The Telephone

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Chapter 26

The small rusty car that William had claimed sat silently outside Sarah’s apartment building, the dust that had long since settled on it had now been wiped away, revealing a heavily rusted body, overrun with scrapes and scratches.

Inside Sarah’s apartment, Sarah frantically pulls out every individual drawer in her cupboards and rifling through every clothing garment she can find, shirts, blouses, skirts, busily throwing them on the floor. She has changed her clothes and put the old ones in the washing basket. The clothes she wears now are loose fitting due to her hurried pace of putting them on. She picks up big handfuls of clothes in her arms and forces them into a large brown faded suitcase on the bed, discarded socks and shirts lie in a crumpled state on the bed.
It was hurtful for Sarah to be doing this. She had taken a sworn oath at the beginning of this odd lifestyle to stick to it, to never back out and never surrender her home to anyone and keep breathing till her time came to die. Now, she was being forced out of her home by ghosts and a group of maniacal scientists that were after their blood. She was being forced out of her home by the very same kind of people she had always tried her best to avoid, the mentally crippled and the totally insane.
She stopped for a moment in her hurried packing, still holding a white t-shirt in her hands. She clenched her fingers and gripped the t-shirt tightly as she could, feeling the roughness of the material in between her fingers and palms, imagining the throats and necks of the scientists and all those she had so hated and despised over so many years being in her tightening grip as she slowly forced the life out of them. Dreams of sweet revenge shot like bullets through her thoughts.
She began her packing again, piling in more and more clothes, the suitcase bulging more and more.
William is in the kitchen, quickly taking as much canned food as he can find and carry in is arms. He opens the drawers, cupboards and takes whatever is on offer and dumps them in a medium sized brown shoulder bag. Tins of food pile on top of each other in the bag, tins of processed vegetables, peas, carrots, fruit, tinned steak and mince, as well as sealed bottles and cans of fizzy drinks neatly packed into the side pocket of the bag.
It surprised William a little to find so much food in her kitchen, he only had a suitable amount to keep him alive until he had to search for more. As a result, his drawers were only half filled most of the time. He guessed it was Sarah’s fear of leaving food out for the so called “freaks and lunatics” that ferreted through the city like animals. She had told him herself that she always took as much food as she could carry. William decided to remember that for himself in the future, if they ever got out of this.
He looks round the apartment from where he is stood, surveying the intricate woodwork of the cupboards and shelves and the great calmness and pleasant look of the place.
He had never seen a place as clean and pleasant as this, not even is own apartment, that had become like all the rest, faded, the life worn out of it till it eventually died, all because of his early passion for the E.V.P experiments. He like the idea of staying here for a while with Sarah, lay low and study the E.V.P messages here, but the nagging truth in his mind refused to go away.
They both knew they couldn’t stay here in this apartment, they wouldn’t be safe. Sure, the scientists didn’t have a clue where she lived, and it would take them days to find the right paper in the records department with her name and address, but it wouldn’t take them forever. William knew only too well that Oswald wouldn’t let a silly thing like a lot of searching through papers wouldn’t stop him getting to the relevant conclusion he so wanted. He would no doubt spill blood to get what he wanted, no matter who he had to hurt.
William couldn’t help but notice the tangled mass of machinery and wires of the countless tape machines and small tapes that littered the floor of the living room and half the dining room. He could tell how serious Sarah had took this, refusing to give up on it, despite the chaos she must have so often heard. He admired her spirit to learn more, despite himself wanting to turn his back on it.
It felt a little strange, eerie almost to be near these things again. It almost felt like being around an old friend after being separated for years and then to have a sudden unprecedented reunion. It was true, the tapes themselves had a presence to them. The lights that were switched still felt like eyes, watching him as he struggled to carry more food, giggling at him at his futile effort of escape from it all.
Enough, he shouted in his mind, throwing down a small collection of tins he was holding, they clattered on the kitchen worktop and bounced a couple of times as they hit the solid tiled floor. William placed his hands on the worktop and lowered his head, tightly closing his eyes.
“Are you okay in there?” Came Sarah’s voice from the bedroom. Silence for a few moments before William answered. “Yeah, I’m okay, just dropped a couple of the tins.” He bent down and picked them up and placed them in the brown shoulder bag.
He looked at the bag now, bulging with tins, poking out through the open zip. William was satisfied that he had enough, for the moment anyway. If they needed more, they could just raid one of the many grocery stores or malls that hadn’t already been pillaged. He hoped that they wouldn’t need as much as he thought, hopefully they could get this all over with somehow pretty soon and only have to use up a quarter of the supplies.
He picked it up with the shoulder harness, almost falling to the floor with the weight. He placed it over his right shoulder, feeling the incredible weight that pulled him down. But, it wasn’t important that he had trouble carrying it, he couldn’t afford to poke faults with that, the important thing was that they had food now. He took in a great amount of air and slowly exhaled it.
He heard Sarah come from the bedroom into the kitchen, the large suitcase she carried constantly banged noisily against the walls. She came into the kitchen and spotted William, giving him a feeble smile. William looked down and saw that she was carrying the suitcase with both hands, she was steadily grunting from the weight of it.
“Here,” he said, holding out his hand. “Let me carry that, it looks like you can’t.”
Sarah moved it from her side to behind her, resting its great weight on her small back. “Thanks,” she said almost breathless, “but I can handle it. They’re my clothes and I can take them. Besides, it looks like you’ve got enough weight to handle yourself.”
William glanced at the bag on his shoulder and smiled a little.
Sarah rested the suitcase on the kitchen floor beside the oven and walked into the living room. She placed her hands on her waist and looked over the tape machines lying around her.
“How do you think we should do this?” She said. “I don’t think I have any more bags in this place to carry all of these. We could carry them a few at a time down the stairs and put them in the trunk of the car then go back for more. What do you think?”
William shook his head in the negative and put his bag down on the worktop, his shoulder was starting to ache with shooting pain and he couldn’t carry it any longer. He walked into the living room.
“I don’t think we need that many, to be honest. We’re only make simple transmissions, simple messages and we’ll only need one or two tape machines, but we’ll need a lot of empty tapes. If we run out, we can find an electrical store. I suppose we can take the wave machine, too, and we’ll need the wires and extensions you’ve got here.”
Sarah nodded. “But, what do we do about the power, we need a small mobile generator. Can’t we use the car’s battery?”
William again shook his head, more prominent this time. “No, we can’t use the cars battery, that things our lifeline and we need it in case we’re found or they get to close. I say we find a large electrical store and look for a generator there. It’ll have to be a large store, smaller ones wouldn’t sell something that big, okay.”
“Yeah, I suppose. Anyway, we’ll have to get all the right stuff and put them in the trunk.
The two of them knelt down to get to work, William followed the long wires until he came to an outlet in the dining room wall and unplugged them then started to wind them up. He hated to disconnect everything and re-set it all up somewhere else. Everything was perfect here, they had power from a reliable generator, they had enough food and water and they could stay here for along time without being found and not scan the city looking for a place to hide. But, despite his opinion and his feeling that they were right, they had to leave, find somewhere else, somewhere no one would think of looking for them.
He wound up the wires until he was back in the living room, Sarah had already disconnected the relevant machines.
Bang, bang, bang, bang.
The banging from the walls came again from next door, William instantly jerked up his body to his full height and dropped the wires on the floor. He looked at Sarah, she was apparently shocked as much as him but was quickly relaxing. He could tell that she knew what this was.
“What the hell was that?!” She shouted to her as the banging continued and increased.
Sarah’s face twisted into anger, long repressed hate and annoyance welled up in her body as though she was about to burst. Her eyes were fixed on the wall were the noise came from, as though visualising what she would do next. “Its my next door neighbour,” she said with a loud and irritated voice. “He did this before to me. He’s a freak, a pervert, he keeps trying to get in here and get to me. Fuck it, I’m tired of this shit, I’m gonna’ kill him.”
She started to walk to the front door, quickly stepping over the mass of tape machines on the floor. William raised his hand suddenly in front of her and stopped her. Sarah looked at him with a confused and angry expression.
“Don’t worry,” William told her. “I’ve got it. Ever since I started running from those goddamn scientists, I wanted to cause them great pain. With this guy, I can release some of that on him.” He lowered his arm and started to walk to the door, the banging still continued.
“Wait!” Sarah shouted to him, he stopped and looked at her.
“I’ve been wanting to beat the shit out of this guy for years, I’ve had to live next to him. I think I deserve a little of what you want, too.”
“No!” William said outright. “I don’t want you getting hurt in there. Don’t worry, I’ll give him one for you, too.”
He turned around and cracked his knuckles then headed out the door. He stopped in the hallway as the banging noises suddenly stopped, keeping his eyes firmly on the door, the doorknob still in his hands. Sarah decided to stay in the apartment. Something told her this wasn’t right, there was something wrong here, but she didn’t have a clue what it was. William remained stood in the hallway, looking from left to right. He looked at Sarah, forcing a determined and strong look on his face. He nodded to Sarah and walked slowly to Ted Jessup’s door, carefully masking his footsteps, and being betrayed by the constant squeaking of the wooden boards.
He reached the door and slowly put his hand on the doorknob, sweat perspiring down his forehead, heat slowly rising inside his body. He knew he was afraid, but he had no idea why. At the moment, he was so angry and annoyed he felt he could take on anything, especially this creep who was no more than some weird lunatic like the rest of the insane survivors. He tried to shake off the fear, bury it and allow his anger to increase. But, I only seemed to grow in strength as he willed himself more and more to turn the handle.
Eventually, it became too much and he had a straight choice: Open the door or go back to Sarah.
No, screw all of this being afraid bullshit, I’ve had enough of being afraid. I’m going in.
He turned the doorknob in his sweating and shaking hand and pushed the door open, fully expecting to see this guy still standing by the wall and looking at him with a scared animal look.
He opened the door as wide as he could till he heard it bang against the wall. He looked in the apartment and saw nothing but darkness, silhouetted shapes and the smell of thick dust that made his throat tickle. He coughed to get rid of it. He looked as hard as he could through the darkness to see even the slightest figure of a man, but still could see nothing but the apparent shapes of boxes and empty shelves. He reached the wall next to him for a light switch. He found one and flicked it up and down. Nothing happened.
“Are you okay in there?” Came Sarah’s agitated voice shouting from her apartment.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” William answered, confusion still running through his mind. “Come on in here, I can’t see anything.”
Sarah couldn’t understand what he was saying. She knew that Ted Jessup should be in his apartment, he hardly ever went anywhere else than to get supplies. Most of the time he squinted through her peephole or hanged around outside her apartment.
She walked out into the corridor and closed her door behind her. Years of locking it whenever she went out still stuck with her like a bad habit. She saw William stood in Ted’s doorway and walked up to him quite briskly. She looked into Ted’s apartment and realised what William had meant.
William turned to her, still keeping his eye on the darkness, just in case the freak suddenly out of the darkness and ran at them. “This guy hasn’t got a faulty generator, or something has he?”
Sarah shook her head. “No, the whole place is only connected to one generator, it powers the whole building. As far as I know, this guy should have light and power.”
William pondered her answer, but could think of no reasons at all why he should live like this.
“So, what, did this guy just forget to clean and forget to buy another light bulb, or what?”
The two of them laughed a little at the weak joke.
“You got a flashlight, or something we can use?” William asked. Sarah looked at him with an expression of slight shock. “You mean, you’re gonna’ go inside and look around. The guy could be in there, hiding.”
William raised his hands in the air, as though weighing invisible objects. “What do you suggest, just wait out here? Something’s not right here, I can feel it. I don’t give a damn about this guy any more than you do, I just wanna’ find out what’s happening here. Call it curiosity, so have you got a flashlight, or not?”
Sarah sighed and shook her head. “No, but I’ve got an old candle in the cupboard and a few matches. Hang on.”
In under a minute, Sarah had brought him the candle. It was thick with dust, the candle itself was set inside a small holder. William struck a match and lit the wick, a flame appeared vividly lighting the dark interiors of the apartment. William took tentative steps inside, closely followed by Sarah behind him.
He checked every corner of the room, pointing the candle at every corner. Apart from the dust, and the obvious signs of the lack of a resident, everything else seemed ordinary and nothing out of place. Large comfortable armchairs sat facing a small dusty television, a small coffee table sat inn the centre of the living, with one cup left with coffee granules inside. Large book shelves with dusty glass doors lay undisturbed, a small black telephone sat unused on a small cupboard beside a dusty old lamp.
Sarah and William remained still for a moment, listening to the dead silence around them, there ears listening hard for the slightest knock or sign of a presence. The small candle light flickered silently, casting sharp and distorted shadows across the walls.
“What the hell is going on here?” William whispered, not knowing exactly why he was whispering.
Sarah looked around nervously. “Who the hell cares what’s happening,” she said in an equal whisper. “There’s no one here, it must have been some other kind of banging. Let’s just get the hell out of here, take the stuff we’ve got and get the hell out of here.”
“No!” William said in as loud a whisper as he could manage. “I wanna’ know what’s going on here. No way could that kind banging be something ordinary. I can’t see anything here that would do something like that. I have to find out. Anyway, you don’t have to come with me into the other rooms, you can go back to your apartment if you want.”
Sarah shook her head and gritted her teeth. “No, I want to come with you, I don’t wanna’ be on my own.” She hated to say that, and hated it more to admit it to herself, but it was true, she was afraid, very afraid. But, she supposed that there was nothing wrong with admitting it now, not when she was in this weird situation.
“Lets try the bedroom.” William whispered and walked slowly to the door he guessed was the bedroom. Sarah remained for a moment when a strange fact came to her. All of these years she had avoided Ted Jessup’s bedroom like the plague, and for years he had tried to take her and put her in his bedroom. Now, after all of these years avoiding this, she was walking into it by her won free will. She didn’t think the idea was funny, just ironic. She bit her lip and followed William into the bedroom.
The bedroom was equally as dusty and dark as the living room, the interiors were the same as one would expect to find in a typical bedroom. A large bed, apparently slept in but not for a long time. A small bedside cabinet lay to the right of the bed with a small table lamp. A large closet sat to the left of the room, closed tightly. For a moment, William expected to see the guy suddenly burst from inside, the realised that there was no one here anymore, judging by the look of the place. Yet, this thought only made him more nervous.
He began to walk into the bedroom when he felt something small brush past his face. He instinctively wipes his face and pointed the candle up to the ceiling. His and Sarah’s mouth fell in astonishment and frozen shock as they beheld the sight before them.
There, hanging from the dusty ceiling from long pieces of string, hung hundreds of separate photographs of Sarah Gaelock, each depicting ever conceivable act, no matter how mundane they were. The rage inside of Sarah boiled angrily, threatening to burst out at any moment and viscously attack anything nearby. But, her strong feelings of resentment and incredible hatred were mixed with uncomfortable feelings of fear and apprehension. She had know for a long time that Ted Jessup had an unhealthy interest in her, but she had no idea he would go this far.
“Give it to me!” She yelled at William, tearing the candle from his hand. He hardly noticed it and his hand fell limp.
Sarah raised the candle up to the photographs, part of her screaming at her to cease and leave immediately. There were photographs of her stood outside in the hall, preparing to leave or to enter her apartment. There were photos of her in her car pulling up outside the building, pictures of her collecting food outside, speeding away from street lunatics, filling up her gas tank in the garage. There were even pictures of her inside her apartment, apparently took through a small hole that saw inside. She could see herself eating meals, washing up, reading, taking a bath.
Her rapidly anxious and terrified pace of breathing slowly rose higher and higher as she surveyed these personal and private scenes that had been violated by a sick freak. The candle in her hand began to shake as her hand trembled more and more.
The candle light flickered as her hand trembled, the eerie orangey-yellow glow shone against the clean plastic of the photographs, her frantic eyes darted from one scene to another, until they stopped as she came to one photograph and her hand stopped trembling, out of pure shock rather than self-control.
The photograph she stopped at was of her, lying in bed fast asleep. But, this one wasn’t took through the secret hole in the wall, this one was took whilst the photographer was stood right beside her bedside, right in her home.
The candle fell to the floor with a loud thud as her hand went completely numb, she covered her mouth with her hands as a sound shattering scream fought its way through her throat. She abruptly turned around and ran from the room and out of the apartment into her own, tears and short screams mixed with total shock started to burst through her defences. The screams roused William from his frozen shock, bringing him back to reality. He looked around for Sarah before realising where she was. He felt a strong heat emanating near his feet and looked down, seeing the flame on the candle slowly begin to gather in strength as it fed from the dusty carpet. He quickly extinguished it with his foot and uttered a low sigh.
It took him a moment to register what exactly was happening. From hearing Sarah’s sobs, he could tell that she was in her apartment, then realised why she had suddenly took off. He surveyed the hanging photographs and found the one she had been looking at. The ends of his fingers took an increasing tight hold of the thin plastic, his expression descending into total hatred.
That sick bastard, how the fuck did he get inside her goddamn apartment?
He ripped the photo from its tenuous hold and crushed it in his hand before throwing it against the wall. Where the fuck is the bastard? I’m gonna’ tear off his goddamn arms and legs.
Despite the growing animal like rage burning within him, and the desire to go to Sarah and comfort her, the strongly suppressed and ever curious scientist within him slowly rose to the surface, enthralling him to scan the pictures, look for more information.
He looked at each of the pictures, intently scanning ever single acute detail, then after a few moments, he noticed the dates that had been written at the bottom of each with a thick black pen.
Many of the dates were pretty close to one another, just a few days in-between each. From the years noted down, it appeared that they had been taken in the space of around eight years. He checked the dates of the most recent. They were all dated at the approach of the end of the eighth year, and absolutely nothing was here over the last two years.
Screw this, he thought to himself as he came to his senses. I’m going to get that bastard. I know he’s around here somewhere, I heard him pounding on the goddamn walls.
He ran from the bedroom and out into the living room, his eyes darting from one possible hiding place to another, his fists clenching till he heard his bones crack and felt the sweat gathering. He wasted no time in searching for him, immediately tearing at anything in sight. “Where the hell are you?!” He yelled as he began his rampage of destruction. He pulled the cushions from the couch and flung them into the air before jerking the whole bulky object into the air and pushing it onto its side He pulled the television away from the wall and tore out all of the wires. He pulled the curtains from their supports and destroyed every picture hanging on the walls.
“Come on, you son of a bitch. I know you’re here. Come out like a man instead of fucking hiding?!”
His body suddenly spun a complete 90oC as the terrible thunderous like banging from the walls suddenly started again. This time, he wasn’t afraid, he was too damn full of rage and hate to care about his fear. He registered Sarah’s sudden cries of shock as she heard the noises, she immediately ran from her living room to William.
“Where are you?!” William screamed into the ether. “I’m gonna’ fucking find you if I have to tear this place apart.!”
William ran into the main corridor of the apartment as he followed the banging’s, Sarah emerged into the living room as he disappeared into the dust choked darkness, immediately screaming his name.
“William, William, where the fuck are you. Get out of here, now?!”
Her screams barely registered through his rage, his ears attuned to the repeated banging’s coming from the walls of the corridor. Then, as he came halfway down the corridor, the banging’s stopped, leaving him in mute anticipated rage. Before he had time to even consider his next move, he heard the banging’s again, this time echoing from the attic. He looked up towards the sound and noticed a small hatchway leading into it.
“Alright, you sad pathetic piece of shit.” he said calmly with a twisted smile. “I know you’re up there, come down here now so I can pull you apart.”
As if silently obeying his command, the hatchway suddenly came open till it hung from the ceiling, revealing a bizarre sight above. Then, as if in slow motion, a large bulky object descended from the hatchway into the darkened corridor below. The object stopped its freefall as it became snagged on something. William had to blink continuously to understand what was in front of him, his senses blinded by absolute hatred. Finally, his sight was unveiled and he saw the full horror what lay in front of him.
There, hanging from a torn piece of rope was the large bulky, and heavily rotted corpse of Ted Jessup, swaying from side to side. His clothes were faded and stained heavily with food stains, his skin was almost pure white, his bones poked through the ever weakening skin. His face was contorted into an expression of great pain and anguish.
William instantly forced his hands over his nose and mouth, the stench of death almost made him faint. He forced his legs to move and run away, but was betrayed when they refused to submit to his will. He sank to the floor, still holding his hands to his mouth to prevent him from vomiting. At the corner of his eye, he saw Sarah at the other end of the corridor behind him, her screams of total shock pierced the air around them both, till for a moment they could hear nothing but a high pitched wine.
Sarah ran from the apartment almost hysterical, closely followed by William.

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