The Web: The Telephone

by Mitchell Harding
written on 4/13/00

He sits in a chair, in front of the table, in an otherwise empty room. The table has a single object on it -- a telephone. The man leans forward in his chair, the entirety of his being focused on the phone.

His face is unshaven, his clothes dirty and unkempt. Periodically he runs his hand through his thinning hair. Sometimes he coughs -- it is the cough of a man who is well acquainted with alcohol and cigarettes. Never does his attention waver from the telephone.

It rings. His expression doesn't change, but he tenses. The number is unlisted -- only one person knows it. The time has come. He lets the phone ring a few times before he reaches out and answers it.

"I'm here." He speaks into the telephone.

A woman's voice comes over the line. "Is this Billy?"

"What? No. You know damn well it isn't."

"I'm sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number." Click.

He holds the phone to his ear for a long time. Finally he replaces it on its cradle. What does this mean? Does it change anything? How can he be sure?

He stands and walks to the door. He isn't safe here any longer. Perhaps he never was. It is time to go elsewhere...north, he decides.

He opens the door and steps outside. The darkness swallows him.

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