Writer’s Block: “The envelope in my mailbox had no return address.”

by The Cowl Editor on April 12, 2018


Blank notepad and pencil
Photo courtesy of professionalgrantwriter.org


“The envelope in my mailbox had no return address.”


by Marisa Gonzalez ’18


The envelope in my mailbox had no return address. At first, I was quite shocked. Why would someone want to remain anonymous? Of course, once I asked myself this question, I realized how stupid that was. Someone would want to remain anonymous if they were evil, an escaped prisoner, a stalker, or a serial killer. Or, you know, it could be something as simple as the letter went to the wrong place or was from a secret admirer, but my brain does not automatically go to simple. Also, secret admirers are creepy. Why do they want to remain secret?

Anyway, I stared at the envelope for some time before figuring out what I should do with it. Do I throw it away? Do I open it? Will it explode? Will I find a key that will unlock a magical world? All of these questions swarmed around in my head as I just stood there and stared. I must have looked crazy. Finally, after 20 minutes of staring, I realized that the letter may not even be for me. It only had my address. For a moment I felt satisfied that I had actually made a realization but then I started thinking about what I should do with it. If it were not for me, then who was it for. What do I do with it?

I took a deep breath, cleared my mind and figured that the best option was to simply open it. If I didn’t open it, how would I know who it was for? Yup, that made perfect sense! So, I held my breath and opened the envelope, hoping my questions would be answered. Unfortunately, they were not. I opened the letter and it turned out to be addressed to me. But, that wasn’t the weird part. The contents of the letter were not what I was expecting. It read:

Ms. Underwood,

We have been keeping an eye on you. We are happy to say that you have not disappointed us. When you signed the petition to set Bilbo the Bear free from bear baiting, we had high hopes for you. Your activism is quite impressive as are your Facebook posts. You clearly care deeply for animals and we would like to speak to you. As you may have noticed, there is no return address.  That was intentional as our organization is to remain a secret. I hope that you will be able to use that brilliant brain of yours to figure out where we reside.


I was very confused and freaked out. These people have been watching me. Wonderful. Although, they seem to love animals so that’s good. But still, they have been watching me. Also, I am supposed to find them with my brilliant brain. I didn’t even know I had a brilliant brain. But, these people thought I did, so I better figure it out. Once again, I went back to my staring method. Luckily, the method worked this time.

After staring at the letter, I began to think about National Treasure and how the Declaration of Independence had a secret message on the back. Ben and Abigail used lemon juice to reveal the message. Maybe this could work on the letter. Of course, I didn’t know where the address would be, so I used my brilliant brain and soaked the whole letter and envelope in lemon juice. It worked! The letter smelled of lemons and was pretty much damaged, but it worked!

An address appeared in the corner of the letter. I quickly ran inside and looked up the address on my computer. According to the internet, it was an abandoned factory. Awesome.  Not scary at all. I took a deep breath, grabbed my coat, wrote a note to my parents, and took off on my bike to the factory, because I have a brilliant brain and thought going to a scary factory was a smart idea. Go me.

I biked to the  factory and parked my bike outside. Upon seeing the building, I stood for what felt like hours just staring at the shattered windows and fallen wall. I think I would have stayed there all day if I hadn’t heard a bark. I jumped and turned to where the barking was coming from. A German shephard then came running at me.  I tried to run back to my bike but the dog grabbed my leg. I shrieked and then I saw a figure in a dark hood coming toward me. I continued  to shriek like a dying goose when the figure touched my shoulders. I shivered, gulped, and looked up at the hooded figure.

“Are you Macie Underwood?” The figure asked. I gulped again.

“Yes,” I stuttered.                    

“Well, welcome.” The figure then guided me through the door, down some stairs and I end up in the basement of the factory and inside a room that looks a lot like the Q Branch from James Bond. The figure took off its hood to reveal a middle-aged woman.

“Welcome,” she said. “Welcome, Ms. Underwood, to the Organization of Protectors of Animals.”


by Erin Lucey ’20


The envelope in my mailbox had no return address. Looking back, that should have been the first clue that something was off. But I was completely blind to the idea that something was fishy. I hadn’t seen or heard from Liam in over 14 months at this point!

The note I received appeared to be my saving grace; my only route to an explanation from him. So of course, to my current regret, I followed the shaky directions on the note to the café that is inside the subway station on the corner of Park Ave. When I first got there, I was nervous. Would he be angry with me for not finding him? Happy to see me and act like nothing happened? Anxiety. That is the last sentiment I remember entertaining as an awake, alive, independent-minded individual in the outside world. I simply did not know what to expect of that moment so long ago, but what actually happened that day had never come close to crossing my mind.

Honestly, I can’t even soundly assert that that day wasn’t a few hours ago, or perhaps years ago. As of now it seems that I will never truly know how long I have been “under” for. The next thing I remember after my final moment in that greasy café was the first hazy awakening that surfaced me to my current state of consciousness.

I know I’ve described this many times before, but I must keep reminding myself of what is real, as I am terrified of what will happen if I forget. Besides, I will forever be unsure which pages, if any, will ever make it out of here—if anything I am communicating will eventually reach another set of eyes.

The first time this happened, it felt like I had finally woken up from the deepest sleep of my life. Trapped in a barren white room, it seemed almost as if I was floating around, but yet still somewhat anchored to a point below me. In the far distance ahead of me I could see a rolling image, with a graininess that resembled a colorized scene projected from an old movie.

To my surprise and confusion, the scene was eerily familiar—something I had undoubtedly viewed before in my life. As I stared longer I could make out that I was watching an image of my mother, but not the way she was when I last saw her alive. Her face was fuller, eyes livelier—she was younger. I was watching a moment that had occurred within the first few years of my life, a time that I did not even realize I could recall. Images from the deepest parts of my brain were being projected before an unknown audience, and I was completely trapped, watching from afar.

At this “present” point, I am still unaware if I am alive or dead. My guess is that this consciousness I am experiencing was not the goal of whomever is responsible for my condition. As I continue to exist in this state of limbo, my images grow slightly further and further away each time I “wake up.” Though my hope seems to be growing smaller with my screen, I’m still holding onto the belief that there is a chance I can be freed.

—J.C.; 45th recorded instance of conscious awareness, Page 56, Date Unknown