(2 minute read)
by Daniel Tierney
The phone in the next apartment had been ringing for hours. It seemed to be coming from through the wall behind her bed. The ringing would reach ten, then stop. After a few seconds it would begin again, over and over. She felt herself about to scream with exhaustion and nerves. Banging on the wall had produced no change. She looked at her phone: 3:16am. She had to do something or work today would be an ordeal of sleep deprivation.
She slowly dressed and padded out into the hallway. The ringing here seemed muted, almost not there, but when she neared the neighbor’s door, it increased. She realized, with a start, that she had no idea who lived in the next apartment. Come to think of it, she didn’t really know a single soul in the building. Strange. Since moving in two months ago, after her divorce had become final, she had heard sounds coming from other apartments, like music or loud TVs, but had only met one person in the flesh, an elderly woman who nodded to her when they passed one another in the lobby but didn’t speak.
At the door, she hesitated. The slot in the door where a name should be was blank. Sighing, she pressed the doorbell. The buzzer was startlingly loud and caused her to step back. She listened closely but could hear no sounds of movement, just the repeated ringing of the phone. She waited as a single stream of sweat ran down the side of her face, then pressed it again, this time holding on longer and knocking on the door with her other hand. Still nothing but the ringing phone. Then, something made her press on the door. It swung open with only the faintest creak.
What she saw was an almost completely empty room; no furniture, no pictures on the wall. In the center, on the floor, was an old-fashioned black dial phone. She stepped in and closed the door. The ringing now seemed very loud, almost as if the phone were screaming. She came closer but stopped when she thought she heard a sound from the next room, which corresponded to her bedroom, but on the side furthest from hers. She waited but the sound wasn’t repeated. Finally, she squatted down and slowly picked up the receiver and put it to her ear.
There was a crackling sound, then a voice said, “Hello…anybody there?” She was about to answer when something about the voice turned her cold; it was the sound of her own voice.
The next day was overcast. In the apartment, a single black phone sits on the floor of an empty apartment. The phone keeps ringing, ten times, then a pause of a few seconds, then ringing starts again. No one knocks on the wall, no one comes to investigate, because the apartment next door is also empty. A month later, when the elderly woman goes to get her mail, she notices that the mailbox next to hers is bulging with mail. She wonders if that nice young woman who owns the box has moved or is visiting friends and forgot to stop her mail.
Well, it’s really none my business, but someone should check up on her…
Copyright © 2022 – Daniel Tierney. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Daniel Tierney was born between the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He is a Vietnam vet and a holder of a fifth degree black belt in Karate. He has published stories both online and in print. He lives in NYC.
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