I met Hopscotch Chartreuse at precisely 5:17 a.m. at the diner Creepy Crepes — I was given the appointment on the conditions I would be on time, I wouldn’t cause delays, and I would assist with mail deliveries to make up the time she spent answering my questions.
“Good morning, Atty,” the gnome greeted me warmly with a strong hug. “We have 19 minutes here, then we must get moving.” As clean as clockwork, our waitress poured two mugs of void coffee, accepted a bundle of mail addressed to the diner, and set down our breakfasts. “Two usuals,” she approved with a smile and then set down the check so we wouldn’t have to wait when we finished.
“The mail is constantly moving, and often shifts through time itself in multiple directions,” Hopscotch explained. “Gotta keep on schedule.”
“What happens if you don’t?” I asked as I cut open a biscuit. The steam ghosts within rose with morning splendor.
“I don’t understand the question,” Hop replied as she stole a potato from my plate.
Hopscotch All-Colors, gnome, is the postmaster monster of the Netherworld Post Office. To keep up with the job’s many responsibilities, she uses a time travel prism, allowing her to exist in multiple places, in multiple time streams, simultaneously. To keep track, each Hopscotch is assigned a color.
At 5:36 a.m., we left Crepes and walked to the Post’s branch office in Peyroux. “I start each morning on delivery,” Hop explained. “Lets me keep an eye on how things are flowing. Cannot lead if you do not understand the flow.”
By sunrise, we had blanketed Autumn’s Lost Wood’s southernmost sector. I visit the Wood nearly daily, have for years, but through this guided tour I saw countless areas I’d long forgotten about and many I didn’t know existed. “Mail belongs to everyone, so we go everywhere,” Hopscotch explained after we left a string-tied bundle outside a tree. A black claw reached down and retrieved it a few moments later.
By lunch time, we were back at the Post’s office and meeting with the other Hopscotches. The sound grew loud and the conversations were impossible to follow, but beneath the chaos, there must be an unseen order because before long agendas were formed, rest times assigned to various members, and I was passed to Hopscotch Indigo “Time to write letters,” she grinned.
“We rotate duties based on need — ours and the Post’s.”
In her private office, and each color gets her own, I fetched letterhead, addressed envelopes, took notes on future mailings, and selected stickers. “I write back to everyone who writes in,” Hopscotch Indigo said. “It may take awhile, mind you.” “I’m equally guilty,” I added embarrassedly.
After precisely 39 minutes, we headed down to an icy loading dock. “The potions keeping things frozen have run dry,” a goblin explained by way of greeting. “The weather is slowing down production of more.”
Hopscotch watched the cauldrons for a few minutes. “Negatively charge the phantasmal deliveries on the grave dock, use a blast of elemental air level four. Move the deep sea deliveries over there,” she pointed, “as a buffer. That’ll tide us over until the Potion Maker’s Authority can get here with a new batch.”
The goblin nodded and got to work, summoning a handful of others to assist with the heavy lifting. Sure enough, within the hour, the loading dock was cleared and everything was back on schedule. “Do you have problems like this often?” I asked as I helped move a block of frozen postcards, sorting them between “arctic, land” and “arctic, sea”.
“All the time,” Hopscotch Indigo nodded. “My job is boils down to figuring out weird magical compromises and warping enchantments to keep everything flowing. It is tricky, every action must be balanced across multiple timelines and planes of existence, but we make it work.”
At shift’s end, I was given a small bag of mail to deliver throughout Peyroux, a duty I enjoyed tremendously.