“Letters from the Dead”


This is for those who showed interest in “Tesla’s Ghost.” Here’s the next part to the story. Enjoy.

 

A pack of wild dogs skittered across the wild landscape, the wreckage surrounding them reminiscent of a not-too-distant past when man had reigned supreme on the Earth. Broken and rusted cars lined a dusty street with empty brownstone homes lining each side. A newspaper blew past in the gray morning with a headline that screamed THE END IS HERE! But the dogs ignored it in their search for a next meal. They ran off into the sparse bushes, their noses to the ground.

A small boy crouched behind a mound of stones, not too far away, watching them. He’d smeared himself with mud to deaden his scent, knowing that that pack was looking for him. He remained perfectly still, watching and waiting until the pack had completely disappeared before he rose and looked around him.

He was dressed in layers of rags, most of them collections of denim and leather that he had collected in the last few years of lone survival since the Holocaust. A small backpack was strapped to one shoulder; over the other he carried a handmade quiver filled with arrows and a small reflex bow, his prize possession salvaged out of a sporting goods store two years before. On his hip he kept a jar of liquid arsenic in which he dipped the arrows. He made sure he never used it for anything he would eat, but it came in handy when he was being chased by dogs.

He walked down the quiet, cobblestone street, his worn, duct-taped Converse All-Stars making no sound in the dust and leaves that littered the pavement. He came to the crossroads and stopped. Which direction should he go now?

As he hesitated to consider his next choice, something moved in front of him. A giant, metal sphere appeared in the sky above the street about two blocks ahead of him. He’d never seen anything like it before, and he hesitated, and an instant later, he knew he had made a mistake.

A hum emanated from the sphere and the boy saw a gleam appear on its edge. Instinctively, the boy leaped to his side, just as a bolt of energy flew from the sphere. The boy felt a suddenly feeling of weightlessness.

 

Eli’s elbow slid from the edge of the desk where it was propped as he listened to Dr. Erebus’ lecture. The shock of suddenly being back in the harsh reality of Physics 351 Electromagnetic Fields took him just an instant to absorb. The look on his face must have belied his state of mind, because the students around him began to chuckle, and the professor paused in his lecture.

“Am I interrupting something, Eli?” Dr. Erebus asked.

“No, sir,” Eli said, suddenly embarrassed. He rubbed his face, sure that his recent nap was evident on his face. “I’m just enjoying your lecture.”

“Really,” Dr. Erebus said. “Then why don’t you tell us how you feel Maxwell’s equations fit into a Newtonian viewpoint on particles and rigid bodies.”

Eli bit his lip. “You know, I am glad you brought that up, because that’s the one point I am having a bit of a hard time understanding. Perhaps if you could elaborate on that one more time.”

Dr. Erebus smiled slightly. “That one point, huh? I’ll be pleased if that’s the only point you have a hard time understanding when we come to the final exam. Why don’t you come see me for a minute after class and we’ll talk about it?”

There was a low whistle through the class and other students in the class raised their eyebrows, knowing that Eli was consistently the student who struggled the most in class, yet somehow seemed to be able to talk his way through difficulties time and again. Eli sat back in his seat and watched carefully as Dr. Erebus began his lecture again, and then exhaled slowly.

“That was close,” Rubik whispered beside him. “You sure like to live dangerously.”

Eli shrugged. “Erebus loves me. They all love me.” He paused. “I was dreaming. I saw more of our landscape. Dogs. Brownstones. And something else. Something very alien.”

Rubik nodded. “Write it down. Tariq will love it. You know he’ll eat it up. I don’t know where you come up with that stuff.” He paused. “Oh wait, I forgot. You’re possessed.”

The lecture went on for ten more minutes, then Rubik and Eli got up to leave, but Erebus gestured for Eli to join him. Knowing full well what it was about, Eli told him to meet him at the car.

“Midterms grades are in, Eli,” Dr. Erebus said. “And it looks like you’re not doing very well.”

Eli nodded. “I know. I saw. And I want to apologize for falling asleep in your class, Dr. Erebus. It’s just that with classes, work and the project, I’m having a hard time keeping up.”

“Well, college is all about choosing your priorities, Eli,” the professor said. “You have to choose what’s most important to you. Is it working at a pizza shop? Building a computer game with your friends? Or graduating? You may have to choose.”

“I understand, Professor,” Eli said. “But money is tight. I need to be able to pay my bills to stay in school. I can’t afford to quit my job.”

“Then I highly suggest you reconsider your game project. Maybe just postpone work on it until you graduate. Something to think about. Because as it is, you’re not going to pass this class. And if you don’t pass my class, you very likely won’t be back here in the fall.”

Eli stared at the professor, listening to his words and knowing there was no point in arguing with him. He was right, but he was also totally unaware of what Eli’s life was like. Life was a constant state of pressure, and telling Eli to make choices didn’t resolve that pressure. It just added to it.

Eli stepped out the door of the classroom and was greeted by a small student in a red sweater waiting for him.

“Eli, you’re wanted in the Academic Dean’s office,” the student said in a shrill voice. “How’s your game coming?”

“Fine, Dennis,” Eli said. “What do they want me for?”

“Don’t know,” the young student said turning and walking with Eli. “But there’s a man in an expensive suit waiting for you there.” Eli looked at Dennis and saw that his eyes were big and a look of worry on his face.

“Not to worry, Dennis,” Eli said. “I haven’t done anything wrong.” He paused, then added. “That I know of.”

Eli and Dennis hiked across the Mall, past the academic buildings and into Marshall Hall, where the Academic Dean’s office was located. Along the way, Eli said hi to half a dozen students, most of them asking about the progress of the game that Eli, Rubik and The Team continued to work on. Fine, was the standard response that Eli gave, even though in his mind progress on The Project was anything but fine. It was simply a matter of whether he would finish the game in time to sell it and reap enough profits to stay in school. But it wasn’t looking good.

Eli pushed ahead of Dennis and into the exterior office outside Dean Schriver’s office. The Dean saw him step in the door, and waved for him to come in, and Eli came through the doorway, taking a seat in one of the wooden chairs by the desk.

“Eli, this is Todd Upton-Shields,” Dean Shriver said. “He’s an attorney with Mackey and Clifford downtown. I’ll leave you two to talk.” The Dean closed the door behind him and left Eli in the room with the young attorney. Eli looked at the young man, about half a dozen years older than himself.

“Are you Emil Lowenstein Inverness?” the young lawyer asked him.

Eli nodded. “That’s my legal name, but everyone calls me Eli. You know: E.L.I.? Am I in some sort of trouble?”

Upton-Shields shook his head and smiled. “No. I mean, you might be. But not with me. I’m here to settle the estate of Karl Lowenstein, your grandfather. You appear to be the soul heir of his estate.”

Eli stared at him blankly. “My grandfather? I haven’t seen my grandfather since I was seven.” He paused. “But what about my father? Where is he?”

Upton-Shields shook his head. “No one has seen your father in at least six years. Have you had any contact with him?”

Eli shook his head as well. “He kinda flipped out when I was little and mom kicked him out of the house. There was a falling out between the Lowenstein side and the Inverness side, and that’s when mom went back to her maiden name: Inverness. We moved from Long Island to San Diego and never looked back. As far as anyone here knows, I’m an Inverness, not a Lowenstein.”

Upton-Shields listened closely, then nodded. “Well, that’s the conclusion of the courts as well. Legally, you are still entitled to the estate, and you are listed in the will. There’s not much, but what there is belongs to you.” He pushed a sheaf of papers across the desk to him. “Sign here, please.”

Eli scanned the papers, which were filled with legal jargon he didn’t understand, signed where the red arrow indicated, then slid them back across to the lawyer.

“The real estate in Long Island will be in escrow for some time. We’ll keep you informed about that. In the meantime, he has left you a box and a check.”

Upton-Shields stood and handed a small package and envelope to Eli, who shook his hand and watched the lawyer leave. Immediately after the lawyer left the room, the Dean returned.

“Well, that’s good news for you, apparently,” Dean Shriver said. “I know your financial situation is dire.”

Eli nodded and tore open the envelope holding the check, barely hearing the dean. Could this be the solution to his money problems? He pulled the blue paper from the envelope and stared at it.

The check was for $117.

“Well, it’s not much,” Dean Shriver said, reaching over and taking it out of Eli’s hands. “But it’s one step closer to having that $11,000 tuition bill paid off. I’ll take it over to student finance for you.”

“Yeah,” Eli muttered. “Only $10,883 left to go.”

Dean Shriver left the room and Eli stared at the doorway. Why was it that every time things seem to go his way they fell apart again? And then he remembered the package. He sat down again at the desk and tore it open to find an antique, wooden cigar box about six inches square.

He flipped the metal latch on the front and opened it. Inside was a stack of letters bound in twine and addressed to his great-grandfather Fritz Lowenstein with a postmark somewhere around 1900. Beneath it was what looked like a heavy, leather book or journal. He pulled the journal out and opened it, flipping through it.

Inside were diagrams, mathematical formulas, and descriptions in a small, cramped cursive handwriting that Eli could barely read. Some of it was faded, but most of it was still readable. Eli shook his head. What good would letters and a book on physics do him in his current situation?

He put the journal back in the box, and covered it with the stack of letters that were all sent from the same person: N. Tesla.

 

 

 

 

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One thought on ““Letters from the Dead”

  1. That’s it, you officially have me hooked into this story. There’s history, mystery, and everyday relatable problems of trying to pay for college. Well done 5/5!

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