I wrote a short story and what’s the point of having a website that people visit if I don’t use it to publish something? None!
So, here is the first of a few short stories I have written. This one has a connection with the Half-Life universe.
I haven’t had it proof read, so you get it almost as it was written, please forgive any silly grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. All criticism welcome, even if it’s just You suck!”.
I didn´t pay much attention to it when I picked it up with the rest of the bunch and pushed it into my briefcase on the way to work.
As usual, I had been in a bit of a hurry and rushed breakfast. I was always saying I would get up ten minutes earlier and sit down to have at least a couple of slices of toast. I just turn the television on and make some coffee while I have a shower. Once out out of the shower, I drink the coffee while watching the news headlines.
So that morning at work, after I had finally answered all my emails and returned some calls, I was surprised to find something other than bills in the bunch of post I had brought with me.
The envelope was made of high quality paper with a slightly rough feel but not like that recycled stuff with the bits in it. It was thick and heavy, just like I imagine all letters were a hundred years ago. My name and address were handwritten, which in itself was unusual, but in combination with the paper quality and the fact it seemed to have been hand delivered was enough to drive my imagination crazy. Not only that but whatever was inside was thick, certainly not a couple of sheets of paper, this was a long letter, perhaps a Will and Testament, I thought.
For some reason, I had developed this habit of looking and holding an envelope for a few moments before ripping it open. This time I almost savoured the moment and my tiny brain gears were whirring wilding in the hope of guessing who it was from. My hand seemed to make an involuntary movement towards my face as if I were going to smell it when somebody walked past my office and the shadow made me jump.
I reached across the desk and pulled the letter opener out from behind the scissors in the pot. This was probably the first time I had ever used them and it was clear that this letter deserved the formality and respect a letter opener gives the proceedings.
Careful not to rip anything inside I inserted the opener in the gap and with one smooth movement I had opened the envelope. I leaned it towards me and froze. Inside was money, a lot of money. If my tiny brain gears had been moving fast before they were now overheating. Who would send me money? How much was it? Why me? There must be a note inside I thought and I used the letter opener to move the cash forward and back, careful not to touch it with my fingers.
I had watched too my T.V. to know that I shouldn´t touch it with my hands. Don´t ask me why I thought that, I am just a simple office worker and am not in a position to “help” anybody. I quickly counted the money, 1,000 Pounds, and put it inside a larger envelope and back in my briefcase.
I spent the whole day waiting for a call asking me for a favour, that never came. In fact, I spent the next month doing the same. I hadn´t touched the money in all that time, fearing some stupid DNA evidence would convict me of a crime I hadn´t committed.
Finally, after 3 months, I took the envelope from its hiding place and went shopping. I spent all the cash on a fancy watch. Don´t ask me why I bought a watch when I could have used it for things I needed more, I just did. I suppose it is one of the first signs that people have money. Your eye is drawn to people´s wrists.
Anyway, it didn´t make any difference because when I woke up the next morning, the watch was gone. My flat hadn´t been burgled because that was the only thing missing.
Did that mean somebody was watching me? I spent the next few days looking over my shoulder and hiding behind corners seeing if somebody was following me. Everybody I met became a potential suspect.
Exactly one week later another envelope arrived, with the same amount of cash inside. This time I used cheap disposable latex gloves. Watching so much C.S.I. was beginning to pay off! Of course, I opened it at home instead of the office.
Why had this envelope come after just one week, whereas I hadn’t received anything in 3 months? It took the journey to work to realize it was because I had spent the money. I now had even more questions.
Who was sending me the money? Why? How did they know when I spent the money? And how had they stolen the watch?
I was less cautious this time and went to a play in the city and expensive restaurant afterwards. Earlier in the day I had bought a new tie and upon waking I couldn’t find it. I am not the sharpest tool in the tool box and eventually I began to realize that anything I bought disappeared the next day.
The memory of the play and meal stayed with me. At least whoever was doing this couldn’t take that from me.
So the following week when the envelope arrived I bought a ring and went to another show followed by another expensive restaurant. Before I went to bed I put some masking tape around the ring and my finger, thinking that there was no way they could get the ring off without waking me. I took hours to fall asleep but when I woke up the ring and tape were gone.
After that I got really scared and rather than go through the worry of having stuff stolen I stopped buying things. Better I thought, less trail and evidence. Not that I thought I was immune from being followed and photographed in those expensive places.
Over the next few months I began to do things I never thought I would have been able to afford; skydiving, race track days, spa weekends, call girls who were way out of my league, almost every experience you could imagine.
I was incredibly careful never to discuss what I did in my spare time with my work colleagues and I did my best to keep my demeanour and behaviour as close to normal as possible, although I am sure I changed in some ways, experiences like those are bound to change you.
I drank the finest wines, relaxed on motorboats in Monaco, gambled n casinos, but who cares when you know another envelope will arrive next week?
I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t keep any of the fine things I bought, but really, it´s the experiences that count, right?
But then one day the envelope didn’t arrive, as I knew deep down it wouldn’t. It couldn’t go on forever, and to believe otherwise was stupid. It wasn´t until I turned on the T.V. that I realized why. Over night around the planet there had been something they had started calling the 7 Hour War.
Who would have guessed that the whole human race could be subjugated so quickly. I hadn’t heard any planes or explosions during the night. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Some aliens called the Universal Union had arrived through some portal and had decided our planet had what they needed.
Life has been pretty tough since then and that was a while ago. All the things that used to be important suddenly seem not so vital. I think back to the first envelope and the worry about some stupid watch. Funny how your priorities change when aliens land, isn´t it?
I often stand in the food queue and daydream about the last few months. How lucky was I to be able to do all those things before the world changed forever? At least I relaxed about anybody asking me for that “favour”!
Nearly all forms of communication have been stopped, post, fax, telephone, emails etc. You only hear rumours and what you neighbour has to say.
I did as I was told and kept my head down. I´m no hero.
I kept away from the ones that talked about rebellion and resistance. I just wanted a quiet life, with no trouble.
That was until an envelope arrived a month ago.
There was no money it this time, just a note saying “Go to City 17 and find Barney Calhoun. Tell him Freeman´s coming”.