A Long-distance Message

A letter from 1929 mysteriously finds its way into Sierra's hands in the most unlikely of places.

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motivational statement written on brown envelope

Sierra sat in the dog park, in the pouring rain and watched Fritz race around the yard with Charlie, a greyhound rescue that belonged to her friend Matt.

The two dogs raced across the paddock, oblivious to the rain and mud. Fritz leaped over Charlie at the fence and barked. Charlie barked and raced back toward the bench where Sierra and Matt sat, sheltered by the large redwood tree.

Sierra stood to stretch her legs. She leaned against the trunk next to the bench and did several runner’s stretches on her calf and thigh muscles. Something white caught her eye, tucked under a strip of the redwood’s peeling bark. Balancing on one foot, finishing her stretch, Sierra leaned over and tugged at the white paper. An envelope came into view as she pulled.

Looking over her shoulder, Sierra saw Matt had stood up and was throwing a ball for Charlie and Fritz. She examined the envelope. It was faded and somewhat stained. Turning it over, she froze. The letter was addressed to her, Sierra Beverly Cartwright. It was postmarked 1929.

Stunned, she stood staring at the envelope bearing her name in black cursive ink. The dog park was forgotten. Matt, Fritz and Charlie no longer registered in her ears. Here was something that didn’t fit her frame of reference. How did something mailed 96 ago with only her name on it appear tucked into a tree in a busy city?

She turned the envelope over again, looking at the sealed flap a scrap of green sealing wax still clung to the paper. Gingerly, Sierra used her fingernail to slide under the flap and attempted to open the envelope. The adhesive gave way to her fingernail with minimal ripping. She cautiously opened the flap and looked inside.

A five inch length of crimson satin ribbon lay inside. Upon closer examination Sierra noticed one side had writing on it. She was startled by motion next to the envelope. It was her own hand. It was shaking. The talking butterfly tattoo on her wrist and forearm trembled.

This was too bizarre, she thought. Carefully she lifted the ribbon out to better read the messaged inked on the ribbon in the same flowing black script.

“Dear Sierra. You must stop them. The world depends on you.”

This short story is part of a daily 36-minute freewriting exercise I’m committing to. I used the following prompts:

  • Character: A talking butterfly
  • Action: opening an envelope
  • Setting: a dog park
  • Prop: a ribbon