They were late again. Stars blinked in the dark sky, and the United States Postal Service truck slowly meandered around the bend in your neighborhood. You eyed the mail truck warily from your haunt, peering through your window as it paused to slip a parcel into the mailbox a couple houses down from you.
You tried to recall the last time the mail truck had been this late. It had been weeks, at least. About a month ago, while arriving home one night, you were unlocking your front door when you heard the rumble of a mail truck rounding the corner. Confused, you checked the time. It had been a little past 10 PM, and the 9-5 hours of the USPS was well past by now. So, you wondered, what could the mail truck be doing delivering so late?
You had unlocked the door and stepped inside, lingering by the sidelite to observe the postal worker as they did their duties. After watching the mail truck retreat down the street you had simply gone to bed and planned to forget the one-off occurrence. And yet, you began to notice the mail trucks slipping into your neighborhood at all hours of the night.
At first it had seemed inconsequential, but their odd hours quickly piqued your curiosity. A quick text to your group chat revealed that none of your friends had noticed the mail truck’s odd behavior. It seemed to be central to just your neighborhood. You had checked the US Postal Service website, and the regular hours were definitely a straight 9-5. Some reddit posts claimed that mail workers could go overtime to finish during their busy seasons, but it being the middle of May and extremely late at night had you fairly suspicious that that wasn’t the case.
Since then, you had taken note of the times the truck would pull up to your house. In the past month not once had a mail truck come at a normal time. The earliest it had ever come since you started watching was at 5:42 PM; that day had been preceded and followed by deliveries around 8 PM.
All of this had landed you here, 9:52 PM, peering around the corner of your off-white curtains. The mail truck grumbled along, finally reaching your mailbox. You strained your eyes into the dark windows of their truck as it slowly rolled down.
The mail carrier was turned around, the bright blue of their polo being the only thing you could make out. They rummaged around in the truck for a moment, before pulling something forward. You fruitlessly squinted, leaning forward in an attempt to better see what they were holding.
They turned towards the mailbox and your eyes lit up at seeing a package, just big enough to fit in both of their hands. You couldn’t really recall ordering anything online. Maybe one of your friends had sent you something?
The brief excitement you felt from the surprise gift promptly pooled into a pit of dread in your stomach as you looked up past the package, and took notice of the postal worker staring directly at you.
You drew a sharp breath, yanking the curtain past your body and recoiling back. You felt your heartbeat pulsing in your ears.
You exhaled nervously, slowly peeking your head around the curtain again. The driver hadn’t so much as twitched, their eyes still fixed on yours. They cocked their head to the side. Slowly, a smile crawled its way onto their face, stretching all the way up to their ears. Their eyes didn’t meet it there. Your heartbeat, which had been thumping so fast you could feel it through your whole body, stilled.
They languidly lowered the cheshire grin, settling into a smug quirk of their lips. You took a deep, choking inhale, and the slow scene in front of you seemed to resume to normal as the mail carrier slipped the parcel into your mailbox. They shot you another crocodile smile, this one only a quick rise of their lips.
The truck’s engine sputtered to life, and it began to crawl past your house to the next mailbox. The mail carrier’s silhouette was framed in the window, their profile a stark black surrounded by the clinical white of the truck. You wanted to check your mail.
You nervously waited until the truck had rounded the opposing bend of the street, before tiptoeing outside and gingerly closing the door. You could only barely hear the rumble of the truck as it kept going further into your neighborhood.
Once reaching your mailbox, your hand stilled above the hatch. The postal worker’s plastic smile lingered in your brain. You were beginning to think you were being paranoid, and shook your head free of its thoughts. You reached forward and took out the parcel, noting the quiet rustling coming from inside as you shook it. You ripped off the tape and eagerly pulled back the flaps.
Inside the box was a bright blue hat. “UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE” it read.
Frantically you turned over the box, searching for the sender’s address.
“UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE”
“Hello.” A gravelly voice called. Your body tensed, and you resisted the urge to turn around.
A hand landed on your shoulder. The smell of ink was overwhelming. “Welcome to the Postal Service.”