* * * * *
* * * * *
The phone rang again. Melody tried to ignore it; she pushed the pillow over her ears and rolled over but the sound was insistent. Finally, the machine took it, and she heard her own grainy and distant voice say, “I’m not home. Please leave a message,” followed by the traditional sound.
There was an eerie silence, then the caller hung up. Melody lifted her head from the pillow in surprise, blinked heavily at the now pulsing red light, and nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone began to ring again.
She stared at it now, as it rang and rang, the body of the telephone vibrating slightly as the hammer rattled the bell inside. She reached for the handset but stopped midair, uncertain now.
The machine took the call, and she heard her prerecorded message again. After the shrill sound there was silence again, followed by a sharp breath that left Melody’s blood cold. Then a voice, calm and poisonous.
“Now this is just silly, Melody. Pick up the phone. I know you’re there.”
The faucet in Melody’s arteries turned from cold to hot, she felt her face flush with rage. She grabbed the handset.
“Whatthefuckdoyouwant?!” she said in a single breath. Then after a pause, “You know what? I don’t even care. Don’t call here again.”
She had just about hung up the phone when Mark’s voice stopped her.
“Wait,” he said. “There’s no reason for this. Just listen.”
She paused, and brought the phone back to her ear.
“I’m going home, Melody. And I’m inviting you to join me.”
Her head began to pound again. Talking to Mark was like talking to a machine – he’d say what he wanted to say regardless of who was listening, and her only options were to hear him out or shut him off. Morbid curiosity kept her on the phone, at least that’s what she told herself, but some part of her knew that her curiosity was laced with a certain sense of responsibility as well.
“I thought you said you’d met somebody. Did she leave you al–”
“I did meet someone,” he interrupted. “He’s amazing. I’d like for you to meet him.”
Silence, while Melody tried to process this last datum. When in doubt, substitute with sarcasm.
“Well, I’m really sorry I can’t make it to the wedding, but I really do wish the best for you both.” Her voice was thick and syrupy, and she allowed herself half a hope that he’d take a hint and leave her alone, but she knew well enough that Mark understood subtlety about as well as he understood piloting a spaceship.
“We’re going to change the world, Melody. I really wish you could be a part of this, but if the distance between us is really that…” he was choosing his words carefully. “…insurmountable, then I guess you’ll be… left behind. This is the last time I’ll call you, Melody. But you’ll know how to find me if you experience a sudden change in heart. Au Revoir.”
He hung up. Melody’s mouth was suddenly dry. Her phone had hummed, chirped, and finally a woman’s voice was telling her that if she’d ‘like to make a call, please hang up and try again’ before it occurred to her to put the handset back in the cradle. It was then she realized she was shaking. She closed her eyes. There was a shudder along the white corridor; something was happening out there, and Melody was scared.