The Telephone

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Chapter 22

Oswald Richardson stood at the large window in the small room, arms at his sides, staring out at the ceaseless and featureless milky whiteness of the sky, the cold fog that drifted over the empty streets and the deserted buildings. He saw a man wander alone down the street, his whole body wrapped up inside his countless layers of clothes, his breath plainly obvious in the unforgiving cold. Oswald narrowed his eyes at him and spat at the window, wishing it would have hit him. A great anger seethed inside him, ready to burst out in full fury. The other scientists sat behind him around a large dusty wooden table, nervously fumbling their fingers about, waiting for the inevitable insane response from Oswald.

A distinct chill could be felt by everyone around the room, seeping in from every tiny crack in the dusty walls. The scientists rubbed their hands together, blowing hot air in them, trying their best to tighten their lab coats around them. Oswald was the only one unfettered by the cold as it surrounded his pale skin.
He had always felt the cold, the same as everyone else, but he liked it. The weather before the war had always irritated him more than now, the hot sweltering summers and the mass concentration of people in every corner. He always prayed long and hard for the winter to arrive, the bitterly cold nights, the quietness everywhere around him, everywhere devoid of people, traffic and activity. He would walk the streets late at night in the winter, embracing the cold and the stillness.
The first he had heard of E.V.P, he was instantly entranced by the notion of this kind of scientific study. In the beginning, he had worked on it completely alone, but this didn’t bother him in the least, better to be away from the pathetic human race that he couldn’t trust or sympathise with.
Even from an early age, he had felt different from the rest of his species, detached and lonely. Over the years as he grew, he began to detest everyone else, believing that he was better than the rest of them. He purged his mind of affection and feelings at early manhood, retreating into his twisted world, surrounding himself in the obscure and the unusual.
After learning more of E.V.P, he went to graveyards and reputed haunted locations and ran experiments with simple recording devices and notes, speaking aloud and allowing the spirits to record what they wanted to say. He had received numerous recordings of threatening voices and terrified ones, screaming and telling him to leave immediately, that they didn’t want someone like him doing this, someone who was less human in his heart than they were.
Realising he had no choice, he advertised for others to join his relentless study, those exactly opposite to him, those fixed into feelings of compassion and emotions.
After a while, he had decent results, voices wishing only to speak to those he was with, giving information of the afterlife, of past experimenters and the secrets to life itself. A few of his early colleagues had left him and his work, refusing to work with someone like him. But, after the war, it was a lot simpler. Many wanted to work in his field, desperate for the voices of their deceased relatives to come through and put their mind at rest. After continuous work and relentless questioning, they finally had the proof of the existence of the afterlife. They didn’t much care that there wasn’t many people left to spread the news, they had done the work, and the knowledge was for them only, no one was to know what they knew.
The war and the near extinction of mankind gave them a great advantage, the ability to record anywhere they wished and record any number of voices. Oswald was in ecstasy over the whole thing, finally finding a world for himself to picture himself living in, away from the feeble pursuits of the human race. For once, he was truly, and maniacally happy.
“You stupid, pathetic idiots.” He said, still staring out the window. “”You let that damn vile creature live, stuck him in that room so he could get the girl. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you all, I should have done it myself, puncture a hole in that bastards heart and watch him bleed.”
He turned round to face the others, his face twisted into an expression of pure hatred and disgust at them all.
“We had her right here, we had the chance to finally unlock whatever was inside her head. The key to discovering the secrets we’ve looked for so long was right there, and you bastards let it go. You allowed years of study and experimentation recorded on tape and ancient tape recorders just slip out of our hands like goddamn water!”
He placed his hands on the top of the chair in front of him, gripping it tightly, his body shuddering with rage. “You’re useless,” he said shrieking, “your nothing but fodder to me, and you let the bitch get out of here with that piece of shit!”
The scientists were startled, but not shocked. They had known Oswald too long to be shocked by his insane outbursts.
Oswald grunted in disgust at them and released his grip on the chair and began to pace around the room, his arms swinging from side to side. The others half expected him to hit them, punch them in the face. They hardened their bodies to cushion the inevitable blow.
The image of the girl’s Cadillac flashed in Oswald’s mind, sitting out in the cold in front of the Town Hall. They had ransacked it looking for anything that might have been left with her address, then they could find her. But, there was nothing, no documents or papers that even hinted that anyone had used the car in months, much as the same as the cars littering the city.
“We need something here,” Oswald said, lowering his voice and making it easier for the others to talk to him. “We need something that tells us where she lives.”
One of the female scientists with long red hair, Professor Green, struck up the courage to say something, much to the surprise of the rest. She timidly raised her index finger in the air, Oswald looked up at her with wide eyes.
“Yes, well,” he said, “I’m listening.”
Professor Green cleared her throat before answering. “Well, um, I suppose we could try the records office in this building and look it up on the public register, she might have lived here a long time, so we could find it and . . .” She stopped, the courage to continue was lost to her.
Oswald looked at her for a long moment, eyes wide open staring at her. “There you are,” he said finally. “We finally have a result, a place to look for her. And while were at it, we’ll make a stop at that treacherous bastard, William. If he’s still there, I’ll crush his bones in my hands. We’ll start right away. I suppose our friends on the line can wait for us for a while.”
The others said nothing as they slowly stood up from their seats and quietly pushed them underneath.
Oswald looked at them wide narrowed eyes of demonic happiness, his mouth extended into a wide full teethed grin. “We can take the car outside, ride around in style.”
Oswald led the scientists out into the corridor, clutching the car keys tight in his hand.

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