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I debated sending you another letter before you had a chance to reply. It has been a very long time.

Perhaps, though, for you it has been less. I hope you had fun at Granite Falls, if fun is a thing that the hungry sun will allow you.

I have been keeping note of what has happened on a pad of paper that I found in a kitchen drawer.

Since last we spoke, I have:
- Spoken to the house and received a new pen pal, who communicates with me through letters that spontaneously appear while my back is turned.
- Experimented with sending physical objects back and forth between our two realities via envelope.
- Discovered that the house will, if asked, produce a great variety of foods, though not always the exact food that I was looking for.

You could say that I have made great progress. Or perhaps you could say that this update on the trivia of my life has been small talk, and perhaps it has. Small talk, someone once told me, is for small people.

But all of this is just avoiding talking about the Night Garden.

You do not, I think, have to imagine the dark, but it is the silence that will strike first, here. The thick, cloying air leaves a foul scum on your teeth, and you cannot hear your own footsteps as you walk, senses deadened, through the crunchy soil crust.

Things grow here, but they are not kind.

Here the sun has not been bottled, but smothered.

The air in the blank garden hurts inside my chest, like little needles of ice that are somehow the same temperature as my body. A prickle of otherness.

In the night garden, the air is not like that. It feels like drowning in slime.

Have you ever heard a silence so loud that it smells like salt?

My house is eyeless and watching. The night garden does nothing quite so passive as watch.

Overall, my trip to the Night Garden did not go well.

I’m not sure I’d know what fireleaf looks like, though I suppose it would be useful in burning away the cardboard. There are many plants in the Tuesday Garden, and sometimes I am able to get out through a window to a new garden and explore. Not all the gardens ever come back, though.

I think perhaps the cardboard is an artifact of humanity. Corrugated separations, little boxes, and would-be philosophers who tell us that it would be better to live as animals, secure in the certainty that they would, in a reversion to nature, come out on top. Believing that they, in a genetic lottery, drew a ticket proudly proclaiming the word alpha, rather than that, without rhyme or reason, justification or justice, the world is nasty, brutish, and short.

People who think that could never happen to me. By the time they are featherless it’s too late to teach them.

In some of my lives I have not been timid. I have had a terrifying halo, a corona of teeth.

I suppose that I cannot be more terrifying than your fire, and you are used to toothlight.

You must be either brave or ignorant, to go looking for doors. Depending on the life I am neither, or both.

I cannot bring myself to wish you success, even if I suspect that your doors have stubbornly remained metaphorical. For one thing, it hurts a surprising amount, and for another – I do not know if anyone else comes out the other side of the greater doors.

I suspect that at the end of all things, I will stand in a shattered crater with the cockroaches and watch the friendly sign of a local dentist creak back and forth, slowly in the atomic wind.

I am glad you know someone who is chipping away at the cardboard. If there is a good sort of human to have as a lover, it’s one who tries.

Sometimes I think that, since I am not one of those five decent people in the world, it is best not to rejoin it, if indeed I haven’t strayed out beyond the edge of humanity altogether. The gardens are empty save for me, the plants, and the sun.

Someday a door will come, and I have to be ready. I don’t want to be – whatever I will be, with another voice added to the chorus of ghosts.

I don’t know yet. I never will know. I won’t be me.

I have never yet been a person with infinite time. Decades are the blink of an eye when you’ve lived as many lives as me.

I… I don’t think I can answer all of your other questions. Not right now, anyway. I’m sorry.


This is part of The Pen Pal Project, and links to all my previous letters, and the letters of Anya's two pen pals (which you should read to understand the story here) can be found here. 

I have made the move from Livejournal in its entirety, but links may still go back there on occasion. If you find a broken one, please tell me, and I'll try to fix it.

Can someone tell me if this cut works? It should start at "You do not, I think, have to imagine the dark."


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