He’d been working too much lately. Yeah that was it. That was the reason that he couldn’t sleep anymore. The phones rang all day everyday. He’d become numb to them. That helped. Ten years in the call center did that, but even that last bastion had been relentlessly eroded by the din of the rings. He couldn’t handle them anymore. The phones. He heard them, even now as he lay on his cold mattress. His arms crossed on his chest. His legs stiff, aching from sitting all day. His heart pounded against his sternum at the pace of his racing thoughts. His heavy, burning eyes stared at the ceiling longing for sleep’s cool touch as his eyelids clashed against each other, and recoiled back to their neutral corners.
Over and over, they called, by the thousands. Wanting, needing, yelling, cursing, and threatening. It was his fault! He would get his!
He’d never wanted to pick up, but he had, and he did. He’d promised that he wouldn’t do it anymore, but he always found his way back to his desk, his chair, the phone. Tonight would be different. He peeled one arm from his chest and reached for his alarm clock. The witching hour pulsed back at him incessantly. He’d sleep in again today. No one seemed to care, if they noticed at all.
The ringing was louder now, piercing his eardrums, rattling his hammers, and stirrups. He rose from the unyielding slab that was his mattress, cupping his ears tightly against his head. Four pills hadn’t been enough. He hurried a few steps to his unlit bathroom and threw the switch. His eyes fought the flickering light, while the pain protruded deeper through his ear canal. He killed the lights with a cut of his hand, and waited for the pain to subside.
He looked into the darkened mirror. It returned his empty gaze. The two stared for a few moments until a blue glow emerged from the bedside behind him, and the ringing came with it. He whirled around and ran to his phone. Who the hell would be calling now? He grabbed it angrily and it stopped. He checked the call log, it glowed “Unknown” in the pale light. The phone buzzed suddenly in his hand and gave a solitary ring: a message. Then it came, as if on the cool night’s breeze that slipped through his bedroom window: a reprieve. Silence.
He shed a few tears. “Thank you, thank you,” he repeated as he closed his eyes and brought the phone to his forehead. It glowed at his touch then rang again, but there was no pain. It was a call from “Unknown” again, and he answered ready to yell, to curse, to give it back to someone else for a change, but there was no response. The line was dead, and he couldn’t hear the warning.
It was in the house.
© J. Manuel Writes