The Dead Caller

February 29, 2008
By Jessica Roth, Huntingdon, PA

You can see a family, a mother, a father, and a toddler girl. They are driving home together on a dark rainy night. The toddler is sitting in her car seat in the back singing random words to a song playing on the radio. The parents are laughing; he mother takes her eyes off the road for a second to glance at her husband. When she returns her gaze she is met with a jeep screeching towards her. She jerks the wheel but is too late. Standing outside you can see paramedics running around crazily tying to save lives. A small stretcher goes by with a white blanket covering a small body. Major General Roth jolts awake from a nightmare, the kind that really happens then you dream about it again and again.

Major General Roth looks around then shakes her head slowly, as if trying to erase the dream from her mind. Sitting up Roth grabs her alarm clock almost yanking it from the wall. 8 a.m.

“Shoot, shoot, shoot,” Roth says under her breath as she jumps from her bed and scrambles to find her uniform, “Colonel Corbin is gonna kill me for missing our coffee date!” Roth runs toward her poorly decorated bathroom to change. Seven minutes later Roth dashes for the door leading to third floor hallway. Right before she shuts the door she remembers that she forgot to put on her boots and darts back in. Seizing her boots Roth sprints for the stairs taking two at a time.

Reaching ground floor Roth throws open the door to the lounge and rushes in searching for Colonel Corbin still holding onto her boots.

“Colonel Corbin,” Roth says sitting down in the chair opposite Colonel Corbin, “I’m sorry that I’m late, my alarm clock didn’t wake me.”

“No sweat Jess,” Corbin replies pushing a cup of coffee towards his old school friend, “If I learned anything from knowing you in middle school it is that when you are late not to fret.” Roth looked at Colonel Corbin annoyed.

“Did you even look at the guidelines for joining the army,” Roth says annoyed with Corbin while pushing the coffee cup away from her in disgust, “chapter 12 line 62, speak with all due respect to lower and higher coordinates.”

“Did you ever read Alice in Wonderland,” Corbin replies with a sly grin, “because if you had then you would surly remember the rabbit going on and on how late he was going to be for a very important date, try to be on time next time we schedule a coffee date.” Roth chuckled to herself before rubbing her eyes in exhaustion while she put her boots on.

“You didn’t get enough sleep again, did you,” Corbin says in a soft gentle tone looking at Roth’s circles under her eyes.

“So what if I didn’t,” Roth shouts back low enough though so she won’t be heard by the table next to them, “why should you care anyway, it’s not like you’re my mother.”

“Anyway we should get going if we want to make the next meeting with General Zeruth,” Roth says not letting her anger cool. Even before Colonel Corbin could stand up Roth had grabbed him from the back of the collar and began dragging him behind her as she exited the lounge area.

Corbin struggled, trying to get out of her rock hard grasp. “I can walk on my own,” Corbin shouted up at Roth.

“We’re almost there,” Roth says apparently trying to remember what exact room the conference was in because she didn’t notice someone calling her name until they were almost right in front of her.


Roth looked up, shaken from not hearing them coming. “Oh, hey First Lieutenant Cesare.” Roth says chuckling of how both her and Cesare had dragged the only males that they knew were invited to the conference with them.

“I was looking for Gibbs when by the time I had found him it was almost time for the meeting to start,” Cesare said with her hands on her knees breathing heavily, “I dragged him the whole way from fourth floor hallway.” Roth let go of Colonel Corbin and looked around Cesare to see Gibbs lying on the floor.

“You okay Gibbs,” Roth asked in a worried tone.

“Yeah, I think I hurt my back on the stairs though,” Gibbs said through clenched together teeth. Roth thrust out a hand to help him up, completely forgetting that she had left Corbin sprawled out on the ground. Turning around Roth took a step forward only to trip over Corbin who was still lying on the ground.
“Corbin! Tell me why you didn’t get up,” Roth said now thoroughly irritated,” Never mind, just get in the conference room.” Corbin scrambled up and ushered both Cesare and Gibbs in but left the door open for Roth who quickly stood up and walked through not wanting to make General Zeruth wait any longer.
Roth shut the door quietly than to her dismay sat down in the seat to the right of General Zeruth due to their being no other seats left.
“Let’s get this meeting over with,” General Zeruth said in a superior tone, “Major General Moore?”
“Yes,” Moore said, “to our excitement the “caller” is now finished and ready to be tested out.” Roth looked at Moore in wide amazement, Gibbs seeing her reaction raised his hand for permission to speak.
“Ready? How can it be ready, you said that mmmfmfmffffmmfff.” Second Lieutenant Gibbs said only to have First Lieutenant Cesare clap her hand over his mouth. Cesare gave Moore a sheepish shrug urging him to continue on with his speech.
“”It” may be completed but we still require someone to test “it” out,” General Zeruth said. Everyone turned to Zeruth.
“We need someone who knows how to work it already,” Zeruth said turning to Moore who was sitting to the left of him.
“Someone who can talk easily to other people, dead or alive,” Moore added turning to face Corbin who was to the left of him.
“A person who will not act foolishly and do something wrong,” Colonel Corbin said turning to face Cesare who was sitting at the end of the table opposite of himself and closest to the door.
“Someone who will be able to protect themselves against any attacks that just saying something goes wrong,” Cesare put-in turning to Gibbs taking away her hand but not her eyes.
“Bu-But uh,” Gibbs became flustered, “Someone who has experience with losing someone so it would maybe make it easier to connect to the dead like through that person.” Gibbs finally turned to me who was to the right of him.
“Good to have you do it Roth. Roth,” Zeruth looked at Roth with a crease of worry showing on his forehead. Roth looked close to tears, her head facing the ground trying to conceal her sorrow.
“I’ll do it,” Roth said regaining posture with every word, “just make sure that when you tell the press how we have communicated with the dead that I, Major General Roth was the first to actually talk to them.”
“Ha, good,” Zeruth looked relieved but then his face turned stone serious, “make sure that you don’t mess up. This is a big thing so if you mess up you will pay. Major General Moore will go over any questions/restrictions with you.” Roth nodded now feeling all the weight fall upon her of messing up. Roth saluted Zeruth as he walked out of the room leaving everyone else. Roth walked over to where Moore was talking with Corbin and at the same time smacked both of them on the back of the head than grabbed Moore by the back of the collar and dragged him behind her and out the door. Not before she heard Gibbs whisper to Cesare how much she looks like a kidnapper every time that she does that.
Roth dragged Moore all the way down the hall and into the elevator. “You can let me go now,” Moore said in a tired tone.
“Huh? Oh sorry, I forgot that I still had you by the collar,” Roth said pulling Moore off the dusty elevator floor. Immediately after standing up Moore launched into a well-practiced speech.
“Now there are two switches and a microphone in there. It is a full cement room except for one wall that is made up of glass. When you step in I need you to first put on the headset so we can communicate. Second, once I’m ready I’ll have you push the on side of the on/off switch to turn it on. Third, after I have the computers ready I want you to press the open side on the open/closed. Open stands for a chat with any dead person; you could end up with anyone so if they speak a different language I will have to put the interpreter on your headset so you could talk with them. Closed stands for a chat with only one specific dead person. You can only do open because if you choose closed then you could run the risk of rupturing the “caller.” After you press open then I need you to speak into the microphone on attached to the “caller” and say something along the lines that it is an open chat.” Moore finished off his speech right as the elevator door opened into a room that was a jumble mess of wires and flickering computers.
Moore ushered Roth out of the elevator only for Roth to run into a glass door. “Open the door next time Roth.” Moore said in an irritated tone.
“Sorry,” Roth said in reply feeding off of Moore’s irritation. Roth walked into the caller’s room and turned in circles looking at all the computers.
“Headset,” Roth barely heard Moore say over the noise of the computers. Roth stuck the small headset on her head only to have Moore start screaming in her ear to say something if she could hear him. Roth nodded to him. Roth watched as he sat down in his chair and began to furiously type stuff down.
“Okay start ‘it’ up.” Roth nodded now unsure if she would go against her orders and try to talk to her daughter.
“Daughter or military honor,” Roth whispered to herself. Roth steadily reached her hand out and pressed the on side of the switch. Roth looked back at Moore who was again furiously typing stuff in then nodded for her to continue. Roth gulped; she had to decide on what to do. Roth turned back around to face a waiting Moore. She saluted him then whirled around pressing the closed side of the switch. The room came alive with even more noise. Colors flashed around the rooms as the computers began to act as though they had too little time to process too much information.
Major General Moore stood up in alarm than rushed over to where Roth was standing beside the closed switch and tried to press the off switch. Roth knew that this was her only chance to speak to her daughter again, spinning around she tried to push Moore away. Moore seeing her attack dodged only to have Roth swing at him again but this time Roth hit him on a vulnerable presser point. Moore collapsed to the ground unconscious. Roth looked around the room frantic now; she had no clue on what to do next.
Roth’s eyes rested on the microphone that was attached to the ‘caller’. Reaching for it she wrapped on to it as though she was going to die if she let go of it. “I-I ONLY WANT TO SPEAK TO MY DAUGHTER AGAIN TO TELL HER THAT I’M SORRY,” Roth ended her screaming only to break down crying. Roth didn’t notice that everything had stopped. When Roth finished crying she listened to the static coming through the headset. She ruined it, the closest thing she would ever be able to use to communicate with her beloved daughter. Roth stood up about to press the off side of the switch but stopped as the static went quite.

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