Call Me

Call Me

A Story by bba
"

Join us… Write your name… Come down with us… Join us…

"

The last time I heard my wife’s voice was in her room at the Nazareth Hospital. I was holding her hand when she said her last words. I know I shouldn’t have let Elena stay in the room and see her mother die. Most people will find that it’s just plain wrong to let a ten-year-old girl witness her mother die but I have my reasons at that moment. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find the right words to explain Lisa’s death to her if I had kept her out of the room. I figured it was for the best. Now I regret having done it since Elena took Lisa’s last words to heart and both Elena and I had suffered from it. It was only a couple of words. Coming from a healthy person, those words would appear natural, common, and harmless enough, and sometimes one would even want to hear those words. But to hear those words from a person in their deathbed with the ECG machine running a beep and moments away from that single monotonous tone, from a tired face desperately gasping for the last breath inside a dimly lit hospital room that smelled sharply of alcohol, those words would be the most frightful. What she had said didn’t even make sense to me. Even after two years it never did.

A month after Lisa’s death, Elena and I left the old house and moved into the third house in a place called Brookside Hills. Elena didn’t want to leave the old house, and she even cried the day we moved. I told her the old house was too far from my new workplace, and I needed to get home early so we could spend more time together. But there was no new job. I only wanted to leave that house because of the memories.

Elena settled in without difficulty. She liked the new house even though it was smaller than the old one. For me, the house was great; as long as it didn’t have Lisa’s old things inside. There was a small garden in front where Elena could spend most of her time when she got off from school. She had a green thumb like her mother. The roses she grew were beautiful. Roses were Lisa’s favorite.

The house had two rooms, which suited me well since I had no intention of letting anyone live with us. We didn’t really need a big place since there would only be the two of us. There will be no Mrs. Richard Marquez other than the one buried six feet under. That went on for two years before I met Sandra. We didn’t get married. Oh no, Sandra left me a week before our marriage. With all the preparations made and all the invitations sent out, she left just like that. It’s funny how it happened, really. The day I did what Lisa wanted me to do.

As I have said, I decided to leave the old house because of the memories it held. Every time I saw the things Lisa had held and touched, my heart bled. I didn’t tell Elena but the roses she grew only saddened me. I didn’t have the courage to tell her so I let her plant those goddam roses. So, you can imagine what I felt when I saw one of Lisa’s things inside Elena’s room. I don’t know how the hell that thing got into her room or how she got hold of it. I swear I never let Elena bring anything from the old house other than her clothes and the toys she owned. I was the one who packed and unpacked her things and I didn’t see that goddam thing then. But there it was on the side table by her bed: Lisa’s old phonebook.

The moment I saw the phonebook I knew it was Lisa’s. I had seen her flipping through the pages and searching for her friends’ numbers in that phonebook a million times. But when I picked it up and opened it, it was different. The names listed in it were not Lisa’s friends; not the ones that I had met. Clearly, it was her handwriting; you’d know in one glance if it’s the handwriting of someone you’d lived with all your life.  Some of those names didn’t ring a bell. Some of them weren’t even ordinary names to begin with. Names like Ignacio, Algernon, Alfonsa, Bayani, Ambrose, Gertrude. I knew these were old, unused names because my grandmother’s name was Alfonsa. Then there were the usual names; Chester, Froylan, Allen, Andrei, Andrea, Dave. I had a friend named Dave and he died when we were in high school.

Elena’s room was the same size as mine, but hers had a tree by the window and the room was swallowed by shadows even in the middle of the day. She chose the room when we got here, and the moment she saw the tree out the window, there was no way I could convince her to take the other room. She likes plants as I have mentioned. Just like Lisa. I sat on the bed, holding the phonebook in my hands like it was a lost treasure. It had been two years since I saw any of Lisa’s belongings, and I was surprised with what I felt while I was going through the phonebook. It was not grief or sadness. More like desire… desire to find Lisa’s name in it and to do what she had said on the day she died. My hands shook, and I had to place the phonebook down on the bed a couple of times. Then I saw her name, in her own handwriting, under the print of a triangle with a circle on top of it.

Lisa Marquez.

Beside it was a telephone number. The number was unfamiliar; it wasn’t the telephone number of our old house. There were a lot of things in my mind what with a week before the wedding and all, and I knew I shouldn’t have tried any of the numbers in it. I could only wish I had burned that goddam thing before dialing the numbers.

My heart pounded as I listened to the ringing. It took six rings before it was answered. There was an unnerving, squishing sound at the other end of the line. It sounded like someone was playing with their spittle while holding the receiver close to their mouth. Come to think of it, it sounded more like worms… squirming worms. Someone was on the line, doing that sound while listening to my stupid voice saying hello over and over. And when I said Lisa’s name the phone went dead.

How I could possibly think of trying another number still escapes me even to this day. I flipped the phonebook open and found the number of the person named Dave. Again, six rings. Again, the squishing sound. I walked away from the telephone thinking how stupid I was to believe the numbers would allow me to speak to the dead. I went out the garden and burned the phonebook and forgot about it until that evening.

Sandra had cooked spaghetti for dinner. There’s one thing I know Elena and I shared and it was the love for spaghetti. And Sandra cooked spaghettis like Lisa did. We were eating when the phone rang. It was on a table across the dining room, and Elena was the closest to it so she picked it up.

“Daddy, it’s for you,” she said.

“Did you ask who it is?” I asked. I didn’t want to leave the table and a plate filled with spaghetti.

She went back to the caller and asked who it was.

“He says he’s your old friend Dave.”

My face probably had showed a terrified, sickened expression for Sandra looked up at me and touched my hand.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

I simply nodded, looking at the plate of spaghetti. I wasn’t hungry anymore. And the sight of the spaghetti on my plate didn’t look as appetizing as before. Those pastas reminded me of worms… worms squirming inside the rotten body of Dave.

It took a while before I realized that Elena and Sandra were waiting for me to speak.

“Tell him to call back,” I said. “No! No, tell him I’ll call him back.”

Elena did what I told her. She walked back to the table, holding something in her hand.

“He said he’ll wait for your call, Daddy. He said you have his number here,” she said, sliding the phonebook across the table.

I nearly turned the table over when I jumped out of my seat.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

It was hard to keep my voice down, not with the panic building inside of me. I was standing and pointing at the phonebook I had burned that afternoon. My finger was shaking, and I had to clench my hand to stop it.

“It - it was on the table by the phone, Daddy,” Elena said.

“Isn’t that yours?” Sandra asked.

“No, I bur - no that’s not mine,” I said.

Sandra reached out for it, and I held her hand.

“No, no! Don’t touch it!”

“What is wrong with you?” she asked, freeing her hand and taking the phonebook.

I watched her opened the phonebook with fear bursting inside my chest. I wanted to grab it and throw it across the room but at the same time I was afraid to touch it.

“What is this?” she asked indignantly. Her face fell, and there was a trace of fear in it.

“A phonebook,” I said.

“This isn’t funny, Rick,” she said. “Andrea Santos? Why is my sister’s name in here?”

“This is nothing,” I said, snatching the phonebook from her hand. But I knew the damage was done. And things had gotten worst when the phone rang again.

“Don’t answer it!” I said to Elena. It was too late.

“It’s for you, Sandra,” she said, hesitating. She didn’t know what was happening and she was all confused with Sandra and me raising our voices.

I went to the phone before Sandra could stand up and slammed the receiver back in its place.

“Who was that?” she asked.

I stared at her blankly.

She crouched down and faced Elena.

“Who was that, honey? Who was asking for me in the phone?”

There was mixture of fear and confusion in my daughter’s eyes. I swear I’d give everything not to see those dumb eyes again. I wished Sandra didn’t ask her because I knew Elena’s answer would only bring shock to both of us.

“S-she said she’s your sister Andrea.”

“No, it isn’t! No! That’s not my sister!” she said, shaking her head. She let go of Elena’s shoulders as if they were white hot. “Rick, what the hell are you doing? Why did you tell Elena that Andrea is calling? You think this is funny? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I didn’t tell her about Andrea! She never knew about your sister, Sandra!”

“D-Daddy didn’t tell me who she is.” Her eyes swelled with tears. “S-she told me who she is,” she said, pointing at the telephone.

The phone rang once again. All of us was looking at it like it was about to explode. The ringing appeared like it was getting louder and louder every time the last one was not answered. I picked it up to stop the ringing sound from drilling into my head.

“Ricky, my dear!” said the woman in a weak voice. I felt a cold bucket of water poured over me.

“Grandma?” I whispered.

“It’s so nice to hear your voice,” she said.

I had forgotten how my grandmother’s voice could sound so sweet and warm.

“How come it took you so long to call? Lisa said you would be calling but I didn’t imagine it will take you two years to call, Ricky. Really, Ricky, why did you let her wait? She told you to call her, didn’t she? She waited, Ricky. We waited for your call. I know you have the phonebook. I know you have our numbers…”

Cold sweat drenched my armpits like melted ice cream. I think I even peed a little.

“It’s so lonely down here, Ricky,” she said.

And her voice changed. It became long and drowning. A voice that sounded like it came from a mouth filled with hundreds of wriggling worms.

“Come down with us, Ricky. Write your name in the phonebook and join us.”

I dropped the receiver, and it made a cracking sound on the table. Sandra was on the floor, holding Elena. She had heard who I was talking to. From the receiver, the voice of my grandmother continued, wriggling in our ears like worms.

Join us, Ricky… Write your name… Come down with us… Join us…

Elena and I left the house that night. Sandra didn’t want to come with us. She even told me she didn’t want to see me again. I guess she was afraid her dead sister would never stop calling her if she stayed with me.

We spent hours looking for a motel room without a telephone inside. Every goddam motel room we went to had one. Why the hell would they place a telephone inside every single room?

Elena was dead tired, and I had no choice but to get a room even though there was a goddam telephone inside. I unplugged the phone and placed it in the bathroom sink.

It was hard to sleep when you’d just heard your dead grandmother’s voice. I could still hear her voice as if the pillow under my head was whispering. The voice that sounded like it came from a mouth filled with hundreds of wriggling worms.

Join us, Ricky… Write your name… Come down with us… Join us…

I think it was around one o’clock in the morning when I finally closed my eyes. In my sleep those worms still wriggled inside my head, forcing themselves out from my ears and eating my face.

I woke up at three-fifteen in the morning. The room was steeped in darkness, and the light from the bathroom burnt my eyes. Elena was not in the bed, and I feared the worst when I heard her voice inside the bathroom.

I sat up, but didn’t have the strength to go the bathroom. I knew there was nothing I could do. I watched Elena place the receiver back down on the dead telephone in the sink and went out from the bathroom, holding the phonebook in her left hand and a pen on the other.

“That was Mommy. I called her number in your phonebook,” she said, smiling her beautiful smile. “She wanted me to write our names in the phonebook. Look.”

She opened the phonebook and showed me where she wrote our names.

“That’s - that’s g-great, honey,” I said.

She beamed.

“I did what Mommy said! I called her and I wrote our names!”

How could I get angry at her with those beautiful eyes?

I wanted to wrap my hands around her neck and squeeze it until her eyes popped out...

“You did good, honey. You did what Mommy had told you to do… That’s - that’s my good girl…”

How could I get angry at her with that beautiful smile?

I wanted to shove that goddam phonebook down her throat and watch her choke…

“She said she wanted us to go to her. Isn’t that great, Daddy? We’ll see Mommy again!”

Join us, Ricky… Write your name… Come down with us… Join us…

“Yes, yes. That’s great, honey. Now, come back to bed, will you,” I said, patting her side of the bed.

She crawled back into bed and snuggled in my arms, holding the phonebook close to her chest like some cute teddy bear. I held her tight, keeping my face away from her. I didn’t want her to see my eyes fill with tears. I think she slept instantly in my arms. That was for the best. It would be plain wrong to let a little girl see the worms wriggle out from the pages of the phonebook that would eat her face.

And the worms came. They crawled out from the pages of the phonebook. I felt them on my chest, squirming and chewing through my shirt and tasting my skin.

Elena didn’t wake up. The worms ate her face as she slept, just as I wanted it. There’s no need for a little girl to get scared during the last few seconds of her life, you know.

I didn’t scream as the worms dug deep into my chest. It’s not a question of bravery, oh no, I think I simply didn’t have time to scream. You see, once the worms got inside of you, the pain disappeared. I assure you. Now, why don’t you grab a pen and write your name on the phonebook. Come down with us. Join us.

The End

© 2011 bba


Author's Note

bba
For HWA challenge about a phonebook.

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Featured Review

I would just like to say that you are truly my favorite writer on here.
Your work keeps me guessing, and I as a person who tends to think of all plot endings as I read, that's a damn hard thing to do.
It becomes so hard for writers to create their own stories. With so much media we can't help but be influenced by others. Yet, all I see is you in your writing. It's very lovely. Keep up the good work!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

wow...wow...wow....bbal; this story just blew me away. Totally an unexpected ending... keep on writing....pastors03

Posted 4 Years Ago


Wow! That was amazing, it truly creeped me out as I read it. I will be sleeping away from phones & address books for a long time.

Posted 5 Years Ago


The writing is awesome, and the way that the father is honest about his feelings towards what his daughter does, is probably what makes the story stick out. The only qualm that I have regarding this, just like a teeny thing that is of no big consequence, is the word 'squishy'. Don't know why. But the symbolism with the phone book and telephone is great.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Brilliant piece of work, Im new to this site and this is the best Ive seen so far. Your way to convey was very straight forward and it connected. I wish there was a bit more to reveal the nature of the protagonist (of course thats the problem with short stories or word limits, you never get to really reveal it all). the writing was simple, was very effective and it beautifully connected. Brilliant use of imagery and symbology.

Posted 6 Years Ago


hmmm guess you have been busy?..where have you gone?

Posted 6 Years Ago


I would just like to say that you are truly my favorite writer on here.
Your work keeps me guessing, and I as a person who tends to think of all plot endings as I read, that's a damn hard thing to do.
It becomes so hard for writers to create their own stories. With so much media we can't help but be influenced by others. Yet, all I see is you in your writing. It's very lovely. Keep up the good work!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

hey.that's not fair.!! You were about to gave me an heart attack!!!
well.but it is really an interesting eerie story.making you to stick to it until the very last line..i really liked the use of both the symbols of death:the phone book and the telephone...which have played their role till the very end.what i also liked is the way you ended it.seriously breath taking....there when the daughter innocently told the narrator what "the worst" thing she has done.the reaction was so intriguing.it seems all this was driving him to insanity and sheer madness.as if he's becoming a devil...

"I wanted to wrap my hands around her neck and squeeze it until her eyes popped out..."
"I wanted to shove that goddam phonebook down her throat and watch her choke…"

and i also think that those who have died (whose names have been mentioned in the phone book) was because of this(well.that's my thoughts.correct me if i'm wrong)

altogether.it's a great work.....this story was revolving through mu head for two days(I've reviewed it after one week)....i have never ever rated any writing before as i think i'm too small for it.but i can't resist this one:100/100.well that's according to me..........Keep it up!!!!!!!

Posted 6 Years Ago


Ok, that was really creepy but very nicely done, just the right length and the responses of the characters believable. You portrayed the growing anxiety of the lead character well. I only normally read poetry as some of the stories are a little difficult to get into but this grabbed my attention and kept it. Thank you!

Posted 6 Years Ago


This was very eerie and well paced. The settings and characterizations were vivdly portrayed, and you can't help but feel for the protagonist and his daughter, Elena, at the story's climactic finish. I think I'll have to pass on writing my name in the book though---ooops, sorry gotta' run, my phones ringing...



Posted 6 Years Ago



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Added on August 3, 2011
Last Updated on August 7, 2011
Tags: Horror, Short Story, Fiction, Phonebook, Brian Ayson, Horror Writer's Anonymous (HWA) , I really don't know how to tag m

Author

bba
bba

Philippines



About
I write short stories mostly, somewhere within the realms of horror, fantasy, drama, dark fantasy. Please feel free to read and write a quick review of what you think of my stories. Any comments gr.. more..

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