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Jonathan Stevens, 13 Jan '13

The Unknown Missives I

Time pushes history and memory before it like a bow-wave. Lives and events can be crushed beneath, doomed to be forgotten. Others are smashed together in that tumultuous, confused mêlée to become something like each other, but unlike what they were. But some rise above, riding the wave, tossed and thrown, but never lost. Buoyed up by virtue of re-tellings. The simple act of repetition granting them a form of immunity to the otherwise uncompromising weight of time.

What makes these elements unique varies. Events too important to forget; people whose actions, for better or worse, shape history in such a way as to become inexorably wrapped in it. The memory of civilisation is not picky when it comes to those it favours. But it is rare that one element can weather the passage of time and remain unchanged. To be remembered by so many for so long, that it seems less a memory and more an event still ongoing. Rarer still to find something so well remembered, yet so ill-defined. Such is the case with the Unknown Missives

The origin of those strange and unsettling letters is unclear. Trading caravans who travel the vast sun baked clay flats of Al-Kahzul say that they can sometimes be found pocking up from between cracks in the scorched ground, as if pushed up from below by unseen hands. The tribes of the vine choked ruins of Bak say that they are placed beside a sleeping man or women by hazy, undefined shapes that whisper unknown words in a sibilant tongue. Even the offices and houses of those in the highest seats of power are not free of the hushed rumours of strange documents found in basements or attics long believed empty.

But all agree that when a person finds themselves in possession of one such letter, it marks a radical change in their fortunes. Sometimes for the better. Often for the worse. They mark a kink in the otherwise defined thread of their fate. A re-rolling of the dice by an unknown hand. And not even the distance of continents, nor the gulf of cultures can change the meaning of the words or icons or pictograms or even, impossibly, sounds displayed upon their time worn surfaces.

Comments · 3

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  • Jonathan Stevens said...

    The first of a series of (very) short stories called The Unknown Missives. Bizarrely the concept for these arose around the need to tell my friends which pub we were planning on meeting at one night. Instead of just giving them the address, I figured I'd make things a bit more interesting, and give them the information in the form of a story. The idea caught on, and so The Unknown Missives were born.

    Each of the Unknown Missive stories is designed to end in the directions of a new pub: this is the cryptic words found on each note - utterly unfathomable and alien to the reader in the story, but the exact opposite for the reader in real life. I realised, however, that each story could work without this additional information. The reader is therefore free to make up their own mind as to what exactly the notes may or may not say.

    Comments welcome. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • C.A. Head said...

    This is a very interesting concept; and strong writing. I look forward to seeing more in the series.

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Robbie MacInnes said...

    Really enjoyed reading this and think the concept is great.

    You must be a really annoying friend if that's how you direct your friends to the pub.

    • Posted 7 years ago