“Tell me, Julian, when did your mother first contact you?”
“About two weeks ago.”
“And how often does she call?”
“Every day. Every day at four-twenty.”
Both men glanced at the wall clock. Four-fifteen.
Julian knew Pastor Ueker only through a friend, and he sat in the man’s office today by force of the fact that in addition to his mother’s communication, she also happened to have died three months earlier.
He spun a quick narrative for the pastor. His cell phone rang on a rainy spring Tuesday, displaying pieces of symbols instead of numbers; he answered out of curiosity. There came a great hiss, as if some formidable steam press were at work in the background, and then several thuds like one beating the air with all one’s might, if one could do such a thing. Why do you know the certain, she rasped. The certain is the none. The none is the now. We fall into the none and we know—
“Who is this?” Julian interrupted.
The voice paused, and a long series of thick, raucous clicks erupted in the caller’s terrible environment. It’s not over. Julian, tell them. It’s not over. And Julian threw the phone across the living room. It landed safely on the couch, thus making it possible for the voice he knew so clearly as his mother’s to haunt him each day.
“Tell me what you think is happening, Mr. Thompson,” Pastor Ueker said evenly.
Julian spoke around his ragged thumbnail. “I’m an atheist, and so is—so was my mother. My whole family… But it’s her, sir. It’s my mother. She had a beautiful voice and she sounds…so…empty.” His voice broke.
“Do you think there’s any possibility it’s not your mother?” the pastor asked.
Julian did not quite understand. Where was the speech? Where was the sermon about the afterlife, and the need for “saving” and “repentance?” Julian studied Ueker’s calm face. If ever there was a time for a pastor to bring out the hellfire and brimstone yarn it was now, and yet, nothing.
“Listen, I…I’ve heard her voice every day,” Julian sputtered. “It’s her. And that other stuff I hear; pastor, you don’t understand. It’s terrible. It’s unreal.”
Each time it was something different. Each time, some new element from the other-world was revealed to him, painting a ghastly tapestry in his mind’s eye of this place from whence his mother pleaded. A low, bleeding gurgle; a horrible, flesh-ripping wind; a buzz, mechanical yet alive, its own language. And over it all she would pause her stream of consciousness, her too-late philosophizing, to say to him It’s not over. Julian, it’s not over. Julian. Julian! Tell them! It’s not over!
“Have you checked with your phone’s provider? Have you tried to trace the call?”
Julian looked at Ueker, quite simply, as though the man were mad. “Trace it…to where? Don’t you get it? You can’t just pick up a phone and call this place! You can’t just hit redial and ask for Bethany Thompson! This is nuts,” he said, picking up his cell phone from the pastor’s desk and tossing it back down. “Why is my mother calling me? How is she doing this? Why is she not just dead, why can I hear her; what is happening?”
“Mr. Thompson, it’s obvious that with your mother’s death you’re starting to wonder, is this really all there is? What kind of legacy did my mother leave me? Are there things she didn’t know? I think what you’re experiencing is not a call from the grave, but maybe a kind of call from above. Dialing from here,” Ueker said, pointing to his heart.
The cell phone rang.
Julian choked down a frightened noise. Pastor Ueker raised an eyebrow. It was four-twenty.
“May I answer it?” Ueker asked. When Julian nodded, the pastor flipped open the phone and placed it to his ear. He listened for a moment. Julian could scarcely breathe.
Ueker sprang from his chair, stumbling backwards over it, flailing into the wall. “My God, man!” he gasped. “What kind of madness—”
Dropping the phone, Pastor Ueker fled the office.
Julian stared after him in horror. The phone lay open on the desk. His mother’s voice was faint. In the distance, the sound of something feasting.
He picked up the phone, quaking in every limb. “Mommy?” he whispered.
Tell them, Julian.
The line went dead. Julian sobbed. “Oh, God…Oh, my God…”
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