I found the emails quite by accident. I had just moved into the double story wooden ‘A’ frame house—you know–the one behind the college on the hill that leads down to the river. It had stood empty for months. It had a curse on it, people said. And no one wanted to live in a house where someone had committed suicide. A professor by the name of Eden Bancroft. A scandal had rocked the little town when he died. He had committed suicide here, in this very basement, apparently. They said he had murdered some girl, some student of his, and then turned the gun on himself. Or else it had been, and this was more likely, a double suicide. Some sort of lovers’ pact.
Anyway, the step to the basement creaked horribly, so the first thing I did when I moved in was pull up the carpet and pry up the offending board. It had been put in wrong. I was about to hammer it back into place when I saw a dark object in the dusty recess under the steps. I shone my flashlight onto a black garbage bag, securely tied up with masking tape. I hauled it out and brought it to the light.
Inside, I found a neatly folded Hawaiian Hula grass skirt and bikini top made out of the two halves of a coconut. Some scallop shells. A black rock. And a scrap of paper with large uneven words scrawled on it.
USERNAME: EDENBANCROFTINPARADISE@YAHOO.COM PASSWORD: THEGIRLWITHTOOMANYNAMES
The Hawaiian dress reeked of coconut, and the coconut shell bra cups were also stained with coconut oil. And when I touched them, my fingers were glued with some sticky substance. I smelled it: a familiar sweet, nauseating smell.
The rock was shiny smooth, like black glass. On it was taped a note.
Please accept this Lava Rock that I brought home while visiting Hawaii. It belongs to you. Volcano Park on Big Island We are truly sorry and hope that we will be forgiven.
Ever since we took it your curse has been upon us. If Pele would please forgive us our disrespect and ignorance, we would be eternally grateful. Sincerely,
NJ and EB
Why hadn’t the police found this? Surely they had sifted through this entire house for evidence? I shouldn’t get my fingerprints all over it. But that was too late now.
I sat at the computer, found Yahoo, and typed in the username and password. No harm in having a look before I handed this to the police.
I feared I would not get in, or see the dreaded message ACCOUNT CLOSED.
I didn’t press Enter. Not yet. I felt a cold chill in my heart. A draft over my shoulder. I looked around. No one was there.
I don’t believe in ghosts. But I said aloud, ‘Well, Eden Bancroft, speak to me. Tell me what you want me to know…’
And I swear I could hear a voice in my head: Beware. Once you know our little secret, it will never let you go. Once you open Pandora’s box, you cannot close it up again. Once you eat from the tree of knowledge your eyes will be opened. Are you ready for the truth?
Maybe I should leave it alone. Maybe this was for the police to figure out.
But I could not help myself. I felt my finger press down against its will as if an invisible hand was forcing me to click Enter.
I closed my eyes.
OK Eden, if this is what you want…
I stared at the screen.
A full inbox of emails. Pages of them. All from Nuala James, the student who was found dead with the teacher. And in the sent folder, screeds of emails sent from Eden Bancroft himself.
No others. This was a correspondence between these two dead people, dating back six months and ending on the night of their death.
Now I definitely had to go to the police. They might find a clue as to what happened to them. In fact, if I opened the last email, I might find out myself. They might be his last words, his confession, his suicide note.
I was sick with anticipation. My hands shook; my heart thumped loud; my skin grew clammy.
I clicked open the first email on the page.
Ours is an impossible love for this world. They have tried to stop us anyway they can. But Darling, they cannot get to us now. I would rather die than go to jail, and be separated from you. I come to you, sweet Koala. If you don’t hear from me for a while, then I have made it to the other side. Wait for me there!
The computer froze. Dammit.
I rebooted it, and typed in the username and password again. From the beginning, the voice said in my ear. Read from the beginning if you want to know the truth!
I told you I don’t believe in ghosts. This was only my own higher self talking to me. My subconscious. But I did as it commanded.
I started reading immediately. And once I began I could not rest. I clicked open one email after the other, hungry to know. I could not stop. The story plunged so spectacularly fast, I could not wait to click open each file. I began at the beginning (the last page, and alternated between the sent and inbox folders, going by date and time. I had to work out the gaps— there were long silences between emails, there were things assumed, events referred to that I did not know, but a picture emerged, two people began to come alive, two ghosts began to materialize, and by morning, the more I read, the more I realized that I could never go to the police with this information.
I copied and pasted the emails into a sequenced document—I was afraid of losing access, but the computer kept freezing every time I jumped out of sequence, as if an invisible hand was guiding me, urging me, even forcing me to read them in order.
The emails began quite innocently—well, not that innocently, but innocuously. You could never imagine what would unfold. And—a word of warning- to any who read this story after me – it is shocking, graphic, intimate, sick. It is a story of raw passion, sex, jealousy and taboos. Betrayal. Heartbreak. And you, like me, will feel voyeuristically guilty. I was a peeping tom, looking in on two lovers and all their secrets. It is not like me. I felt shamed as I read the most intimate details of their forbidden love, and I would not have continued reading but for the burning feeling that he—they –wanted me to know their truth. All night, there was this urgent pressure on my finger to click and scroll down, to stay awake, and KNOW that dreadful secret of theirs, that dreadful knowledge that would change me forever.