by Blizzy Fox
Horror Short Story (Five Chapters; 10k words)
Henry William was lucky to abscond from what he could only assume was certain death. He drove as fast as he could into the dazzling lights of Diamond City and laid on his bed with his eyes open, still burning with the horrific sights from hours ago.
The Queen had many options to choose from. She could murder Henry like the cursed woman who believed herself to be Jacob’s rightful wife. She could also turn him into the eternally living and welcome him into the lovely community of Town Salem, formed by the missing townsmen she hand-picked over the last decade, so that they can happily dwell together in eternal peacefulness. Lastly, she could just let him go and live what she could only assume was a scarred life, an option she refrained from choosing, but nevertheless did, because she knew it was what he wanted.
A new day had arrived in Diamond City. The morning sun was beaming in the cerulean sky, casting a golden shower upon the undulating waves. From Henry’s balcony view, Diamond City was beautiful beyond words. He took his time taking in the vistas as he took a sip from his morning coffee. Henry had spent hours playing certain scenes of a nightmare in the back of his head. The experience reminded him of an old friend who was prone to these nightmares, and he would always tell Henry about it. Henry would listen attentively and strive to extricate him from his incessant anguish and depression. Henry smiled sadly. However he loved those moments, he knew that they were no more, for the friend had left him, carrying with him the wonderful times he loved to revisit.
He did not sleep at all that night, and he woke up feeling mentally and physically drained. Despite that, he was determined to go to work that day. After all, he had never, in all these years, missed a single day of work.
As he sat in his office and tidied up his desk, scenes of the horrific night were played again and again in his head, cluttering his mind with fear and anxiety. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The Queen had underestimated Henry. He was unlike Jacob, and although yesterday’s memories were irrevocably etched into his conscience, he would carry through with sheer will and determination, just like how he dealt with everything else in life. He promised himself that no matter how powerful and overbearing the darkness is, he would constantly remind himself that in this mirthless and macabre world there is still light, be it in the past or at present, be at the ends of the worlds or at plain sight, be it in his heart or in the hearts of many strangers that await him. There is always light to be found in life, and it can conquer the darkness.
So the first thing he did was logging onto his personal email account where dozens of old conversations with Jacob were archived. He decided to spend some time glossing over their contents, to reminisce about the old days, in a bid to paint over the darkness with bright colours of nostalgia.
Two hours later, a group of police officers paid an unexpected visit to Henry’s office. They were stymied on the Jacob Butler case and an early morning visit to the Butler apartment did not pay off; no one answered the door. Troubled and perplexed, the officers decided to return to Henry and ask him additional questions on top of the ones from yesterday. Most of them turned their backs against the idea. They were in no mood for another three hours long droning on someone they do not care to know, all while the garrulous stranger imprisons them in his office. In spite of that, they found themselves once again at the same spot as yesterday.
The police knocked. For the second time in the same day, the police were given the cold shoulder. It is not acceptable, so they barged into the room. They found Henry lying on his desk, face down. They checked his pulse, confirming his death, and determined that he died around thirty minutes before they arrived. His lifeless hand was still clutching onto his cup, which contained a special formula he taught his assistant to brew, Chamomile herbal tea. This time, however, he added cyanide for extra flavor.
The news of Henry’s death took Diamond City by storm. His closest friends and neighbors from his tight-knit community were the first to mourn for his death, and his funeral was attended by many, including strangers who were inspired by the great human being Henry was. Henry was the paragon of a good manager, smart, diligent, and well-beloved. It was a tremendous loss for both his coworkers and his company, which struggled to find a replacement after his untimely death. Without his input, the police closed the case temporarily on the disappearance of Jacob Butler and his wife Emily Butler. It was not until a month later when the border registry revealed new evidence to the police, a record that showed Henry exiting Diamond City in his car with Emily Butler. The case was hence reopened as the police searched for more incriminating evidence showing that Henry was behind the possible deaths of the two victims.
One lazy afternoon, the investigator assigned to work on the mystery discovered an email on Henry’s laptop. The email was received four days before his suicide in his own office, but it was opened and descried only thirty minutes before it, meaning that the email must have flown under his radar for four days before he happened upon it. At first, the investigator found it strange that a meticulous worker like Henry would allow such a mistake, but his bewilderment was soon cleared as he found out that the email was sent to his personal account, which he largely shunned, for all his focus was on managing his business account.
The investigator opened the email.
At the moment of you reading this letter, I would be off visiting a friend, and I don’t expect to return for a very long time. Before you make the move to find me like you did all those years back, which I am fairly certain you would be successful, please allow me to speak before your rash actions put you in great jeopardy. Henry, my dear friend, do not come and find me. You know that I must go back someday. You know that I can never fully turn away from the shadows, and the happy days in Diamond City are but refuge that I gratefully accepted in preparation for my timely return. I am conflicted about my decision. Life is better here, but then again, I love her, and I am bound by an obligation to return to my friends, my family, my people. Also, what better time for just that when my marriage is in shambles? This decision is better for both me and Emily than to file for a divorce, which I have sworn not to do. Anyways, it has been a decade since I saw Amelie. I did not know I loved her, but looking back, the feeling has always been love, and I miss it very much. I hope for her forgiveness, and I hope you can play a part in my voyage by wishing me luck. Henry, my dear friend, I want you to settle on the fact that I am safe and sound where I am, a place where I can seek endless joy and relief. It is also a place where your intervention will be unwelcome, so please, I implore you to abide by my words, for the sake of our friendship. Putting you in grave danger would be the least of my desires, and the worst of my nightmares.
Speaking of which, it has been some five years since we first met. God, how time flies. I remember the old times like they were just yesterday. Your friendship was the best thing to happen to me. I cannot put in words how thankful I am to be part of it. Over time, my life has been through many ups and downs. The vicissitudes of life have given me a headache, and coupled with the accruing thoughts and my troublesome marriage, I’ve grown cold to the world, and this is probably why I did not talk to you as much as we used to, for I feel like a burden. Do not take this as a showing of antipathy, or a sign of ingrate! Deep down, I cherish our friendship as much as I did five years ago. When you find yourself in doubt, please be assured that I always reminisce about the wonderful times we shared together. I hope you still remember all our best jokes, our favorite places, our funniest secrets… save for those nightmares that, in retrospect, I rather have kept to myself instead, lest they haunt you as they did to me. Anyways, I know you are a strong person just like me, aren’t you? But truly, I thank you for all you’ve done, and I thank the many lives I have crossed paths with in Diamond City. I never deserved all of this. I thank you for your kindness, however irrelevant it seems from this current point of view. I truly believe good deeds pay off, and you reap what you sow. Since I have failed to reciprocate all the kindness you have shown me, I trust that fate would procure you with commensurate amounts of what you so deserved, be it success, tranquility, or good health!
As I lay down my thoughts, my body shakes uncontrollably and tears are streaming down my cheeks. I have dreamed of this day many times, and yet when reality hits, not even the most prepared are immune. Do you remember our conversations on the roof? The scenes still play out vividly in my head. I said that I wished to die, but not any kind of death. I wanted the autonomy of death, and to remove the tethers of some misplaced obligations and twisted love! Never were those words so hard-hitting than it is now, and never did they better portray my conflicted state of mind. When it is your time to go, which I hope will never come to you, be sure to remind yourself of the privilege to die, the freedom to embrace death! Anyways, all these memories will stay with me for an eternity.
Also, one last thing before I go, please take good care of Emily for me, will you? You are no stranger to the troubles of my marriage. Although it seems as if this is the catalyst that led to my decision, I never believed it to be Emily’s fault. It has never been her fault. I don’t want her to feel bad at all, for I know for sure that she loves me still. She gave up so much of her life to bring color to mine. God, I’m so bad at giving back. Please, if you find yourself with the time and energy, pay a visit to my dear wife, and tell her that I have left home to explore new opportunities at the ends of the world, a voyage I chose to take on my own, and I will come back when it is due time. Do not tell her the truth; she need not know it. She shall understand, for she is a good friend just like yourself, not to mention the love of my life. Make sure that she lives a long and happy life, and tell her that I am sorry for everything. Seems like all that I do is to ask for everyone’s forgiveness, doesn’t it? Heh. Perhaps this is the meaning of my life – to force happy endings into an otherwise bleak tale. Welp, there goes Jacob Butler, I guess. Blah blah blah, and the banalities. All that aside, please tell her that I truly love her, okay?
I know I can count on you, my dear friend.