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Undead Letter Office

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In which characters in a classic epistolary novel
must deal with the modern Postal Service

2012-03-17-Draculastamp.jpg

JONATHAN HARKER'S JOURNAL
I remain a prisoner of the fiend Dracula! Fearing for my life, I have acquiesced to his demand that I write letters to my beloved Mina and to my employer, stating that I am extending my visit to Transylvania for several months. In the text I concealed a coded message explaining the truth of my desperate situation. I know that Mina will be clever enough to discover it. I only pray Dracula is not!

As the Count scrutinized my letters, his pale, horrible face darkened. Flinging the papers aside, he clasped his head in his hands and let out a primal howl of pure rage. Had he discovered my deception? Would he now subject me to some unimaginable fate?

No -- as it turns out, he had just remembered that he is out of stamps.

JONATHAN HARKER'S JOURNAL
The Count returned last night in a foul mood, his attempt to acquire stamps foiled because the village post office closed before dark. "Fools!" he raged. "Eliminating evening hours -- I shall make them pay!" Apparently he followed through on his threat -- reports have reached me that the kindly old post mistress has been seen running through the forest on all fours, chasing down small game.

JONATHAN HARKER'S JOURNAL
Tonight the Count searched the castle from top to bottom and finally found some stamps in a drawer. Imagine his frustration when he realized they are of insufficient value due to last week's postal rate hike! He must still somehow contrive to buy 1¢ stamps to make up the difference. Odd that an undead immortal wouldn't have thought to buy Forever Stamps.

JONATHAN HARKER'S JOURNAL
Dracula has finally assembled the necessary postage and is ready to mail my letters. As he has no saliva, he compelled me to lick the envelopes myself -- literally sealing my own fate!

JONATHAN HARKER'S JOURNAL
The Count is moving to England! He sent a local peasant to the post office to ship several boxes of earth on his behalf, one of which concealed Dracula himself.

This minion kept his composure when a postal worker asked if he wanted insurance, tracking, or delivery confirmation, and calmly declined when they inquired if he needed stamps or supplies. But when they asked if he was shipping anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or hazardous, the man panicked and fled.

Dracula spent the rest of the day fuming in his crate on the post office loading dock. In his fury he has vowed to ship with UPS instead.

LETTER FROM THE POSTMASTER TO MINA MURRAY
Dear Valued Postal Customer,

I want to extend my sincere apology as your Postmaster for the enclosed document that was inadvertently damaged in processing. The Postal Service handles millions of pieces of mail a year, and unfortunately mistakes sometimes happen. We are constantly working to improve our methods. I appreciate your understanding, and sincerely regret any inconvenience.

LETTER FROM MINA MURRAY TO LUCY WESTENRA
My dearest Lucy,

I have received my first communication from Jonathan in months! Unfortunately it arrived in the form of confetti, shredded by some infernal post office machinery. After laboriously assembling the pieces in jigsaw fashion, I was able to glean that Jonathan has been held captive and his host Dracula is a bloodthirsty supernatural predator!

The letter looks as if it were torn apart by wild beasts. I wonder if this Dracula might be responsible -- Jonathan indicates that he has been known to attack humans and animals, but makes no mention of stationery.

LETTER FROM LUCY WESTENRA TO MINA MURRAY
My dearest Mina,

What a relief that you have finally heard from Jonathan! As for Dracula, a charming gentleman of that name has just taken up residence in our neighborhood.

Now for my news -- I have become engaged! So sorry I didn't write to you sooner, but I fell into a swoon on the very day your letter arrived. Dr. Seward diagnosed it as the vapors. These apparently emanated from the scented ads in the new issue of Vogue, which arrived in the same batch of mail as your note. Quite overwhelming!

DR. SEWARD'S JOURNAL
Tonight I wrote to Van Helsing about Lucy's deteriorating condition -- I feel certain it is linked to her unhealthy association with Dracula.

I was interrupted in my labors by a disturbance in the asylum -- another outburst by the bug-eating maniac Renfield. He is pliable enough when he has flies and spiders to consume, but when his supply is depleted his behavior becomes violently disruptive. These episodes have become even more frequent since our local post office closed down, which has caused delays in Renfield's shipments from the Arthropod of the Month Club. I shudder to think of the consequences if the Postal Service eliminates Saturday delivery!

DR. SEWARD'S JOURNAL
The quality of our mail service continues to deteriorate -- my letter to Van Helsing came back this evening marked "Return to Sender -- Attempted, Not Known," even though the address is correct in every detail. I must resend it tomorrow -- more delays!

I tried to catch the postman but he was already exiting our property. As he did so, a dog bounded forth from Dracula's estate next door. The postman leapt in surprise and sprinted away down the road with the animal nipping at his heels. A dog chasing a postman is such a familiar staple of folk humor that I might have found the scene comical, except that this dog had glowing red eyes and was the size of a buffalo.

LETTER FROM HANS VELSING TO ABRAHAM VAN HELSING
Sir,

I am forwarding the enclosed letter from a Dr. Seward, which is obviously intended for you but was delivered to me. Our names and addresses bear, at best, a nominal similarity, yet my dolt of a postman saw fit to deposit this missive here, some 20 miles distant from its proper destination. I suppose we should count ourselves fortunate it did not wind up in an incinerator or at the bottom of a bog. Forget about "the swift completion of their appointed rounds" -- if Herodotus had suffered my postman, he would have brained him with an urn.

LETTER FROM ABRAHAM VAN HELSING TO DR. SEWARD
Friend John,

I only just received your letter -- your report of Miss Lucy's condition is most alarming! You are quite right that Dracula is the source of her distress. It is essential that you follow the enclosed list of precautions immediately to ensure her safety. I pray we are not too late!

I was delighted to hear of Jonathan Harker's escape from Dracula's clutches, and that he and Miss Mina are happily reunited. The precise means by which Jonathan was able to mail himself home from Eastern Europe are only now becoming clear -- apparently, with Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes from the Postal Service, if it fits, it ships.

MINA MURRAY'S JOURNAL
Jonathan encouraged me to write to Professor Van Helsing to seek his help in freeing Lucy from Dracula's influence. I took the letter to the post office the moment I set my pen aside. As I write this, I am awaiting my turn at the counter -- due to the recent staff reductions, only one window is open and the line stretches into the lobby. Worse, I have come on passport application day! I know that horrors await me but I am prepared to face them for the ones I love.

One hour and 40 minutes later -- Success, but the wait was infuriating! The matron in front of me had 250 envelopes to mail and each one had to be weighed. It was some time before I realized it was Mrs. Westenra mailing dear Lucy's wedding invitations. I wish I had recognized her sooner -- I do so regret calling her a bitch.

LETTER FROM ABRAHAM VAN HELSING TO MINA MURRAY
My dear Miss Mina,

Our mutual friend Dr. Seward already alerted me to Dracula's evil power over Miss Lucy. I sent the good doctor instructions that might have saved her, but it seems that delivery of first class mail now takes up to 3 days, so alas! my letter arrived too late. What a waste of a life! And of a stamp! The dead travel fast, as Dracula might say, but not, apparently, the mail.

DR. SEWARD'S JOURNAL
We have tracked Dracula to his lair and destroyed him forever!

Van Helsing has asked each of us to provide an account of the Dracula affair, which he will edit into a cohesive narrative and submit for publication. I mailed him my manuscript today.

At the post office I was struck by the behavior of the clerk behind the counter -- disengaged, lethargic, with the somnolent manor of one in a trance. I wondered if he, too, had fallen under Dracula's sway, until I remembered he has always been like that.

LETTER FROM ABRAHAM VAN HELSING TO DR. SEWARD
Friend John,

I received a most remarkable letter today from our publishers!

It says someone in my area with the initials AVH is guaranteed to be a winner in their next big Sweepstakes Drawing! In fact, the Prize Patrol is already preparing to pull up in front of the house of the lucky winner! Needless to say, I gave this matter my full and immediate attention. Filling out the Official Prize Acceptance Affidavit was complicated, but I was able to affix the sticker with my 10-digit Mega Prize Number to guarantee eligibility...

Ach! I just noticed that the letter is not from our publishers, but from Publishers Clearing House. So not only have I wasted my time, but now I am stuck with a subscription to Scullery Maid Confidential that I don't really want.