Note from Brian:
Here is the Patron-Only story for February 2018! Now that I’m pretty close to being done with my manuscript for Walking With Ghosts for PS Publishing, I’ve written my “story notes” for each of the stories and I’m including the first draft of the note for this story down at the end of the post. This a strange and unusual story for me, but it holds a special place in my heart because it got me into the Borderlands series. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you’d rather do that instead of commenting on this actual post. Thank you again for all of your support! — BJF
“Answering the Call”
by Brian James Freeman
The young man must be lonely.
There is something terrible about the look in his eyes, about the way his body slumps over the heavy, black answering machine perched on his lap. He sits on the chair in the middle of the barren room, and he is naked except for his white underwear and his cheapwatch. He’s drenched in sweat. A single tear hovers on the edge of his pale, trembling lips. He has dark hair and narrow fingers with fingernails chewed to the quick.
The wood floor groans when he shifts his weight. There are no windows, only the door to the hallway and a door to the walk-in closet. A single lamp glows with a yellowed light, but the light does not reach the corners of the room. An extension cord snakes across the floor, powering the lamp and the old, boxy answering machine.
He pushes the button that was once marked ANNOUNCEMENT before years of contact rubbed the word away. The tape crackles, there is a beep, and a woman’s voice speaks: “You’ve reached the Smith Family, we can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message, we’ll get right back to you.”
This is the voice of the dead. The sound has deteriorated a bit with age, but when the young man plays this tape, the dead woman lives on, just for a moment. There is a second beep and the woman is dead once again.
The young man plays the tape one last time, then checks his watch and sighs. He returns the machine to the closet. He wouldn’t want to be late for work, and the dead woman isn’t going anywhere.