He was sitting on a bench by the side of the road one snowy night. The street was empty and a hollow silence slithered on anything that had no life. In fact, the only sounds were of his breathing, the muffled beats of a heart, and the noises pulsating in his head. He looked at his hands and watched as flakes of snow fell on them, each one instantly dissolving upon contact. He looked up and observed the graceful movement of the snow against the soft wind, against the gravity that was pulling them. It was a stunning sight. They looked like ashes, golden as they passed the stream of light from the lamp post beside him. Their descent was so slow as if they wanted to just linger in the air like winged fireflies. But they were meant to fall, one on top of another and accumulate on the ground. Everything has its place in the world, the man thought.
And then suddenly, from the deep solemnity of the moment, a phone rang. The crisp sound pierced the thick silence like sharp scalpel across flesh, eerie and unsettling. The ringing wouldn’t stop. It went on and on and on, each causing the man burgeoning anxiety. It should stop, he thought. And so, he stood up and tried to figure out where the mysterious sound was coming from. He walked down the road, leaving dents on the sparkling white snow. The ringing grew louder. He was getting closer. But every step he took felt like he’s moving against a strong wind. Was it fear? He was alone in the middle of the night. No one knew he was there. Someone was calling but no one wanted to answer. But the ringing had to stop. With senses heightened, he walked on towards the sound, questions gurgling loudly within him. Those had to stop too.
He stopped in his tracks. A phone booth stood a few paces in front of him by the side of the road. The ringing persisted so was the anxiety and the curiosity that had tainted his peace. He waited hoping the ringing would stop. But it didn’t. Instead, it went on with impatience, indifferent to the world sound asleep. Slowly, he walked towards the phone booth. It looked like it hadn’t been used for a long time. He walked over the threshold, took a deep breath of chilly air and reached for the phone. He hesitated. He exhaled, wrapped his fingers on the handle and lifted it. Slowly, he placed it against his ears.
“Hello?” There was no answer but someone was on the other side of the line. The sound of its breathing was deep and raspy on his ears.
“Why are you there?” A man’s voice spoke.
“Who is this?”
“It doesn’t matter who I am. What’s more important is who are you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“Look, I shouldn’t have answered this call.”
“Wait. Is anyone there with you?”
“Are you sure?”
His eyes instantly surveyed his surroundings, scouring the place for any signs of human presence. But there wasn’t. Everything was still except for the falling snow.
“You don’t belong there.” Said the mysterious man on the phone, followed by a dead dial tone and the birth of a truth, reverberating, gnawing on the part of him that's still awake.
photo imsage by julian fraser