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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dead Call

I'm reading this book of short Ghost Stories at the moment. I read this one last night and thought I would share it with you as it scared the pants of off me and that's saying something when I read and watch every horror book/film going. This one is called Dead Call by William F. Nolan. I hope he won't mind me sharing it with you, it was just too good not to.

Len had been dead for a month when the telephone rang. Midnight. Cold in the house and me dragged up from sleep to answer the call. Helen gone for the weekend. Me, alone in the house. And the phone ringing... 'Hello.' 'Hello, Frank.' 'Who is this?' 'You know me. It's Len...Len Stiles.' Cold. Deep and intense. The receiver dead-cold metal in my hand. 'Leonard Stiles died four weeks ago.' 'Four weeks, three days, two hours and twenty-seven minutes ago - to be exact.' 'I want to know who you are!' A chuckle. The same dry chuckle I'd heard so many times. 'C'mon ole buddy - after twenty years. Hell, you know me.' 'This is a damned poor joke!' 'No joke, Frank. You're there, alive. And I'm here, dead. And you know something, ole buddy? I'm really glad I did it.' 'Did...what?' 'Killed myself. Because...death is just what I hoped it would be: beautiful...grey...quiet. No pressures.' 'Len Stiles' death was an accident...a concrete freeway barrier...His car-' 'I aimed my car for that barrier. Pedal to the floor. Doing almost a hundred when I hit...No accident, Frank.' The voice cold...Cold. 'I wanted to be dead...and no regrets.' I tried to laugh, make light of this - matching his chuckle with my own. 'Dead men don't use telephones.' 'I'm not really using a phone, not in a physical sense. It's just that I chose to contact you this way. You might say it's a matter of psychic electricity. As a detatched spirit, I'm able to align my cosmic vibrations to match the vibrations of this power line. Simple, really.' 'Sure. A snap. Nothing to it.' 'Naturally you're sceptical. I expected you to be. but... listen carefully to be, Frank.' And I listened - with the phone gripped in my hand in that cold night house - as the voice told me things that only Len could know...intimate details of shared experiences extending back through two decades. And when he'd finished I was certain of one thing: He was Len Stiles. 'But how...I still don't...' 'Think of this phone as a medium - a line of force through which I can bridge the gap between us.' The dry chuckle again. 'Hell, you gotta admit it beats holding hands around a table in the dark - yet the principle in the same.'

I'd been standing on my desk, transfixed by the voice. Now I moved behind the desk, sat down, trying to absorb this dark miracle. My muscles were wire-taut, my fingers cramped about the metal receiver. I dragged in a slow breath, the night dampness of the room pressing at me. 'All right...I don't believe in ghosts, don't pretend to understand any of this, but...I'll accept it. I must accept it.' 'I'm glad, Frank - because it's important that we talk.' A long moment of hesitation. Then the voice, lower now, softer. 'I know how lousy things have been, ole buddy.' 'What do you mean?' 'I just know how things are going for you. And...I want to help. As your friend. I want you to know that I understand.' 'Well, I'm really not -' 'You've been feeling bad haven't you? Kind of down...right?' 'Yeah. A little, I guess.' 'And I don't blame you. You've got reasons. Lots of reasons...For one, there's your money problem.' 'I'm expecting a raise. Cooney promised me one - within the next few weeks.' 'You won't get it, Frank. I know. He's lying to you. Right now, at this moment, he's looking for a man to replace you at the company. Cooney's planning to fire you.' 'He never liked me. We never got along from the day I walked into that office.' 'And your wife...All the arguements you've been having with her lately...It's a pattern, Frank. Your marriage is all over. Helen's going to ask you for a divorce. She's in love with another man.' 'Who, dammit? What's his name?' 'You don't know him. Wouldn't change things if you did. There's nothing you can do about it now. Helen just...doesn't love you anymore. These things happen to people.' 'We've been drifting apart for the last year...But I didn't know why. I had no idea that she -' 'And then there's Jan. She's back on it, Frank. Only it's worse now. A lot worse.' I knew what he meant - and the coldness raked along my body. Jan was nineteen, my oldest daughter, and she'd been into drugs for the past three years. But she'd promised to quit. 'What do you know about Jan? Tell me' 'She's into the heavy stuff, Frank. She's hooked bad. It's too late for her.' 'What the hell are you saying?' 'I'm saying she's lost to you...She's rejected you, and there's no reaching her. She hates you...Blames you for everything!' 'I won't accept that kind of blame! I did my best for her.' 'It wasn't enough, Frank. We both know that. You'll never see Jan again.' The blackness was welling within me, a choking wave through my body. 'Listen to me, ole buddy...things are going to get worse, not better. I know. I went through my own kind of hell when I was alive.' 'I'll...start over. Leave the city. Go East, work with my brother in New York.' 'Your brother doesn't want you in his life. You'd be an intruder...an alien. He never writes you, does he?' 'No, but that doesn't mean -' 'Not even a card at Christmas. No letters or calls. He doesn't want you with him, Frank, believe me.' And then he began to tell me other things. He began to talk about middle age, and how it was too late to make any kind of new beginning. He spoke of disease...loneliness...of rejection and despair. And the blackness was complete. 'There's only one real solution to things, Frank - just one. That gun you keep in your desk upstairs. Use it, Frank. Use the gun.' 'I couldn't do that.' 'But why not? What other choice have you got? The solution is there. Go upstairs and use the gun. I'll be waiting for you afterwards. You won't be alone. It'll be just like the old days... We'll be together...death is beautiful...Use the gun, Frank...The gun...Use the gun...The gun...The gun...'

I've been dead for a month now, and Len was right. It's fine here. No pressures. No worries. Grey and quiet and beautiful... I know how lousy things have been going for you. And they won't get any better. Isn't that your phone ringing? Better answer it. It's important that we talk...

Night, Night Peeps. Sweet dreams. And...don't answer the phone!!!!

2 comments:

Sarn loves choc said...

I read the first WARNING paragraph - and frankly - if it scared the pants off you, I think I'll give it a miss! Love Scaredy Cat Sarn xxxx

Fae said...

You need to read it during the day hon, when it's light outside! I, as you know, love the macabre, but this was more chilling that scary. It's a really good storyline though, I thought you'd like it, as it has a good twist.