The Telephone

By Michael Berry All Rights Reserved ©

Other

Chapter 13

The countless tape machines and individual tapes littered Sarah’s living room, covering it completely with technology long since unused. The cream and white of her carpet and rug was washed away with the cold steel and metallic colours of machinery. Endless black rope-like wires and circuits stretched across the room, attached to every conceivable plug socket in the apartment. The room, once silent, broken only by the lonely murmurs of activity from Sarah had now been filled with the constant clicking and humming of machines, all busily and incessantly carrying out programmed instructions encoded into them by programmers long since dead.

Sarah Gaelock sat in the middle of all this electronic confusion on the only available space she could find. Her back was to the fire, raging behind her like a fierce entity. She watched the wafting shadow of the curtains against the mass of machinery around her, feeling the empty and eerily silent breeze from outside brush past her skin like a cold hand.
The room was in darkness, the large blocks of silhouettes around her and those she could see in other rooms where the only things she recognised as her own furniture. The occasional bright light of varying colours and the thin and horizontal green-line of the wave machine were the only other light sources in the room. The raging firelight was undoubtedly the ruler of light in this place.
She surveyed the equipment before her, ensuring that everything was in the right place. She leaned forward and raised her hand to switch on the small recording device seated in front of her and stopped in mid-motion. Do I really want to do this? She asked herself. Do I have any idea what’s going to happen once I press this switch? I’m going to be speaking straight into the unknown, here, whatever’s out there is probably gonna’ hear my voice and respond. Am I ready for something as huge as that?
Yet, while her mind reeled like a busy machine as a thousand anxious questions and fears burned away, she was determined to do this, and do it now. Nothing had happened to the scientists in the Town Hall, they hadn’t gone mad working with this stuff.
Without wasting another moment, she leaned forward a little further and switched on the tape machine. The tape inside began to run quietly, the small microphone attached to it echoed loudly with electrical rapping’s as it detected Sarah’s brief shuffling. Feel slightly agitated and a little stupid over what she was undertaking, she leaned her head in front of the microphone and spoke aloud.
“Hello, my name is Sarah Gaelock. I’m making a recording here with this old fashioned tape machine hoping to catch the voice of the dear departed. If there is anybody out there that fits that list, please let me know. And, also, please. Father, if you’re out there, can you please come through especially. I’ve missed you and I’d like to hear from you. Thank You.”
She leaned back from the microphone and returned to her original sitting position. She sat up on her knees, her legs tucked under her buttocks, her hands were lying flat in her lap.
The tape played on without even the slightest sound being recorded. Sarah watched as the tape played slowly forward, the small circular shaped holes next to each other silently rolled out the tape, recording only dead silence. The microphone yielded not a sound, the electronic tapping was gone, now it sat, motionless, pointing out into the ocean of darkness and silence beyond.
Sarah looked at the machines with a growing disappointment, wondering why she went into this thing in the first place. She looked at the silhouetted collection of silent tape machines further ahead that went off into the other rooms, considering whether to start again with another machine. But, she was convinced that their was nothing wrong with the machine she was using, it was working fine, nothing seemed to irregular. To any society of the not to distant past, this would have seemed nothing more than a pointless experiment to learn about something that doesn’t exist. But, thanks to the proven claims of the scientists that were alive today, there was no more of this. The afterlife did indeed exist, it was proven, as was this bizarre technique. Sarah understood that she couldn’t expect great results from the beginning, she would just have to keep trying.
She relaxed in her sitting position, allowing her weight to fall to the ground, preparing herself for a long wait.
Bang, bang, bang!
The seemingly thunderous sound, boomed like an enormous explosion from the tape machines speakers, the microphone jumped into life as the intense crackling filled the air around it, like the sound of a colossal fire crackling ferociously.
The resulting sound of chaos and shock knocked Sarah to the ground, hitting her head on the stone base of the fireplace.
“Jesus Christ, what the hell?!” She shouted, quickly scrabbling to stand up.
She raced over to the tape machine she was using and as quick as she could turned the dial for the volume control down to an almost silent whisper. The crackling from the microphone dissipated down to sounds similar to a feeding mouse, as did the sounds from the speakers. She put her ear to the right hand speaker, listening carefully for what the sounds truly were.
Bang, bang, bang. The sounds came again, no longer thunderous. This time, they sounded just like knockings on the wall.
Bang, bang, bang.
In one quick movement, a streak of instinct, Sarah stood up to her full height and stared at the living room wall. The banging sounds were coming from there, echoing noisily from the stone and wood. She heard the recorded sound from the machine in her ear and mentally compared the sounds.
They’re the same, exactly the same, but what the . . .
She dropped her shoulders and allowed her head to sink backward, opening her mouth in an aggravated way. She knew, the banging’s were coming from Ted Jessup from next door, he was banging on the wall.
She bent down and switched off the tape machine and walked hastily to the wall, joining his banging with an even louder one of her own with her fists.
“You bastard,” she shouted as loud as she could. “You’ve ruined my goddamn experiment, you son of a bitch. Why don’t you do me a great fucking favour, get the hell out of here and leave me alone!”
She joined the already raucous banging by bringing in her second fist. The banging from next door stopped suddenly, without warning, leaving her small fists banging like a child’s. It took her a moment to realise and then she stopped, listening to the silence around her. She quickly drew her ear to the wall as she caught the sound of heavy footsteps walking past the wall on the other side.
Guess the assholes finally taking my advice. She thought to herself sarcastically. But, what if he’s coming here, to me. He’s never done that before, but I wouldn’t like to think that he may do. But, if he is, he won’t get far.
She ran as quietly as she could to her front door and fixed the latch and the lock, then she backed away from the door, keeping her ears focused on the distant, yet seemingly close footsteps that were steadily approaching.
She hunched her body and nervously wiped her hands, the sweat steadily gathering on her skin. She knew she shouldn’t be afraid of him, he was just an overweight, mad piece of shit, she had told him what to do before, almost breaking his arm at times. But, this occasion seemed somehow more chilling and more helpless this time.
She heard the footsteps slowly walk along the room in the adjoining apartment until they reached Ted’s front door and stopped. Sarah listened with great tense anxiety as she heard his front door knock and bang, as if someone was forcibly trying to push it open, the chain from its lock rattled noisily as it was knocked around, knocking against the wood of the door.
Sarah reached for her ears and covered them up, but the noise only seemed to get louder. Then, after a few moments, the noises stopped, as if someone had just switched them off with a button. Sarah’s eyes darted from left to right as she analysed the apparent calm of the familiar silence. Her hands slowly dropped from her ears to her sides. She drew in a deep breath and released it slowly.
Sucks on you, asshole, you can’t even get through your front door.
The thought didn’t register in her mind, the idea that Ted couldn’t even open his front door. He never really kept it locked, despite the lunatics constantly running around outside, and it wasn’t rocket science to open a wooden door.
She bit her lip and hunched her shoulders then walked back to her original sitting place. She didn’t much care for the reasons why that moron couldn’t open his door, she had other things to think about. She sat down in her place and looked blankly at he machine before her. Somehow, she wasn’t in the mood anymore to make more of these recordings, she had suddenly lost all her strength. She decided to listen instead to the tapes the scientists had made and lie back and relax. She reached in her skirt pocket and took out a small object.
She looked at a small picture of her father she held in her hand. The picture was old and frayed, the smell of decay that came off of it was similar to the thick leather smell of her father. In the picture, he looked as he always did. His hair was combed, yet still strangely messy, his shirt collar and tie were loose, the waistcoat he wore wasn’t ironed. Faint signs of growing whiskers were underneath his dark reading glasses, the eyes behind the glass were half-closed, tired looking eyes.
I miss you father, you where the whole world to me and they took you away, tearing open great holes in body before smothering you in that damned poisonous air.
She ran her fingertip against the outline of his head. Why the hell did you have to fight, it was nothing to do with us, you were no soldier. You should have come into the bunkers with me. The people there wouldn’t give a crap if you were afraid to fight and hidden, most of the others did that and are alive today.
A faint trickle of a tear ran from her eye. She moved the picture away from where it fell. If it hit it, there was no telling what damage it would do.
She looked up at the endless ocean of equipment she had gathered around her. A small sign of hope began to pour into her from somewhere. I’ll find you, father. I promise I’ll find you soon. Rummaging through the bag of tapes next to her, she found one of the scientists tapes, she took out her own, placed it on the floor and put the other in the tape machine.
She again switched on the play button of the tape machine nearest to her, allowing the mass entanglement of voices and static pour out from the assembled technicality of wires and circuits , smothering her in mystery and hopefully, eventual reason and understanding. She lay down flat on her stomach, pointing her feet and wiggling toes next to the fire. She looked hard at the picture of her father, praying with all her might that she would hear his lost voice in the wasteland of noise around her.

A room somewhere, nowhere Sarah had ever been before. Yet, a faint trickle of knowledge slowly fed her mind, inducing memories deep inside her. She knew this place, yet at the same time, didn’t. She struggled to see the fine details around her, her vision was blurred, almost like being half asleep.
The room was cool, a comfortable feeling to it. The walls were white and glistening, they were broken up into separate individual pieces, a shape similar to that of individual piano keys. They covered all surrounding four walls, the floor and the ceiling. Sarah could feel the coldness of them beneath her feet.
Sarah looked around her for a window or a door, anywhere she could have gotten in and hopefully get out again. She could see nothing like that, the room was sealed, completely covered in the white shining piano keys. There was no way out, yet strangely, she was not afraid.
A sound attracted her attention, her head spun around to find the source. She looked straight ahead toward the opposite side of the room, a blurry image was there, one she couldn’t make out, one that certainly wasn’t there before. She suddenly felt her whole body move, as if something had picked her up and carried her toward the bizarre disturbance. The blurry image became more clearer as she moved closer, she could make out the basic shape. She saw a piano, no not a piano, an organ, similar to one you would find in a church, only a lot smaller.
The organ was impressive, it seemed to be made of the same shiny material as the walls, its entire surface glowed fiercely in the light. The back of the organ was a set of large crests rising up from the main body of the organ, each crest was behind the other, creating multiple layers of beautifully designed crests. Their shape was reminiscent of opened oyster shells wit their rippled effects along the side.
As Sarah got closer, she realised that she could see a figure sat at the organ, hunched over and playing the organ. She guessed it was a man, but their was no obvious signs to this. His clothes were a simple jumper and trousers, all of which were a dark grey colour.
Sarah listened to the tune he was playing. It was low, very difficult to concentrate on. Each dull note the figure played lasted for a few moments before he played a few slightly higher notes. It reminded her of a tune that would be played with a funeral procession. The sound hummed around the shining room, the walls seemed to shudder slightly as the sound wafted the room.
Finally, and without warning, the figure played two high notes quickly , so fast they almost sounded like he only played them once. After he played the notes, his hands fell from the keys in front of him and settled on his lap, his head bent downward and faced his hands. Sarah could no see his face. The gentle humming of the last two notes still played in the ether, until after a few moments they disappeared and the whole room sank into darkness.

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