Chain letters. We all get them. Whether they're through e-mails or text messages is irrelevant. What matters is that most people don't bother sending them on. Instead, opting to scoff at the words “You will die if you don't send this message to (insert number of people here).”
I was one of those people. Now, I know what the icy cold grip of the Reaper's hand feels like.
Would you like to hear my story?
It all started one Saturday night. I was out with my girlfriends, having a good time, dancing up a storm at one of the many clubs in the city.
After a few too many drinks, we felt like we were untouchable. No man stood a chance against us, should we have wanted to pick up and score.
It was nearly midnight when Tina grabbed my arm and dragged me into the bathroom. “In four minutes, I'm going to die,” she said as she reapplied her lipstick calmly.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, teetering in my heels as I perched myself on the vanity. Tina repeated what she had just said. “No, no, I heard that. What I meant was, huh? You're not going to kill yourself, are you?”
“Oh no,” Tina laughed, dismissing my concern with a wave of her hand. “It's because of this.” She pulled out her phone and showed me a message.
Squinting to read the screen, I saw from the opening sentence that it was a chain letter. “Oh come on!” I scoffed. “You don't really believe in that bullshit, do you?”
Tina frowned as she stared at me. “I didn't. Not at first. But now I do. You have to be careful with these things. I got that message a week ago. I read it, thought 'Yeah right' then went on with my day. Then the message was back the next day, from the same number, listed as sent at the same time. When I deleted it again, my phone rang and a raspy voice told me that I shouldn't have done that because dismissing a chain letter would result in my death.”
I held up my hand, silencing her. “I've dismissed hundreds, if not thousands of these things and I've never seen one come true. I even sent one to the recommended people and nothing. My dream of total happiness didn't come true. I'm still single.” I shrugged. “It's just a stupid joke that someone is playing on you.”
I got up and left the bathroom, leaving Tina to ponder over my words.
Less than two minutes later, she was dead.
As we stood in silence, watching the police cart her body away, I overheard a detective talk about Tina's remains.
“It was like she was scared to death,” he had said to a passing police officer. “Something spooked her real good.”
Four weeks later, the coroner ruled Tina's death an accident. Truthfully, the cops had no fucking idea what had killed her. Everyone was cleared in the investigation.
During those four weeks, all I could think of was Tina's last words to me. If I had have taken her seriously, would I have been able to save her?
The chilling answer was “No.”
Life went on. My friends and I drifted apart, each of us refusing to talk about that night. I would often see Tina in my dreams, warning me about chain letters. That they were indeed responsible for her death.
I couldn't make any sense of that. I mean, how could the person who sends you the chain letter, know whether or not you sent it on, or to the correct amount of people? It was illogical to me.
But not as illogical as what happened that next week at work.
Wednesday came, the day of the big merger between my company and the company that Tina use to work for. We had been looking forward to it, finally working together after being competitors for such a long time.
That's when I got it. An e-mail. Sent from Tina's account.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. This is what it said.
“Nightmares are nothing but dreams gone bad. I am living a nightmare everyday, with no means of escape except forwarding this e-mail on.
My name is Tina. I'm 27 years old and I am currently in a coma in St. Angel's Hospital. My friends have abandoned me, and my family is long gone. My coma is my prison. My nightmare. I was sent here because I didn't forward this e-mail on. My punishment is this; an eternity of wondering between the worlds.
You have ten minutes to forward this e-mail onto ten friends, otherwise you'll suffer the same fate I have. My nightmare will become yours should you ignore this. For if you do, SHE will come for you. What would you rather? Take ten minutes now to send this to ten friends, or have HER stalk you for the next seven days, before finally taking your soul and essence, leaving you to join me in limbo?
Your ten minutes begins now...”
At the bottom of the e-mail was an image of Tina's body, lying still in a hospital bed. Yes, that came as a shock. But the horrid image of a demonic and deranged woman that was hiding under the bed was what sent chills down my spine. Her face made Linda Blair in The Exorcist look like a beauty pageant contender.
I sat there staring at the screen, unable to tear my eyes away from the image before me. I must have read that e-mail a hundred times, trying to work out who really sent it to me.
Tina's final words haunted me as my cursor hovered over the forward button.
I clicked on it and waited while my computer opened a new screen. I had just begun to type in a couple of e-mail addresses when a pop up told me I had gotten a new e-mail from Tina's account.
Saving the draft, I exited the page I was on in favour of opening the new e-mail. My jaw dropped as I stared at the screen.
I couldn't believe it. I glanced up at the clock. Ten minutes had actually passed while I was staring at the initial e-mail. I dropped my head in my hands, gripping my hair. Tears sprung to my eyes. I didn't know what was worse. The e-mail signalling that I was too late in forwarding the chain letter on, or the fact that under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have believe it.
Excusing myself, I rushed out of the office, entering the bathroom.
“It's just a prank,” I told myself, staring at my reflection. My cheeks were flushed, my dark hair falling in front of my eyes. I brushed my bangs aside and splashed cool water over my face, trying to calm my nerves.
When I looked up at myself, I screamed. My face wasn't staring back at me. That horrid face from the chain letter grinned evilly. Her jagged teeth were discoloured and chipped, her lips cracked and her face looked like something that had smashed on the pavement after plummeting off the top of the world's tallest building.
“Seven days left,” SHE hissed, her black eyes shining with delight. “Seven days.”
And just like that, SHE was gone.
I tried to remain calm, but I wasn't fooling anyone. My boss sent me home, citing that I was overworked.
That night, I covered every mirror in my house. I thought about shattering them, but decided against it. Just because I was going to die in seven days didn't mean I needed seven years of bad luck in another life.
For the next six days, I spent time with my family. I had a lot of alone time too, trying to get my affairs in order. I couldn't leave this world knowing that my family wasn't going to be taken care of.
I had even pondered over the notion of what limbo would be like, seeing as that's where the e-mail said I was heading. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. If Tina was really there, then she and I could seriously get the party started.
As the clock ticked down my final minutes, I began to panic. I didn't want to die. Part of me still believed it was a joke, but most of my brain focused on the strange events that had plagued me throughout the week. Every 24 hours, there SHE was, staring back at me from the mirror, her villainous gaze fixating on me, clearly reminding me that I was her next victim. It didn't matter where I was, SHE always found me.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I glanced up at the clock. One more minute remaining.
Slowly, I stood up. I had locked all the doors to my apartment. My mirrors were covered, my windows bolted shut. Basically, the only way my neighbours would know I'm dead is by the smell that my body would give off after a couple of days. No one could get in and that was the main point.
A knock at the door, had me screaming in terror.
Quickly, I rushed to it, unlocking it and pulling it open.
Standing before me was the hideous woman from the e-mail. Her grin broadened when she saw the look of fear in my eyes. I opened my mouth to scream, which pleased her further as her cold hands wrapped around my neck, squeezing.
“Time's up,” SHE said, her voice raspy, as she pushed back inside my apartment, the door slamming behind us.
It took a week for anyone to notice I was missing. A week before my body began giving off the stench of death.
I watched from afar as police carted out my body, my face twisted in a horrid scream, my hands frozen in a position that looked like I was clawing at the air. My blue eyes that were once so full of life, were just as dead as the rest of me.
As I type this, I'm sending out what is my freedom pass. A chain letter, describing my death, my limbo nightmare and evidently what will happen should the recipient fail to forward it on.
Tina was smart. In a bid to release her body from this hellish nightmare, she sent the chain letter to someone she knew would doubt it. Me.
And now, I must do the same...
“YOU'VE GOT MAIL.”