#MidWeekFlash prompt 148
Image by Scottish photographer, Christopher Marr. “I have so many questions … I found this bench in the middle of some woods I was visiting for the first time. No paths or walkways, literally stumbled across it perfect”.
Since the year 1826, there has been a parcel at the local post office, waiting to be delivered. The instructions left with it read:
To be delivrd to Mattoon’s Bench, unopend, on the forth sunday of the sevnth munth in the yeer 2020.
The story of who’d delivered the package had been all but lost to time. There remained a whisper of a rumour, however, if one knew who to ask. Henry, the seventy-eight-year-old postmaster, was a quiet old codger. He’d worked in the post office since his youth, apprenticing his father. Henry’s father had heard the story from the original postmaster’s grandson, before he retired. What remains of the memory of this event is as follows,
A middle-aged man, covered in dust and reeking of alcohol, stumbled into the one-room post office one night, just before closing. His slurred words were nearly unintelligible, but the postmaster understood what he wanted. Hoping to get him to leave quickly so he could get home to his family, the postmaster nodded and took the parcel from the mysterious man. The stranger then grunted ferociously, anger flashing in his eyes, before jabbing a dirty, crooked finger at a small note attached to the package. The postmaster read the hastily scrawled words, his eyes widening in disbelief. The delivery date was surely a mistake. He tried to ask the man if he’d meant to write a different year, but the response he received was just as baffling as the contents of the note. Without a word, the disheveled man locked eyes with the postmaster, pushed the package toward him slightly, turned, and walked back out the door, into the chilly night. Stunned and completely mystified, the postmaster stood at the counter, gazing at the empty spot where the man had stood, his thoughts whirling. Eventually, he slid the parcel off the counter and placed it into a hidden wall-safe; there it would remain for the next 194 years.
When the day finally came to deliver the package, Henry awoke with a renewed vigor and sense of adventure. He no longer felt his seventy-eight years. Today, he was a young man, ready to face whatever the world could throw at him. With a confidence to envy the Gods, Henry quickly dressed and left for the office. He didn’t have far to go, and the brisk walk fed into his temerarious spirit. Arriving at the post office, he could barely unlock the doors, so excited was he to see this mysterious event to its completion. Once inside, he made for the safe. Not much had changed in the small town, and the safe, though updated, remained exactly where it had been all those years ago.
He gently removed the old box from its resting place. Still hurrying, but taking care to mind the package, Henry left the office to make the short trek to the park where Mattoon’s Bench could still be found. Though the area was now largely forgotten and overgrown, its history was rich and complex. Nobody knew who Mattoon was, or why there was a bench placed so deep into the woods. He walked until the trail wore thin and even farther, where the sunlight barely reached the ground through the tops of the cypress trees. There it was. A lone bench, covered in a soft, green cushion of velvety moss. Henry paused; he wanted to enjoy this moment as long as he could.
He stepped forward. Clutching the package to his thumping chest, he slowly made his way to the bench, unsure what to expect. Finally, he was standing in front of the ancient seat. He placed the parcel on the ground, leaning it up against the leg of the bench. Then, he sat. And waited. And waited. Until…
Henry blinked. Opening his eyes, he realized he was lying down. How did that happen? He looked to his left. The package. It was somehow lying next to him. But, where was he? What had happened at Mattoon’s Bench? He soon had his answer as he sat up in the dingy bed upon which he lay, and looked out of a glassless window. This was not 2020.
Thanks to Miranda Kate for this #MidWeekFlash prompt!
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*Author’s note: Once I figure out what’s happening in this story, I’ll gladly let you know. Stay tuned!