose it must be some kind of attempt at survival mechanism.  I do know it isn’t going to work.

No, the only real thing to ponder about that “ink” was who was the unfortunate “donor”.  They wouldn’t have survived the process.  Nobody did.  Word got out to ensure everyone knew it.  The Dark Lord likes social media.  It is a great and cheap way of spreading terror and everyone here is online so he will get everybody.  I expect he gets a special rate. Perhaps someone should put viruses on his system.  I should have thought of that sooner.  Too late now.

All knew who used up the spare “red ink”after a batch of the Dark Lord’s letter writing and the boss ensured there always was lots spare.  It’s a great way of keeping the vampire population sweet after all and everyone else cowed, well almost everyone else.  Who would turn down a free meal?  It has been speculated (very quietly and definitely not online) the vampires are the only ones the Dark Lord has feared but I suspect he simply knows it pays to keep them sweet. 

I expect he bribes the werewolves and giants too. It’s just there nobody knows what the bribes are.  Course it is possible the vampires are showing off.  They do put on a show so we can all see what a glamorous, dangerous species they are.  I wouldn’t bother.  I’d let the fangs speak for themselves if I was a vampire.

Sorry I’m getting distracted.  I don’t really want to think about the letters but know I am out of choices now.  I could’ve fled last week when the first one came in but I hoped the Dark Lord would change his mind.  It is not entirely unknown (he once threw an offender to the werewolves instead of the giants.  The advantage?  Death comes quicker at the paws of the werewolves.  It’s the nearest the boss gets to being merciful.  Surprised everybody too.  Maybe he needed to show he could be capable of it). 

I was the Dark Lord’s faithful servant, his favoured hired hand when awkward jobs needed doing. I hoped that would have counted in my favour.  After all can’t everyone screw up the once and not die for it?  I knew when the second letter came the day before yesterday the answer was no.  I didn’t go then because my house was surrounded by sightseers.  I think the Dark Lord must send them to intimidate.  I wasn’t intimidated but was bloody annoyed.  How can anyone make escape plans with onlookers?  But then that’s the idea isn’t it?  The less time you have to plan, the more likely it is you will get some crucial detail wrong and then only Death awaits.

The letters of course did mean technically I had three chances to get out or face the consequences of defying the Dark Lord.  Course as I’ve mentioned he makes sure nobody can use the first two chances.  I still think this letter writing business is on the cissy side though.  I remember the days when a Dark Lord was a proper Dark Lord.  No messing about with anonymous letters.  He’d just have people killed and that was it. 

I heard rumours he had read up about the merits of psychological warfare.  And maybe he wanted his victims terrified for ages first.  Maybe in some cases fear and anxiety build up would do the job of removing the offender for him.  You never can tell who has a weak heart just by looking at them can you? 

Not a problem for me though.  I am made of tougher stuff but then I have had to be.  When you carry out certain assignments, which at best involve long journeys and the ability to remove those getting in the way of the boss, weakness is not an option.

Still I suppose this letter business has given me time.  My bags are packed.  The horse is saddled and I’ll head off… well I don’t really know where.  It will have to be a gamble. 

The werewolf packs are to the north of me and let’s just say nobody has returned from that part of the country.  All that has ever been found have been the remains of travellers and their animals.  Oh and wolf prints and the odd sighting of werewolves.  They do that on purpose.  Let everyone else know they are there. 

This realm is not for those who like a quiet life.  Any life at all come to that if you don’t fit in with what the Dark Lord wants.  He has too many beings to get rid of problems for him and I was one of them.  Sometimes having someone who at least looks human helps.  Or he found so anyway.  I could get into places where the more obvious monsters would have been stopped by all the force that whatever unfortunate targeted town could muster.

The one time I show some mercy and I find myself in this position.  The Dark Lord had asked me to kill, well it’s probably best I don’t say even now as had I carried out his wishes the realm next to ours would have been plunged into turmoil. 

Let’s just say Death had my “victim” on his appointment books anyway and it was just a waste of my time and energy to bring this forward.  I took the view a few weeks (it couldn’t have been more than that by the look of my “victim”) and the Dark Lord could have had all the turmoil he wanted. 

Politically it might have been useful to have had a natural death here.  Guess who lost that argument!
To the south of me are the giants, to the west are the vampires and well the safest part of the country is where I am now - the east.  Still I can’t change what’s happened. 

I also know the next time our Dark Lord sends an anonymous letter, it is likely it will be my blood that he’ll use for ink.  I suppose it is touching in a way to see what faith he has in the postal services given most of us gave up on them years ago.  Mind I guess if you have to get the mail through vampires, giants and the like, only the hardy go in for being a postman!

So next time you think about complaining all you ever get in the mail are wretched bills and junk advertising, just remember it could be worse.  It is a matter of what environment you are in.
I must go.  I hear the wolves howling.  They’re early.  That’s unusual too.  I have been known to set my clocks by the time of their first howl of the night.  They must’ve been given instructions by the Dark Lord. 

Oh did I forget to mention if you dither too long the Dark Lord sends the werewolves, the giants or the vampires after you?  They will have no trouble finding me.  The postal services here publish all addresses of offenders. 

So there is no question of me holding out here and staving the threat off.  I leave or die or stay and die.  At least if I leave I have a chance of getting through. A bit like the post really!

About the auhtor

Allison Symes, who loves writing and reading fairytales with bite, is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, and Bridge House Publishing.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  A round-up of her writing is at and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today -

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