Back before e-mail and the Internet, there were these things called “chain letters.” Actual letters that randomly circulated to the “unlucky” for immediate global dissemination and unheralded good luck upon the recipient. I received the exact chain letter in this story, and—except for the rest of this story—did exactly what Tyler Stevens did in the beginning of the story: dissected it for shits-and-grins. I had time on my hands back then.
Had these things started out as gags or bullying tactics?
I don’t believe in them. Chucked it or shredded it all those many years ago.
But then again…I am still waiting for my publishing career to take off….
I’m also changing up my short story links to my Short Story page. It’s much easier to manage all the links than putting them all down at the bottom of each post, which I have to constantly update and approve—individually—each time I post a story.
This story has never been published. Or copied. Or propagated. Or….
The Chain Letter
© F. P. Dorchak, 1994
“This paper has been sent to you for good luck. The original copy is in New England: It has been around the world nine times. The luck has now been sent to you, providing you act on it. You will receive good luck within four days of recieving this letter provided you sent it back out. THIS IS NO JOKE. You will receive it in the mail.
“Send copies to people you know. Don’t send money, as Fatehas no price. Do not keep this letter. It must leave your hands within 96 hours. An R.A.F. officer received $70,000.00. Jim Teller recieved $40,000.00 and lost it because he broke the chain. While in the Phillipines, George Weh lost his wife six days after recieving the letter. He failed to circulate the letter, however, before her death she won $50,000.00 in a lottery. The money was transferred to him four days after he decided to mail out this letter.
“Send 20 copies of htis letter and see what happens in four days. The chain comes from Venezuela and was written by Samir de Tressoint, a missionary from South America. Since the copy must have a tour of hte world, you must maske 20 copies and send them out or suffer possibly dire consequences. This is true, even if you are not superstitious.
“Beware: Cervantes Diego received the chain in 1943. He asked his secretary to make 20 copies and send them out. A few days later he won a lottery of two million dollars. Arian Dardamaix, an office employee, received the letter and forgot it had to leave his hands within 96 hours. He lost his job. Later, after finding the letter again, he mailed out 20 copies. A few days later he got a better job. Darian Fairfax received the letter and not believing threw it away. Nine days later he died. Be fair warned!
“Don’t ignore this!
“What the hell is this?” Tyler Stevens asked himself, turning over the letter. The quality of the lettering was poor, no doubt because of repeated copying, and there were stains on its tri-folded and crinkled paper.
“Shit, this guy can’t even spell ‘receive.’ And what’s with this have-good-luck-or-die business?”
Tyler had just returned home from a game of tennis with his girlfriend, Dyanne Foster, and he was tired, sweaty, and hungry. He was in no mood for stupid human tricks. On his way to the hot, comforting, spray of a shower, he cast aside the letter.
The chain letter quietly smoldered under the table.
Tyler sat in front of his television, spaced out to some documentary that droned on about middle America and the construction industry. Getting up, he went over to where he last remembered tossing the letter, found it, and picked it up. It seemed somewhat more wrinkled than he recalled.
Fucking chain letters.
He wondered how much time he had before death or dismemberment.
Four days. 96 hours.
He took the letter back with him to the couch and Reread it. Several things immediately stood out.
First, beyond the obvious imperfections in English and punctuation (and he was no expert), why would somebody who claimed to be a missionary send out a threatening letter? Good luck!—but disregard this and you die! Just what kind of missionary would this person be? And wouldn’t de Tressoint himself (or whoever possessed the original letter) himself die? The letter did say not to retain it, so who could be in possession of an original?
And next, how does this person know that the letter made one let alone nine trips around the world? If its sole purpose was to make that trip—which it had apparently already had—then why was it necessary to continue?
And just what did the original look like? Assuming that the letter actually brought about money and employment, it had to exist prior to the deeds themselves. So, this being the case, the incidents cited had to be added after the fact—which meant that the letter had to have been tampered with.
Provided, of course, all of this was for real. Which it wasn’t.
So who did the tampering?
And who the hell were Jim Elliot, George Weh, Arian Dardamaix, and Darren Fairfax, anyway? Made-up names, no doubt. And how do we know that their specific “luck” was directly attributable to this particular piece of paper and not something else? How do we also know that some prim and proper English Royal Air Force Officer would even remotely admit to such a humiliating act as this? Officers, let alone British officers were bastions of strength and logic—not prone to silly superstitions and patronizing threats.
Tyler set the letter aside and went into the kitchen. He grabbed a wine cooler from the refrigerator, returned to the couch, and continued to pick apart the letter.
It was really no big deal that a husband inherited money from a deceased wife. Sure, it was a bummer his wife kicked after winning all that money, but wasn’t something like that a legal given? And how do we know that the woman who kicked wasn’t already well on her way to begin with?
Same with the others who’d died.
And the man who asked his secretary to make copies for him—how many businessmen (like those British officers) do you know who’d admit to being superstitious even if they were? Citing names didn’t lend any more credibility to a piece of fraud then the paper it was written on.
But back to the “original.”
What might it look like?
Tyler fumbled through a coffee-table drawer and came up with a number-three pencil. He hated being threatened, which was exactly what this letter was doing. He began lining out everything that couldn’t possibly have been in an original, and corrected any misspellings. The end result turned out something like this:
“This paper has been sent to you for good luck! The original copy is in New England. The luck has now been sent to you, providing you act on it. You will receive good luck within four days of receiving this letter provided you send it back out. THIS IS NO JOKE. You will receive it in the mail.
“Send copies to people you know. Don’t send money, as Fate has no price. Do not keep this letter. It must leave your hands within 96 hours.
“Send out 20 copies of this letter and see what happens in four days. The chain comes from Venezuela. Since the copy must have a tour of the world, you must make 20 copies and send them out. This is true, even if you are not superstitious. Be fair warned!
“Don’t ignore this!
Aside from the suffering “…possibly dire consequences,” and “Be fair warned,” which didn’t fit the overall tone of the letter, there was no mention of death or destruction—just that it had to leave the hands of the recipient and make a tour of the world if good luck was to be had.
Now that sounded more like something a missionary might send.
Next question: who would add to the letter (okay, so this one wasn’t all that difficult—any Tom, Dick, or Harriet who felt so inclined over the years)? But who could possibly even know what had happened to these people, and (more importantly) what had happened as a direct result of this letter?
Not possible. It was all fiction.
Tyler looked for the envelope, a torn and crumpled ball in the brown Albertson’s shopping bag he used as a trash receptacle. Who would have sent this to him? Of course there was no return address…and his address (which was a qualified correct with its missing apartment number and typoed street address) wasn’t even centered on the envelope. Instead, it sat skewed high and to the envelope’s left of center. His last name was typed first. The zip code was correct only after a wrong digit had been over-typed. This couldn’t have been anyone who knew him. On a hunch he went to the phone book. Sure enough, the address used was the one listed in the white pages, which had no mention of his apartment number, or zip code.
Clearly a class act.
There was just no way that certain things could possibly have been known in this letter. It was either that the letter—the original—was real and subsequently altered, thereby making the one he had no longer valid, or that it was written up as-is and sent out—definitely a hoax. Or—
There were other means involved.
Tyler again trashed it.
The remainder of the week continued uneventfully and Tyler all but forgot about his chain letter—except for the rare moment or two when he found himself inexplicably making twenty copies of a magazine article…or the phone bill. Or buying that box of Mead 100 (twenty-times-five), white, 4 1/8 by 9 1/2-inch envelopes.
After finishing a later than usual work-out session at the gym, Tyler came home and showered. Afterward he soon fell into a deep sleep and slept soundly until three in the morning, when an uneasiness invaded his dreams. It was as if he dreamed of nothing but blackness…a deep, evil blackness that never ended. He tossed about in bed, unable to awaken…unable to break the dream’s hold.
The dream-darkness expanded within him like icicles of terror were actually invading his body. He dreamed of a beautiful woman who came to him from afar…a woman who seductively pressed herself against him…taunted and seduced him. They entwined…consummated. The scent of their lovemaking cloying, rich. The woman lay beside him, face down. He couldn’t look to her without becoming again instantly, painfully aroused. Slowly, he reached out to her. She rolled over to his touch…
“Come fuck me again,” she hissed.
The woman’s once-beautiful face was now misshapen and hideous. Punctuated with open sores and something running just beneath the surface of her odious, discolored skin. Her eyes were black and pupil-less and ran freely with a discolored puss. She cackled at Tyler, and he vomited. A wicked tongue shot out of the hag’s black, distorted mouth-that-looked-more-like-a-gash and licked up the vomit. Tyler tried to run…to break the hag’s dominance, but the hag’s tongue split apart and wrapped around his face, his torso, and down around his
Tyler shot up in bed and screamed, frantically running his hands all over his body.
A river of sweat ran off him.
He fell over in bed—then uttered another shriek as he fell onto the side of the bed where the hag was and whipped his body over to the other side of the bed.
His screams slowly died in his throat as he buried his face into the bedsheets and clawed them from their tucks and folds….
Opening his eyes he stared into the red glow of his alarm clock.
Three-ten, no, -eleven.
Closed his eyes, still clawing at the bedsheets
The room smelled differently….
Sweating, he slowed his breathing to a more normal rate and rolled back over. Cast a quick look to where the hag had ben—in his dream.
Empty. That side of the bed was empty…no vomit, no pus, no….
He reached down to himself. He uttered a sound of disgust. Wet dream, alright.
His stomach revolted.
He rolled over onto his side…and came face to face with the puss-leaking, diseased face from his nightmare. She lay in bed beside him, tongue flicking in and out of her knotted gash-of-a-mouth.
“Come fuck with me,” she croaked.
Her noxious and grating words blasted through Tyler like a pair of cranked, thousand-watt speakers.
Tyler squealed like a stuck pig and exploded out of bed, blankets and sheets still wrapped around him. He tripped over himself and the attached sheets and smashed over one of his dressers’ lamps as he vacated the room in one gigantic bound. In the darkness he ran into a wall and
come fuck with me I love a good fuck
laid himself out—
come fuck with me I love a good fuck
—but just as he was blacking out, Tyler saw the hag descend upon and straddle his….
come fuck with me I love a good fuck….
Tyler awoke groggily and leaned up against the bedroom doorjamb. Felt the painful bump and dried blood on his forehead. The bathroom lights were still on, but were now paled against the early morning sunlight. His mouth felt like an empty tree trunk with moss growing inside it and his neck was as stiff as a two-by-four. He slowly picked himself up and twisted the kinks out of his body. Looked to the blankets tangled in his legs.
How had he gotten here?
Tyler looked back to his bedroom. One of his lamps missing.
He shuffled out from the tangled sheets and returned to the bedroom. Found the lamp scattered about the carpet like a murder victim, its bulb smashed and lampshade torn.
His bed was deserted.
All his sheets were in a pile that lead into the hallway, where he had awoken. He threw himself down on the bed.
What the hell’d happened?
Clammy and shaking, Tyler didn’t feel at all well. Pushing himself up off the bed, his hand narrowly missed a dried, discolored stain on the sheets.
And there was just a hint of pungency to the air….
Nothing a good shower couldn’t fix.
After buying new, 60-watt light bulbs and a lampshade, Tyler hurriedly rushed home to clean up and meet Dyanne for their one p.m. tennis date. Showers were great, but when the hot water ran out it was time to get moving. It wasn’t that Tyler had a shower fetish, but there did seem to be nothing a warm shower couldn’t remedy and that’s what he loved about them.
Changing quickly, he made it out to the courts. Dyanne stood by the fence, waiting impatiently.
“What took you so long?” she asked, her words laced more than a little with annoyed attitude. Her racket swung casually from her two-fingered, I’m-not-at-all-happy-with-you-right-now grip. “These courts are severely booked—”
“I’m sorry, honey, but I had a rough night—”
“Oh?” she said, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.
Oh, that accusatory eyebrow.
“No-no-no, that’s not what I meant—I mean, I did have a rough night—but not from—look, I had a nightmare and ended up sleeping on the hallway floor, okay? Had to replace a broken lamp.”
Dyanne’s I’m-pissed look took on a softer look. “Excuse me?”
“The funny thing is, I can’t remember a damned thing about it, just that it scared the crap out of me.”
Embarrassed, Dyanne lowered her voice and uncrossed her arms.
“I’m sorry. Are you all right?”
“Yeah. I just had to pick up some new light bulbs and a new shade. I broke a lamp.”
“God, what happened? Can’t you remember any of it?” She moved in closer, brushing away some of Tyler’s bangs.
“Nope. Just that something literally scared the piss out of me. But, it was just a dream—now, let’s play some tennis!”
Dyanne and Tyler were deep into their second match, the score 30-40. Dyanne served the ball. Fault. Her next serve made it, but drew Tyler to the far end of the court. He barely snagged the shot before his own return forced Dyanne up to the net. Her return forced Tyler back to the rear and caused him to miss. Deuce.
Dyanne retrieved the ball and again served, spiking this one just inside the white rectangle. It whizzed past Tyler, who missed the most perfect serve he’d ever see.
“Ha, lover, my game! Oww….”
Dyanne was so cute in her pink shorts as she pirouetted about the court.
“Nother game, hon-ey?”
“Sure, but this time I win!”
Tyler set up and served. Dyanne picked it up easily enough and her return sent Tyler scurrying back across court. She was giving him a good workout, but his quick backhand sliced it to a sharp left. Dyanne rushed to meet it…and missed it by a hair.
The next scene suddenly slowed down.
Like a person unsure of what it was he was witnessing, Tyler watched as Dyanne performed a neatly executed forward spin from the momentum of her missed swing…her racket slowing left her hands and flew into the chain-link fence. She spun around for a second turn, moving backwards and towards the chain-link fence that enclosed the courts…her hands going up before her face.
She smiled just as she clenched the galvanized, crisscrossed wires of the fence.
Something’s wrong here, Tyler sensed, terrible wrong….
He couldn’t have known that a section of the fence’s wire had raised itself into tiny little barbs just where Dyanne’s hands were now planting themselves…but that’s exactly what happened.
As Dyanne made contact, she screamed…
And life returned to normal play.
Tyler sprinted across the court to Dyanne, who was now cupping her hands into her chest. Tyler leapt over the net and quickly came to her, her a tight grimace of pain.
“What’s the matter—what’s the matter—are you all right? Dyanne?”
Tyler crouched down on the court. She was in a heap, leaning back against the fence. “Dyanne—let me see!”
Tyler pulled her hands away from her chest and saw the blood that remained on her shirt and exposed skin of her upper chest. Lots of it.
Taking her bloody hand into his, Tyler felt his stomach
(come fuck with me I love a good fuck)
Her hand was torn to pieces.
Most of the flesh on the underside of her palm and fingers had been brutally torn away.
“Oh my…God. We’ve got to get you to a doctor!”
The other players on the court had now all stopped their games and looked on. Some turned away in disgust.
“Someone, please,” Tyler pleaded, “call an ambulance—please!” One man broke free from his daze and ran off in search of the payphone.
Tyler looked up to the fence where Dyanne’s hand had landed only seconds before and found it stood as nonchalant as ever—and there were indeed raised barbs on it. There were also droplets of blood…and what looked exactly like bits of Dyanne’s skin clinging to those barbs.
Come fuck with me—I love a good fuck….
Tyler took Dyanne home to her apartment and stayed with her. She looked so vulnerable…so helpless…and reminded him of a puppy, named Sheena, he’d once had as a kid. Sheena had been running loose one day, as did most dogs out in the country, when she finally met the front-end bumper of a ’67 Ford truck. She’d managed to limp off to the roadside, but could go no further and collapsed in the tall grasses, her left rear leg broken. The driver, a farmer from down the road, felt terrible and took her to the local vet, footing her bill. Sheena was back on her feet in no time, her rear leg bandaged in white and her tail wagging, but whenever it rained the family had to wrap her leg in plastic bags until she healed. Needless to say, she never ran free again.
So there rested Dyanne, her right hand bandaged white and lying on her chest, which rose and fell to her (finally) relaxed breathing. They had watched television all night and it was quite clear that Dyanne had plans that evening that totally involved a quiet night’s rest. As she fell asleep on her couch, Tyler picked her up and carried her into her bedroom. He gently lay her down in bed, took off her bathrobe, and eased her beneath the crisp bedsheets. Once she was properly situated, Tyler also disrobed and slid in beside her. He loved the feel of her warm skin against his and wrapped his arms around her. He fell asleep thinking about how much he loved her and hoped she’d be okay.
The alarm clock had gone off several minutes before either had noticed it, but Dyanne was the first to stir. She slammed it off with her bandaged hand and winced from the impact. She turned to Tyler, who still lay with his arms around her. Very mindful of her injury, Dyanne repositioned herself and kissed Tyler on the forehead.
“Time to get up, sleepyhead.”
Tyler stirred, eyes still closed. Dyanne gave him another kiss, then nudged him slightly.
“C’mon, honey, time to get up. I’ve got to get to work.”
This time Tyler responded with a soft smile.
“Hello, morning breath.” She smiled back. “What do you want to eat?”
Tyler said nothing, but instead rolled in closer to her.
“Fine, be that way, I’m taking a shower.”
Dyanne climbed out of bed and went into the bathroom, starting the shower.
“Don’t let that bandage get wet,” Tyler shouted from the other room. “Wrap it in a
bag or something—”
“Don’t worry, I heard the doctor too!” Dyanne said. Poking her head back into the bedroom, she added, “But thanks for caring.”
Dyanne felt silly doing it, but she got out a used Oroweat bread bag from the kitchen and wrapped it around her bandage. Using a large rubber band saved from many paper deliveries she secured it and returned to the shower. She tested the water before entering by inserting her good hand. By this time Tyler was ready for movement and slowly crawled out of bed. He took in the sounds of running water and Dyanne’s periodic splashing sounds from the shower.
Smiled. Got out of bed.
“May I join you?” Tyler asked, entering the shower stall.
“May I soap that gorgeous body of yours?”
“It depends on what else you have in mind.”
“Watch the hand—”
“Riiight,” she said, and came in closer.
Come fuck with me, I love a good fuck.
As the next few days progressed, Tyler found himself accumulating scars and bruises of all kinds…just little ones here and there, and in themselves they wouldn’t have been any big deal—except that Tyler collected them for no apparent reason. He’d wake up with a new one (or two) each morning. Dyanne, of course, also detected them and Tyler explained them away as one of those periods in life when you seemed to be the world’s klutziest person and there was nothing you could do about it.
But everywhere he turned things went wrong.
Checks bounced…a twenty-hour bug found a home…and yesterday he scraped the side of a car as he parallel parked—and he prided himself on how good a parallel-parker he was.
Tyler and Dyanne went for a walk after a late lunch at la Petite Conchon. Early evening rapidly approached and traffic was a bit on the heavy side as people headed home for an early weekend.
“Thanks for lunch, hon,” Tyler said.
“It was the least I could do after all you seemed to be going through this week. I wanted to do something special. Maybe it’ll break the
“spell, or whatever.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see. Let’s cross here,” Tyler said, checking traffic. “I’ve got to get going. There’s something I need to do.”
“Okay,” Dyanne said, smiling, “but first, this—” She pulled Tyler into her arms and planted him with a deep, lengthy kiss. “I love you!”
Tyler held her with a penetrating look.
“And I love you—more than anything else in the world—now, come on!”
Grabbing her good hand, Tyler led her out into the street, a section of the traffic now clear, but as Dyanne followed, her pocketbook bumped against her side and out fell her checkbook. Halfway across the road.
“Wait what? We’re in the middle of traffic!” Tyler came to a halt three-quarters of the way across the street.
“I dropped something!” Dyanne broke his grip and went back for her checkbook.
Tyler searched the road for what Dyanne had dropped.
Everything slowed down….and came the whispers…
…come fuck with me, I love a good fuck…
…come fuck with me, I love a good fuck…
Tyler turned to see a large, black car moving towards them. He opened his mouth to scream—but nothing came out.
Dyanne bent down to pick up the book
(come fuck with me I love a good fuck)
and looked up to him, a smile across her face as she triumphantly waved the errant checkbook at him.
Come fuck with me I love a good fuck!
He saw her look around for traffic.
Saw her spot the car.
a good fuck a really good fuck
Saw her arms go up.
I love it I love it
Her hips connected first.
The sound of her bones breaking against the metal reverberated hollowly in a universe gone lag.
A good fuck I love
Tyler saw her head and face unite with the windshield in a spurt of gore and glass…her teeth and gums gnashed horribly together.
One of Dyanne’s hands flopped off to one side of the car as she molded to the hood.
And that was not all Tyler had seen.
He saw the face of the driver…the face of the hag from his nightmare.
The stained bedsheets.
Dyanne’s body rolled off the vehicle and landed with a thump. Bumped about once or twice more before coming to a rest.
For what seemed an eternity, her head lolled limply from side to side.
The car continued on in its course.
Tyler was unable to move. Forced to watch. He realized what kind of car had hit her.
Tyler was still shaking when he got home. He’d spent the rest of the day and half the night at the police station and related matters and could barely hold himself up. He was sick to his stomach.
But he had found the paper.
Did what had to be done.
Was spent…had no more will. Collapsed to the living-room floor, tears streaking his face. He lay still. Thought about George Weh’s wife and Darian Fairfax. About twenty-times-five and four-and-one-eighth-by-nine-and-one-half-inch envelopes.
Felt an unexpected urge for a shower.
(wash the sins)
Sobbing, he looked to the bathroom.
The light was on.
He didn’t remember turning it on…but that didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered. He’d lost Dyanne. Lost everything.
He dragged himself to his feet and made his way to the bathroom. Kicked off his shoes and removed his clothes.
Found the shower running.
(it didn’t matter)
Steam filled the bathroom.
It just didn’t
Naked and trembling, Tyler stepped into the shower and felt the warmth penetrate his skin. He collapsed into the bottom of the tub.
Whispers came from the spray.
Did you have a good fuck?
“Fuck you!” Tyler yelled.
Did you have a good fuck? I did.
“Fuck you,” he sobbed and closed his eyes. The whispers chuckled.
The hag’s face formed in the mist above.
I had a great fuck, Tyler, now it’s your turn.
On ran the whispers. The face disappeared.
Tyler lay in the bottom of the tub, adrift in his misery. He ignored the fact that the shower had grown hotter (it didn’t matter); spikier (nothing mattered)….
It just didn’t matter one goddamned bit.
Tyler tried to right himself when he noticed that the water had become downright painful. Not hot painful, but spiked painful. He looked down to his body and saw the red.
Was it something in the water?
Felt disjointed. Resigned. He collapsed back inside the tub and let the warmth flow over him.
His last thoughts were of Dyanne.
Tiny daggers…no larger than short pins…screamed down from the thundering shower head and tore and ripped and penetrated into his body.
Ripped through his nerves and burst open his organs.
Razored blades that clattered down along the plastic surface towards the drain like iron filings to a magnet.
It wasn’t long before his heart had ruptured into an explosion of red that filled the tub and spattered the walls.
The water rained down upon him…washing away the filth….
Tyler’s body lay empty.
It just didn’t matter anymore.
It never did.
At a rickety and battered table sat an ancient, diseased woman. Her hair was greasy and gray and her veins filled with bile and hate. Her life reeked of a different kind of cancer not of cigarettes or cells.
But she liked writing letters. Got real good at it, in fact.
Having no friends, she wrote them to no one in particular. She just wrote—not that many would willingly read what it was she had to say. She didn’t much like people, and that was okay, because people, it turned out, didn’t much care for her. She didn’t have a name, didn’t need one. People used names for identity. To be proud. She had no need of either.
She just wrote.
But this time she received a letter.
One that found its way to her doorstep.
She had no mailbox.
She found the letter while on the way to the woods with an eviscerated cat. She liked gutting cats, they were fun. Dogs were too big. She liked cats.
Collecting the letter in her rickety hands, which had no return address, she sat down at her table and inspected it.
Who would write her?
How did it get here? No matter, maybe she could return the favor.
She opened the splotched and unevenly sealed envelope and removed the contents. Unfolded the paper. She read the few, hastily scrawled words beneath the poorly typewritten paragraphs first. It was then that her yellowed orbs screamed wide. She heaved the letter away, which smoldered and disintegrated before it hit the floor.
Tried to outdistance what was to come.
The old lady tumbled furniture as she fled.
Heard noises in pursuit.
Ran into the living room. A wide, spacious living room. She used to be rich once. Had a big house.
The whispers grew, filled the building.
Words that became audible and loud.
You know what they whispered.
Pass it on. IT WORKS!
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