by Laurella Blake
Anna-Lynn Hopkins hummed a tune to herself as she sifted through the daily mail, checking the names on each envelope before throwing them into another pile. She rolled her eyes; each letter was either junk mail or bills.
Though, the last letter in the stack was addressed to her. The dark cursive scrawl stood out against the pure white of the envelope, stating her name and address and any other mail-like information.
Glancing up at the return address to find that it was from her grandma, Nana, she tore open the seal. It opened fairly easily, considering that she was never very good at opening envelopes.
Inside the envelope was a blue card with a picture of a cute puppy with a little bow ties in its ears, sitting in front of a cupcake. Anna-Lynn couldn’t help but say, “Aw!” as she looked at the picture. She had always loved puppies, and her Nana knew that. Grinning from ear to ear, she opened the card, expecting money.
But no money. The only thing on the inside was a short handwritten note that read:
I miss you here in Florida. I’m not doing so well, either- a cold, I believe. I wish I could see you more, though. You and your mom will have to come down and visit sometime soon.
Anna-Lynn was happy that her Nana had remembered her, as she had many other grandchildren to worry about, but she was sort of disappointed at there was no money. All of her other relatives sent money in their cards.
Shrugging, Anna-Lynn ran upstairs to deposit the card into her memory box and write a card asking why she had neglected to send cash.
Two weeks later, Anna-Lynn’s Nana was diagnosed with a bad disease. Anna-Lynn couldn’t exactly remember what it was. She hadn’t received a card from her Nana at all during those two weeks, but then, one finally came.
There was another puppy on the front, but not as cute as last time. It was just a puppy, no bow or candy. Anna-Lynn rolled her eyes; couldn’t her Nana do better?
On the inside there was another handwritten note, just like last time.
I’m sorry you do not find my cards satisfactory. I write them with love, not with dollars. Is that not worth enough to you?
Please call me. I am very lonely and I need someone to talk to.
Anna-Lynn rolled her eyes once again, but this time she groaned at the same time. Still no money! And her grandma had called her out on it, too! How dare she!
Of course, it was an Anna-Lynn rule that any cards received enter the memory box. She made a mental note to call Nana and maybe write back, depending on if she had the time. Didn’t her Nana realize she had a life?
Her Nana seemed to not realize anything.
A week later, Anna-Lynn’s Mom sat her down on the couch with a somber look on her voice.
“Anna-Lynn,” she started softly, “Last night, Nana passed away.”
Anna-Lynn bit her lip. She hadn’t gotten a chance to call her yet. And when she wrote back to Nana, she had been in a bad mood and once again asked for money. Reflecting on it, though, she felt bad. Her Nana had been nothing but nice to her- she should do the same.
Only now her Nana was gone. And she hadn’t even called her back.
“I’m… going to go to bed.” Anna-Lynn whispered. She couldn’t believe it. In all her thirteen years, she had never thought about her Nana dying. Even with the illness, it seemed like a harsh reality.
“Sleep well, hon.”
She intended to.
“Anna-Lynn, dearie, Anna-Lynn…”
Anna-Lynn awoke with a start as she glanced around her dark room. She could’ve sworn she heard someone… the room was dark, with nothing but her nightlight for a source of brightness. Shadows danced around the room and formed themselves into terrifying shapes, and bumps and creaks filled the silent night.
“Anna-Lynn, it’s me…”
“Nana?” Anna-Lynn asked, her voice weak. Her Nana died- just last night! She must’ve been dreaming. No, no, she could see her Nana’s figure in the doorway. How? Didn’t she live in Florida? No, she was dead. But she was in California, across the country. What, no! Why was she coming closer! Stay back!
“Anna-Lynn…” Nana whispered softly, her voice like nails on a chalkboard yet soothing like a spring breeze. “Anna, dearie, you never called me… you never called…”
Anna-Lynn held her breath as Nana stood next to her bed, reaching up ever so slowly to flick on the bedside lamp. When the light finally flickered on, Anna-Lynn screamed until Nana covered her mouth with a bony hand.
Her Nana was nothing but skin and bones- rotting flesh with dark circles under her empty eye sockets, her mouth twisted into a horrible, peeling grin. Her clothes were tattered and old and her joints were more visible than they should have been.
“No, dearie, don’t scream. You love me right?” Nana brought the hand on her granddaughter’s mouth down to her throat, bringing her other hand up, too. Anna-Lynn felt her breathing slow as the skeleton-Nana crushed her neck, cutting off all source of air.
“Don’t worry, honey. I love you and you love me. Now we can be together…”
The last thing Anna-Lynn saw before she blacked out completely was her Nana’s twisted grin in the dim lamplight.
Anna-Lynn’s mother was in for a horrible surprise the next morning. When she went up to Anna-Lynn’s room to wake her, she was greeted with a terrible sight.
In the bed lay Anna-Lynn’s corpse, nothing but skin and bone, with rotting flesh and dark circles under her eyes. Her eye sockets were empty and her mouth was twisted into a horrible, peeling grin.
And on the wall behind the bed were the words,