The Other End

August 2, 2013
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Some people swore that the house was haunted. It didn’t happen to everyone who passed by it, but children would hear it: that is, anyone who was under sixteen. The ringing.
“What’s that sound?” children would say. They would lean forward in their car seats, craning their necks to catch the bring-bringgg of the ancient dial phone. “Mommy? I hear a phone.”
“That’s not real, baby,” mothers would say, remembering the hollow sound, gripping the steering wheel tightly as they would press down on the gas pedal. “Ignore it.”
This house hadn’t been attached to any form of electrical or phone line for the past twenty years.
I can recall that when I was maybe five years old, my mother, an advocate for the PTA, called Town Hall and made a complaint, asking for the house to be checked for any illegal phone lines. Nothing turned up.
The same call would be made exactly one year later.
The night before I turned sixteen, the guys promised an adventure. As it approached 11 P.M., I was growing steadily more anxious. The guys, Donny, Raul, and Chris, had picked me up in Chris’ rusting 1984 Plymouth Horizon at exactly 10:30, packing lukewarm beer.
I took another swig and glanced out the window. Chris had asked me repeatedly about the ringing as he approached the house at a speedy 5 MPH on the deserted forest road. As soon as I’d said yes, he backed up about a foot and locked the parking brake.
“Okay, dude. You know the drill,” Donny instructed.
I drank deeply from the bottle until it was empty, and then unscrewed another one, staring intently at the looming, dark shadow that was the house.
“You go in and pick up the phone. Then you run like hell.”
I nodded, not breaking my gaze.
“Good luck!” Chris said. His voice cracked.
“Come back a man.”
I stepped out of the car; my hands trembled so badly the beer bottle fell, smashing into pieces. I took steps slow enough to let my feet adjust to each crunch into the gravel. It took everything I had in me not to run.
As soon as I grabbed the rotting wood railing, there was silence. When I reached the front door, by now dragging my feet, it creaked inward. I hadn’t touched it.
It wheezed fully open, revealing a phone on the floor in the center of the shell of the house: no doors, no walls, not even a second floor. Everything sagged toward the middle of the house, as if the phone was dragging it down. Strange imprints littered the floor, dark shadows that reminded me of people.
The wooden floor had absorbed the phone cord.
I picked up the receiver. “Hello?” I whispered.
“Hello?” I heard my own voice echo.
I laughed in relief.
“Hello, is anyone there?”
I froze, dropping the phone.
“HELLO?” I heard my own voice screaming, “HELLO?”
I backed away, turning to run, and with growing horror realized that the door, along with all of the windows, had disappeared. I smashed my hands against the rough wooden planks until they bled. I opened my mouth to yell for help but nothing came out. I gripped my throat, choking. The phone began to scream out in my voice. I twisted, falling, as the floor began to twist downward, liquefying, a giant bathtub drain full of dense black liquid. My face was pressed into the liquid and I was turned, suffocated, flattened, pulled toward the phone. Cords wrapped around me from the basement, slithering over my body.
Then, nothing.

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