My Dear Friend,
24 January 1879
A Story Teller’s Tale
Christopher Malinger © 2018
I hope this will find you in good health? Looking back, I am remiss in failing to maintain our correspondence. Now, as I face a most challenging difficulty, I seek your solace and the mending of our fractured bond.
Perhaps it was my success, and ultimate hubris as a writer, that caused our separation. So, if blame is to be bestowed, let it be mine. I will understand if you choose to cast this letter into your glowing hearth. However, if you find the promise of my tale intriguing, allow me to resume.
Permit me to begin with a confession. My talent for fiction is not my own, for I have been the beneficiary of an unidentified muse. In my youth, I struggled with the craft. After years of study and harsh rejection, I was prepared to resign from that task, seemingly unsuited to that endeavor. My attitude changed on one eventful day.
It was during a particularly strenuous evening of writing, so fatigued from my labors that I succumbed to sleep in my study. Roused from my rest by a combination of an uncomfortable position and the chill from an unattended fire, I rose and proceeded to prepare myself for a proper sleep in my bedchamber. As I passed my front entrance on my way upstairs, I noticed an envelope partially protruding from under the door.
My first thought was that it arrived during my repose and the caller, either being not persistent or forceful in their announcement of the visit, preferred to leave a written message. Curious about the visitor’s purpose, I hastily unsealed it and read its contents. To my surprise, it was a well-constructed plot of a tale that was both intriguing as well as compelling. Interested as I was, my desire for slumber took precedence, I placed the letter on the vestibule’s bench and retired.
On the morrow, the letter was still there and not a figment of my imagination inspired by weariness. My thought was that it was truly a gift from an unknown benefactor who desired to remain nameless. Dismissing any other motivation, I enthusiastically wove a yarn using the scenario that was delivered to me by my admirer.
Although we have lost touch with one another, I am certain you heard of my accomplishments in the newspapers. I allowed the euphoria of that achievement to consume me, and I was flattered by the attention. The consequence of this recognition was the insatiable demand by the public for more. The realization that the inspiration was not my own caused me to panic. My publisher wanted more, and I was too intimidated by my vanity to confess the source of my supposed creativity.
Confronted with this situation, I was prepared to feign illness and announce my sabbatical for an undisclosed period. As unexpected as the first prompt, I was surprised to find another letter delivered in the same fashion. The second installment was grander than the original, and my editor bestowed on me lavish praise as well as a generous compensation.
A pattern soon developed where I was at my wits’ end waiting for my next delivery. Because of this unease, I decided to find the purveyor of my writing source. There was never a schedule by which my muse delivered his ideas. Sometimes it was an evening, when I was fast asleep, to be discovered in the morning. Other times, I was engaged in business affairs that caused me to leave my house, only to return and find the narrative waiting for me. Without a regular delivery structure, my hopes of finding the source would prove daunting. I did undertake a plan to uncover the source, but after sleepless nights and missed engagements, I soon abandoned the notion. The thought also occurred to me about securing the services of a detective agency. I reconsidered that option, thinking my notoriety could be a temptation for blackmail by some unscrupulous agent.
What I have laid out in this letter is the evolution of events leading to the present. Up to this point, all the storylines concerned other individuals and fictional situations far removed from my environs. Having acquainted you with my history in this matter. I now arrive at the purpose of this letter. To my utter amazement, the essence of this latest novel deals with me.
Yes, I am the protagonist. The crux of the story concerns a failing writer whose tales are the product of an unknown patron. The events of the story mirror my own experience. Contemplating the series of events, I now feel that I am the recipient of a cruel, yet masterful, hoax. I wonder now, even more, the source of this diabolical conspiracy that lured me into this emotional maelstrom. I question the giver’s motives. What ill will be I guilty of to produce such masterful revenge?
I intend to dispatch this letter by post tomorrow, with expectations that my concerns will persuade you to come to my assistance. Although the facts of my chronicle may be disturbing, I have saved the most shocking aspect to the closing of my letter.
Faced with humiliation, the character of this story is plunged into despair. He realizes that his influence, as an author, will be shattered and his financial position wrecked as well. These challenges are too burdensome for him, and the reader is given the impression that he dies by his own hand.
This gentleman’s fate, or perhaps fittingly mine, is shrouded in mystery because his death is made to look like a suicide. My dear friend, this ambiguity is most distressing. I have no intention to commit such a wicked act even if my inspiration be discovered to be that from another’s hand. I now fear that the conclusion is more a matter of murder.
Ever your friend, Alfred
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