The Call

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

He picked up the phone one morning, expecting a normal phone call. What he found instead was a source of torment that he had never considered possible.

He could stand the incessant ringing no longer. He grabbed the phone off the cradle and yelled, “WHAT?!? Some of us are busy going crazy!”


The phone was silent. There was no sound, not even a dial tone. He shouldn’t have expected one. The phone had been disconnected for the past three months. He didn’t even have the damn thing plugged in anymore.


He had had the company turn it off when it became clear that the calls would never end. The calls had started five months ago, and he was sure that if his service was still active, they would still be going on. Once a day, at 8:17am, he would get a call from a man telling him to visit various places in the city. The man never gave his name or with which organization, if any, he was with. It was always be here at this time, then a click.


Of course he didn’t go. Why should he? He went about his day the way he normally would have. The next day, the phone rang, and it was the same guy. Different location at a different time. No mention of him missing the previous day’s location. This went on for a week, before he got angry enough to demand answers. Until this point, he had chalked the calls up to a rather unimaginative prank caller. But this was getting old.


When he asked for answers, he was ignored. The man on the line never said more than a location and a time. He started ignoring the calls, but the phone would just keep ringing. He even took the phone off the hook at 8am, and didn’t put it back on the hook until 9am, but as soon as it was able, the phone would ring.


Finally, more out of frustration than anything else, he went to the location that he was directed to at the appointed time. It was a little park that the city had built to keep its “nice family” image alive. There was nothing remarkable going on. Some summer evenings saw live music in the park, but this was the middle of a spring day. There were people walking through the park on their lunch breaks, but no one stood out to him. No one even seemed to be paying any attention to him. He sat on one of the benches scattered around the park, and tried to figure out why he was here. He looked at each guy he saw in order to guess if one of them were the owner of the mysterious voice. None seemed likely, as they were all busy going about their daily lives.


He got tired of sitting in the chill, so got up to leave this fool’s errand when he heard a choked gasp from behind him. He turned just in time to see a woman that had been walking on the path closest to the bench grab her chest and crumble to the ground. He didn’t think. He just ran to her, turned her onto her back and seeing that she wasn’t breathing, and started CPR. He was glad he kept certified. Someone, he’s not sure who, dialed 911, and before long, he was moved aside by paramedics. Before leaving with the woman, one of the paramedics thanked him for starting CPR, but it didn’t look like they would be getting her back.


He was stunned for the rest of the day. A woman from the city newspaper called and asked for a statement, but he declined. He heard on the news that the woman had had a heart attack and was declared D.O.A. The next morning, the phone rang again. He grabbed the phone and asked what the hell the man wanted. All he got was a time and a place, as usual, followed by the customary click. He didn’t think history could repeat itself, so he went. And if history did repeat itself, he would do his best to make sure the outcome was different.

This time, he was in a shopping center. He was having a sandwich at the deli when the man at the table next to his uttered a small scream and slumped over. Someone else reached the man before he could this time. He just backed away from the scene, and left before the ambulance could get there. He started to wonder if the calls were warnings of where not to be. Maybe they were telling him where people were going to die, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. What kind of sick game was this?


He waited until the next day’s call came in, and as soon as he hung up the phone, he called the police. He told them the entire story, and all he got for his trouble was a jerk at the other end of the line asking if he had any tips on the lottery. He hung up and called the woman from the newspaper that had called him for a statement. She at least managed to keep the laughter from her voice. He stayed away from the appointed location that day, and waited for the news to come on that evening. He wanted to know who he was supposed to witness die. There was no news of anyone dying. Not at that location, or anywhere else in the city it seemed.


When the news went off, all he could do was sit there dumbfounded. Maybe it had just been some major bad luck that had had him at the site of the two deaths. Maybe all of this was in his head. He had always lived alone, and had never really made any close friends, so he didn’t really have anyone to talk this out with, but he was getting comfortable with the theory that it was all just bad luck. Then the next call came.


He was told to be at the airport at 4 that afternoon. He went, confident that no one would die. He was half right. No ONE died at the airport that day. A small passenger plane was coming in for a landing when the pilot suffered some sort of brain hemorrhage and went into a seizure. He jerked the controls as he was convulsing, sending the plane into the path of another small plane that was just taking off. There were no survivors.


He learned all of this from the news, of course. 15 dead total. All he could think of were those poor souls that had died. Died because of him. He had become some sort of Angel of Death. If he had just stayed away from the airport, nothing would have happened. Both flights would have gone smoothly. He was responsible. But he couldn’t really turn himself in, could he? How could they charge him for deaths that were listed as natural causes? He decided that he was done with the phone calls after that. If the voice on the other end didn’t like it, tough.


He stopped answering the phone. He turned the ringer off, but left it on the cradle. But that wasn’t enough. He could no longer risk going out for fear that he would be where he was supposed to be that day by accident. Naturally, he lost his job, and what small social life that had afforded him, but he was content to lose it all as long as he didn’t have to act as the Angel of Death. He had the phone disconnected shortly after that.


His savings had been modest to begin with, but after three months of paying bills with no money coming in, he was about to have an empty bank account. The phone started ringing again two weeks into his third month of isolation. When he bothered to pick it up, it was always dead, as it should have been. But today had been the last straw. With the receiver still clutched in his hand, he grabbed the base of the phone and smashed it against the nearest wall. This did more damage to the wall than it did the phone, but the second strike had better results. Half a dozen hits later, the base of the phone was so much twisted metal and shattered plastic, but he was not content to stop there. He put the receiver on the ground and stomped it until it was no longer recognizable. This gave him supreme pleasure. Now the phone would never ring again.


It was at this time that he heard a knock on his front door. He couldn’t imagine who it could be, but he had an idea it was the man that belonged to the elusive voice. This would be perfect. He would give the man the same treatment he had given the phone. No, worse. He was busy planning methods of torture so brutal that they would probably be considered crimes against humanity to even write them down when he reached the door. He flung the door open, about to grab the man on the other side and pull him into his own living hell, when he stopped, stunned. It was not a man that stood on the other side, but a woman of about 19. She looked at him with sad eyes. He just stared at her, at a loss for words, when he felt a strange pain shoot through his chest.


She watched him clutch his chest and fall to the floor. She sat beside him and pulled him into her arms. She could smell the madness waft off of him, but knew that he was not dangerous. Besides, she had a job to do. She was here to give him comfort in his final moments. At least, that’s what the voice on the other end of her cell phone had said.

Submitted: May 15, 2013

© Copyright 2020 CharlesLeeMcCabe. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Waylon Moosberger

Holy crap that was pretty good, especially the ending. It was so surprising at the last sentence. Like a scary story you'd tell around Halloween time. Nice work.

Wed, May 15th, 2013 2:51am


Thank you. The story grew from the first line. I heard it in my head, and it took on a life of it's own after that.

Tue, May 14th, 2013 8:37pm

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