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The Telephone

By Michael Berry All Rights Reserved ©

Other

Chapter 2

Somewhere in the United States
November 5th
2150

It had taken ten years and a lot of work, but the device was almost completed. The scientists waited for the moment for it to be switched on.
Ten years ago, they had proved their beliefs with only basic equipment, the same that had been used to receive scratchy recordings decades ago. They had broadcast their findings on television and shown the whole world, or rather what was left of it, that the afterlife did indeed exist. They learned later that everyone had watched it and had fled in terror and set up their homes again in the countryside, somewhere that was in the middle of nowhere and nothing at all happened, therefore a safe place from the unknown. It gave them thought that maybe humanity wasn’t meant to know the secret to something like this and it was too much for them to bear.
Despite this, they carried on with their work over the next ten years, carefully refining their experiment till it was perfect. Maybe no one else wanted to know more about that mysterious plane, but they did indeed and they were going to continue regardless.
The device had not been easy to construct, or to even find the right equipment or pieces of old machinery to put it together. But then again, how would a device used to directly contact the afterlife be as easy to make as a cake. The scientists had started to construction by merging together all the electronic and recording devices they could find, usually found on trash dumps or in many of the abandoned buildings that littered the city. Most of them had needed some kind of repair, but after that they were ready to be used.
Other parts of the device had been used from old pieces of pipe, old circuit boards, and lastly, an old basic telephone. None of the scientists really knew which pieces of machinery they would need for this, as nothing like this had ever been done before. While this thought worried them a little, it gave them a strong surge of power and importance.
They had wondered about the possible location to house the machine, as the perfect spot was necessary for absolute contact. A few of the scientists had tried to talk the others into housing it in their own homes but had always been let down severely. Housing it in a place like that would almost certainly disrupt the signal. They needed somewhere that was large and where they couldn’t make much noise. It had to be pretty old to hopefully encourage more spirits to come.
Eventually, they decided on the Town Hall. It was perfect. It had been their for decades, well over a full century ago. It had impressive gothic architecture inside and outside and plenty of secluded rooms. They could work on it and be far away from it at the same time.
It seemed cruel to think it, but it was true. The fact that the war had killed almost everyone on the planet with the germs used, it was an advantage to the work. With no one around, they wouldn’t have a lot of noise going on and people coming into see what was happening. This way, they could work without any kind of interruptions.
Although, this was probably the reason why they were contacting the afterlife in the first place. Being used to the fact that a great deal of humanity was gone didn’t erase the odd feelings of loneliness and depression. Sometimes the lust for more human contact was overwhelming and couldn’t be contained. Hopefully, when this device was finished, they could at last contact those who died and maybe get some kind of peace of mind knowing everything was alright over there.
It had taken ten whole years to fully complete the telephone device and house in the perfect location and in the right spot, but now, aside from a few last minute checks and tuning, it was ready.
It was late evening, but the endless blackness of the night had yet to arrive. Since the war, everyone had noticed the strange changes that had happened to the weather. The sun never shone anymore in the daytime, instead all throughout the day, the sky was a perfect milky white, devoid of clouds or any other features. It was always cold and a thick mist enveloped everything around it. This was the easiest time for anyone to be alone and for depression to kick in. Most people stayed in their homes, trying their best to ignore everything that had happened. Once late afternoon and early evening arrived, the sky became a dark pink and the first signs of dark and the night began to arrive. Once it came to late evening, the night finally set in and everything was plunged into intense darkness, without the comfort of stars or the moon looking down on you. Regardless of who you were, or how brave you were, no one had the guts to stay outside once it was dark. Walking around the utterly silent and deserted streets, and looking around or even walking inside the homes of those who died was enough to terrify anyone. It was also an easy reminder for what happened to everyone. Aside from the odd emergency trek out for food or supplies, everyone completely avoided it.
William Blake was one of the many that hated walking around in the dark. He fumbled around with a small unrecognisable electronic device, carefully aligning the few strands of wires that hung lifelessly out of it. He was knelt beside the Telephone device, his right shoulder rested just to the side of it. He didn’t dare rest his shoulder on the device itself, anything could give way and have to be repaired yet again. This was the last thing he wanted, if it happened he would have to stay here and repair it while outside the dreaded empty blackness encroached further and further. The thought made him sweat, he moved his head to one side so the sweat would not drip on the device.
He noticed the large collection of dead leaves and thick blanket of dust that had gathered in the room, constantly being blown about by the strong breeze from outside. It gave the place an eerie atmosphere that he didn’t enjoy.
Looking up and noticing the leaves also made him realise that he was the only one in this immense room. He couldn’t help but look at the sheer scale of where he was. The room, though a better word would be the hall, was huge, it reminded him of the size of a cathedral, the features of the roof disappeared into the darkness above. The Telephone was positioned on one of the large walls, with the other two walls to the left and right of it. At the opposite end of the Telephone was a seemingly endless corridor that vanished into darkness. Above the corridor lay an arch with beautifully constructed architecture. It consisted of two angel-like figures facing each other, while holding a large clock in-between them. There were many arches in the building with this exact decoration, while some areas possessed different images.
Being in this place made William feel small and somehow under threat from being inside something so huge. He tried to ignore all this and concentrate on his work.
“Hey, Will!” Came a sudden booming voice from somewhere. William jumped out of his skin and almost dropped the device, the incredible voiced echoed across the room and disappeared into silence as it made its way down the corridor.
Will recovered himself once he realised who the voice belonged to.
“Hey, Will,” the voice sounded again, he was ready for it this time. “Have you got that amplifier working yet?”
William sighed an annoyed sigh before answering. “Its almost done, give me a minute or two.” He had to shout for them to hear. He heard the sound of irritated mumbling before the dull sound of static was switched off.
Can’t they wait just a little while, he thought to himself. Have some goddamn patience will you.
The voice belonged to the chief scientist, Oswald Richardson. He was sat with the other scientists behind a large thick piece of glass that separated them from the Telephone machine. They faced the Telephone and the back of William, waiting impatiently for him to finish.
William was irritated by Oswald at times. He always expected everybody to finish their tasks in record time and had no patience for excuses, even when they were valid. Everyone hated him, but put up with him for the sake of the experiment. After ten years, however, their contempt for him had reached a level where they couldn’t be around for more than a short while before they had to leave the room, otherwise they would have to kill him.
William at last finished his work and fixed the device into the correct place. A small surge of electricity could be heard as the Telephone came on line.
The Telephone device was large and totally unlike anything seen before. The whole thing was a mesh of countless pieces of machinery from many sources. In one part of the machinery there lay a small device with a small glass window; a thin green line ran from one end of the glass to the other. In the centre sat a an old fashioned telephone, the receiver facing outward toward William, white in colour. The small sections that weren’t engulfed in the jungle of mechanical components were instead covered with white tiles. The entire device was embellished with a patterned design of squares that ran all around it. A small dirty looking clock was fixed on top of the whole thing.
He turned round to face the three cameras that were pointed at the Telephone device. They were cameras they had found while rummaging around for materials inside a large television studio. They were working fine once they tested them with a small generator, they decided it would be good to point them at the device and see if anything was recorded. They weren’t really expecting it, they guessed that most of their information would come from the receiver of the device, but there was no harm in trying.
William walked over to them and gave them one last final check. He checked that the monitors were working, the main circuits and lastly the endless series of wires that ran from the cameras to the corridor at the other end of the hall. Everything seemed like it was working fine. William smiled and gave the thumbs up to the others in the small booth.
With a smile and a muffled cheer from the other scientists, William turned round and ran through the door that led to the others in a small control room. The room was tiny and some of the scientists had to stand up due to the lack of chairs. William found a place to stand behind them, getting a half decent view of the Telephone by looking over somebody’s shoulder.
The room was packed solid with numerous pieces of equipment that hummed and bleeped in the irritating silence of waiting. Large door sized computers constantly ran out large sheets of paper with numbers and electrical readouts on them, large and small multicoloured lights constantly blinked on and off with a high pitched sound. The three scientists that were sat down sat in front of a long table like machine that spanned from one end of the room to the other. Switches and lights were also on this machine, as well large and small levers.
The whole room hummed noisily of electrical activity as the many computers constantly worked to gather as much data as they could and feed to their creators. All the while, the creators stood resolute and ready, yet no one seemed to have the courage to continue. They had worked hard for this moment for ten long whole years, scrounging up whatever they could and fixing it together to create something unique, something that could alter human perception of everything, forever.
The scientists looked on at the buzzing computers in front of them, their hands and eyes moving only in fractions. Finally, William was the one to break the unending silence and stepped forward to the machines, lightly pushing the others aside. He flicked a small switch that was beside a small speaker, a small red light above it came on. He spoke into the speaker: “Could the test subject come in please.” He flicked off the switch and stood back to his original position.
The sound of a door opening in the main hall caught everyone’s attention as the sound of it echoed with the sound of a gunshot as it bounced across the walls. The small echo of timid footsteps came next as a large man wearing a white shirt and faded blue jeans came into view. His hands were in his pockets, his feet appeared to step forward in every direction as though unsure of what and where he was doing.
The man had been selected by the scientists on their many excursions throughout the city to try and convince them to be a test subject to the experiment. Many chose to deny their requests up front and shut their doors in their faces, others thought of it for a few moments then decided no. Some people had been ecstatic to see the scientists and had taken them into their house, obviously they had been very lonely. After a time, however, it became apparent that they wanted them to stay with them. The scientists had narrowly avoided a frantic outburst by them when they wanted to leave. The scientists had received some surprising comments from some that the afterlife and spirits was all bullshit and what they were studying was nothing. They hadn’t believed for a moment what they had stated everywhere ten years before. They thought this strange as the belief in it would be the best way to get over what happened to the world. But, they realised that humanity probably never would believe in something that didn’t physically exist.
After much searching through the pathetic remnants of humanity, one of them had talked this man they now had into doing it. He said he wanted to do it because he was the type of guy who didn’t like to sit around and do nothing. He wanted to do something that was risky. The scientists didn’t want him to be hurt by what he was agreeing to do, but seeing as he wanted to take the risk, they felt they weren’t responsible for what happened to him.
The man walked into the immense room that he stood in, he looked round at the sheer size of it and the intricately done architecture embellished on the arch. He noticed the pane of glass where the scientists watched him, he nodded a nervous hello to them. Oswald Richardson reached for a switch and spoke aloud. “Please, step forward to the Telephone device, please.” The man jumped as the sudden booming voice filled the whole room. It took him a moment to register what it had said. He noticed the Telephone positioned on the wall and instantly back away from it a step. He wasn’t entirely sure what its purpose was, but he knew the basic idea. He suddenly felt that he was within touching distance of the unknown and the thought made him think twice.
“Step forward to the Telephone device, please.” Came the booming voice again. “Pick up the receiver and hold it to your ear.”
The man looked at the scientists with an agitated expression. “What’s going to happen to me?” He asked, his voice shaking uncontrollably.
“Absolutely nothing. All that will happen is that you’ll hear some strange sounds and voices coming from the receiver. Just keep the receiver to your ear and we’ll do the rest.” The scientist knew not to use the word probably in his sentence. Doing so would undoubtedly convince the man to make a run for it, and they couldn’t afford that.
The man continued to feel apprehensive around the Telephone, his mannerisms became nervous and increasingly agitated. He began to accuse the scientists of knowing something he didn’t. “Why the hell are you staying behind there, huh?” He shouted, pointing at them with his finger. “This thing not safe, or something. You’re not stupid to be behind that thing. Screw your damn experiment, I’m outta’ here.” He began to walk away and out of the room, his pace picking up as more and more. He gave the finger to the scientists.
Oswald sighed an irritated sigh. He leaned forward in his chair and activated the switch for the speaker. “Hey, listen you son of a bitch!” He shouted at the top of his voice, the man stopped in his tracks but didn’t turn around. The other scientists swore they could see a cake of dust fall to the floor as the great booming voice echoed like a bomb. The enraged scientist continued, his voice still as loud. “You told us your were going through with this, no matter what happened. You said you liked the challenge and weren’t a guy who was afraid! You can either walk back into that endless wasteland another dull day, or you participate in something that’s never been accomplished before!”
Oswald stayed stood still, his hands flat on the console. He watched the man as he deliberated within himself whether or not to do it. He looked back and forth at the Telephone and down the corridor leading out of the room, feeling the constant, empty breeze that constantly blew through everybody everything. Finally, with a determined expression, he walked toward the Telephone, the determination in his steps were apparent as they hit the cold floor with a loud echo. Oswald sat back contented in his chair, he slowly raised his hands toward his face, his fingers touched at the tips. He smiled a wide smile.
The man stepped up to the Telephone and picked up the receiver, he laughed a little to himself when he realised he was about to put money into it, realising it was pointless. He raised the receiver to his ear. Despite his determination to go through with this, he began to breathe heavily and rapidly, it could be heard by the scientists over the speaker that was connected to the Telephone.
One of the female scientists with thick long brown hair spoke into the speaker. “You’re okay, there,” she said, her voice calm and slightly appealing. “I’m going to switch on now. Don’t be alarmed if you hear the strange sounds coming through. We’ll just note them down for a few minutes and then that’ll be it.” She switched off the speaker. Herself and the others gathered their papers and clipboards.
Despite hearing the woman’s slight carnal voice and seeing the scientists a few yards to his right, the man felt utterly alone once the speaker was switched off. He ran the woman’s last statement through his mind, nodding his head as he concentrated on her words. The receiver felt like a massive brick in his hand.
Oswald pressed a switch that was underneath a small box shaped piece of plastic, a bright red light came on above the switch. The scientists readied themselves, holding their pens just above the blank paper in their other hand. They waited impatiently for a sound any sound to come through. A terrible thought came to them. What if the device didn’t achieve what they wanted from it. What if they were wrong that a device like this would make contact with the other side. Their seemingly endless waiting and paranoid thoughts soon came to an abrupt but unsatisfying end.
An intense and incredibly sound shattering noise filled the whole immediate area. The scientists fell backwards onto the floor as the full shock of it all hit them like a battering ram, their bodies and equipment they carried fell silently to the floor, the noise blocking out everything else. The man at the Telephone fell backwards to the floor, landing on his side. One of the scientists picked himself up from the floor and onto the console, his head spinning so much he could barely make out his surroundings. He gazed open mouthed at the swirling colours of the countless electric lights before him spin like a stirred up rainbow. He guessed through sheer memory the location of the switch for the Telephone speaker. He flicked the switch and the incredible earth shattering sound disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.
The scientists began to get their minds straight, their eyes began to focus. Oswald was the first to fully stand up, looking at the sprawling figures on the floor. “What the fuck happened!” He shouted, quickly glancing around him in every direction. He checked the controls and the main circuits in the room. Everything seemed okay, their was no sign of damage or anything at all that could have caused it. The other scientists helped each other up, everyone held their heads in their hands, groaning.
William looked up and noticed the inanimate figure of the man in the hall, lying on his side. He raced out into the hall, almost pulling the door off its hinges. He ran to him and picked him up till he sat on his buttocks, the other scientists ran after him. “Is he okay,” everyone asked. “How is he? William lowered his head, his shoulders began to shake.
As everyone caught the cold sight of the man, they realised what had happened. After years of death in every city, every country and continent, they were left with only few survivors. Now, another fragile life had been taken. An intense rage filled the heads of the scientists, a rage directed at everything that had happened over the past twenty years. Oswald Richardson’s bitter anger, however, was directed against something, something he didn’t tell the others. The experiment had failed because of some damn unknown error, and their lab rat had died on them. Now, they had nobody to continue the experiment. He could always use the other scientists, but their survival was vital. He needed their minds to repair the Telephone or anything else related to that.
He walked defeated to the Telephone. He rested his head on the main Telephone machine and rested his arm beside his head. He gazed intently at the Telephone device, as though forcing his mind into the world beyond, to break through it himself without any annoying barriers. “Soon, I will know,” he whispered to himself. “Soon, I will have all the answers I want.”

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