When I was a young child, I had a playroom filled with toys which had accumulated over the many holidays and birthdays. I remembered sitting in the middle of that room playing with my toys each day. My mother and I were reminiscing one morning as I was packing my things to move into my new apartment when she brought up that playroom. She said that she always thought it was odd that I would sit in that room for hours playing with one single toy telephone. She said that it was a toy I had gotten for my first birthday, and she was surprised that I hadn’t lost interest by my sixth birthday. This brought back memories of my playroom and that telephone. I remembered exactly why I had begun playing with it and why I had stopped.
When I was four and it was the week after Christmas. We had just relocated all of my new toys from the living room up to the playroom, and I was eager to nestle into my usual spot in the center of the room. I had only just sat down and picked up a toy horse when I heard a strange sound. It was similar to the haunting sound of a music box that was nearing the end of its tune. I looked around me and saw nothing that should be making that sound, so I continued galloping on my toy horse around the carpet. The noise grew louder and more persistent, so I began scooting toys away from the direction where the sound originated. I finally traced the melody to a small plastic phone resting against the wall. It was a simple phone in appearance. It was white with a spinning dial, and a red plastic ear piece. The only thing that I had ever found unsettling about this particular toy was the set of eyes that flipped back and forth as you pulled the string attached to it. Being a somewhat lazy child, I didn’t feel the need to stand up to retrieve the phone. I reached over, grabbed the string, and pulled the toy to me. As the eyes flicked back and forth, the haunting melody grew louder and faster. I assumed this was normal for this toy. I thought maybe it had batteries and they were beginning to die. I picked up the handset and held it to my ear.
“Hello? This is Charlotte.” I said, imitating my mother when she answered the telephone.
Oddly, I heard static coming from the smooth plastic handset.
“Hello?” I said again slowly.
There was a clicking sound and the phone’s tune stopped. This routine went on for about a week until finally someone began talking to me through that phone. It said its name was Mordrid and that it was my imaginary friend. I remembered hearing the children at daycare talking about their imaginary friends and I was ecstatic to finally get mine. It felt almost like a rite of passage.
Our conversations started out fairly normal. We would talk about daycare and the latest episodes of "Powerpuff Girls" and "Spongebob". Mordrid’s favorite characters were Him and Plankton. I always asked him why he liked the bad guys so much, and he told me that they were simply misunderstood good people. I believed him, and I began to like them too.
As I got older, our conversations became more intense. My first day of school I got made fun of and I came home in tears. The first thing I did was run up to my playroom and talk to Mordrid. I asked him if the mean children were misunderstood good people, and he said no. He said that they were monsters and that I should stay away from other children lest I be corrupted also. I didn’t understand, but I obeyed him. He would never teach me wrong because he understood everything.
One day I came home and my mother told me that we were storing the toys that I wanted to keep, and having a yard sale for the ones that were collecting dust. I ran up the stairs into the playroom, grabbed the phone, and hid it in my room. That day, I didn’t talk to Mordrid because I was so busy packing and getting things ready to sell. When I talked to him the next morning he was furious. He said that nothing should ever come between us and that we were best friends.
“How am I supposed to protect you if you don’t talk to me every day?” He snapped in his overly deep, angry voice. His voice always got very deep when he was angry.
I apologized and told him that it wouldn’t happen again.
My first day of high school was a nightmare. I wanted so badly to go home and call Mordrid and tell him about the awful things my classmates would say about me. They would whisper to their friends that I was a freak. They said it was no wonder that I didn’t have any friends because I was crazy. Maybe I was crazy, but the only friend I needed was Mordrid. This fact, however, didn’t make their cruel words hurt any less. I came home in tears once again. Ignoring my mother’s questions, I rushed upstairs to my room and shut the door. I rummaged around the bottom of my closet for my phone which was emitting its familiar haunting melody.
“Mordrid...? It’s Charlotte...” I sobbed.
“What’s the matter, Charlotte? Did the bad people hurt you again?” He said slowly.
“They whisper things... they say I’m a freak. Am I a freak, Mordrid?”
“Oh no, Charlotte! You’re not a freak. You’re special and they don’t understand.”
“You really think so?” I sniffed.
“Yes. I’m tired of those bad people hurting you, Charlotte. They won’t hurt you anymore. I promise.”
I looked at the handset and placed it slowly back onto the top of the phone. He had never hung up on me before. I shrugged it off as him being overemotional and I went downstairs for dinner. My mother waited at the bottom of the stairs.
“Honey, what is wrong? You seemed so upset.”
“Nothing’s wrong, Mom. I’m fine. I just had a rough day.” I muttered. “What’s for dinner?”
Mother wore a worried look upon her face, and she quietly replied, “Pasta...”
I smiled and walked happily into the kitchen to make a plate.
I went to school the next day and it was relatively uneventful. The bad people weren’t at school that day. I figured they were all skipping school together, but I was very wrong. When I got home, my mother was sitting on the couch staring at the television with a terrified look on her face. I glanced at the tv as I was placing my bookbag on the floor behind the couch. I saw the pictures of all the bad people on the news. They were all missing except for the worst one named Jessica. She had been found brutally murdered behind her home. My jaw dropped and my heart jumped into my throat. I dashed up to my room where my phone was chiming eerily.
“Hello…? It’s… Charlotte…”
“You seem afraid. Are you afraid of me, Charlotte?”
I didn’t know what to say. I was terrified. I knew now that Mordrid was something to fear rather than befriend.
“What did you do to the others, Mordrid?”
“I can’t tell you. You will tell other bad people and they will lock you up. I must protect you.”
I was silent, but I remained on the line.
“Charlotte, you don’t seem very grateful. They are gone. They will never bother you again.”
I remained silent as I set the handset gently back on the top of the phone.
Like clockwork, the creepy music box tune began playing and the eyes on the phone began flipping back and forth. I immediately grabbed the phone, flew down the stairs, and ran out of the house towards the shed. I locked the phone up and ran into the house. I didn’t hear any more from Mordrid. Sometimes when I would be outside, I would hear that creepy tune wafting from the cracks in the storage shed. I would always quickly make my way back into the house.
I looked down at my watch and noticed how late it had gotten.
“I really need to head out, Mom. It’s going to get dark.”
She nodded and gave me a hug and a kiss.
“Oh, Charlotte! Take that box with you too. I packed it up forever ago and it’s taking up space.” She pointed to a box nestled behind the couch. I walked over to it, picked it up, and hoisted it up onto my shoulder. Mother kissed me again on the forehead and told me to be safe as I walked out the door towards my car. It was a tight fit, but I managed to fit the box into my back seat and I began to drive away to my apartment. I stopped at a red light and adjusted my mirror. Right as soon as I was easing my foot on the gas, I heard it. I heard that creepy music in the back seat of my car.
I took a deep breath and pulled over before reaching into the box to grab the telephone.
“Hello? This is Charlotte...”