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It was 4:15 in the morning, on a Saturday, when the alarm clock started beeping. Natalie Harris remained still until the beeping increased in frequency and volume to a point she couldn’t ignore it. She reached over and slammed the off button before rolling over back to sleep. It was Josh’s duty to wake up at that time. Natalie never bothered to change the blasted wake up call.
9:48am. Natalie roamed around her kitchen, dressed in her silk pajamas, with a coffee mug in her hand. A cut out newspaper clip was stuck on the refrigerator with a magnet. Having nothing else to do, she sat down at the dining table and set her coffee aside. There were still a couple minutes before the newspaper was to arrive.
11:22am. She flipped through the paper, briefly scanning the titles, for any more information about yesterday. Natalie stopped at page A7 and read the article planted on the bottom right corner. She felt a small wave of relief when she didn’t read Josh’s name in the story. The plane was recovered, too. Regardless, she searched the cabinets for scissors and cut the article out.
12:46pm. Natalie’s cellphone played the electronic Beethoven’s Virus tune. She glanced at the caller ID: it was her mother.
“Hi, mama,” Natalie greeted.
Her mother coughed briefly. “How have you been, sweetheart?”
Natalie responded with a grunt and a sigh, “A little anxious maybe.”
“If you want… you could come live with me. No reason to stay in a house like that all by yourself.”
“No, I’m fine. Can’t assume anything yet.”
“Well,” her mother sighed, “hope things turn out okay…”
“Yeah, me too,” Natalie joined her mother’s sigh.
4:14pm. Natalie sat at her desk typing a report for her boss. It wasn’t due until Monday. The 4 o’clock news was on the T.V in the background. She paused her writing to listen to a recent story about a plane crash. Six people were found dead but could not be identified. Thirty-four had major injuries and were rushed to a hospital. Sixty-two had minor injuries. The news cut to a commercial. Natalie returned to her work.
7:08pm. She fixed herself a brief dinner since there was no need to spend the extra time on another person. Loneliness slapped her as soon as Natalie sat down at the dinner table. She looked at the other chair sitting across from her. It was as if the stupid chair was taunting her. She looked away and stared down at her meager dinner. As she was poking at her food, her phone rang again. She glanced down to look at the caller ID… but there was none. Not even ‘restricted’. After a moment of debating, she picked up.
Loud static greeted her. Confused, Natalie hung up. She lost her appetite because of the rude noise. Natalie picked up her plate and set it by the sink.
8:02pm. Natalie was back in her study watching the news. There was a bank robbery in a town not too far from hers. A picture of a kidnapped boy appeared, asking people to call a number if they know anything about him. She took brief note of the number and wrote it down on a memo pad that sat on the nightstand next to her. There was recent update of the plane crash. They managed to identify four of the six people that had died in the crash: Karen Stoker, Richard Price, Spencer Finesmith, and Jacob Woods. There was a fire a few miles from her home. Her phone rang again. No caller ID again.
“Hello?” she asked more fiercely than before.
The same static returned her greeting, but more quietly.
“Hello? Who is this?” she felt a small panic rise in her chest. Maybe her phone was defected.
Just as she was about to hang up, an electronic voice struggled to beat the static. A voice is at least what she thought it was. She listened for a few more seconds before giving up. She would have to get the phone checked tomorrow.
10:44pm. Natalie washed up and flopped on her bed. It seemed so cold and uninviting. She pulled the covers and tucked herself in anyways. Just as she was drifting off, her phone interrupted her silent lullaby. She let out a frustrated groan and tossed the blankets aside. It was the no caller ID again.
“Who is this?” she demanded angrily.
She could not believe who she was hearing. “Josh?”
He let out a sigh of relief, “Thank God… I finally got through to you. I guess third time’s the charm, huh?”
Natalie gaped briefly, “Are you okay?”
“Just that… on the news and….” She trailed off.
There was a moment of silence on his end, “What? I haven’t been up to date with the news lately. Can’t seem to get any Wi-Fi for the laptop… I’ll read the paper when I get the chance, okay?”
“Josh, where are you?”
“Uh…” he remained silent briefly. “I couldn’t really tell you. Some station… Looks like a train station. Not sure how I got here either. One moment I’m on a plane and the next, boom, I’m here.”
Worry and relief battled in Natalie’s chest. She wasn’t sure what to think.
“Are you with anyone…?”
Josh chuckled, “What’s with the interrogation. I’m with five other people. They’re confused just as much as I am. Don’t worry; I haven’t snuck off with some beach tan blonde.”
Despite the joke, Natalie froze at the number. Five other people.
“I’m still here,” she responded barely above a whisper.
There was a sigh on the other end. “I know I’ve been going away on business a lot. I promise to be back as soon as possible, okay?”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too…” Panic started to flood her chest.
She could hear the smile in his voice. “Well now, I should probably call the police, right?”
Natalie chuckled quietly, “Probably.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
“Wait,” she had to know. “Do you know the names of any of the other people?”
There was a pause as if he was trying to remember. “I talked to him briefly before I tried calling you. He works in marketing, like me. What was his name…? Spencer something-Smith…”