Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday! I hope you enjoy the story and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!
The Letter – By Adam Wright
Jim Targus held the envelope pinched between his thumb and forefingers. He held it as far away from his face as his arms would reach. Even at that distance it was still easy to read the bold block letter typescript on the front.
THE BUREAU OF EXISTENTIAL AFFAIRS.
He had waited most of his twenty one years of life to receive this letter. Days spent dreaming and imagining what the future would be. The paper felt rough on his fingers. He took a deep breath, folded it up into neat fourths and stuck it into the back pocket of his jeans.
The sun was bright and Jim squinted as he looked down the street of his suburban neighborhood. No one seemed to be out but there were sprinklers spraying the lawns of a few houses. Cars wouldn’t be arriving home from workplaces for hours. Jim loved the quiet summer weekdays. He hummed softly to himself as he walked to Angela’s door. She’d want to know he had received it. They’d made a pact to share it if either one of them got it. Jim wondered if Angela had received hers yet.
Her house was one of those newer models, the kind with the alarm that told the occupants who was at their door before they even arrived. It was all some complicated algorithm that predicted people’s movements. Jim had never quite grasped the science of it. The house was yellow with green trim. Angela and Jim agreed it was the worst color combination imaginable for a house. They had spent hours trying to convince her father to repaint. Jim smiled at the memory.
Even though everyone inside would know it was him, Jim went through the exercise of knocking on the door anyway. He supposed it was habit. They wouldn’t have minded if he just entered but Jim’s mother always insisted on manners.
Angela came out to the door and Jim, as always, was struck by her raven hair and dark brown eyes. Eyes the color of coffee with just the right amount of cream. Soft eyes. Caring eyes.
“Why hello, stranger.” Angela threw her arms around him as if they hadn’t seen each other yesterday.
Jim hugged her back and let her scent wash over him for the briefest of moments. Then he stepped back and gave her his best grin.
“Hiya, Angela, how ya doin’?” Jim gave her a mock salute and she saluted back with a laugh.
“Why, I’m fine, Jim. What brings you all the way out here to my neck of the street?”
Jim held up his left hand in a signal to wait and then with his right he pulled out the letter.
“It is. Have you gotten yours? You remember our pact, now.”
“How could I forget? I think we were five when we started that lemonade stand and you started telling me how you were going to get to go to outer space once you got your letter.”
“That we were. And I still remember how the lemonade took hours to wash out of my hair when I told you no girls were allowed on my spaceship. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”
Angela didn’t say anything. She just smiled and gave Jim a little punch in the arm.
“Did you get yours?” he asked.
“I’m afraid not. Are you going to open yours or are we waiting for mine?”
“Well, I’m not sure. Do you want to be the first person to see what a famous outer space explorer I’m gonna make? Or should we wait and be the first couple to be accepted to the program at the exact same time?”
“The Bureau’s pretty strict about these sorts of things. You’re supposed to open it the instant you get it. You know that. I hope you haven’t jeopardized your chances.”
“Okay fine, I just wanted you to be here for the big reveal. You know, I’d be lost without you. All those years studying together. What a lunkhead I would be without you.”
Angela rolled her eyes. She looked pointedly at the envelope.
“Alright, alright, hold your horses.”
Jim tore across the top of the envelope, ripping the paper in jagged lines. He pulled out the folded piece of paper inside. As he was about to unfold it and read it, Angela touched his hand. She looked at him with those coffee brown eyes. Jim could feel alive inside those eyes. He could live forever as long as she looked at him.
“Wait there a second. Let me go get something first, okay? Promise me you won’t read it without me?” she asked.
“Whatever you say, sweetheart.” Jim gave another mock salute.
Angela disappeared into the house. Jim heard her footsteps pad up the stairway. The paper felt heavy in his hands. Surely, it would be fine to open it. Angela would never know he had read it without her. What was the harm? The rules were supposed to be strict but how would they know when he read his?
Jim read the words.
We regret to inform you that your existence is not essential. You will be erased from this existence shortly. Please stand by.
The truth hit Jim’s mind like a thunderclap. He was not needed. For anything. There would be no Angela, no outer space. Just nothing. He watched as his hands began to fade away, the paper dropping from his fingers and fluttering to the ground.
As Angela came to the door, clutching her letter, she burst outside. She knew she had wanted to show the letter to someone. She was proud of the proclamation on it.
You have been deemed essential and will be allowed to pursue your desired career of space exploration. Congratulations.
She looked outside but there was no one standing there. Why had she come out here? She looked down and saw a piece of paper fluttering in the wind. It looked like a letter.
“Is anyone out here?” she asked.
No answer came.