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art by Agata Maciagowska

The Dead Letter Office

Matthew Marinett lives in Toronto, Canada. He recently graduated from law school, and now works in intellectual property and advertising law. He started writing fiction at the age of eight, and still writes whenever he finds time in the margins of the day. This is his first story with Daily Science Fiction.
"Here's a good one," Kali said. The left corner of her mouth was curved up like a dog-eared page: her trickster smile. In her hand was a crumpled parchment with ancient letters scrawled messily across it. "'Please strike down this impious philosopher with your mighty lightning.' Unsigned."
Horatio moved beside her and tried to stare over her shoulder. "Addressed to whom?"
"Zeus, of course." She tossed the last parchment away and picked up a fresh letter from the pile, this one on vellum. "Oh, and here, another good one. 'Mighty Ares, vanquisher, lion-hearted, widow's sorrow,' blah blah, 'aid us in our coming battle,' something, something about Egypt and Octavian. This one does go on. Signed Mark Antony." She discarded the letter over her shoulder, chuckling. "Oh well, I'm sure it wasn't important."
"I suppose in the end, it doesn't seem like any of them are." Horatio looked around at the stacks of crumbling paper slouching into the horizon. Once, the letters may have been sorted, but in the eons since then the shelves had caved in or toppled down, and now papers were blowing about in a breeze that swooped in from shattered windows. "Why are we here?"
"To look," she said.
"For what?"
"Oh ho!" Kali said suddenly, drawing up a new missive written on torn paper. "Now, this one is from you." She flashed Horatio a sideways glance, eyes blazing cruelly. "Let's see here. Hard to read. Oh, it's to Venus: 'Please let Kali fall in love with me.'" Kali paused for a moment after she finished it, but her smile hadn't faded. "Well, Horatio, I'm surprised."
Horatio felt his cheeks begin to burn as he contemplated hiding behind a bookshelf. "I never thought you'd find that," he blurted. "I... I guess I should have told you before, but--"
"Oh no, please," she said, throwing the letter back into the pile. "I'm not surprised about that. I've known that forever. I'm just surprised you believed in Venus."
She was about to pick up another letter when Horatio stepped in front of her. "You've known that forever?"
Kali looked at him and shrugged, her smile diminished but enduring. "Well, not literally forever. But close enough."
"So," he stumbled. "So what does that mean?"
"It means I've known for a long time," she said, her voice less playful now. "It means maybe."
"Maybe?"
Kali looked away and picked up another letter. "Yes, Horatio. Maybe. In time."
"But here. This. This is the end of time, Kali."
"In one direction. Maybe I'll love you when the Sun first shines." Her left-handed smile renewed, mocking him, but her muted eyes betrayed it. "Maybe I'll love you when life begins in the sea."
"That's not funny." Horatio turned to the pile and picked one up. It was a prayer for a dying father. He as quickly threw it away. "Then I want to find one from you."
Her smiled vanished as she turned back to the page in her hand. "I only ever made one. And it might not be here." She discarded the letter in her hand and picked up another.
"Why?" he asked. "Because it was delivered?"
"I hope so."
"What did you pray for?"
She fell to her knees next to the heap of paper and sighed. "The same thing as you."
Horatio nearly launched himself into the air, he felt so light. "You did? Then it must have come true!" He tried to smile at her, but she wasn't looking. She was digging into the pile faster now, skimming each letter quickly before throwing it away. "I do love you, Kali."
Her head fell. "No, Horatio," she said. "I prayed for the same thing as you did. Exactly the same thing. I prayed... I prayed that I fall in love with you."
Horatio could suddenly feel gravity again. "I don't understand. Why? Why would you pray for that?"
She looked back at him, now tightly clutching at a ball of letters. Her eyes had gone cold. "Because it's just you and me, Horatio. I don't want to spend eternity like this. I need to know. I need to know if I can love you."
"I..." He stumbled for words. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything," she said turning away. "Just help me look."
Horatio fell to his knees next to her and looked into the stack of letters. It was just one unsorted pile in a sea of thousands. "This could take forever."
"Forever is what we have," she said.
Horatio could only nod at that.
Then, he picked up a letter, and began to read.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 10th, 2012


The idea for this short tale progressed much as the story does. The concept of a dead letter office for the gods started as a sort of joke, an amusing idea, but as I thought of it more, it became a more somber place, full of lost hope and last resorts. These two characters, stuck in time, had been kicking around in my head for a while and seemed to fit here perfectly. I may revisit them, and the end of time, again.

- Matthew Marinett

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