I grew up in a small town. It was one of those towns where everyone knew each other. It was small enough where no one really used their car. Most folks would walk to their destination. People greeted each other with a smile. It really radiated that “small town” charm.
A hidden treasure of living in a small town, is that residents still write letters to one another. It was a quaint way to catch up with friends or send updates about your own life. I frequently received letters and postcards from friends and family. I received letters from grandparents (with the obligatory $5 check). I received postcards from friends who were away at camp during the summer. Checking the mailbox was a daily treat.
I stayed in my town after getting married and settling down. My parents had passed away shortly after my marriage, so I was receiving quite a bit of their mail while I was rectifying their estate. Their passing was hard on me. They had died in a tragic car accident. They were coming home from a church potluck when my father hit a patch of black ice and swerved off the road, crashing into a ditch and killing them both on impact.
There was speculation as to whether this was the true story. Rumor had it that my parents’ bodies were unscathed, not like those of car crash victims. People talked of a police cover-up, or a suicide pact. I tried to ignore it and let my parents rest in peace. I did my best to take care of their estate and sell their home in a timely manner.
The week after we laid them to rest, I went to their home to help clean up before putting it on the market to sell. The house had a much different feeling than when I had grown up there. The trees in the front yard were overgrown. The branches were bare and looked like spindly fingers scraping up against the side of the house. I was unsettled as I opened the door. I was greeted with musty air. On their table were two stacks of letters in two separate piles.
I approached the table to try and sort through everything. My mother, who had been an accountant, was quite organized. I was surprised to find one pile of mail was untouched, but it looked like it was the more important pile. Late notices, bank statements, and other urgent mail all sat untouched. Next to the unopened mail was a uniform stack of envelopes. They all read my parents name and address in large blocked lettering. I was surprised there were not contents in the envelopes, nor a return address. I wondered what had been inside the envelopes, but quickly brushed the thought aside. I focused on the unopened mail that needed attending.
After leaving my parents now desolate home, I checked my own mail. All the late notices reminded me I had my own bills coming up to pay. I rifled through the usual junk mail, looking for something important pertaining to the estate. One evening, I pulled out the usual stack of mail. On top were bills, but nestled in between the usual mail was a peculiar envelope. It was small, but thick. My name was listed out in big block letters in black pen. I noted there was no return address on the envelope.
I brought the stack of mail inside. I set aside the regular mail and attended to the letter addressed to me. I figured it must have been a postcard from a friend who decided to send the card in an envelope to protect it from damage. I stared awhile at the front of the letter, trying to decipher whose handwriting was on the envelope. After deciding it was unrecognizable, I opened it up to find out who had sent the letter.
I pulled out a single sheet of construction paper. It was white, but very thick. I had thought that the letter was pages long based on the weight of the envelope, but there was only a single piece of paper enclosed. In the same blocky text, a message was written to me.
“GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS.”
The next day at work I told my coworker, Jane, about the strange note I received. Her face went pale as I told her about the blocky lettering and strange construction paper.
“Lots of people have been getting letters like that. Threatening letters with personal information. I haven’t received one, but my brother has. He says lots of people in his congregation have been receiving scary letters in the mail.”
Jane’s brother was a pastor at my parents' church. He was actually the one who set up the potluck that my parents drove home from when they crashed. Jane had always felt a bit guilty, as the potluck had been her idea, but I assured her that accidents happen.
A week went by without another strange letter in my mailbox. However, rumors were swirling of the same types of letters appearing in the mailboxes of the church’s congregation. The letters often had personal information, or just had a single line of foreboding text. The pastors at the church tried to assure their flock that the letters were just a prank, and to have faith that the letters would stop.
The next Saturday, I drove up to the church to donate some of my parents' remaining items that I did not find sentimental. Old clothes or books that no one was reading. Jane’s brother, the pastor, greeted me. He was wringing his hands in an anxious manner. As I turned off the car and popped the trunk, the pastor rushed over. I walked around to the back of my car to greet him.
As I handed him the box of items, he quickly took it from my arms. He thanked me and scurried back into the church, barely telling me goodbye as he shut the door. It was strange, but I assumed he was preparing his sermon and was probably rushing to finish for Sunday.
When I got home, I checked the mail. There were only two letters in the mailbox that day. One was a bill for the real estate agent who had assisted in the sale of my parents' home. The other piece of mail was a small envelope. What jumped out at me was the blocked lettering and my name scrawled out in black ink. I cautiously opened the letter. Again, I pulled out a single thick sheet of white construction paper, with a single line of text.
“PETE AND CINDY - PENNANCE FOR THE POOR. YOU HAVE TO ANSWER WHEN GOD KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR.”
I realized I had been holding my breath as I was reading. I let out a heavy sigh. Pete and Cindy were my parents’ names. That wasn’t personal information, anyone in town knew could have sent me this letter. I decided to do a little investigating and drove up to the church.
The church was a small run down building that sat by itself on the edge of town. The church was reliant on donations from the congregation to keep its doors open, which it had been struggling to do until Jane’s brother took over. It seemed like people were attending the church just to see him. Many people in town started to leave something to the church in their will in hopes their last good deed will cement their place in heaven. My parents were no different, they left much of their monetary wealth to the church.
At the time this had bothered me. Something about my parents giving away all the money they had worked so hard for never really sat right with me. My parents were never as devout in their faith when I was growing up. It wasn't until they met Jane's brother at this church that they started to regularly attend.
Putting those thoughts to the back of my head, I pulled on the door handle. I was surprised to find it locked. Most churches didn’t lock their doors, and this one was no different. I put my ear to the door, straining to hear who was inside. The thick wood doors kept out any sound, and I resigned myself to knocking. I pounded on the heavy door in hopes someone was still inside.
Jane’s brother answered the door. He looked even more anxious than before. His features were sunken in, as if he hadn’t eaten much lately. His eyes had large dark circles underneath, suggesting he hadn’t slept much either. His dark hair was frazzled. The air in the church was musty and heavy. It smelled like he hadn’t left the building in days. Behind him I saw the pews lined up neatly and his podium in the back. He tried to meet my gaze in an attempt to keep me from looking around.
“How can I help you? Do you have more items for donation?” His eyes were darting behind me, as if he thought I had brought someone with me.
“Actually, I received another one of those strange letters that people in town keep receiving. I honestly thought the first one was a prank, but this most recent letter had a much more threatening tone.” I was trying to watch his reaction as I explained why I had come back.
“Oh, those letters, everyone is quite afraid of them. I’ve heard some members mention they received something strange in the mail. All I can do is assure you that God works in mysterious ways and to have faith that he has a plan.” He turned away from me, as if the conversation was over.
“Well, you may be right, but this letter mentioned my parents.” I pulled out the sealed envelope from my purse. The pastor had turned back to me, and his expression was now clearly fearful. As I handed him the letter, his eyes grew wide.
“I honestly have no clue what this could be regarding. Your parents were very active members of the church, it’s only obvious that they would have some knowledge of how the church was being run.” He nervously handed me back the letter, his hands shaking the envelope inside its plastic cover.
“I guess I just thought you could help me figure this out. Thanks anyway”. I was unconvinced that this man didn’t know anything. What was it that he was so afraid of?
The next morning I woke up to find the sky was overcast and gray. The ground was wet with precipitation, but I didn’t remember it raining the night before. As I opened the door, I noticed the flag on my mailbox was up again. I was flooded with fear. I walked over and opened up the box and was unsurprised to find another letter. The same blocked capital letters immediately indicated what this message was.
“YOU WOULDN’T WANT AN ACCIDENT.”
The mail didn’t deliver on Sunday, and I had checked the mail after it was delivered the Saturday before. I couldn’t think of a single person who knew I went up to the church last night. I started to get the feeling I was being watched. These letters were no longer a silly prank. Someone had followed me home and put this letter in the box sometime after my nighttime visit to the church. I was getting nervous now. The letters were getting more to the point, like someone was getting irritated with my poking around.
This time, the line of text was accompanied with a small blocky drawing. It was a building set back by itself, with a crumpled car sitting next to the building. It was crudely drawn in red ink, like a child had found a pen and tried to make a picture. The contrast between the text and the almost innocent picture was disturbing. As I studied the picture more, I realized I recognized the building. It was the church.
I waited until the safe cover of night to head back to the church. When I got to the driveway I shut off the headlights of my car as to not make anyone aware of my presence. I sat for a moment. The shadows of the dark parking lot danced across the hood of my car. As I collected my courage, I heard a scream.
Cautiously I walked out of the car. I walked slowly up around the back of the church from which the scream had emanated. As I peaked around the corner of the old building, I saw an older couple lying on the ground, dangerously still. There was a car nearby, presumably theirs. Standing over them, was the pastor.
He was panting. His regular church garb was wrinkled. In the dark I could just make out a large wet stain on his chest. His hair was even wilder than it had been when I met him earlier in the day. He was holding a large candle stick, the one that sat on the table hind his podium that was often lit during sermons. It glistened in the moonlight. The tip was coated in blood and hair.
I was holding my breath so that I would not be noticed. I continued to watch him in horrified silence, trying not to dry heave. The couple was not moving, and their bodies laid in awkward positions, obviously lifeless. The pastor walked up to the car and opened the driver’s side door. He turned back to the bodies, and for a moment I thought he might have seen me. I ducked behind the wall again, holding my breath.
When I heard him begin to move again, I peeked back to watch him. He was lugging the man to the driver’s seat. He placed him in the seat and buckled him in. The man had yet to move. He then did the same to his motionless partner. The car was facing me, towards the exit of the church parking lot. I was sidling up against the wall to avoid being seen. The headlights flashed on and I watched as the pastor ducked back into the car. To my surprise, it started moving toward the exit.
The car slowly picked up speed as it left the parking lot. The car continued to accelerate, and I watched in horror as it veered toward a tree, smashing hard on impact. I was so lost in the scene of what I had just witnessed, I had forgotten about the pastor behind me.
I rushed back to my car. I fumbled for the keys and turned the car on. I forgot to turn the headlights on as I sped out of the parking lot, back to my house. My legs were shaking and my whole body was covered in a cold sweat. I pulled back into my driveway and tried to catch my breath. I opened my garage door and pulled the car inside. To my horror, a single piece of construction paper dangled from the emergency stop string on the garage door opener.
There was no envelope. Just a piece of construction paper dangling. The text was scrawled in more hurried handwriting. I was not sure how it even got into the garage. I had locked the house and my garage had a security key pad. It was then I noticed the text of the letter.
“PEEKABOO. I SAW YOU.”
Written by BlizzardLemon