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A short story

Dedicated to Ray Bradbury

Dear Mother, I am scared.
The places I visit seem to fade slowly into a nightmare. Not even Laurie can keep me straight anymore. I am beginning to worry about the feelings I encounter regularly. I can no longer focus on the things I love. I can hear you.
Dear Mother, I am scared…

The straps that bind Arthur McGovern’s hands begin to tighten more and more. Blood smears the edges of the rope like it has been used for a self-mutilation ritual. Perspiration gathers around the pressure-sensitive areas, and Arthur’s eyes flash from side to side. His breathing increases at a very fast rate.

Dear Mother, I am losing myself.
Laurie is worried about me. I tell her not to be, that I am just fine. But she sees the lie. I have seen Father walk through the hallways of my house. He sits at a table eating maple-nut oatmeal with flaxseed on top. When to go to him, he vanishes. Dear Mother, I am scared…

“Now Mr. McGovern, behave yourself” says a scrawny man, “My boys here know how to take real good care of you, alright? No worries here, Mr. McGovern. No worries here.” The ties that bind Arthur to his chair begin to take their toll on his circulation.
“But I-“ begins Arthur, “But I’m not the right guy!” he staggers.
The scrawny man touches the side of his shirt.
“Nonsense!” he says, pulling a pistol out of his back pocket, “Tell us what you did with our money, asshole. Or we’ll make sure you never leave this place.”

Dear Mother, I am uncertain.
August turned five last week. God is he a beautiful child. I love him with all my heart. Laurie and I are concerned about his school funding. Since both of us are below the poverty line, we hardly have enough money to put our own bread on the table. I heard you again last night. You blamed me for your murder again, this being the fourth time. Laurie came home and found me crying on the couch. Dear Mother, I am uncertain.

“I don’t have any damn money!” screams Arthur to the scrawny man.
“You’re full of s***, boy. We know what you took. Now you’re going to give it back, or a bullet is gonna be stuck in between your eyes!”
“I can’t get it back to you!” says Arthur, “It’s gone….it’s all gone….”
“What?” the man intervenes, “What did you just say?”

Dear Laurie,
I am going away for a while. Tell August that I love him, tuck him into bed, and read him “the Cat in the Hat” tonight. It’s his favorite book. Make sure you give him a kiss on the nose for me, and tell him that daddy loves him. I’ll be home soon, I promise. I have some problems I need to deal with finally, but after this, we should be set. If you see my mom or pop, tell them I say hello. Pop seems to roam around the house once and awhile. It’s okay if he does.

“I said the money is gone, meaning I don’t have it anymore, God dammit don’t you hear me?” Arthur begins to yell with desperation.
“Oh yes” says the man with the gun, “We hear you alright. Our hearing is just fine. What is not fine, however, is you.”
“What?” yells Arthur.
The scrawny, gun wielding man signals to two larger men behind him, who approach Arthur. They grab his arms, cut the rope he is bound with and then gag his mouth.
Arthur’s screams only last a few seconds, before a damp rag covers his face, and he blacks out.

Dear Laurie,
I am writing you this letter sitting on a bus. The cityscape I am viewing is almost as beautiful as you are. I miss you dearly. I wish I could come home, but I cannot remember why I left town to begin with. I’m having some problems focusing again, and I worry that it will continue. But pop decided to travel with me, I guess! I can see him sitting across from me on the bus here. Small world, I tell you. Is August doing well?

“Wake up…wake up! Goddammit!”
A girl stands over Arthur McGovern’s limp, unconscious body. She snaps in front of his eyes and ears, and even slaps him a few times. It is then that she notices the moist rag sitting by his right shoulder.
“Chloroform…” she whispers, “Those bastards didn’t even explain the situation to this poor man.”
She walks away and wraps a blanket around her shoulders and sits in a corner.
“Jesus…already fifty-degrees in here…”
The girl rubs her arms for warmth and huddles closer inside of the blanket. Her head ducks inside of it, and she turns into a small ball in the corner of the room. Sitting in front of her is a small electric clock that has the number fifty on it. Just at that moment, it beeps twice, and the fifty turns into a forty-eight.

Dear Laurie,
I fear death. At this moment, I am bumbling around a city (whose name I cannot remember) trying to figure out why I am here. I miss you, Laurie. The other day I collapsed in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, and began to lose myself. I kept thinking you would come along, touch my cheeks with your warm, caring hands, and make everything okay again. But all I found were the faces of mothers holding their children closer than before, “protecting them” from me. Laurie, I don’t know what to do anymore. Pop hasn’t been around lately. It’s a shame, I enjoyed his company.

“Where am I?”
Arthur stands over the ball of cloth in the corner, and taps it with his foot.
“Hello? Anybody in there?”
The ball moves a little bit, and mumbles. A head pokes out from one of the cloth folds and stares at Arthur. “Well, look who finally decided to wake up.” She says.
“Wake up?” says Arthur, “Was I asleep?”
“No s***.” She says, curling up in the fabric ball again. “Now leave me be, I was resting before you came along.”
“Oh…well alright.” Stutters Arthur, who walks around the space he is in now.
“In case you’re wondering” says the ball of cloth, “You aren’t in Kansas anymore.”
Arthur chuckles to himself, and lies down on his back.

Dear Mother,
I haven’t written you in quite some time, so here you go. Laurie took me to the doctor a couple of months ago. I wish I could tell you that I’m capable to treatment. I wish I could tell you that you’d be proud of me. I wish I could tell you I know all the answers. I wish all that and more. Mother, I am not the man you would have wanted me to be. I’m sorry.
Sincerely yours,

“See that little clock over there?” says the woman.
She stirs a little at a cold can of baked beans she is eating. The ends of her hear are split, and the full head of hair is completely greasy. She looks a wreck.
“Yeah, what of it?” Arthur says, sitting with his legs in his arms.
“Do you remember what it read yesterday?”
“Not really, no. I was more focused on figuring out where I am.”
“Well alright” she says, “It was fifty yesterday. Today it’s forty-eight.”
“Well so what?” says Arthur.
“It indicates the temperature of this place” she explains, “its forty-eight degrees in here.”
“Fantastic. What does that mean to me?”
“Well, it means it’s going to drop two degrees in here every twenty-four hours. Until we freeze to death.”
Arthur stares at her a little. She keeps stirring at the beans. For such a slow and awful way to go, she seems remarkably relaxed. Looking up at Arthur, she quickly looks at the can of beans again.
“How long have you been in this place?” Arthur inquires.
“It was eighty-six degrees when I was thrown in here. Do the math.” She says.
Throwing the can and spoon at the ground, she trudges to a corner and lies down.
“Nighty-night, man. See you at forty-six.”

Dear Laurie,
This is going to be my last letter. It is beginning to get difficult to perceive reality, and I fear being lost. I have bad dreams, Laurie. Dreams of my family dying and house burning to the ground. I wish I had your guidance to help me. If you were here, everything would be okay. Tell August he is wonderful. I’ll see you when I get home.

At eighteen degrees, Arthur and the woman begin to freeze. All the cans of beans have been eaten. The water supply freezes. The simple blanket is tattered and strung out. Arthur cries for his wife and child.
“L…l….listen Arthur…” the woman says to him, “I know it’s hard.”
She touches his cheeks with her soft, cold hands. Arthur’s eyes turn wide, and he stares at her face. For a minute she appears as Laurie to him. The girl’s wiry black hair becomes flowing, long, beautiful brown, her cheeks turn rosy red. Arthur begins to sputter.
“Laurie?” he says, excitedly. He carefully touches her neck, and kisses her.
Jolting backwards, the girl looks at him shocked. Laurie’s face disappears from her shoulders, and is replaced by the short, wiry, black hair and freckle-coated cheeks.
“No...” she whispers, “my name is Diane, remember?”
“Oh no...” says Arthur, falling to his knees. “Oh no oh no oh no.”

Diane looks up at the ceiling of the cold cell they are trapped in.
“You sick bastards!” she yells, “He didn’t steal any money! He’s delusional! Delusional, I tell you! You sons of bitches!”
Diane continues to yell at the chamber, while Arthur sits on the ground staring at letter upon letter addressed to Laurie and his mother.
“It’s okay.” He says to himself, “I can hear you, mother…I can hear you.”

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

ZozeyThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 8 at 2:41 pm:
Hmm, I liked it. I was a little confused when switching between realitly and the letter, but I did get it. It was good, good job. :)
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subt1tl3 said...
Feb. 8 at 5:11 am:
Wow! That was really cool! Well done, I like the build up of the letters with the actual happenings in the story.
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