ONE LETTER EACH DAY


In the land of letters, there used to come a letter every afternoon.
The envelope would be light yellow.
A sheet of paper would be there inside, folded, thin, crisp.
It would be delivered to each one by turn, to one today, to another one tomorrow, to an uncle the day after, to his brother the next day, to their cousin the week thereafter, to her mother the following day, to her sister the next week.
Each one of them would receive it from the postman, hold it close to their chest for a while, and then drop it inside a large, rusted trunk kept at the far end of a hall.
What did it say?
One would ask the other.
There would sometimes be an answer to the question, sometimes not.

The large iron trunk with its mighty bolts had been a deposit bank for hundreds and thousands of such letters received by the inhabitants of this land for ages.
No one had ever seen the sender, yet everyone had a clear vision of him.
Grandparents had initiated their grandchildren into receiving the letters when their turns had come; great grandparents had watched silently as toddlers had curiously peeped into the
yellow envelopes.

One day when the enemy soldiers arrived and laid siege on the land their attention fell upon the trunk, immobile, mysterious, suspicious.
What’s there inside?
Letters, said a dozen voices.
Letters? Why aren’t they kept as personal items? Separately in each household?
One of the dozen voices said, that’s because they belong to all of us.
Interesting! Who writes them?
There was silence. Then a young woman, blond and tall, said, Our North Star.
Who?

As the war progressed and the victory of the opponent became clear, the soldiers, weary and homesick, wanted to have some fun. They broke open the trunk and flipped through the huge mass of yellow envelopes. Their blood-stained fingers tore through the pile. They dragged out some of the letters and held them before their ugly eyes. And then their vulgar laughter subsided as they stared at the nearly blank pages inside each envelope. Not a word was written on them. Only a few lines and designs, incomplete and asymmetrical, peculiar and provocative, lay as drawings on them. Half a tree, the torso of a man, the half-hidden face of a woman, a child’s fingers, a triangle, a trapezoid with two flowers on top...letter after letter revealed stories which the soldiers could not read.
Enraged and insulted, the commander ordered an inquiry.

What does this figure mean? The interrogator asked, grinding his teeth.
Oh, this one? The senior man’s unexcited response agitated him further. It shows our daily
routine. His calm response did nothing to convince the battalion.
And this? Another interrogator shook the table in front of him hoping to terrify the
respondent.
Which one? Oh, that one? That bears the lyrics of the lullaby which our women sing for the
babies.
Lyrics? The battalion heads yelled. Impossible! These are only a few curved lines.
That’s how we write our lyrics.
Liars!
What about this? One soldier tossed a letter across the table.
The senior man glanced at it and smiled.
What makes you smile, you fool?
I am sorry, officer. He straightened his face. This is the direction to our treasury where the real jewels are. In our community we preserve all valuables together, all passwords collectively. Our stories are written in parts by all of us. Our memories are also woven together. You see the advantage, officer? We don’t have to remember precious secrets alone.
Real jewels? The soldiers sat up. Where? Give us the direction. Immediately.
Umm, that’s difficult.
Kick him with the end of the rifle! He will be able to tell us then. The commander’s mouth glistened with imminent cruelty.
No, officer. You didn’t get me. No one of us alone can give you the direction. The route is revealed to all of us by these letters bit by bit, gradually. None of us knows it fully. See, for example here, this path which passes by the brook turns right and then there is a...
Oh shut up! When will you get all the letters? The commander’s impatience was palpable.

Before the senior man could speak, the tall young woman with the eyes of a hawk, said, it will take time. One letter each day. The direction communicated one day at a time.
The commander walked up to her and encircled her a couple of times, looking threateningly at her neck.
You say it’s your treasury and yet you do not know where it is. How is that possible? His moustache vibrated with every breath.
In our land, perfectly possible. The young woman looked back at him. The valuables of one age vary from those of another age. The treasury shifts from one place to another. But no
matter where it relocates, we hold it together. All. Of. Us. Collectively.
Some of the soldiers jumped up to pounce on the woman. The commander stopped them with a show of his hand. Narrowing his eyes he asked, And why are the letters without a single word? Why is nothing written in them?
The woman scratched her chin and replied, So that we can write our own story and then read them for ourselves. It’s for us to write and read. Not for you. You write your History, some
write their Herstory, we write Ourstory.

Did the letter come today?
It did.
What does it say?
The same as always.
Can I have a look at it?
No.

About The Author

Shrutidhora P Mohor is an author from India who has a love for odd, quirky characters. Her writings are mostly of the literary fiction variety and she has published stories and novellas with Ukiyoto Publishing Company since 2019. She has been longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award February 2022.