Elizabeth Guilt lives in London, United Kingdom, where history lurks alongside plate glass office buildings and stories spring out of the street names. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Flash Fiction Magazine, Electric Spec and The Colored Lens. You can find her at www.elizabethguilt.com, or on Twitter as @elizabethguilt.
The envelope was thin and cheap, and the ball-point address spoke of no-nonsense admin. As I picked it up, something cold and heavy slid from one end to the other.
I turned the envelope over: no sender’s name. I held it up to the light and tried to guess what it was. A hand-addressed envelope is a rare treasure, even a rough and grubby-looking one.
Inside was a single Yale key and a piece of lined paper, its top splayed and ragged where it had been torn from a notebook.
The black writing was straggly, and already sloping downhill.
The doctors say I don’t have long, a couple of days.
Please get my box out of my flat. There’s no one else I trust.
By the end, the letters were so weak and slack it was hard to read. The lines fell away to the right as if the writer was winding down like broken clockwork.
It was signed with a scribble that could have been anything. I knew it was an M.
At the bottom, a loose scrawl added Take… Slowly? I stared at it, until understanding stabbed me: Take Shelly.
I put the key in my pocket and the note on the table. With each breath, I tried to concentrate on the solid bulk of my chest rising and falling, but nothing felt real any more. I turned abruptly and walked back to the Tube station.
As the carriage jolted me from side to side, I stared at the window, checking my reflection for expressions. Occasionally I flexed my fingers, watching them clench and unclench, trying to ground myself. Nothing pierced the numbness that had settled the moment I saw that key again.