ix. the post office

The old post office stood at the center of the city, a relic from a distant past when people wrote letters to each other using pen and ink on paper. They placed the letters in envelopes, affixed stamps to the front, and set them out for pick-up by a mail carrier. Inside the post office, busy workers received, sorted, and prepared all those letters for delivery. The building’s massive columns and ornate facade suggested that at one time the people were quite serious about their letter writing. Twin gargoyles on opposing corners of the roof warded off evil spirits, and yet they hadn’t been fearsome enough to frighten off the purveyors of a digital age.

When she arrived it wasn’t quite noon yet. Only a few blocks away the orbs were picking up their weekly rations at the depot. She hated going there. They treated her with disdain because they could see her face. But she still felt their hidden resentment radiate toward her like blasts of oily steam. Early on they’d suspected her of being a quidam. Yet no one had ever seen her with anyone else or even heard her speak. She was silent and alone and so they deemed her harmless.

Now she sat on the wooden loading dock wondering if the boy had played a joke on her. The quidams did have a penchant for trickery. But she wanted to believe him and so instead she wondered why arrange a meeting here, in the middle of the city, so close to the depot. As she puzzled over this, the metal service door behind her suddenly rolled up and Ana walked out onto the loading dock. A woman wearing dark fatigues stood behind her with the boy from the day before.

She’d been expecting them to creep out of a nearby alley, or perhaps even crawl up from a sewer drain. Her shock at their appearance from inside the building mingled with the relief of seeing a friendly face. It had been so long. Ana approached her, a wry smile upon her lips, and offered her hand. She grasped it and let herself be pulled to her feet.

“Come inside, you must be cold,” Ana said.

Inside the building Ana embraced her and she felt herself become whole again.

“Lydia,” Ana said. “How have you been?”

The shock at hearing her name spoken caused her long legs to tremble.

“I don’t know. I’ve just been…surviving, I guess,” she replied.

Then she laughed. Everything suddenly seemed so absurd. The rain, the fires, losing her voice, finding Ana, the fact that the quidams were now living in a building just blocks from the depot…she wondered if she was dreaming it all. Or maybe she’d been asleep since that day at the station and was only now waking up. She didn’t care, though, as long as it continued. Please don’t let it stop, she thought.

Ana smiled and took her hand. They toured the building as Ana talked about what was happening. The quidams had only been there for a few days. They were, in fact, planning to leave the city and this was their last stop. They hadn’t been able to resist the bittersweet pleasure of squatting in the post office before they left for good. Contact had been made with other like-minded survivors outside the city. Promising news came to the quidams of a better life in the rural areas, where some survivors had implemented ideas similar to their own but on a larger, more sustainable scale.

The atmosphere in the building crackled with energy. For once people saw a small sliver of hope in their lives again and Lydia felt lucky to be there as they indulged in it. They shared an afternoon meal together and she couldn’t believe how good the food tasted. Her own utilitarian meals fell far short in comparison. When everyone had finished eating, Ana took her aside.

“We’re leaving the city tomorrow, Lydia. Do you wish to join us?”

Lydia stared down at her hands. She’d carried such low expectations with her to this meeting, for that is how this new life had taught her to live. Now there was an unexpected chance to change all of it. She knew she had to take that chance.

“Yes! Oh yes, Ana, I do.”

Ana smiled. “I thought you might,” she said. “I think you’ll fit in well, Lydia. You’ve probably read more books than all of us have put together, and those words stored in your head are invaluable.”

Lydia thought about the library. She would be sad to leave all the books behind. But it was a small thing to surrender in the face of such opportunity.

Ana kept talking as they walked back through the building to the loading dock.

“We leave early…0400 hours, well before the orbs start moving around. By the time they wake up, we should be out far beyond the city limits. Meet us back here at the loading dock and don’t bring too much, okay? Just the necessities. We’ll handle the rest.”

“That won’t be hard as I don’t own much.”

“One last thing, Lydia,” Ana said, her voice lowering. “I have something for you.”

She handed Lydia a small silver object. It was cylindrical and looked much like a flashlight.

“What is it?” Lydia asked. The object felt curious, both light and heavy in her hand.

“I hope you won’t need it, but if you do you’ll know how to use it.”

Lydia was mystified but she trusted Ana, and so she slid the object into her coat pocket and ducked out into the early evening air.

“See you tomorrow, my friend!”

She hopped down from the loading dock to the pavement and walked back up the hill toward her quarters, feeling lightness spread farther inside her with each step.

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  1. ashley

     /  July 18, 2012

    Thanks for another segment. It is so graphic. I can see it all in my mind.

  2. ladywrenna

     /  July 19, 2012

    I feel like she is more lost now than ever.

    • I can see that. It can be very disorienting to be pulled from the womb of solitude, as she has been.



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