“I have a job for you.” He handed me a letter.
“Bring this to the king of Fein” I took the letter while trying not to show the confusion on my face. I hadn’t ever been given a job like this and it was quite out of the ordinary for me to be asked to leave the castle, let alone the kingdom. It’s always been my job to obey, so I obeyed.
The truth is that I had no trouble obeying, the job would take me far away and for months a restlessness has been haunting me. My dreams lately have been full of ghosts-lives and ends I don’t want to begin. The frustration only leaves me when I’m too busy to notice it. Even the king had been commenting on my increased productivity. Slowly even this way of coping has been fading in effectiveness so when the letter was handed to me I saw my chance to escape into this new mission. Wandering the fields and forests, avoiding the hazards and path-finding would fill my anxious heart.
I only realized that I did not know where this king lived after gathering up a few bits of food and an extra layer for the colder nights. I tried to ask around but no one knew. I had to go see the king one more time before leaving the castle. “Head west, the river is halfway.” The king said. I tried to ask further but he waved me away saying that the details will be easy to pick up along the way.
I set out and by dusk I was out of the clutches of my old itchy feet. I was on an adventure and my mind was running through everything I knew that might come in handy. I had a direction but I knew the king sent me because he needed someone he trusted. I did not know the most about the surrounding kingdoms and I was not much of a woodsman. I thought about what reasons the king might have had but it all kept coming back to trust. This lead me to wondering what could be in this envelope, what kind of secret message.
A week later I was starting to get into a routine. The initial rushing in my ears had faded, now the nights were too quiet for me. My anxiousness would return when things got quiet. I would walk all day and stop as little as possible to keep the uncertain thoughts away. I was fine as long as I was moving. I would run as long as I could and then walk until I was rested enough to run some more.
In one of my longer runs I pushed myself too far and in my radish-cheeked rush I bent my ankle. I cursed the luck of it but there was nothing else to do but take shelter until I could properly walk again. I was in a particularly empty part of the countryside and it took walking well into the night before I made out a flicker of light on the edge of a dense forest. I found my way to the little house. The door swung open a few moments after knocking and an elderly man grinned up at me with a skeletons friendliness. I was invited in and told that I was lucky not to have woken anyone up. He told me he didn’t sleep anymore, he was too busy with a project for his son. He gave me a blanket by the woodpile. “Keep the fire lit but don’t use the pine” he said before leaving me to sleep.
In the morning I explained over porridge how I needed a place to rest for a day or two. He said that I could stay as long as I didn’t tell him about any of my dreams.
After breakfast be pulled out a book he seemed to be writing in and I limped down to the creek to rest my ankle in the cool water. When I came to the house I saw that he was still working on the book, but this time I looked closer. He wasn’t writing anything, he was using some pine sap to take the ink off the pages. “Excuse me” I asked “Why are you erasing the book?” He glanced up at me “It’s for my son, I thought he’d like a place to tell his story.” I looked around and saw that this book was the only paper in the house. “How old is your son?” I asked. “He’s 15 or 0 depending on who you ask.” This confused me. “How can someone be 15 and 0?” He seemed to smile to himself before answering “Death makes many contradictions possible.” He told me I’d better find some other old man to bother until dinner. This was fine with me, the conversation had unnerved me.
In a couple days I felt well enough to continue walking.
A week or so passed before I came to a massive river, it was wider and fast-flowing in the center. I didn’t think I could cross it but I knew that I had to try. I spent the rest of the day walking upstream in search of some means of crossing. By nightfall I had found a large log that I could use as a raft to cross on. After eating I lay on a bed of thick grass looking up into the great deep night. I traced the few patterns I knew as I thought more about the old man emptying the book for his dead son. I wondered why it was so important to him for his son to have a place for his story. He was erasing some other history so that a fictional future could still hold some possibility. I hoped that the old skeleton-tooth would find some consolation in the empty book.
I put out the fire and waded into the water before the sky was fully bright. It was that cold clear sort of morning, too still for my restless heart. I tucked the letter into my jacket pocket and pulled myself onto the log. I began to paddle with both arms but the water was moving too fast and I was rapidly losing control. The log started to roll, I had to shift my weight constantly to stay on top. A rock clipped the log and I fell in. water was in my eyes and the cold shoved all my breathe out of my body. I kicked off the log back the way I had come. I was swept downstream faster then I could run on land. I kicked my legs and scooped the water like some kind of madman. My feet touched ground and I dragged myself back on land. I was shaking as much from fear as the cold. I found a rock to lay on before realizing with a cold dripping sensation in my spine that the letter was in my soaking wet pocket. I ripped it out and opened the envelope to lay it on the rock but something caught my attention. The ink wasn’t running, there wasn’t any ink at all. It was totally blank. There was not a single word inside or outside the envelope.
“How can this be?” I asked aloud. I wondered if I had taken the wrong envelope but I had taken it straight from the king and he did not mistakes. I had the same envelope he had given me. If it was the same one that he had meant it to be empty. I wondered if maybe it was some kind of test. None of it made sense. There was nothing left to do but go home.
Arriving back at the castle I went straight to the king. “Sir, I’m confused. Could you tell me how come there was nothing written in the letter?” The king answered “Do you know what Fein means in the old language?” I answered that I did not know. “It is a word for ‘yourself’, I sent you to find the king of yourself”