“It’s the unscrupulous part of your soul that pulls open the curtains and shivers at a molecular level.”
And so began my career writing greeting cards.
It’s a work-from-home proposition. Meaning I’m not allowed in the office. Something about the dark nature of my work, and the higher-ups not wanting me to influence the other writers.
In any case, the arrangement suits me. I prefer to work alone and at night anyway, with the floorboards creaking and the howling wind outside rustling leaves. I’ll curl my gnarled fingers around my old quill pen — with shadows dancing from the randomly placed candles — to craft my whimsical, inspirational messages of joy.
“Death is not the end,” I write for a new condolences card. “It’s only the beginning of a strange and mysterious journey — a journey into the unknown. Perhaps the soul travels to the far reaches of the universe, to tiptoe along the precipice of time. Or maybe it merely ceases to be, tapering to dust like the bodily vessel it inhabited. A vessel that’s now infested with worms.
“Either way, your loved one is gone from this world forever, never again to shine a beacon of light in your life. But that’s how nature works, so no sense wasting your precious, limited time mourning someone who’s clearly never coming back. Best to carry forward and forget about them.
“So sorry for your loss.”
I take a break from my whimsey and gaze into the mirror. A pallid, corpselike figure gazes back. I’ve grown so gaunt and pale. Greasy black hair hangs in strands over my eyes, and my long, green fingernails could use a trimming.
Perhaps the stress of this job is hurting my health. It takes a great toll coming up with new, inspiring passages night after cursed night. Maybe I should get some sunlight and vitamin D. But that would require going outside, and I haven’t been out of the house for more than 15 years.
Alas, there are more cards to write. There are always more cards to write. The endless toil is slowly extinguishing my soul.
A birthday greeting:
“Congratulations on aging another year. You are one step closer to the inevitable end of your mortal journey. Since your birth — during which you subjected your own mother to hours of endless pain, you heartless bastard — you’ve been dying a death of a thousand cuts. Each day represents a paper-thin slash across your scarred wrists. And today marks yet another.
A phlegmy cough escapes my parched lips. This wretched world is plagued by disease and pestilence. I need to quit this meaningless desk job and do something physical, to get my body in shape.
Perhaps I should go back to digging graves.
The irony of this occupation is that no one has ever sent me a greeting card. True, my isolated, late-night lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to diurnal relationships … but still. Do I mean nothing to no one? What good is there trudging through this miserable existence if there’s no one to share it with besides my pet python?
Tears drip onto my parchment, smudging my ink. I find that I am unwillingly displaying emotion. This sorrow stings so deep.
But I must endure. I must. If not for myself, then for the greeting-card industry, and the millions of people its magical products inspire. I must look beyond the fragile remnants of my own pathetic life and endeavor to serve the greater good.
An anniversary card:
“Congratulations on another year together. I’m thrilled for you. It must be nice to have someone to share your life with. I wouldn’t know.
“But then again, maybe you’re secretly miserable. Maybe you’re holding the whole sham together for the sake of your kids, hoping the neighbors won’t talk. Perhaps you hold a deep-seated resentment toward one another, and you each yearn for the other’s untimely demise.
“Either way, good for you for making it work. Half of all marriages end in divorce. But then again, sometimes divorce is the best option if you’re seeking true spiritual fulfillment.
“Have you ever considered leaving each other? You never know — maybe your true soulmate’s out there somewhere. It would be a shame to let any opportunities pass you by, especially if you’re clinging to an unraveling thread that passes for a loving relationship. Sometimes ‘good enough’ just isn’t good enough. Life’s so short. You don’t want to let any of it get away before your soul leaves your body and the maggots settle in.
“But hey, today’s a day to celebrate. So live it up and go see a movie or something. I suggest a good slasher flick — something you can enjoy together. Screw the romances. How many movies can you see with Hugh Grant, anyway? Sure, he’s charming and funny, but he’s not realistic. The real world is a twisted mess of endless pain — and there’s nothing funny or charming about that, now is there?
“Later on, as you pour a glass of wine and gaze deep into each other’s eyes, do yourself a favor and ask ‘Am I really in love with this person?’ I mean, really in love? Enough to stay with them for the rest of your short and meaningless life?
“You might be surprised by what you discover.