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I hate my job. I’m normally very quiet. I tend to choose my words carefully in an effort to succinctly and intelligently get my point across. That being said, I don’t know what possessed me to apply for and land a seasonal position at a call center. It’s a bit of a rough patch for me these days, I guess. I’m surrounded by hundreds of people all day long, yet it is the loneliest job I have ever worked.
I have no real interaction with anybody outside of the phone; I just stare at my screen and talk to people who want to order clothes from our catalog and haven’t quite gotten the hang of the internet yet. So, as you might guess, a lot of them are elderly. We’re talking really, really… well… old. Most are kind, I mean there is an odd grump here and there, but my actual work is not typically stressful. I’m just not a talker, and many of the callers would rather chat about their grandchildren than order anything. The reason I am telling you this is that yesterday I got a call I will never forget. It started like any other.
“Thank you for calling Dartmouth Clothing, my name is Benjamin. How may I help you?”
I have said these words so many times that they have become reflexive. I’m afraid I will answer a call from a friend or family member like this soon.
She sounded ancient. Okay, it’s going to be one of these calls where I have my microphone basically in my mouth and I still have to shout.
“Yes, ma’am? This is Benjamin at Dartmouth Clothing. How may I help you?”
“Oh! Hellooo, young man!” she said in a strange sing-song voice.
Okay, this is going to be one of these calls where I have my microphone in my mouth and the caller is aged enough to be quite odd.
“Hello, are you ordering today?”
“Ohh, yes. I wa-ant something from y-you.”
I couldn’t tell if the phone was breaking up or she was making full vocal stops in her speech.
“Okay, do you have your customer number handy?”
She tells me the number. I punch it in. Her information pops up.
“Okay, is this Eileen?”
The same exact inflection as the last one.
“Are we billing and shipping to 112 Hickory Avenue in Parkersburg?”
The same again. What the hell is this lady on? I put my polite phone voice back on.
“Okay ma’am, whenever you’re ready you can-”
I notice it for the first time. There are prompts on the top of this page to remind us to offer things like an email confirmation or company card. Those two are there. Next to them, there is one I haven’t seen before. Just one word.
I freeze. What on Earth? I can’t think of anything to say.
“Are youuu there, son?”
She coughs. Or at least that’s what I think it was. It was more like a dry gurgle sound.
“Uh, yes, ma’am, I’m… I’m here.”
I’m losing my composure. This is really creeping me out. It’s still there, glowing on my screen.
I wish I could have disconnected before what happened next, consequences be damned.
There was a moment of silence and then, out of nowhere, a loud burst of static that sharply decreased in volume, and I heard laughter. Dry laughter, coupled with what sounded like very faint ballroom music. The static then increased to a roar, the laughter to to a screeching cackle that stung my ear.
“IT’S COMING APART!”
That’s all I could make out amid the cacophonous laughter. Then, a loud thud, and silence.
I have had customers drop the phone on me before. That’s what this was. I couldn’t move. I was listening, whether I wanted to or not.
What I heard was a series of slaps and thuds, like someone was dropping raw steaks on the floor, and an erratic clicking noise.
“I wa-ant something from y-you.”
This time, she whispered. It sounded like she was a few feet from the phone. Then only low, slow, congested breathing.
I disconnected and ripped the headset off. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. I didn’t sleep very much last night. What little I did, I did with the lights on. I can’t get this out of my head. I had to tell somebody. I finally convinced myself to tell this story out loud because it dawned on me what the clicking was.
Open your mouth and click your teeth together.
Credited to Chilling Tales For Dark Nights