The Telephone

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Chapter 21

Sarah rested in the hot and relaxing hot water covering her in the bathtub. Her eyes were closed. They flinched occasionally as the hot water washed over the tiny wounds on her face. She felt her muscles relax more and more as the bath salts gently caressed her. Her legs were raised out of the water as there was no room in the bath for them, her feet lay flat against the cold yellow tiles on the wall.

It was strange to be in someone else’s bath other than her own. The water somehow felt different, as did the bath itself and the tiles on her feet. She felt that she must have spent too much in her own apartment and not enough time outside. She felt glad to be away from Ted Jessup, the constant worry at the back of her mind that he would somehow find a way into her apartment and do god knows what to her. Here she felt safe, in the company of someone who she was almost certain wouldn’t try anything like that.
She thought of William and his kind personality, how he had gone through all that at the Town Hall to rescue her. He had risked his own life to get her out of there. She felt great appreciation to him, but also a little irritated at what he’d done. She had no irritation of how he was forced to forcibly remove the wires and tubes from her face, from what he had said about the other scientists and what she heard herself, he wouldn’t have had any time at all to do things carefully. She guessed that the scientists would test her when she told them what was happening to her, but she hoped that was what would tell her the explanation to what she was seeing all around her. But, in the end, they probably wouldn’t have let her survive. From what she had seen of them and what William had told her, their only concerns was with themselves and the information they would have gathered from testing her would have been for them, not her.
She knew that eventually, she would have to tell William about what was happening to her, and the things that she was seeing and hearing. Despite wanting an answer to them as soon as possible, she still felt that it was spilling personal things to a stranger. She felt that it would be like telling strange and personal things to a psychiatrist, things she had spent a great deal of effort in keeping to herself, and she always hated psychiatrist’s. But, regardless of this, he was the one and only person she could open up to. He had the knowledge and the means and the equipment to hopefully give her the answers she sought and hopefully, she would get them.
She felt that the bath was getting cold and decided to get out, she could already smell food cooking outside and her stomach was growling. She pulled out the plug in the bath and the water ran into the drain. She dried her body with the towel and her hair till it was almost dry, and put on the long white bath robe hanging from the hook on the door. She left her clothes in a neat pile on the floor and walked out the room into the living room.
William was standing in the kitchen area, carefully checking the contents of a steaming pot on the stove with a wooden spoon. He smelled in the aroma as it wafted from the pot into the air. The dining table was ready cleaned and had two empty whites plates at opposite ends. Cutlery and small red and white napkins were placed neatly beside the plates.
William turned round and saw Sarah stood beside the dining table. It was strange for him to see someone else wearing his bath robe, and a whole lot stranger seeing a woman in his apartment. He watched her carefully surveying the dining table and the cutlery, the arousing movements of her arms and the beauty in her face and her long damp dark hair.
He ceased staring at her when he realised that the pot in his hand was close to slipping out and falling to the floor. He quickly returned it to the gas stove and placed the wooden ladle in his pocket. Sarah looked up and smiled at him. “I’m guessing you don’t usually eat as extravagant as this?” She said to him. William had trouble listening to her words, his concentration was permanently fixed on her looks.
“Not usually,” he said, nervously, quickly heeding her words. “Sometimes I don’t even sit at the table, I mostly eat at the armchair or go out to dinner.”
Sarah nodded her head as she silently agreed with him. “I used to eat out myself, but not anymore. The kitchen’s were usually pillaged of everything there was, and I was constantly hassled by people when all I wanted was to sit down quietly and eat.” Sarah pulled out the chair next to her and sat down. She rested her hands on top of the table, as if patiently waiting for the food to arrive. William recognised the posture and took hold of the steaming pot. He carried it over to the table and poured a suitable amount in each plate. Sarah barely wasted a second before starting to eat.
William took his place and watched her eat, appalled and at the same time, fascinated.
“I don’t know,” he said, carrying on the conversation. “I rarely ever saw any of the other survivors in or around the restaurants. To be honest, I would have preferred it if I did and they came in and took the food. At least I would have had some company.”
Sarah held back from pointing out the fact that the other scientists were his company. She could see that he would probably rather be completely alone than be with them, if he had the choice.
“This is great,” she said with a mouthful. “What is it?”
William smiled, it was strange to hear someone other than himself compliment the cooking. “Its just simply a basic broth made out of a lot of ingredients.” He said, enjoying hearing each word. “I used carrots, tomatoes, herbs and spices, peas and a few pieces of meat.”
He saw that she was close to finishing and quickly began to eat himself, trying to match her pace.
“By the way,” he said. “You didn’t tell me your name.”
Sarah looked up from her empty plate at William for a moment then wiped her mouth with the napkin. “Its Sarah,” she said. “Sarah Gaelock.”
William nodded. “It’s a great name.”
The two of them sat silently for a few minutes, each feeling a great awkwardness in the room. It didn’t cross Sarah’s mind to thank him for the meal, the bath and the other things he had given her. After eating alone for years and giving strength to her solitary personality, the statement was simply beyond her nature. William knew he had to ask her about what she came to him for in the first place. He wasn’t sure if it was the right moment or not, but with all other portals of conversation run dry, he had no choice. At least, he would have full knowledge about it and keep conversation going for a while.
“Do you feel like your ready to tell me about what you were going to tell me.” He tried to keep his voice calm and quiet, feeling it would make it easier for her to talk.
Sarah sighed and relaxed her shoulders. She slowly placed the empty soon she was holding in front of her on the table. She ran her fingers through her hair to check that it was dry enough. “Okay,” she said finally. “I tell you everything. But first, I think I’ll get dressed then you can put some music on.”
William sat back a little shocked for a moment. He wasn’t sure what she was implying here, but he was almost certain that it wasn’t what he thought. He calmed himself down after a few moments when he realised that it was just wishful thinking.
Sarah didn’t wait for an answer from him. She stood up from the chair and walked back into the bathroom. William hurried over to the large cupboard in the living room and rifled through each of the records he had stacked. He decided on Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela. A restful tune would calm her down then he could get all the facts out of her. He placed it carefully on the record player and dropped the tiny needle onto it. He sat on the sofa behind him and waited patiently for her.
About ten minutes later, Sarah emerged from the bathroom. Her hair was dried and tied back into a ponytail. She smiled an awkward smile at William, as if trying to cheer herself up over what she was about to tell him, but to no avail.
She sat down on the couch and looked at her clasped hands on her lap, she hardly noticed the music wafting its way around the room. She looked up at William and then sighed. “First of all,” she said in an unconfident voice, “I want you to know that I’m not crazy, and I’m not making this up for attention or some insane reason. What I’ve seen and heard and experienced is real, they actually happened, I swear they did.”
“Hey, you don’t need to tell me,” William said. “Trust me, I’ve looked at that Telephone device too, and I felt something strange from it. I can tell you that I’m open to everything you’ve got to say.”
Sarah nodded and cleared her throat. “It all started when I first drove past the Town Hall, and . . .wait, hang on a second.” She said suddenly, nearly jumping out of her seat. “My car, the pink Cadillac, I left it at the Town Hall. Those bastards will be all over it. I can’t let them get it, that’s all I have.”
William extended his hands out to her to calm her down. “Its okay, its okay, I don’t think they’ll be after the car, they’ll more likely be spending their time analysing the information they’ve got, or looking for us. But its okay, they won’t find us, not a for a while anyway. Please, tell me what you were going to say, I’m all ears.”
Sarah sat back comfortably on the couch and began again.
“Yeah as I said, it all started when I came past the Town Hall a few days ago, I stopped the car and I could feel this weird power coming from it, as the place was breathing, or something. I wanted to go in, but I was too afraid.” She winced at her last statement, ashamed to mention it to herself. “The next morning, I decided that I was gonna’ find out what was causing the weird phenomenon and forced myself to go back to the Town Hall. I tell you, it was hell climbing those stairs, it felt like whatever it was that was there was getting inside my mind, screaming at me to leave. Well, anyway, I didn’t, I made it inside and I found the Telephone device in the Main Hall. I could still feel the strange power in here, it seemed like it was coming from the machine itself. I forced every nerve in my body to keep from getting close to it and pick up the receiver. But, I swear, my arm just moved on its own and picked it up. I tried to fight it, but it just wouldn’t stop.”
A hint of a tear suddenly appeared from underneath her eye. She quickly wiped it away, hoping William wouldn’t notice. “All I could hear from the receiver was static, it started to get louder. Then I noticed that son of a bitch Oswald behind me and then I passed out.”
She looked at William with reddened eyes, hoping for some kind of an answer from him. William simply sat in his position stunned, oblivious to any kind of answer or reason. He didn’t want to tell Sarah his thoughts and shake her up, but there was no other way.
“I don’t know what to tell you about that. In all the years we’ve been studying E.V.P, nothing like this has ever happened. All we’ve had is the messages that you’ve heard for yourself. Tell me about the things you’ve been seeing, maybe that’ll shed light on a few things. If you feel you can go on?”
Sarah looked at him scowling. “Of course I can, for gods sake. I’m not a goddamn coward.” She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled it. “Yeah, I um, I did some of my own experiments with this E.V.P using the tape machines I got from you. I put them all over the house, in every room, each one of them switched on. I spoke aloud into some of them and replayed the tape back. I couldn’t get any results back at first, but after a while, I got something. I’ve no idea what they’re saying, but I’m sure that they’re there.” She shuddered before mentioning her next statement. “Anyway, that night, I must have fell asleep. I had one really weird dream about being inside a room, somewhere. It was small and there was no doors or windows. The walls were covered completely in bright piano keys, shining in the light. I saw a guy in front of me playing a large shiny organ, he was playing a low tune that I couldn’t hear so well. He played for a few minutes and then his head sank down when he stopped.”
William looked at her puzzled. This didn’t sound like any of the tapes he had heard before, there didn’t seem to be a voice in her vision at all. He wondered whether it was just a nightmare she had after listening to the tapes, he knew he had had some himself when he first heard them.
“There’s another one I had,” Sarah continued. “I was in this perfect black room and there was a girl high above me that looked liker a ghost on a swing, high in the air. In front of me were these two weird twins with black hair, both of them speaking something into an old-fashioned microphone.”
William unconsciously leaned in closer to her. “Do you know what they were saying?” He asked, his voice barely an audible whisper.
Sarah turned to him, already aware of his reaction. “They, said, ‘Astrid, ask there.’”
The memory of the tape he had played to her suddenly appeared in Williams mind, as clear as if he was still there with her. He was uncertain of how to react, shocked and fear had gripped him. He shook his head a little, swallowed and cleared his throat. “Do you, um . . . Have you got anything else you wanna’ tell me?”
Sarah was slightly annoyed when she could see that he still couldn’t provide an answer, but decided to carry on anyway. “After one of those dreams, I heard static coming from the attic and when I went up there, it was coming from the T.V I put in there after the plague had come. I brought it down to the living room and I saw what looked like a family sitting on a bed on the screen. I couldn’t see there faces. After that, I felt what I can only explain as a bullet passing through my goddamn skull. I screamed in pain and the I fell unconscious, that’s when I had the second dream.”
William looked at her feeling a little excited. “You mean, you found another method of experimenting with?” He said eagerly.
Sarah shook her head. “No, I was freaked out and I pushed the T.V on the floor, it smashed.”
William resigned back into his original position and sighed. He knew he wasn’t angry with her over breaking it, he knew he would probably do the same. “Is there any more?” He asked.
Sarah looked at him for a few moments, considering her response. The memories of the other things she experienced flashed in her mind. She decided ultimately not to tell him any more, as much as she hated to admit it, she was afraid of reliving them to him and chose to keep them to herself. What she had already told him would have to be enough.
William realised that she was done and moved forward in his seat, slowly rubbing his hands together and sighing. Sarah didn’t expect a long or short intricate explanation to what she told him and that would be that, but she did hope that he would attach some sanity to it all. She refused to think of what would happen if he said that he had no clue at all. She knew not to tempt fate by staring at his face and forcing an answer out of him. She sat back in her seat and listened to the orchestrated piece playing in the background. She closed her eyes and allowed the music to drift over her. The music was slow at first, but gradually built up to a powerful feeling, invoking imagined visions of betrayal, romance and power. It allowed Sarah to momentarily forget her troubles and let them sink into the vast abyss of the musical orchestration around her. She sighed at the intense feeling of it all.
She opened her eyes sharply as she sensed that William sat back upright. All her concentration was now focused on him, the music disappeared into the background and out of her mind. She looked at him with hopeful eyes.
“I honestly don’t know what to think, Sarah.” He said sighing. Despite being prepared for it, Sarah was surprised and a little afraid. William continued. “Like I said, the other scientists and me have never encountered anything like this before, and its way over my head.”
William could see that Sarah was growing increasingly agitated, folding her arms tighter and bringing her knees close to her body. William took a tight hold of her hand. “But, that doesn’t me, that we can’t figure it all out.” He said reassuringly. “We’re going to find out what the hell is happening to you and get rid of it, okay?”
Sarah didn’t respond, and merely squeezed his hand back and smiled. William smiled back.
“Okay,” Sarah said suddenly standing. “What’s first on the agenda?”
William lightly slapped his knees and stood up himself. “Well, the first thing I guess is for us both to change. I’ve been wearing this damn lab coat for too long, and I guess your clothes are pretty dirty by now. I’ll have a wash and a shave. The most important thing we’ve gotta’ do is get the hell out of here before the others find us. They know by know that something’s in your head, something they want that’ll be vital to this experiment and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it. They know where I live, so it won’t be long before they come banging on the door. We could try your place to hide out, hopefully they won’t have found out where you live, yet. I suggest leaving your car where it is for a while, they‘ll no doubt be expecting us to come for it, where they‘ll be waiting for us”
Sarah watched him and listened carefully as he explained the whole thing to her. She took in every piece of information her threw at her, processing it in her mind to join the mass of information she had already stored. She was glad to see how he thought and how he handled a situation, even in the middle of the insane and unearthly scenario they were in now. She wondered if he was up to her own level of thinking and self-control.
William began to walk to the bathroom. “You can play some other music, if you want, its right there.” He said, nodding to the record collection. “Could you get me some clothes out of the cupboard over there, please, and put them on the sofa.”
Sarah watched him go into the bathroom and close the door behind him. She was about to say to him how she wasn’t a maid to him, then thought better about it. She had spent years taking her own clothes and putting them on, it would make a change getting clothes for someone else. She always hated the idea of being the sweet and compliant house wife, even to a great guy, but this was nowhere near that, merely getting clothes for someone that she could consider a friend.
She walked over to the cupboard that he motioned to and opened it. Inside was a large collection of assorted clothes of differing colours. Trousers and shirts and jumpers and socks were each piled on top of each other.
Jesus, doesn’t this guy believe in separate cupboards?
Rifling through the clothes, she found a clean white shirt, black trousers and socks and piled them on top of the sofa. She had a brief look for underwear and found none. She didn’t really want to have to find any and was relieved when she didn’t.
The guy must have some sense if he keeps them in a drawer, somewhere.
The unpleasant yet frighteningly appealing thought of looking for underwear and finding them suddenly appeared in her mind, blocking out all else. She imagined showing them to William and offering to show him hers.
Jesus, for god sakes, stop it, get that crap out of your mind!
While she hated to continually face these scenarios in her mind, she was slightly pleased to concentrate on something besides the weird goings on for a change, or to have these thoughts concentrating on Ted Jessup. For once, she could focus these erotic imaginings onto William, a reasonably good looking guy who for once, unlike so many others, genuinely wanted to help her.
She turned and walked over to the collection of records he had stacked on a shelf and began to look through them. The last piece he played had long since ended, the needle ceaselessly scraping against the flat plastic.
She looked at each name of the individual records. They were nearly all Classical or Opera, aside from one or two that were crappy pop records made a few years before the war started. Music had never reached the level it had in the late twentieth century or early twenty first. It had become merely rambled, rookie made electronic tracks with crappy singers with more nicotine and dope in their blood than laboratory test mice. Many people had retreated to the old fashioned music of the past, the great Classical and Opera, or the pop and Jazz greats such as ABBA and Dusty Springfield.
She looked through the records and found one that she knew she liked. Beethoven: Romance in F major.
She took it out of the sleeve and placed it on the record player and pulled down the needle She put the last one in its appropriate sleeve.
The music started, she leaned her full weight on the cupboard with the record player on top. She noticed the bottle of whisky beside her and poured double amount into a glass and downed it in two successions. She knew that it wasn’t wise at the moment to get drunk, not with having to race against the insane scientists that would be on their tail soon, but she had to forget that had happened to her, she couldn’t stand the weird dreams remaining in her head any more and had to extinguish them. She constantly filled her glass and rank until the bottle was empty. She threw the bottle and glass onto the couch, already starting to feel light headed, her body swaying a little from side to side.
William came out of the bathroom, washed and shaved and wearing a spare bath robe. He spotted Sarah swaying and quickly ran over to her and took hold of her, not wanting to waste a second before she fell flat on her face.
“Jeez, Sarah, what the hell are you doing. You can’t do this to yourself, now. We have to get out of here, soon.”
She looked up at him and smiled, a drunks smile, her eyes only half open.
“You know what?” She said, her voice slow and slightly rambled. “I think you’re a really great guy, you’re so damn good looking, you know?” I put your clothes on the couch, just as you told me, master. You know I’ll do anything you tell me, big guy.”
William would be lying to himself and everything he knew about himself if he had thought that this wasn’t interesting him in any way. But, he still had the brains to know that this was potentially dangerous. He didn’t have time to snap her back to being sober and plying her with coffee until her mind started working.
He knew the only thing was to force her out of her state. He knew her reaction to him shouting, but their was nothing else he could do. He grabbed hold of her arms and looked right in her eyes.
“Look Sarah. I know your scared right now, I am too! But, if you make yourself like this, you’re gonna’ put us both in danger of something that isn’t human!”
Sarah suddenly wrenched herself out of his grasp and walked away from him a few steps. William was surprised at how easily she broke away from him. She turned to him, her face blackened with drunken anger.
“You son of a bitch. Don’t keep going on about these fucking ghosts, alright? This is the only thing that keeps em’ out, and I’m sticking to that. So don’t you try and stop me from enjoying myself!”
With growing irritation and without a moments apprehension, he walked over to her and punched her in the face. She quickly fell to the floor unconscious and William picked her up and set her down on the couch, her head tilted to one side. He crossed his arms and looked at her.
“I sure hope you’ll forgive me for that. Thanks for the clothes you set out for me, by the way.”

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