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One Call Later
I enjoyed writing this piece, the suspense, and the thrill of the short story made it easier to write. And I hope others will enjoy this piece to.
It was late, maybe around 12:00 on Friday when I got into bed, and started to close my eyes. Twenty minutes later my phone rang, it was Jack, I slowly lifted my arm from the warmth of the comforter, and felt the cold breeze blowing in from my windows hit my arm. When I answered the call I could sense fear in his voice, he was breathing heavy, and spoke quietly as if someone was listening.
“Julia, are you there? I need you to do something for me…”, his voice got quieter, and he started to speak faster, the words clumped together making it difficult to understand what he was saying.
“Slow down Jack, I can’t understand you, what do you need me to do, it’s midnight?” I say in a whisper, careful not to speak to loud, and wake my father.
“I can’t tell you over the phone, meet me at the pool in an hour”, he spit the words out so fast I almost missed it.
“I’m not gonna fall for one of your pranks, it’s late, and I want to sleep, so if----” He cut me off before I could finish, and then I knew something serious was going on, the fear in his voice increased, and my stomach started to turn.
“I swear it’s not a prank, I need your help it’s important. Just go to the pool, and I’ll explain everything”, he hung up.
I took the phone from my ear, and got out of bed, careful not to wake my father. I grabbed a sweatshirt, snuck outside, got my bike, and left the neighborhood. The pool was where Jack and I met to talk, it was the one place we knew nobody would find us, but this time was different. This time I knew that something else was going on, the only time we met at the pool was during the day, which means something big happened.
The town was quiet, so quiet that I could hear my own breathe as it passed my lips and merged with the summer air, with every house I passed it got darker. It usually only takes around 30 minutes to get to the pool, but I can’t see five feet in front of me. For my entire life I’ve only ever lived in one town, in the same neighborhood, with the same people. Our town is quiet, there aren’t many kids around anymore, Jack and I are the only two kids left, most of the families we knew wanted to give their children an opportunity for a good life, that meant getting them out of our part of town, the part of town death seems to follow. When I was younger my mother would tell me stories of other places, places where birds sing, and the ocean stretches for miles and miles, and people lived peacefully.
She would say “Someday you’ll understand why I stay, but for now you’ll have to live with what you’ve been given”.
My mother had a kind soul, she never met a person she didn’t like, and always brought out the best of people. Her voice was angelic, and she smelled like roses, she would come into my room every night to kiss my forehead, then pull me into a hug where the smell of roses would travel from her shirt to my nose. Whenever she walked into a room people paused, their eyes followed to where she sat, and when she looked up they shuffled through papers.
My father always said she was the light to our darkness, but I never understood what he ment, at least not until three years ago. When my mother died, a part of my father did too, he started drinking, lost his job, and then almost lost me. One afternoon after school I came home to a police car, and two women, I watched as my father was escorted outside and into the backseat of the car enclosed by metal bars. After my dad was thrown into rehab the two women told me to pack my things and follow them, that’s when I met Jack.
It took my father seven months fourteen days and twelve hours before he could come home, during which I stayed with the Johnsons, Jack’s family. From the day Jack and I met, we have been inseparable. We walk to school, go to classes, walk home, do homework, and eat dinner together. Due to the loss of my fathers job, and arrest, we lost our house, which meant I was stuck with Jack whether I liked it or not. When my father was released from rehab I stayed with the Johnson’s for another two months while he found an apartment. On June 14th my----
I’m cut off by my phone ringing, I jerk my hands back, and swerve across the road, trying to stabilize myself I answer the call.
“Julia it’s been twenty minutes, are you almost there” it’s Jack, the fear in his voice has dissolved, and now he is angry. I clench the handles of my bike in hopes that I won’t fall.
“It’s gonna take me a few minutes, I can’t see anything, it’s too foggy!” My voice is rising and I can feel my cheeks getting hotter with anger. Jack was the one that called me, when I was asleep, and asked me to ride thirty minutes in the dark, with god knows what in the woods, just so that he could tell me something important. Now he’s yelling at me?
“Listen to me, you need to----” This time I cut him off.
“NO, you can’t yell at me for doing something for you!” My hands start to hurt from holding the handles so hard, and I try to relax. I yelled at Jack. I’ve only ever fought with him twice before, and even then I was wrong.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t like being out here all alone, and the silence is freaking me out, I didn’t mean to yell.” I say, and wait for a response, hoping he’s still on the other line.
“It’s okay, I just need to you remember something” a few seconds go by “promise me that you won’t forget what I’m about to tell you.” I’m trying to prepare for what he’s about to say, my eyes go to the ground, and I immediately regret that decision, I look up in just enough time to miss a passing car. “Julia promise me, you have to promise me you won’t forget, okay?” he says holding onto every word making sure I understand.
“I promise, I won’t forget” I say hiding the fear in my voice, and the sound of my breath getting faster.
He whispered something that left me frozen with fear, “Don’t forget to take the stairs, we don’t want what happen to you last time happening again, the floors are slippery”, and he was gone again.
His voice lingered in my head take the stairs….the floors are slippery. Sweat was gathering in my palms, and I could hear my heartbeat. I continued to pedal, hoping this was all a dream, and someone would pinch me awake. When I lived with the Johnsons, we came up with a code, just incase something went wrong, and we needed help. If someone said those words we would understand they were in danger. Those twenty-one words were the only thing standing between me, and Jack.
I called Jack, praying he would answer, “The number you’ve reached is unable to----”, I hang up, and call again. It’s been ten minutes and still no answer from Jack, I’ve called him five times, left three voicemails, but he isn’t there. I start to pedal faster and I’m only five minutes away from the pool. I’m afraid of what I may find, my father is asleep, and the last house I past was at least ten minutes away. Nobody can help me. Jack is in trouble. I’m all alone.
I pull into the parking lot and my tires skid across the pavement leaving a streak of black. I stop at the fence and get off my bike. My legs throb from pedalling, but I ignore the pain.
“Jack?” I whisper, “Jack, are you here?”, but there's no answer. I jump over the fence and land on my heels. I can see the moon shining off of the pool and head towards the locker rooms. I continue to call for Jack but each time I’m left with the my voice echoing in the empty room. I sit on the bench and wait expecting Jack to come around the corner. With each passing minute I’m left sitting by myself.
I pick up my phone and dial his number, it rings, and this time he answers, “Julia, are you at the pool yet?”, the words jumped out of his mouth, and into my ear.
“I’ve been waiting here for the past fifteen minutes, where are you?”, I get up and walk around the corner so I’m staring at the moonlight.
“I’m sorry I had to do it, I had to do it. He was going to kill me if I didn’t! I tried to warn you!” His voice breaks and I can hear the distant sobs as he takes the phone from his ear.
“What do you mean you tried to warn me, you used the---”, Jack interrupts me again.
“NO, don’t say it, he’ll hear you!” I jumped with fear as he screamed at me to keep quiet.
“Stop it, your scaring me, just tell me what is going on, tell me where you are!” I say in a volume only Jack can hear.
“There’s no time to explain he’s already there, you have to run. Don’t look back and don’t stop, find the nearest place to hide, the police are coming. Just don’t let him catch you! Your going to be okay. Your going to be okay!” His voice is calming and I’m convinced he is telling me this just to reassure himself because he needs to know that I will be okay and that I will survive whatever he has gotten me into.
“Tell me who he is, Jack” I demanded.
He’s silent for a few seconds, then he answers, “H-He’s the man who killed your mother.” My phone then dies.
The panic sets in, my body shakes with fear and my eyes fill up with tears, but I don’t make a sound. I hear boots hitting the rubber pavement, my breathing patterns sync into the rhythm and tears come streaming down my cheeks. Jack wasn’t in danger, he was warning me about the trap I was about to fall into, but I missed the sign, and fell anyway.
“Oh Juliaaaa, where arrrrre you…” the faceless man sang. My feet freeze to the ground and I start to scream but nothing comes out, I am paralyzed with fear.
Something falls into the water forcing my eyes to look down, where I see a red substance swirling in the clear pool water. My tears are coming down harder now and the footsteps are getting closer. My mind pushes away the thought of what, or who is in that pool and urges me to move. I take a step forward and stumble. With each step I take, the footsteps get closer. I continue to move faster but the steps still seem right behind me. I am now running. I let myself scream hoping someone will hear me. I then stop and the footsteps are gone. I don’t know which direction they were headed. Slowly and carefully I walk towards my bike and jump the fence. I throw one leg over the side of my bike, lift my head and suddenly a wooden bat strikes me. Everything goes black.
I wake to the sound of Dancing Queen. As I turn my head I see the faceless man singing along holding onto each of the notes. I turn to the left and lock eyes with a woman around thirty. Her face looks blank, her arm is draped across stomach and blood is pouring out of her sides. I hold back a scream and quickly look away to discover a wall covered in pictures, maps, and notes.
I hear a raspy voice say, “It’s nice don’t you think?” I jerk my head and am face to face with the man I have feared my entire life but have never met. He goes on to say, “Tomorrow your picture will be up there.” His voice is confident and he doesn’t stutter when talking. He looks to me as if he was expecting a comment on what he just said, but I ignore him.
“Why did you kill her?” My voice shakes, my cheeks turn red, and tears slip out of my eyes.
He replies without hesitation, “Your going to have to be more specific than that, darling. I’ve killed many women.”
“My mother! You killed my mother and all of these innocent women posted on the wall! You took something from them that you can never get back, and now your going to kill me too!” The words escaped my mouth before I could think twice. He doesn’t reply.
I turn my head away from the board covered of pictures of dead women. I mentaily blocked out the faceless man, the woman laying beside me, and realized what was going on. My arms were strapped to a table and I couldn’t move. I tried to break free from the restraints but fail. I closed my eyes and all I could picture was the bat swinging towards my face and the faceless man saying, “tomorrow your picture will be on there too.” My brain tried to process what was going on as I took a deep breath and exhaled. I kept thinking everything was going to be okay, Jack had called the police and they were on their way. I was going to be home and safely in my bed before I knew it. I opened my eyes as the faceless man turned and started to walk towards me. With every step he takes I scream louder and louder and louder until he is standing right above me. I am no longer able to scream paralyzed again by fear.
“Do you want to know what happen to your mother?” He sounded as though he wanted to share how he killed my mother, the person I loved the most in the entire world. My face turned red and I could feel the anger spread throughout my body slowly taking over each cell. Screaming wouldn’t be enough. I wanted revenge. I wanted him to sit in a cell for the rest of his life and to never see the sun again. I wanted him to feel the same pain that my father and I have felt for the past three years. “I asked you a question, and I expect an answer”, the excited voice was gone and replaced with an impatient, and angry tone.
“No! I do not want to know what you did to my mother when she was alive or what you did to her dead body.” My voice is stern and I am able to hold back the tears that were rising to the surface, hoping I could keep my sanity.
“Well, she was a very nice person despite the fact that she chose that man over me.” I repeat his words in my head, she chose that man over me. The person standing over me was someone I knew, someone who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I tried but couldn’t match his voice to a face.
The faceless man walked to a back window and looked outside. He took one hand and unlocked it, slowly opened it. I could feel the warm summer breeze come drifting in. Suddenly, blue and red lights lit up the room and I could hear sirens passing. I screamed for help but when I stopped to breathe they were gone and the room was dark again. The police were looking in the wrong place. I wasn’t at the pool and they have no way of knowing where I am. Fear began to overcome me again.
“Your taller than I remember”, he says sarcastically and I cringe at the thought of him knowing who I am.
“Who are you?!” I scream, trying to stall and give the police enough time to find me.
“You may not remember me now as you were only a few years old when I left, but you will remember.” This confuses me. I think through all the men in our community who have the same physical appearance as the shadow of the man standing before me. He was able to create enough force to knock me out with a bat and carry me to the house, leading me to believe he was not older. “Your mother never mentioned me, even when she knew how much you cared. She erased my memories from your brain, and filled them with memories of your father now.” My father now? I ignore the words he is saying and focus on a way to escape. I try to move my hands but they are wrapped around a brown cloth that’s too thick to break. I force my head to look back. I’m facing the windows and watch as the police cars pass the house once again.
The faceless man tilts his head to the direction I’m staring and freezes. After a few seconds of silence he turns back and is facing me. The confident and cocky look in his eyes has faded and as I am looking into his eyes I realize he is as scared as me. He lifts his hand, places it on the straps that are restraining me and unhooks them. He then walks away.
“I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted you to know the truth. I couldn’t watch as he took credit for something that was mine in the first place.” Blood is rushing to my head, my legs beg me to run, but my brain is telling me to stay.
“I-I don’t understand what you are saying”, I say. As my eyes drop to his hand, I see him holding a gun. My heartbeat picks up and I slowly drop my legs off the table, climb down, being careful not to make a sound.
The faceless man still has his back towards me when he says, “Do you have any memory of your father before the age of five?”
“Of course I remember my father, he----.” I can’t finish the sentence. I can’t think of what to say. The only memories I have of my father are after the age of six.
“You can’t remember can you?” He says. I can hear the hope in his voice.
“Why are you asking me all of this?” I reply, ignoring his question.
“You know why I am asking you. You're just too afraid to believe me, your too afraid to believe that your mother kept something so big from you for your entire life.” My heart starts to race and I can see stars forming in the corner of my eyes. “Julia, when you were five years old, I beat a girl in your class because she was bullying you. The police found out and showed up at your mother's house explaining what had happened. A week later, I was labeled a wanted man and went into hiding.” He then points to the pictures on the wall. “All of these people have hurt you somehow in your life and I made them pay for the pain they caused you.” He starts to walk towards me and I quickly back away. “Your mother and I had known each other our entire lives and were married for seven years. We had a daughter that was five years old, she is now fourteen.” The stars take over more of my eyesight. “Julia, you are my daughter.”
All those years my mother told me I would understand why she stayed in our town. Why she didn’t move our family to a safer, happier place. She stayed because she knew he would find her.
The door slams open and the faceless man, who could possibly be my father, rotates his body, swings his arm above his head, and shoots. The police shoot back and I hide behind a cabinet to avoid the bullets and then suddenly everything is quiet.
Afraid to lift my head, I start to speak, “I-Is someone there?” I wait for an answer.
From a distance I hear a woman say, “We’ve found her.” I slowly lift my head and stand up. The faceless man is lying on the floor in a puddle of blood. I drag my eyes across the floor and land on a pair of shoes. I look up and come face to face with the man I have been told was my father my entire life. The stars take over my eyes and I fall to the floor.