The Mail Bag

Kemono Cafe 010

It was Sandy’s first night in Fable. The air outside was very warm, even though it was late. Back home, Sandy remembered wishing she had a coat while running to the train station. Now it was warm enough for Sandy to sleep on top of the covers as if just yesterday was months apart from now. Maxine had a small guest room in the back that was partly for Sandy but mostly for storage. Much of Maxine’s living space was filled with beautiful curiosities, so Sandy didn’t feel slighted when she had to clean off the bed and fit in among unsold inventory. Sandy wondered if Maxine’s own room was like this. But she didn’t get the opportunity to see it. Fatigue hit the three of them quickly once Jill introduced herself and it was lights out after a small bath. Jill was given some water and the couch to sleep on while Sandy bathed in a tub that was… obviously Maxine-sized. Sandy had to sit up and cross her legs and still could only barely fit in a tub meant for a corgi.

*Snrooonk!* …! Wow… Thank goodness I’m in here.

Jill snored so loudly that Sandy’s imagination drifted to the image a circular saw trying to cut through a tire and back to the strange new land she found herself in. The events of the day were all rushing back into her mind as Sandy rested there with her eyes open. All kinds of different emotions crashed over her as she had the time to think and sort everything out at long last. Sandy surprised herself when she realized she wasn’t too scared by the notion of never going back to Low Point. She’d miss the bookstore, sure. But being stranded in Fable was more about her safety than anything she’d really miss back home. The looming threat of homelessness and starvation robbed her of many happy memories in the city. Maxine was kinder than any employer she’d ever met… but she did feel anxious about what the real job would be and what the real Maxine would be when pressed. Sandy should have learned by now never to trust. But she had to. Fable was different enough that maybe, this time, things would be different.

But then her memories took her to the beginning of all this. She’d met a rabbit and her beautiful red train. A train that captured Sandy’s curiosity and, ultimately, trapped her here. Sandy’s expression firmed as Kona’s words came back to her. Much still needed to be explained. Sandy’s last thoughts for the evening were of plans for tomorrow and what she’d say to the ‘vagabond’ of a rabbit Maxine described her to be.

The night passed in an instant. Sandy had slept in, she guessed, thanks to how refreshed and tired she simultaneously felt. No one came to get her and so Sandy blinked awake when the sun was high in the sky. She couldn’t remember the last time she got to sleep in on a weekday and felt the small shock of panic that she was late for… something. Even when she told herself that the 7th Avenue job was likely gone, her mind still prodded her endlessly that she was late. Jill was working outside already, from what Sandy could hear. So she got dressed in her 7th Avenue uniform again and waved to Maxine on the way out. The morning crowd was immense in Maxine’s shop and there was no room to get a word in. Many people were here for the little things in their day to day lives: tools, nails, seeds, watering cans, stacks of paper, tape, ink, and pens… It really did feel like Maxine was the only shop in town as she handled each transaction automatically, gossiping with one mind and taking their money with the other.

Sandy rubbed her eyes as she walked out into the sunlight. Jill was just down the street working on the cafe. Sandy felt like she should offer to help because, well, she wasn’t in a hurry any longer. She still felt strange not being somewhere or doing something, constantly being in a rush, but Jill obviously needed no help. Sandy walked up to the limits Jill had set out with small cones and looked on. Watching Jill work was awe-inspiring. Sandy could never keep up with that. With a mighty strike of her axe, Jill toppled the ruin of the old burned down cafe and had already sorted the piles of burned refuse out of her way singlehandedly. She was casual with her miracles, throwing the blade of her axe through logs so fast that they didn’t seem to recognize they were cut until Jill had made the last one. Then the circular logs would just fall apart into perfectly straight boards. Sandy figured if she couldn’t help Jill, she should at least be friendly.

Woo! Still got it! Morning, sleepyhead! Good morning! Excuse me, Jill? I know you said you have to keep people out of the woods. But I may I come visit you sometime? Heck yeah, you can! You just can’t go off on your own. If you do, it’ll be messy for everyone involved. But hey, why do you wanna come over? Well, uh… Gosh. I guess it’s because I’m going to be living here! I think I should get to know everyone. So you’re some kinda social butterfly, huh? More than you are, I’m guessing. Heh. Yeah. I’m a loner. I usually only come into town for work and pie. Then I’ll be sure to bring a pie when I come visit. Whoa-what?! We social butterflies pay attention to these things, Jill. Thanks, Sandy! I’ll give you a tour of what I can. You have a good one! You too!

Sandy turned to leave as Jill began to build the foundation of what would be the new cafe. From what Sandy could see, Jill either didn’t have or didn’t need a lot of tools. She held the nails for the foundation in her teeth and spit them angrily down to the boards she’d just made, making them embed like darts before they got smacked by the handle of Jill’s axe. Sandy shivered as she watched it, but had to move on. Sandy felt very good about being nice to Jill just then. Remembering Low Point and the city made her realize why she didn’t want to go back. She knew no one. Sure, she knew her boss and her coworkers… But she didn’t have one happy memory of them. They were all like robots working side by side. When Sandy thought of Fable, she though of candy wrappers, french toast and giant axes.

The train station was at the very border of Fable with a small pocket of forest just behind it, from what Sandy could now see as she took in the day much more slowly. There were tall imposing mountains just behind it with no snow on their peaks. The train had come in through one large tunnel and, if allowed to continue, would vanish into another. The station was nestled in between two tunnels so the train was the only way out of that steep mountain range. Everything Sandy ever knew was beyond those mountains, she thought. Whatever that sea of blackness was that they traveled though getting here was definitely going to be one of the questions she’d have for Kona.

But something else was there that wasn’t when Sandy arrived and it drew her attention. Attached to the back of the caboose, there was an immense mail bag drifting in the wind. It was heavy like a punching bag and full to the brim with letters, so much so that a small tear had formed in the bottom from all their weight. Sandy covered her mouth as letters bulged from the tear and few had escaped into the wind.

Oh no! It would be terrible if people couldn’t get their mail. The train leaving must be a big deal if the bag’s gotten that full. I better help clean that up.

Sandy was quick to kneel and pick up the letters that were falling out of the bottom of the bag. A few had picked up in the wind and scattered across the train station in a long trail. Sandy felt a small sense of accomplishment at getting them all, since they’d blown over the whole station and into the woods a bit. Where were these letters all from? She didn’t think this many people lived in Fable.

And that’s when the wind picked up again. It was cold and Sandy realized someone was standing right behind her.

*loom* Not again…