Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Postcards (08/29/05)
TITLE: A Postcard from the Edge
By Bill Shurkey
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At the front of the line someone cheered and I jumped. I searched up and down the line trying to find a familiar face. Everyone was a stranger and all seemed preoccupied with their own thoughts. No cell phone rang and no one talked. I thought that was highly unusual in a line so long and it only raised new questions for me. The old man directly behind me read a newspaper and the rustling pages was all that broke the heavy silence. I tried to remember what brought me here. What was I doing just before I realized I was in line? My memory was vague. I do recall the lunch meeting with Fred but couldn’t remember where it fit into the sequence of events.
A scream of severe agony pierced the silence and I jumped again. Then I heard a loud clunk. People up and down the line shifted uneasily. Many of the women searched their purses and hastily began to write on whatever they had available. The men scrawled in their daily planners and the old man directly behind me scribbled frantically on his newspaper. I felt in my pockets. I had nothing to write with and nothing to say if I had.
I tapped the man’s shoulder in front of me to ask what was going on. He turned around. There was a frightened look in his eyes. I tried to speak but couldn’t. He pointed to his mouth and shook his head, then wrote on his pad of paper. He held it up for me to read: ‘it’s too late for talking. All we have left are our thoughts.’
Icy fingers crawled up my back and I shivered. What could that mean? I pondered the note but couldn’t figure it out. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a commotion up ahead. I peered around the man in front of me to see what was going on. I saw a very tall man usher a woman down the line. He walked behind her with a hand on each of her shoulders. The woman struggled and screamed but was unable to get out of the man’s grasp. I didn’t know what the problem was but I felt sorry for her. She seemed scared to death.
As they got closer, I gasped. I recognized my next door neighbor, Audrey. What in the world was going on? They stopped alongside me next to the manhole cover. Audrey spotted me and her mouth contorted as she tried to speak. The hatred in her eyes took my breath away. She tried to speak again but no words came out. Quickly she fumbled in her purse and pulled out a pen and a tattered postcard. She scribbled hastily on the back and flung it at me. The man reached down and opened the manhole cover. A blast of heat hit me in the face. In one swift motion he picked Audrey up, held her over the hole, and let her go. When her screaming faded away he closed the lid and latched it. The man looked at me then walked back to the front of the line.
Audrey’s purse lay where she had dropped it. Next to it was the postcard.
I picked it up and looked at the picture on the front. Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It looked familiar. I might have been there once but I couldn’t remember. I turned the postcard over to see what Audrey had written in such haste. Her message was short and I wasn’t likely to forget it: ‘Why didn’t you ever tell me?’
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