Welcome to the Pen Pal Project! We are dedicated to fostering communication and connectivity between all people, using modern technology to create a sense of community. Please answer the following questions in detail, to ensure that we are best able to match you with your new correspondent or correspondents.
Select your age bracket: Unsure
Profession: I am being kept by a house with yellow walls and a smug porch. It is a tidy house, and I do not believe it means me harm, even if there are poisonous mushrooms in the cellar. I did not choose to be here, but I came in through the attic door and the crater walls are high around me.
I believe the house is lonely.
How many pen pals are you interested in acquiring? One or two.
What qualities do you seek in a pen pal? If this works, I will have contacted a real, alive person. I would like some recipes. There is always food, but it is usually canned, and I don’t look too closely at the labels. There is no meaning in expiration when I don’t know the current date.
I’m also looking for amusement. Many of the books are in languages I have never read. The house continues to close doors that should be open and open doors that should not be closed.
I have not yet decided if I should escape the house.
Do you have a desire to meet your pen pal face-to-face? I am almost certain that is impossible.
Please describe, in as much detail as possible, your reason for wanting to join the pen pal project:
The computer started working again, and this screen stares at me through a screaming whiteness even when I tear the power cord up by its roots. I have given in, just as I always have.
Before the house I was dying, which was painful and boring. It always is. At the end no one came to visit me, because they were afraid of disease. Or heartbreak. Or perhaps I was someone disposable, a styrofoam plate of a person. Nevertheless, I was alone. My bones were on fire and when the door came I was glad. I knew it would hurt, but in the end, when the doors come I always open them.
In this house I am a different person. Smaller, I think, not in size but in personness. I do not always have a history when I reach other side of the doors, memories to guide me, knowledge of what I must do. Sometimes my new past is a haze, a squirm of regret, a churning beneath my skin as I run. Sometimes I do not fit in my new skin, and sometimes I am almost able to forget I ever had another past.
When I do not forget, sometimes I disbelieve myself, and sometimes I am made to disbelieve. Most people do not take you seriously when you are anyone but who they think they see.
If I get a pen pal, I hope they believe me. I have been a liar in other lives, but I change every time. When I go through a door, I stop – and start again. I am always myself, as much as I ever was, but I am never the same again. A different person with the same long string of thoughts, stretching back, and back, through a thousand bodies and a thousand doors.
Well, I say a thousand. I haven’t counted them. A number too large to hold in your hands isn’t real. A person you cannot see may also not be real, but I prefer to think that they are. If no one is on the other end of the screaming whiteness, it is a little lonelier in the house. If I send this out and no one replies, perhaps there is nothing on the far side of the crater walls and the universe vanishes in a thunderclap of nothing, of no dark, no silence, no emptiness.
Even so, I cannot help imagining it as a cold, dark, quiet nothing. I cannot deal with an absence even of absence, and I think the same would be true of other humans, assuming that in this life they are real.
Messages in a bottle are supposed to start with the words “if you are reading this.” At least, I think they are, somewhere. It’s hard to tell, because, as I said, most of the books are in languages I don’t know, and the internet doesn’t really work.
If you are reading this, please tell me: do you know who you were before you were yourself? Do you think that there are other people and that they are real? Do you believe any of this is true?
Do you know any recipes for canned milk and pickled crab that serve one? I also have potatoes, worchestershire sauce, and a colander.
Anything else? If there is a door calling for you, do not go in.
Thank you for your application to the Pen Pal Project! You will be contacted with information on the correspondents you have been matched with in 5-10 business days. All e-mail addresses provided are confidential, and will not be shared with third parties other than your assigned correspondent.
Author's note: In a fit of sanity (blame medleymisty) I joined the Pen Pal Project! Anya is already partnered up with Seth Morrigan, whose entries you can read here.
If you would like to step through a door and be someone else, or maybe just be kept by a house for a while, stay tuned!