The postman is a creep.
He has long arms that do not swing. He holds them out in front of him, bent at the elbows. His fingers dance in the air as he walks, like he is playing an invisible piano. His legs are longer, and they move too fast. He glides across the pavement, his head staying perfectly level. The postman moves like a villain. And he makes no sound.
Apart from his breathing. His breathing is laboured and short. It has a whine at the end of each exhalation. He likes to breath through the letterboxes. He bends down and cocks his head to the side. He pushes up the flap with his pale digits and he breathes into the houses beyond. The people behind the doors stop moving from room to room. They push themselves into the gaps behind door frames and cover their ears. He stays for too long, just breathing and sighing through his stained and jagged teeth. The postman listens for noises from the houses, but he never hears anything. Nobody makes a sound.
The people on the street need their correspondence. Even with emails and text messages there is sometimes no substitute for a letter. They are set in their ways and they want their bills to arrive on paper. They want their love letters in lilac scented envelopes. But they will not go near the letters he drops onto their doormats. The letters are never the same after the postman has handled them. They put marigold gloves on before picking up the torn shreds and putting them straight into the bin. They tie knots in the bags and throw them onto the street. They do this after he has gone.
Sometimes the postman doesn’t leave. He can be spotted standing underneath the small copse of trees in the park at the end of the street. He stays there until the streetlights come on. On those days the people in the houses don’t go out much. If they do they keep an eye on him. Their parents have told them stories about the postman. If you look away he comes towards you. He can walk quickly when he needs to, and before long he will be playing that invisible piano on the back of your neck. He will be breathing his phlegm rattle into your ears. So they keep an eye on him.
Something must be done, think the people of the town. The postman has to go. They whisper these things to each other through open windows and cracks in doors. In this manner of gossip and secrets, a town meeting is arranged. They assemble at night, when they know he is gone, in the old church hall. They bicker and battle and vote on the best course of action. Each one has their say. Everyone listens. Someone takes watch at the door.
“We should do what we have always done,” says somebody young.
“But we have always done that,” says somebody older, “and where has that gotten us?”
Some say this postman is the worst yet. They have to get rid of him.
Others are more cautious. What if another new postman is sent? What if the next one is more terrible still?
They scramble home before dawn. Their decision is made. No longer will they lie awake in the dark, dreading the dawn and the soundless footsteps of that shadow. They will get a new postman, just like they got a new postman before. And they will lay this one, alongside the others, under the small copse of trees in the park at the end of the street. They will take up the largest of their kitchen knives and wait by their front doors. They will cross their fingers and mutter prayers as the sun comes up.
Outside, the postman glides past the garden gate, and creeps closer.
Nathan Good lives and writes in London.