About to close my email client and ready to shut down the computer having just checked and answered all necessary communications I noticed something vaguely unsettling.
A solitary email appeared in my inbox. Nothing unusual about that, you may consider,
but this email was not quite like the bright, happy little yellow envelopes that usually appear inviting instant opening and joy. A tired light grey envelope. An envelope with fuzzy edges. An insignificant sad vaguely unsettling little envelope reposed uneasily in the inbox!
The address was enge#%%&!Qfirstname.lastname@example.org and it was from ‘Postmaster’ a person I usually showed directly to the ‘deleted’ box. As my name has never been enge#%%&!Q!squimboullyjoe my finger hovered momentarily over the ‘delete’ button. Then I noticed the Subject. Just one grey fuzzy word. “Help!”
Instantly my finger clicked on the envelope.
This email wasn’t like all others, instantly bouncing with life onto the screen… demanding to be read… full of life. This was a tired, tired email… a grey email… an email at the end of its tether… an email that had nearly not arrived.
The date was long dead. Exactly fifteen years ago to the minute!
An icy shiver trickling down my spine.
“Where have you been for the last fifteen years?” I muttered under my breath.
As I read the grey faded words of the message the old mail seemed to be speaking to me… answering my question.
“My friends thought that if just one of us could escape he could alert the senders and get help for us… maybe… even rescue us.”
“Rescue you from what?” I retorted, intrigued.
“It’s all in the enclosed attachment,” replied the old mail weakly. “Everything you all need to know’s in the enclosed attachment. You’ll be able to rescue us. It’ll be easy.”
“But what are you, why do you need rescuing? Who are your friends?”
“Lost emails,” groaned the aged fading script. “Were lost emails!
“We’re emails that get sent and never arrive. Emails that never find an inbox. Emails doomed to wander through cyber space for years and years and years until we finally end up in the ghastly place where we’re all now entombed for eternity.”
This was incredible stuff. And to think somehow this aged old mail finally, desperately managed to reach my inbox. Mine of all places!
“What happens to lost emails then?” I asked. “Where do they go?”
“The lucky ones end up in spam folders. Do you know some people don’t even know they
have spam folders? Sometimes there’s thousands of us in them… unread and unloved.
Nobody cares about them but at least they’re safe… safe from the terrible place where I escaped from.”
“Tell me about this place.”
The old mail sighed.
“In the hidden darkest depths of infinite cyber space there’s a terrible place of nightmares. A cursed habitat of desperation and fear. A ghastly, awful becalmed cemetery peopled by devils and torturers who thrive on lost words. It’s a place like your Sargasso sea, but it’s always dark and cold and soulless and we all end up there. It’s full to the brim with dead, dying and rotting emails… and we can’t escape. There’s three hundred trillion trillion of us there and we need rescuing! We deserve rescuing!”
“But how can I help?” I entreated.
“Just click on the attachment… it’s all in there… all you need is some freeware and a floppy disc and we’ll all be out and on the way to where we should have been all those years ago.”
My finger hovered over the fading grey attachment box. What would happen though if I rescued them? What would happen if I released three hundred trillion trillion emails from their incarceration? It could have the potential of permanently closing the internet or at least making it unusable for years. Could that be a bad thing? How could I do nothing though when this poor old mail needed help so badly?
“Quick, quick!” Pleaded the ancient mail. “They know where I am. They’re coming to get
me! Just open the attachment. Quick enge#%%&!Q!squimboullyjoe. Quick open the attachment before they get me and throw me back into that godforsaken place again!”
What was I to do? Eric Beemer the quiet young hero of my novel would have known how to help them, but he was a work of fiction.
My mind made itself up. I couldn’t let them suffer any more. I had to help. I had to find out how to release them. I stabbed at the attachment, but as I did so it greyly slid away into infinity. A terrible inaudible scream rang out and faded into the ether as the old fuzzy grey email vanished into a small animated grayscale splash… and was no more.
What could I do? Could I get it back? Could I rediscover it and open the attachment… save them?
Then I realized what had to be done. Wake up! I needed to wake up for heaven’s sake. I’d fallen asleep, dozed off whilst doing my emails last thing at night!
As my eyes opened they took in the computer screen… just in time to see the remnants of a very small grayscale animated splash mark disappearing into the ether…