Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Letters (Short Story)

The Letters

It was a cold dark night. The moon was hiding behind the clouds as if afraid to see what was about to happen on the ground below.

Behind the manicured foliage, there was a man clad in black outfits that camouflaged the color of the night. 

He was observing an elegant house, waiting for the light to be turned off in its living room. Passing through the panes of the closed window, the other light from one of the bedrooms was also ablaze. The rumor had it that it was never put out every night.

The man dressed in black pulled the flashlight-lighter from his pocket. He briefly turned on its beam toward his watch. It read 2:38. He had been there for almost an hour, and yet the silhouette of a man beside the reading lamp had barely moved. The man was so engrossed by his reading. The rumor had it that he was living alone.

Harun could not wait any longer in the shadow. He had to barge into the house now. It was his best chance to make his mind at peace.

Almost a year ago, Harun’s beloved brother was killed. The incident shattered the life of the 15-year-old Harun. Since his father’s death, his brother, who had become the breadwinner of the family, was the next father figure he knew of. He had assured Harun that he would send him to college. His textile business partnership with Sakur Bandahala was profitable.

Yet, his brother’s murder put an end to his dreams. Harun had dropped out from the MSU Laboratory High School. His teachers and classmates were saddened about his decision, for he was somehow in the honor’s list. But since his mother’s sari-sari store business was not enough to support his schooling and his other five siblings’ needs, he had to stop and help his mother in the market. The opportunity for a good life was stripped of him. His hatred for his brother’s killer grew each day, especially when he saw his youngest sister silently crying out of hunger. If he only knew who the killer was, he would kill him on the spot.

Then, two weeks ago, he received an anonymous letter without a return address. Out of curiosity, he opened it up immediately. During the course of his reading, his looks had changed from one of doubt to resolve, until he was laughing like a mad man. Allah was not deaf to his prayers after all.

The letter read:

“Dear Harun,

“My conscience consumes me everyday for almost a year now. Today, I decide to tell you my awful secret: I know of your brother’s killer. He is Sakur Bandahala.

“Yours sincerely,

“The witness”

Despite his strong desire to avenge his brother, he still decided to spy on Sakur. He received his confirmation when many of Sakur’s neighbors told him that Sakur was a very disturbed man. Not once, they said, while Sakur was breaking everything in his house, he had shouted that he was so sorry he had killed one of his beloved friends. Hearing this, Harun went to his friend’s house to borrow a gun.

Tonight, as he climbed the grilled fence to Sakur’s house, he felt grotesquely happy that he could finally avenge his brother’s death. He jumped with his knees slightly bent to diminish the force of his impact with the ground. Then he stood up and ran the remaining short distance to the door.

Holding his breath, he silently approached the main door, the skeleton key in his right hand. He was surprised that he didn’t need the key, for the doorknob was unlocked. He put the key back to his pocket and pulled the gun from under his pants’ waist. Slowly, he then opened the door afraid of any creaking noise from the hinges. Nothing came.

He was now inside. The man, 20 feet diagonally from where Harun stood, was oblivious of Harun’s presence. Only when the man heard the click of the weapon ready to fire that he looked up from the novel he was reading. Looking surprised, the gaunt man, his eyes tired from lack of sleep, stood up and looked at the intruder.

“Why did you kill my brother?” asked Harun, his gun leveled at Sakur’s belly.

“I have reasons that your young mind can not understand,” said Sakur.

The words were the final confirmation for Harun; this man was really his brother’s murderer! He felt a deep pain in his heart.

“Therefore, you will not doubt my reason of killing you, now!” Harun yelled, squeezing the trigger. A loud explosion ensued; a crimson blotch appeared on Sakur’s torso; blood expelled from his mouth.

“Yes, I understand,” Sakur faintly said, his face forming a grimace. Then the grimace became a smile before he turned his back and walked toward the alight bedroom.

Harun was confused. Sakur’s smile was not a devious one, neither bitter. It was a contented smile. Yet, the wounded Sakur was an easy prey; so, Harun allowed Sakur to open the room. Besides, Harun was taking strange pleasure seeing the killer slowly die. He was not concerned about the neighbors; they were fast asleep by now.

When the door was open, a putrid stench wafted through the house. Curious where it came from, Harun followed the bleeding man to the room. As the man limped toward the bed, Harun saw a skinny woman lying on it. But no, dear God, no! It was only a skeleton garbed in a woman’s dress. Then, the man lay down beside the grotesque figure. He caressed the skeletal face while tears were filling his eyes.

The dying man looked up at the perplexed Harun and said, “I am not as brave as my wife,” before his head fell to the bed, dead.

Harun was dumbfounded. As he darted his eyes around the room to find sense in what was going on, he noticed the papers on the dressing table. He approached the table and picked up the papers with his free hand. It was only two sheets. No! The first paper was the letter. God Almighty! It was the same letter he received two weeks ago. Putting the gun on the table, he pulled out his copy in his pocket; it was really the same!

Then he flipped the paper to read the other one beneath it. It was another letter. It read:

“Dear Husband,

“I am no longer worthy of you. Your friend has defiled me when you were in Zamboanga. Hamid Aqibba raped me. If there were really life after death, we will meet there, my love. I will always love you! Goodbye!

“Your loving wife,


Harun had dropped the letters from his hands. He felt that all the things around the room were spinning around him. His knees buckled, unable to carry his weight any longer. He felt weak. His brother was a rapist, after all.

Another loud explosion disturbed the silence of the night. Up above the sky, the moon had now set free from its cloud cover as if to tell the world: “When those impulsive souls should meet in The Hereafter, it would be too late to repent for their mistakes.”

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