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Hang Up

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As the woman opens her eyes with lingering irritation in the dead of the night, she comes to the cold realization that her neighbors possess the two most unforgivable traits that can be found in neighbors: thin walls and poor taste in music.

The bass track sends a firm rumble through her bed with each maddeningly repetitive note. She covers her head with a pillow in a feeble attempt to drown out the noise.

Undeterred, the sound continues to wail against her eardrums.

With a frustrated growl, she rolls off her bed and groggily paces down to the kitchen. She briefly considers calling the police for noise violation as her eyes wander up to the landline phone extending from the kitchen wall. From the façade of the phone, a half-rusted dial hangs tight, fastened by a thick screw.

Her thoughts jolt away from the phone as the music abruptly changes to a different song. The hairs on the back of her neck erect with the familiar tune.

She knows this song.

Before she can piece together her memories tied to this particular song, the phone lets out a blaring ring. The woman jumps slightly as the sharp ringing catches her by surprise. Her hand hovers automatically to the receiver, but further thought prompts her to pause.

Who calls this late at night?

Apprehensively, she picks up the receiver and draws it slowly to her face. Immediately sound crackles from the speaker.

“Please stay on the line.”

The woman freezes as she recognizes the voice as distinctly her own. Oddly enough, it does not sound like a recording; it seems to vibrate through her very brain like an internal dialogue.

“Please do not hang up the phone.”

Each word runs as naturally as her own thoughts, calmly worming through her mind.

As the woman stands in stunned confusion with the phone pressed to her ear, the music continues its dull thumping in the background. Vacantly, the receiver emits nothing but faint white noise. The low static buzzes in an un-ending tone.

Without warning, the near silent phone comes to life; it starts to rapidly push sounds and images into the woman’s skull. At first, the projected memories wash over her in an inconceivable, surreal daze, but they gradually sink into a recognizable clarity. She analyzes the scene before her.

A simple bathroom wraps around her: an old ceramic tub lies against the far wall beneath a lime-stained shower head; a faded-white toilet and sink hide next to the door; and a dull flickering light illuminates the entire scene from above.

Reliving a forgotten memory, the woman paces forward to the mirror above the sink, seeing a much younger shade of herself gazing back from beyond.

How old is this memory?

Her involuntary reminiscence winds on as she hears the muted but instantly recognizable music playing from beyond the closed bathroom door. The sound suddenly jumps up in volume as the door drifts open.

A slim silhouette hangs in the opening.

“Don’t scream,” it moans quietly, lowering its face towards hers. The woman recoils in the child’s skin that she wears.

It grabs her tight and forces her down against the tiled floor. Her struggles fail against the strength of the thing lying on top of her. She can feel waves of pain shooting through her borrowed body and hears the figure grunting over her.

As suddenly as it appeared, the dream vanishes into silence.

The woman stands alone in her kitchen, clutching her phone with white knuckles.

“Are you still on the line?” her voice inquires through the receiver. The neighbor’s music has ended, allowing her brief quarter from her repressed memory.

“You may continue listening or you may hang up the phone,” the receiver buzzes through her ear before adding, “If you hang up, you will remember none of what you’ve just witnessed.”

The woman asks a question:

“Have you called me before?”

Without hesitation, her voice answers:

“Many times. Would you like to continue listening?”

The woman’s teeth grind as she stares at the dial of the rotary phone. She shifts her weight briefly over her legs.

Biting her lip, she quickly slams down the receiver.

“Hmm,” she says to herself after a dazed pause, “Wrong number.”

Written by Levi Salvos
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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