Post Office at the End of the World
Zip Code 99999 belongs to a post office that most people don’t even know exists. There is a seventh dimension quality to this place even Rod Serling wasn’t aware of, but it is real. It is not the Dead Letter office or the final destination of letters sent by children to Santa Claus at Christmas time. While it is not a vortex or some other alternate reality, the Post Office at the End of the World is exactly what it says it is and its chief purpose is to connect people who have long been disconnected for whatever reason. Let me explain…
Bullrush Island is barely a rock in the Atlantic Ocean claimed by the greater state of Maine off the coast of Bar Harbor. While few tourists have ever heard of this place, the lobster fisherman have first hand knowledge of this rock sanctuary. Upon this rock, they built a post office that is only accessible by boat and in that establishment, there is only one postman who wears the title of Post Master General. Having served as a postman in Bangor for over a decade, I got a letter one day from the Federal Friendlies at USPS transferring me to Bull Rush Island.
“Hey Nate.” I walked to his office after opening the letter, “Is this some kind of joke?”
Nate Meuller was the postmaster at the office in Bangor where we considered our office as the last stop before St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Nate was an overall good no nonsense manager who ran a tight ship as he called it, even if staff noticed a few leaks from time to time.
“Whacha got, Rick.” He took the notice from my hand. “Oh, you got the assignment on Bullrush Island.”
“It’s known as the post office at the end of the world.” He chuckled. “Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy duty out there.”
“Out where?” I shrugged.
“Do ya know where Bahr Har-ber is?” He asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded.
“Well, it’s about thirty miles past there.” He pointed to the map pinned to his wall.
“Ain’t nothing out there.” I shook my head.
“Well it’s so small they don’t even bah-ther putin’ it on a map.” He put his hand to his chin.
“Dee-lightful.” I whistled.
“They send a boat out twice a week and carry any mail in a small satchel. You put anything headed for the mainland in that thing.” He smiled, but buried in that smile was sinister intent. “Good luck, Rick.”
Two weeks later I was standing at the Harbor Master’s office as a cold wind blew off the water. Wearing a thick cardigan sweater and watch cap, I still shivered in the stiff ice cold breeze. I waited five minutes for the door to open.
“Can I help ya?” A young lady asked, unwilling to fully open the door. She was buried beneath a heavy coat and a wool hat.
“I am here for a one way trip to Bullrush Island.” I held out my ticket.
“Are ya sure? I’m not even sure we got a boat headed out there.” She shivered.
“It’s Wednesday and according to the table posted on your door, you have a boat headed out to that island.” I pointed to the schedule tacked to the door.
“Yeah, but the weather is a bit challenging.” She waved me inside. Once she closed the door, I was embraced by the warmth of the Franklin stove in the middle of the small room. In the next room there were two men sitting at the control panel with switches and levers. One was peering through a pair of binoculars and holding a radio receiver in his other hand.
“Roger, if you sail to the right of the buoys, you should be in good shape as you go through the channel.” He spoke into the receiver.
“Roger that, sir. We are going to spend a few hours setting lobster traps out near Peter’s Point.”
“You are clear to do so.” He spoke before putting his receiver on the hook on the console.
“Morning, what can I do for ya, Stella?” The second harbor master asked when he saw her.
“Gentleman needs a ride to Bullrush Island.” She pointed to me.
“That so? We got an ice storm headed this way.” He squinted at me, lifting one bushy eyebrow heavenward.
“I am the new postmaster.” I said, glancing around the small room. From the wrap-around window, I could see gray clouds that seemed to absorb the colorless water.
“You are the postmaster at the post office out there?” He appeared as if he was going to burst out laughing, but he contained himself.
“We don’t get much traffic from out there.” The other man spoke, still peering through his binoculars.
“Bring a good book, heh?” The first man laughed.
“I got the Wave Goddess headed out there this morning around ten.” The man with the binoculars said from the side of his mouth.
“That’s two hours.” I looked at my watch.
“Couch in the other room.” The other man pointed. “Or go down to the Sandbar Cafe.”
“Stella, do you got some fresh coffee on?” Asked the man as he the binoculars on the console.
“Yes, Barney.” She nodded.
“Coulja get me a cup, please?” He implored.
“Sure t’ing.” She smiled and left the room.
“So, you’re goin’ to be the new postmaster out there on that rock?” Barney smiled as Stella returned with a steaming cup of coffee, “Thanks, doll.”
“Yeah.” I shook my head as the horizon completely disappeared.
“Good luck.” He shook his head as he sipped his coffee. “Whacha name, sport?”
“Richard Hollingsworth.” I answered.
“Well Richard, it gets pretty lonely out there. The last guy nearly went nuts.” Barney nodded.
“Nearly?” The other guy chuckled.
“C’mon Mort, don’t freak Richard here out.” He smirked through his thick bushy mustache now wet with black coffee.
“Naw, he didn’t go nuts, but he did like to stroll around the island naked.” He chuckled as his gloved hand pulled one of the levers on the console. “Baker’s skiff is pulling out of the harbor.”
“I see her.” Barney put the binoculars back to have a look.
I walked out of the room and sat near the stove. Stella was reading a magazine, but would glance up at me as if she was afraid I’d do something odd. When she glanced at me, I would render a smile to creep her out a bit. When I did, she would move her eyes back to the magazine.
“Fine weather we are having.” I got up the courage to speak.
“Bettah during torrist season.” She did not look up from the magazine.
“So, what happened to the last postmaster?” I asked as I looked around the room.
“No one really knows.” She flipped a page.
“But you have a pretty good idea.” I shook my head.
“Folks say he took his rowboat out last week.” She flipped another page, “Coast Guard found the boat, but he wasn’t in it.”
“So he went over the side?” I asked, but she just shrugged and flipped yet another page.
“I’m Derrick Olsen, captain of the Wave Goddess.” He held out his hand and I shook his bear paw. Olsen was a burly man in his early forties with blonde bristle facial hair, so light it was nearly invisible. He wore a wool turtleneck shirt and a peacoat with a thick wool watch cap. He had three deckhands all dressed in similar fashion, “Are ya sure ya wan’s to go out today?”
I showed him my dispatch. He lit his pipe as he read the paper I handed him.
“Postmaster, heh?” Derrick scratched the nape of his neck. “I don’t envy ya in the least. Place is pretty secluded out there, mate.”
“Neither do I.” I tried to smile, but failed miserably.
“Hey cap’n, are we goin’ to Bullrush Island?” One of the deckhands asked.
“Yup.” He shook his head.
“Are ya sure cap?” The other deckhand had an inquisitive expression on his face, “Coast Guard is talking about a Nor'easter blowing in.”
“Eddie, we’ve had worse.” Derrick slapped him on the shoulder with a hard whack. Eddie just nodded and began setting the lobster pots. Ice began falling from the sky as the Wave Goddess pulled away from the moorings. Before leaving Bar Harbor, the waves began to get choppy and my stomach began to talk back to me.
“If’n ya gonna puke, make sure ya do it over the side.” Eddie advised me. I must have turned a pale shade of green as we pulled away from the main part of the harbor.
Why anyone decided to put a post office on Bullrush Island, I will never know. As the thirty foot schooner was buffeted and bounced on the swells, I emptied everything I had in my stomach into the brine.
“Can get pretty rough there, mate.” Derrick said to me from his wheelhouse as I bent over the side. The freezing rain fell sideways coating the deck with a slick surface that was impossible to walk on. In between retching fits, I was able to look up and see the horizonless seascape ahead of us. Derrick had the binoculars to his face as he kept his free hand on the wheel. He pointed to an empty patch dead ahead. “Be damned if I can see it.”
I knew he was talking about the destination, but I was too busy with my own problems. The pitch and roll was both internal and external.
“Got it.” I heard Derrick as he pointed.
My eyes looked where he was pointing, but all I saw was the dull gray gunmetal sky dead ahead. In a few minutes, I saw shapes and then it came into view. It was a single cinder block structure that rose out of the jagged rocks. A dock jutted out to embrace us. With his experience and seaman skills, Derrick was able to guide his boat to the dock. His two deckhands leaped onto the dock once we were close enough. They were able to tie the moorings to the dock. The boat continued to bob and weave even after the boat was tied to the dock.
Eating a pear, Derrick took his knife and cut off a chunk. He put it into his mouth and pointed, “There ya be, mate.”
“What?” I managed to say wiping my mouth with my shirt sleeve.
“We have arrived.” He spit out some of the fruit as he spoke.
“Ya gotta.” He shook his head.
“We are still moving.” I gasped.
“Barney and Beau.” He called to the two deckhands. As if on cue, each of them grabbed one of my arms and hoisted me to the dock. “Ya new home.”
“Much obliged.” I belched.
“Don’t mention it.” He waved to his deckhands to come aboard. Barney and Beau both jumped up on deck leaving me kneeling on the dock as the waves shoshed on through the gaps in planks of the dock. “Don’t stay there too long or you’ll wind up like your predecessor.”
The motor of the Wave Goddess sounded like a low rumble. Bubbles emerged from the motor as the boat slipped into the grayness and disappeared.
Bullrush Island was no bigger than a football field with a bulky building occupying the middle part of the island. The rocks that made up the small landfall were jagged, but a path had been cut into the rocks that provided a smooth walkway to the front door.
Once inside, I saw a calamity left to me by the former postmaster before his disappearance. He had been nice enough to leave a few chords of wood near the fireplace. After a few minutes, I had a blazing fire going as the place began to warm. The building had two rooms, one room was where the mail was supposed to be sorted and the other room was made to be living quarters with a bed and stove. Nothing fancy, but the pantry seemed to be well stocked with non-perishable ready to eat dehydrated food. There was a sink and a hand pump.
There were matches in the pantry in which I could light the four lanterns that hung in various places from the rafters. If nothing else the place was cozy once the fire had warmed the confined living area.
Taking one of the lanterns from the ceiling, I wandered into the mailroom where envelopes lay strewn all about. It appeared as if my predecessor had flung them to the floor in a fit of rage. The nameplate on the desk read “Neville Harper.” I took this to be the name of my predecessor.
“So why on earth did you go mad?” I asked as if he could answer my question.
I am aware that isolation can drive a sane man to the brink, but I had craved seclusion and now I had been granted this accommodation at this post office at the end of the world. Apparently, Neville was not of that ilk. There are those who need socialization and conversation, but I do not require such things. I am the new Robinson Cursoe. Mine will be the only footprints in the sand at the shore. If there is a shore.
Somewhere in the mess of the post office there is an order that I know nothing about. Who are these people whose names adorn the scattered envelopes? What are they doing here? Who brought them in the first place? So many questions. Who shall I ask? I find a radio among the ruins. Good, but it doesn’t seem to work. Damn.
What was that noise?
I heard something creak in the floorboards.
Could it be a rat, a vermin? I shall set traps in the morning. I cannot allow them to take over. I am in charge. I have a dispatch attesting to that.
The wind outside howls, I can hear a faint echo, “Welcome Richard to the post office at the end of the world.”
When you look out the window, you can see it, the end of the world. Ancient mariners would speak of the end of the world where ships would navigate right over the edge or be eaten by sea monsters that lurk in the colorless waves. I walk out to the dock. I can hear them. I can hear them as they slither between the waves.
What happened to you, Neville Harper? Did you venture out too far? Is that what happened?
Damn it, the fire went out while I was at the dock. The building is as cold as a tomb. Cold as a tomb. I shall have to start from scratch. It is cold. Very cold.
Why would they put a post office out here? Was it to drive a person crazy? Is that it? Well, I will not succumb to this madness. No, I will surely rise above it.