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by Peter Wood

Eudora told her sister about the post office clerk who never aged. “He waited on Papa when we were kids.”

“That was seventy years past, Eudora.” Stella was tagging along behind her older sister, as she had since preschool.

“He’s the same person.”

“That’s ridiculous. He’s hardly past thirty.” Stella looked up and down the empty main street of Welty, North Carolina. “What if somebody sees us breaking in?”

Eudora wished Stella wouldn’t fret about everything. “Sister, the police won’t arrest two little old ladies.” She jimmied the door latch with a credit card like she had seen on a television detective show. She thought the trick wouldn’t work, but after a couple of minutes the door opened.

Eudora’s arthritic leg ached as she hobbled up the steps.

“What do you hope to find?” Stella wheezed. She followed Eudora inside.

“I’ll know when I see it, sister.” Eudora was just glad to get out of the house. Life these days revolved around church and medical appointments.

The dimly lit lobby smelled of glue and floor polish. It probably hadn’t changed since the 19th century. Ornate polished brass light fixtures and door knobs. Transoms above doors with frosted glass windows.

A yellowed notice by the dusty mail slot read:

Effective immediately
the Welty Post Office will only be open
Monday and Wednesday
nine a.m. to three p.m.

“Why’s this place still open? All they deliver is junk mail,” Stella said.

“There’s more going on in there than mail.” Eudora tried the mail sorting room door, but it was dead-bolted. “You ever see post office jobs advertised? Do we know anybody who works for any post office?”

“Not in years.” Her sister coughed. “I better sit. I should’ve brought my pills.” She shuffled to a chair beside a table stacked with change-of-address cards.

Eudora opened her P.O. box so she could peer into the sorting room. A shaft of indigo light shone from the open box into the lobby. “What’s going on in there?”

Stella drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair. “Can we leave?”

“What’s your hurry, sister?”

“I have to fry a chicken for the church potluck tomorrow.”

Eudora wondered at what point they had become the spinsters who brought food to funerals and church socials. It was hard to believe that she and Stella used to be the belles of Welty.

She limped over to the pickup counter to the left of the P.O. boxes. The metal shutter seemed loose. She wiggled it to and fro and heard a click. The shutter rolled up halfway like a venetian blind.

Eudora leaned against the counter. “I always wondered what in creation’s back there.” She reached past a scale and a chained pen and unbolted the door. “Let’s check it out.”

Her sister rolled her eyes. “Sweet Lord.”

In the back room neat piles of mail, postmarked with last Wednesday’s date, rested near a stack of frayed mail satchels. Then Eudora saw a hovering cube, pulsating in a rainbow of colors. It was about the height of the rusty mailbox in front of the building. It hummed with the tone of the church organ’s lower range.

Eudora’s finger tingled as it passed through the cube.

“Careful,” said a familiar voice behind her.

Eudora spun around and faced the impossibly young clerk who once waited on Papa a lifetime ago. “Who are you? What is that thing?”

The clerk smiled. “I’m Chester. It’s a communication device and a portal back to the visitors’ world.”

Stella’s voice shook. “Don’t hurt us, please.”

Chester’s face only showed concern. “I won’t harm you.” He pointed to a stack of letters. “Not much mail anymore. Post offices are the perfect cover for observing Earth.”

“Are you an alien?” Eudora asked.

“No, ma’am. I work for them.” He stroked his handlebar moustache. “Since just after the Civil War.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Eudora asked.

Chester sighed. “I have to wipe this memory from your mind.”

Eudora showed a sad smile. “I’d rather not remember this. Being old is hard enough without knowing some folks stay young.”

“Why did you come here?” Chester asked.

“I guess you reminded me of happier days.”

“I knew you growing up. I switched posts when you reached your twenties. Couldn’t have folks noticing I stayed the same.” His eyes had a faraway look. “Lord, you were beautiful back then, Eudora. It was hard to leave.”

“I wondered what happened to you,” Eudora said.

“Scrubbing your mind isn’t my idea. It’s the rules,” Chester said in a soft voice.

“Just get it over with,” Eudora snapped.

Chester leaned against the wall. “You know, this is the third time y’all have broken in. You’ll just do it again.”

Eudora frowned. “When I was a kid, you used to seem kind.”

Chester scowled at her. “Do you think I enjoy this?”

Eudora glared at Chester. “How should I know?”

Chester massaged his temples. Then he smiled. “Forget the rules.” He pulled a sparkling cylinder from his pocket and twisted it. The cube turned opaque.

He gently grasped Stella’s arm and guided it into the cube.

Stella whimpered, but did not resist.

There was a flash of crimson.

And Eudora saw the ravishing brunette who was her sister more than fifty years ago.

“You’re beautiful, sister,” Eudora whispered.

“How?” Stella asked.

“Why don’t you work for us?” Chester asked. “Of course, you can’t stay around Welty. If you’re suddenly young, folks will ask questions. We need a couple of clerks in a little town in Mississippi. Second smallest post office in the state.”

“I’d like that,” Stella said. She ran her hand along her now smooth skin. “I’ll do things different this time. I won’t turn down all the boys.” She paused. “If they’ll have me.”

“They’ll have you, sister,” Eudora said.

Chester reached out for Eudora. “Let’s renew you too.”

Eudora stepped to the cube.



Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his patient wife and surly cat. His stories have been published in Daily Science Fiction, Bull Spec, and Stupefying Stories. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the August 2012 issue, his most recent appearance was “Timeless Bore” in SHOWCASE #5, and his next appearance will be “The Aliens Went Down to Georgia” in the August September October next issue of Stupefying Stories, which is scheduled to be released real soon now.

Pete considers his stories to be “Southern-fried science fiction.” Special Delivery was inspired by Raleigh's downtown post office, the Century Post Office building, which was built in 1878.