The little email sat in the outbox. He looked up at the big emails either side of him. They stared straight ahead, keen to ignore the little email. They carried Business Documents and Contracts, and considered themselves far too important to talk to him.
The door opened and the big emails shot out of the outbox. The little email watched them race along Connection Street, looking for their destinations. They ignored the turning for Google Avenue, and passed the top of Hotmail Boulevard. The big emails were heading for Private Domain Hills.
The little email patted himself down to make sure he hadn’t forgotten any of his attachments, and toddled out into the street.
He hurried as fast as his little legs would carry him, although he was exhausted from dodging the big emails by the time he reached the sprawling mansion. A burly avatar in a cowboy hat guarded the gate. The little email clambered up onto the pavement, and tottered along the street to the gate.
“Yahooooooooooooo!” said the gatekeeper at no one in particular.
“Excuse me, could you let me through? I have a delivery for kat_biscuits423,” said the little email.
“Yahooooooooooooo!” said the gatekeeper. The avatar didn’t look down at him.
“Um...is that a yes or a no?”
The little email sat on the kerb, unsure what to do. He dangled his feet and watched other emails sprint past. Another email stopped in front of the gatekeeper. She held out a zip file of attachments for inspection.
“Sorry, miss, these are too heavy. The weight limit is 10, but these are at least 24. You’re gonna just have to run on home and tell your owner,” said the gatekeeper.
The email sighed, and trudged back the way she had come. The little email stood up, drew himself to his full height, and marched across to the gatekeeper.
“Look, enough of that. I’ve got a delivery to make! kat_biscuits423 is waiting for this cake recipe and knitting pattern!” said the little email. He resisted the urge to stamp his foot.
“Sorry, young ‘un. Didn’t see you there,” said the gatekeeper. He looked down at the little email. “Let’s see....kat_biscuits423 doesn’t seem to have a mail box here. Are you sure you got the address right?”
“Yes - I’m a direct reply to an email from kat_biscuits423,” said the little email.
The gatekeeper fished in his back pocket and pulled out a crumpled sheaf of paper. He smoothed it out, and ran a digit down the printed list.
“Yahooooo!” he cried, pointing at a name. He showed the list to the little email.
“It says here that kat_biscuits423 sent an email to my owner yesterday. That’s what I’m replying to!” said the little email.
“Yes, her outbox is working, but as far as I can tell, there’s no inbox. Well, this is a real pickle. I can’t let you in, but I can’t send you home,” said the gatekeeper.
“Does that mean...?”
“Yep. You’re going to have to wait in Limbo while I figure this out.”
The gatekeeper pointed to a creaking shack across the street. The doors swung open, revealing the darkness inside. The little email quivered in fear. He’d heard about Limbo.
“It’s ok, son. I won’t be long,” said the gatekeeper.
The little email looked up and down the street, waiting for a break in the traffic. He toddled across to the shack. He looked over his shoulder, and the gatekeeper gave him an encouraging smile. The little email gulped, and shuffled inside.
The doors slammed shut behind him. He stifled a sob in the darkness, and felt around in front of him. His fingers found a bench, and he sat down. Whispers echoed in the black emptiness, and the little email felt very small. He fiddled with the attachments, worrying what would happen to them. Kat_biscuits423 wanted the cake recipe for a birthday party, and the knitting pattern was for a present.
Everything will be ruined if I don’t deliver these, he thought. The little email sniffed back tears as he wondered how he could get the attachments to her in time. He wrung his hands, and a fat tear crawled down his face. The little email hurried to wipe it away, afraid it might ruin the pattern or the recipe.
Suddenly, the door opened and light flooded the shack. The little email just had time to see the legions of emails crammed onto benches on either wall before a big hand lifted him out into the street.
“Hey there, little fella. Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the Yahoo gatekeeper.
“Is everything okay now?” asked the little email.
“Sure is. Turns out one of the silly humans accidentally pressed the wrong button on the server so your little lady’s inbox went down. It’s back up now. Do you want to come in?”
The little email beamed up at the gatekeeper. He checked the attachments one last time, before he followed the across the gatekeeper across the street. He smiled as he passed through the gate, happy that kat_biscuits423 would get her attachments after all.
* * *
This flash is written especially for my mother - partly because she had the idea about a little lost email wandering in cyberspace after an email to me went astray, and partly because she's my biggest fan! Happy Belated Mother's Day, Mam!