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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Five Messages

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His cell kept buzzing all through the meeting. During the fifteen minute break, he stepped into the hallway and checked his message log. It showed five messages, all but one from the same number from someplace called Indian Head, Montana. The last was from his wife. The first message lasted only a few seconds: he heard some machine chugging in the background, someone yelling, a high-pitched whistle, and a fumbling sound, like someone struggling with a pay phone, then the beep ending the call. He took a sip from his cup of cold coffee and played the second one. This one lasted aboute a minute: the same chugging sound, someone laughing, and that whistle, but this time he could make out the caller speaking in a very low voice, as if not directly into to speaker. He heard what he thought were the words "you" and "must" and something like "release" or "please". The rest was too garbled to understand.

He noticed that his hand holding the cell was trembling slightly, but it often did when he didn't get enough sleep and then drank too much coffee. He decided to listen to the rest of the messages later and returned to the conference room. The meeting droned on for another long hour, during which his phone did not vibrate, followed by a one hour lunch break. He left the building and hurried over to the snack bar across the street in time to get his favorite seat on the left corner of the counter. Ordering his usual cheddar cheese omelet with hash browns, he could hear his stomach growling with anticipation. After ordering tea instead of coffee, for which he congratulated himself, he pulled out his phone and pressed the button for the third message. At first all he could hear was ambient noises, footsteps, a distant howling of some animal, then two voices talking, one low and raspy, the other higher and perhaps female. The low voice said, "He don't know..." The higher one cut in,"He does...I something...afraid."  The message ended abruptly there. His omelet and tea having arrived, he put down the the phone and prepared to dig in, but his apetite had somehow disappeared and he chewed and swallowed without pleasure.

Sipping his tea, which tasted like the dirty hot water that it mostly was, he pressed the button for message four. The same noises, the same whistle, but now he could hear drumming, slow and rythmic. The low voice said: "Listen." A clattering as the receiver was placed down. Then a thrumming bass joined the drumming and the whistle ceased. Voices in unison singing tunelessly or chanting. The phone grew hot against his ear. His hand became numb and he dropped the phone, which clattered to the floor. A few of the other diners were staring at him. When he tried to bend down to pick up the phone a wave of dizziness washed over him and he had to quickly straighten up to keep from falling. Sweat streamed down from his forehead and soaked the collar of his shirt. A bitter taste filled his mouth and he found it difficult to swallow or breathe. Then the restaurant began to spin, first slowly, then faster until he saw the ceiling fall away to reveal black night. A searing pain shot up his left arm and grabbed at his chest. The last thing he saw was a hand in a bright scarlet glove reach out for him.

 

******************

 

As the body was being wheeled out to the ambulance, Rick picked up the victim's phone and saw a message flashing. Looking around and schrugging, he clicked the button and put it to his ear. A woman's worried voice said: "Honey, call me. I received a package from some place in Montana. It has your last name on it but a different first one. It's also got a funny smell and I want to take it back to the post office. Let me know if you were expecting something like this...love you, bye." Rick handed the phone to the EMP who was glaring at him and sat down to finish his tuna fish sandwhich.

 

END




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