This story was my submission for round ten of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction contest. The prompt was to tell a story in the form of a voicemail message.
Karen? It’s me.
I don’t want… I don’t want you to freak out.
This isn’t a joke, I promise. It’s really me.
You need to stay calm.
I don’t have much time here, they…
You’re probably pretty upset right now. I know I would be too if I’d just seen…
I can’t imagine. What you must be going through.
But you have to listen. You have to listen to me, honey.
There’s a way to fix it. There’s a way to fix everything.
I wouldn’t be talking to you if there wasn’t a way.
These people here, it’s… amazing, honey. I wish you could see it.
The sunlight has this. I can’t quite describe it. I don’t have the words to…
Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked.
Karen, honey, you need to do exactly what I say.
The police have probably already talked to you, but if they haven’t… don’t mention this call.
They won’t understand. It’s very important. You have to keep this a secret.
Everything is going to be fine.
I need you to go downtown, to that little restaurant we used to go to.
The Italian one, the one your mother liked so much.
I almost proposed to you there, did you know that?
I hope it’s not too late. It doesn’t have to be too late.
Go to the restaurant downtown and talk to Tino. He’s the manager.
Tell him you need to go through the blue door.
He’ll know what you’re talking about.
Don’t let him talk you out of it.
He’s never been through the door. He doesn’t know.
He has a key, though.
I trust him. You can trust him.
Make him give you the key.
Ask him to take you to the blue door.
There’s a back way, he knows how to get there.
Make sure to take a coat.
Something about that place… it sucks the heat right out of you.
And I know how you get.
Your feet are like ice cubes.
But I don’t mind. I miss it. I miss you.
Go through the blue door and you’ll be in this tunnel.
Make sure you don’t touch the walls.
You might see some… people there.
I don’t want you to be afraid, but you have to be careful.
Some of those people can… they can do things.
They can’t be trusted.
But they’ll leave you alone if you don’t make eye contact.
Just face forward and keep walking and you’ll be there in no time flat.
You might want to wear some good boots, too. The floor gets kind of rocky.
You’ll come out into this big room.
I asked them once how big it was and nobody could tell me.
There are flowers there that look like they came from an alien planet.
Don’t let the people there sell you anything.
The thing that looks like a dog is not a dog.
Head to the far side of the room and you’ll get to this big house. It’s a mansion, really.
Talk to one of the guards and tell him I sent you.
He’ll take you in to see the duchess.
Tell her what happened.
The whole story, from the beginning.
Tell her that I… that I’m dead.
She’ll know what to do.
She can be kind of scary, but she gets things done. She’ll help.
I know this is hard, but you can do it.
I have to go now. The connection won’t hold much longer.
I love you, honey.
I love you so much.