The Letter

The Letter

A Story by Bradley

A short story follow up to Exhale.


This is a follow up to my poem Exhale, which I suggest reading first.

The Letter

I saw steam rising from his blood as if his very soul was evaporating. I knew he was going to die, but I went through the motions anyway. Hopefully he would find comfort in knowing someone cared. I put pressure on his shoulder knowing it would have little effect. While I waited for his pulse to stop, I stared into the unforgiving sky. Cold and gray, it siphoned souls from the tattered victims of war. As my gaze drifted I felt his cold wet hand on my own. He moved my hand from his shoulder to his breast pocket. I looked at him briefly. Then with his final breath, he slipped out from under his earthly bonds like I had seen hundreds do before him. Finally I could depart the fateful battlefield. I turned to leave and a cold blast of wind reviled my face, forcing me to look back at the dead man. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was coincidence, but without thought I reached down to his breast pocket. I found a letter and took it. It had a name and an address. Somewhere, Pennsylvania. Anna.

            I should have sent the letter with the post as soon as I was able, but it was covered in red fingerprints. His blood the ink and my hands the quill. Soon we marched to the next battle. When our muskets once again sang their dreadful song and death appeared under the cover of smoke, I, for the first time, drew unsteady breath. I desperately wanted to let go of myself and become numb to battle, but my thoughts centered on the letter in my pocket. It denied my escape. I knew then if I died, I would condemn two to death. All he had left in this world was in that letter, so he and I fought through battle together. His blood, my hands. As I gave him life, like the quill to ink, he gave me purpose, like ink to the quill. This interdependence was vital to my survival. Whereas before I fought without thought or feeling, now I fought with a hot heart beating in my chest and a lump in my throat and sickness in the pit of my stomach. We fought for our lives. I killed to prevent the inkwell from drying.

            Months passed and I fought in many battles, each one as livid as the last until the war finally ended. When I hung up my uniform, I realized I had to let the letter run its course. A man I never knew, nor spoke to, saved my life, and I was to repay him by sending him home to his Anna, but not in a blood covered letter. I took ink and quill and prepared fresh paper. As I transcribed, I felt as if I was pouring my own heart onto the pages. Every time I dipped my quill into the ink I dipped my hands into his blood. Every word I wrote was a life saving act. When there were no more words, though, the letter had nothing left to offer me. I attached an anonymous note hoping Anna would find comfort in knowing someone cared, and apologizing for the delay. When there was no more ink I sealed the envelope. As I let it slip from my grasp, the sky stole my breath. Reeling I looked upward. It was cold and gray. A quill without ink has no purpose.

© 2013 Bradley

Author's Note

This is my first short story. I realize it is very short. Please feel free to point out any errors, and I'm looking for lots of feedback! What do you like, what is confusing, etc.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


I love the use of the quill and ink symbolism. Very well written in my opinion.

Posted 9 Years Ago

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on November 8, 2013
Last Updated on November 8, 2013
Tags: civil, war, blood, hands, pen, ink, quill, letter, sky, soul, battle, breath




I am a husband and father of four. more..

Window Seat Window Seat

A Poem by Bradley

Snowy Snowy

A Poem by Bradley