The Messenger

Matthew Jankiewicz

Photo Credit: cynicalview

Standing on Wilson’s doorstep is a tall, wiry man dressed in casual business attire: a caviar suit, white shirt, and a narrow black necktie. Affixed to the tie is a silver clip displaying the emblem of a skull.

Without saying a word, the man reaches into the lapel of his jacket, pulls out a sand-colored envelope, and extends it towards Wilson.

“I’ve been expecting you for quite a long time,” Wilson says, his eyes transfixed on the envelope. He takes the envelope and tears at its edges. When it is halfway open, he stops and tucks it in his trouser pocket.

The messenger turns to leave when Wilson says, “Please, come inside. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for months. You’ll be my guest and I’ll accept no answer other than yes.” His cogent voice is as soft as a rose petal.

The stranger tucks his hands into his jacket pocket and shadows Wilson into the living room.

“Please, have a seat. Margaret and I were just sharing a pot of tea, but I think there’ll be enough for the two of us.” The stranger glances around the empty room and then back at the silver tray resting on the coffee table. On it are two tea cups, two ivory saucers, two spoons, and a pewter pear-shaped teapot.

Wilson sits down on the beige camelback sofa next to his visitor and rests his folded arms on his belly, which, having the size of a desk globe, functioned as a mantle.

“Margaret and I love to have tea every afternoon. Her mother was British.” Wilson gingerly pours a cup of tea for his guest and stirs in a packet of sugar. “You remember my wife, Margaret, don’t you? I believe you both met about a year and a half ago, Mr.—” He pauses and turns to the man. “I suppose names are irrelevant.”

The man nods.

“I don’t think she was expecting to meet you, however.”

Wilson treads over to the window and stares outside. A smile creeps across his face. “Beautiful weather outside, isn’t it, Margaret?” he says to the room. “I know how much you love to walk along the leaf-covered sidewalks, smelling the scents of pumpkin pies and apple cinnamon pouring out of the passing windows.” He feigns a smile. His pensive eyes show neither excitement nor dullness, but rest in a perpetual sunset.

“Forty-seven years,” he whispers to himself. “Forty-seven marvelous years we had together.”

He looks at his guest, who hasn’t touched his cup of tea. The man’s black eyes stare at Wilson as though he were some newly-discovered species.

Wilson darts over to the fireplace and picks up a photo of Margaret from the mantle next to a collection of ceramic cat figurines that she used to collect. The photo is dated Summer ’62, Outer Banks, NC. She’s wearing a navy blue swimsuit with white polka-dots. “She sure was a looker.” He holds the photo up for his guest to see. Chortling, he says, “During this trip I proposed to her.”

The stranger’s cold, indifferent eyes cause Wilson’s laughs to wither.

“I suppose it’s time.” Wilson says. He places the brass-framed photo back onto the mantle and pulls the envelope from his pocket. “I wouldn’t want to delay you any longer.” With trembling hands, he tears it open. Inside is a piece of paper with one sentence typed in an elegant script:

Time and Date of Death: 8:47 p.m. on October 19, 2011

The messenger stands up and walks toward the foyer without speaking a word.

“You’re not leaving already, are you?” Wilson asks. His throat feels knotted. “How will it happen?” Beads of sweat begin to percolate along his brow. “Will it be painful?” His voice is crackly, a time-worn radio broadcast.

No response.

“I will see her again, won’t I?”

The messenger turns around and smiles. There is not a single tooth in the cavernous mouth—nothing but the darkness of cold winter nights. Wilson feels a shudder crawl down his spine.


Matthew Jankiewicz is a current graduate student at Columbia College Chicago working towards his MFA in fiction writing. He has been previously published in The Alembic (2011). When not writing, he is busy listening to the music in his head. Email: matthewjankiewicz[at]

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