29 October 2010

"Friday the Thirtieth"

By Curtis C. Chen

The first postcard simply said "Have a killer birthday," with a photo from an old cemetery on the other side. No signature, no return address. I figured it was a joke, one of my old sorority sisters who'd seen my Facebook post and felt like messing with me.

The next few were the same kind of thing: "One day closer to dying," "Nobody lives forever," stuff like that. All with pictures of cemeteries in New England.

It wasn't until they started writing the messages in blood that I began to worry. I know because I scraped off some flakes, snuck them into the hospital where I worked, and tested them. Human blood, type A negative. No joke.

I had expected to get some weird stuff. It was one of those stupid ideas you have late at night, after drinking a little too much and maybe smoking something not quite legal. And yeah, I'll admit, I was feeling lonely. I was turning thirty in less than a month, and I didn't have a boyfriend or a decent career or a pony.

So I decided I'd ping my friends, ask them to send me postcards for my birthday. My parents moved around a lot when I was younger, so I knew people all around the world. I didn't specify what people should write on their cards. I figured I'd let them exercise their creativity. I just wanted to feel loved—or at least liked.

I posted on Facebook, sent a few mass e-mails, and waited. I got some nice postcards, but after a week of also getting a creepy graveyard image every day, I wasn't looking forward to the mail so much as dreading it.

After the tenth postcard—the one which talked about how many pints of blood are in a human body, and how many square feet of wall that could paint—I called in sick and sat by the window and waited for the mailman. He showed up around eleven o'clock. I walked up just as he was pulling out a plastic bin full of catalogs and credit card offers.

"You got anything for number twelve?" I asked.

The mailman turned and stared at me. "Hello. Have we met?"

"Apartment twelve," I said. "I'm expecting a postcard."

He smiled. "Ah, it's you. Of course." He turned back to his truck.

"Listen, aren't there federal laws against tampering with mail?" I asked. "Or sending hazardous materials? I only ask because I've been getting postcards written in blood, and that seems, I don't know, like it might be not okay."

The mailman turned back to me, grinning and holding a single postcard. His eyes glowed red, like coal embers inside his skull.

"I'm just the messenger," he said.

He thrust the postcard into my hands and disappeared in a plume of smoke.

After I finished freaking out, I sat down on the ground and looked at the postcard. The picture showed Edgar Allan Poe's gravestone. The message said:

Happy Birthday! You have been chosen. Enjoy the cake!

I'm really not looking forward to the cake.


Photo: gravestones at Chalmette National Cemetery, May, 2008