Written for a horror short story competition; first appeared on http://www.desa.org.mt/text/shards/
You weren’t even aware that these things work anymore, old and dusty, broken panes and all. But, there it is, a barely-red-anymore telephone box with the phone still in place ringing its head off.
What compels you to wrench the rusted door open and put the phone to your ear? No idea.
What makes you stay? The voice you haven’t heard in months.
“Is that you?” she’s crying into the receiver and you’re shocked beyond words, because the last time you’d heard this voice was when you called her voice mail on lonely nights, when you refused to believe that the accident ever happened.
“Yeah, it’s me,” you whisper, and she’s crying and sobbing your name and begging you for help, please, before the pain gets any worse.
Pain? What pain? You’re almost yelling into the receiver in panic, but the static rings in your ears like a sharp jab back to reality and you’re left standing alone in an old red telephone box with your fist clenched around a machine that hasn’t been used in years.
You never believed in hauntings, ghosts, séances, Ouija boards. That stuff was for stupid sixteen year olds in horror movies and adults who never matured beyond their first year of college. But you’re walking out of your way home the next day to pass by the telephone box, and just as your foot steps in the right direction, the phone’s ringing again.
Nobody pays much attention to the jilted, annoying sound the phone makes as it rattles in its place. Maybe you’re the only one who can hear it, but you don’t really care.
You’re running up to the box again and pick up the phone before your body’s even fully inside.
“Is it you?”
“It’s me, I’m here, where are you?”
She doesn’t know, it’s cold, it’s dark, she’s in pain, and she needs help. You’re almost crying, because she sounds so desperate.
She hangs up after a few precious seconds, and you’re left smothering your bawling into the sleeve of your jacket, because you’re so sure that the last time you saw her face was a few hours before that car plowed into her while she was on her bike in the rain.
You walk by the next day, and the phone rings as soon as you’re near enough. This time, as you enter, you notice a strange, hooded figure leaning against the bank’s threshold, just two doors away. The figure has a cigarette in his hands, and all you can see of his face is a pointed smirk.
You answer the phone and start speaking before she can.
“Tell me what I can do to help you.”
It’s like a switch – she starts to babble on about retribution, about a place in the beyond (whatever that means), about consolation, about peace. You can’t catch half of what she’s saying, and after a straight minute, the line goes dead, and you’re left feeling like something cold has just passed over you.
The fourth day comes with sleet and wind, and you’re slipping on the pavement as you hurry straight into the phone box, picking up the machine mid-first ring. You stare out of the partly-foggy, mostly-broken glass over your shoulder, and see the same hooded figure standing there.
Staring straight at you.
“I don’t know how to help you,” you mutter, defeated, lost, longing to just see her face one last time.
“Is he there?”
You’re still staring at the hooded figure, and take a shaky gulp before asking.
“Him. You’ll know him when you see him. He’s come for you, too.”
Your hands are clammy now, the receiver’s almost slipping out of your palm.
The figure’s at the glass now, eyes hidden behind the crease of the hood, but you know that there would be nothing there but death mirrored back in sockets where eyeballs should have been. The pointed smirk is on his lips, and you’re not sure you understand.
“What is happening?”
But she doesn’t answer, and you see Death – for you are so sure that that is his name – break a piece of glass from the broken pane, so effortlessly and without any sign of blood or pain. He pushes it through a gap in the glass and you find your free hand moving towards it.
Death’s smirk grows softer, and he gives a gentle shrug.
“You want to see her again, don’t you?”
The street is empty, and you know this was all planned from the start.
His voice sounds like sleep after a long day.
So you take the glass pane, and a deep breath with it.
Your hear her sigh happily on the other end, too.