Friday Flash Fiction: Faded Letters

So continuing my up-to-the-wire approach to deadlines I have managed to cobble together a Friday Flash Entry. It’s a bit grim, and if you missed last weeks please do check it out.

Here’s this week’s entry:

Faded Letters
By Neil Beynon

He sits on the bench staring at the envelope.

He does not know what to do. The paper pouch is creased, dog-eared, stained, even slightly torn from weeks transferred between pockets, bag, desk and hand.

It is the first thing he thinks of when he rises, the last thing he considers as he waits for sleep to drop its velvet curtain, in many ways it’s the only the thing he thinks of.

Sarah left him, finally sick of being second fiddle to a piece of mail. When she told her friends, they thought he was gay. It took a bit of explaining to make them understand he was just pathetic.

She opened hers of course, always one to plan, an exit strategy for all contingencies. And she was happier, able to do more, enjoy more, as if a safety net had been laid underneath her. That was the way it was with a lot of people.

He envies such decisiveness, craves it as others desire air but he cannot do it. He must consider the problem from every angle, consult as many as possible. If he had the money for a statistically significant sample he’d conduct a survey.

Someone, he’s forgotten who, once said he was a frustrated philosopher. He knows this isn’t true, though he was very pleased by the thought. The truth is rather different, he’s not indecisive, not a great thinker, not an assessor of risk.

He’s a worrier and a coward.

He thinks of the envelope all the time because he’s worried about what it contains, he’s afraid of it, he doesn’t want to know, he wants to go on in perfect bloody ignorance.

He turns the envelope over between his hands before opening the lighter. He bought it especially for the purpose; it smells strongly of the petrol he filled it with before leaving the house. The yellow-tongued flame grinds on in one motion.

Slowly, so slowly he burns his hand, he runs the flame over the envelope. It starts slowly, the heat curling the corner before it truly catches and sprints across the document. Swearing he drops it into the bin.

He should feel better. He doesn’t. Instead he’s lost in the possibilities of what might have been, of what it might have contained. And so he’s lost in thought as he leaves the park, lost in a maze of ifs as he heads back into the world.

Preoccupied with perhaps, the bus strikes him with enough force to burst the bag of flesh and bones that represents him. To the onlookers it is as if he is there one minute and gone the next.

To him it’s a bit longer. A moment can be an eternity when that’s all you have.

And his life doesn’t flash before him, there is no bright white light and a tunnel would, quite frankly, be in bad taste. There is just the certainty, the absolute crushing clarity that written on the paper inside the envelope was not the word Bus.

He wants a refund.

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