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The Wake-Up Call

The phone kept ringing… and interfered with her dream… entwined with the music playing in her head…

Tu To Nahin Hai Lekin Teri Muskurahatein Hain Chehra Nahin Hai Par Teri Aahatein Hain

The landline phone’s ringing got louder drowning all other sound in her head and she woke up with a start. She dragged herself off the living room couch and looked around for a glass of water to clear her grogginess. The urgency of the ringing seemed to amp up and she put aside all thought of freshening up and just grabbed the phone’s receiver. She just had enough time to see that the caller-id showed ‘Unknown’. Before she could croak a hello… she heard the voice on the phone say “Hi!”

The sound of the voice jolted her awake like no cold glass of water would. It was a voice that had the potential to stop her in her tracks, turn her knees into jelly and fill her with breathless awe and love. She couldn’t speak a word… all thought had escaped her. She clung on to the receiver waiting with bated breath for him to speak again… it had been a long while since she’d heard from him… and she wanted to hear every word, savour every nuance of his voice. He spoke again, “Isn’t it time you woke up, jaan? It is time you stopped running away from facts. Don’t deny it anymore. You have to let go and move on.”

What was he talking about?! She couldn’t make head or tail of the conversation… why did she have to move on?! Her head whirled. He sounded so far away… like his voice was coming from another dimension. She whispered into the phone, “Where did you get my landline number?… it’s been so long… where are you?” He repeated, “You have to move on… stop denying it. Wake up and move on.” and then there was a click and she heard static over the phone. He was gone and he did not make any sense to her.

She placed the phone back in its cradle and walked back to the couch and picked up her Blackberry. She dialled his number and waited. There was static and nothing else. She typed out a BBM message – “Did you just call me on the landline? How? Why? What did you mean?” She send the message and waited for the little ‘D’ for delivered mark to appear above the tick mark that notified that the message had left her phone. There was no ‘D’ let alone an ‘R’ for read. She tried calling him again on both his numbers and all she got was static. Tendrils of worry started creeping across her heart… and she kept pushing away untoward thoughts. She felt tired… she wanted to go back to sleep. Had something happened to him? But, the lack of response from him / his phone troubled her. She picked up her Blackberry again and typed out the same message and send it as SMS texts to both his numbers. Again, she got no delivery reports. She opened up their BBM chat window to check if he had left any messages while she was sleeping. She found the chat history empty. There was nothing from him… and then suddenly the LED lit up purple notifying a message from him. She opened the chat window again and found a simple, lovely message – “I love you!”

She was ecstatic… it had been so long (a year maybe) since he had said that. She had tried so hard to not get upset when he ignored her ‘miss you’ and ‘love you’… and now she felt on top of the world… again. Everything seemed perfect. She typed back “Love you too.” and hit send… No ‘D’ marked the delivery.

She tried to call again with no success and then decided to try from her landline. But, her landline was locked for outgoing ISD calls and she had to call the operator for a code. She dialled the exchange and realized that there was just eerie silence on the phone. A silent, unnerving hiss. She tried again after checking the cable but the silence stayed.

She remembered her other phone… a big Android, which she used for internet surfing, games and videos. It was in her room. Walking over to her room, she opened its door. When she stepped inside it she was struck by the oddity. Most of her stuff was missing… the wall-to-wall bookshelves with all her books… it was gone. She remembered her parents were planning to shift most of the furniture in the house to Kochi, Kerala but that was two weeks from now. Why were her stuff missing now? How could she have missed them packing and towing the shelves and her wardrobe away? She felt too tired to consider the possible scenarios… but before anything else she had to contact him. She would call up mom and ask her about the missing books after she talked to him and confirmed everything was fine.

She found her Android phone in her computer desk. Its battery was out of charge. She plugged the phone into the wall charger and switched it on and waited for it to boot up. As soon as the screen came on she heard multiple beeps and its notification bar populated with loads of Whatsapp messages and one missed call notification. She saw that the missed call was from him and so were the messages. All the messages were similar…

“Had lunch? Is your Blackberry dead? I messaged you and it doesn’t get delivered.”

“Hey… what’s with your Blackberry?”

“All ok? Take care. Let me know if you need a new phone.”

“I just called you on this phone. What’s wrong? Pick up.”

There were more messages that said he couldn’t reach her and the last Whatsapp message on the Android read “I am worried. Why is this phone switched off? I can’t reach you.”

The messages all had dates from the last couple of months. That was weird… what WAS the date today? Before she could check, the phone rang in her hand. It was him, his Dark-Angel avatar filled the screen.

She slid the receive button and she heard him say, “Finally! What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you answering calls and why have you switched off the phones? Hello… are you there? Hey… can you hear me?”

She replied… “I am here… I didn’t know, something is wrong with my Blackberry… and I cannot reach you from it. The battery died on this one too. It is so absurd… you…”

He interrupted, as if he never heard her… “I can’t hear you… is anyone on the line? I think the connection is conked off. Wait, I’ll call back.”

“No, wait… I can hear you… Hello… helloooo!”, She panicked… she hadn’t wanted him to hang up. Everything was so weird and she was tired and she just wanted to hear his voice because it soothed her, calmed her.

She called him back and the call refused to get through. She realized he would be calling back and waited for his call to come through. The phone rang again. She picked it up and said… “Hello!”

“Damn! Still nothing… the connection’s fucked up! I will call you in a while.” He said and hung up.

She could hear him perfectly… and now she could not call him back. Her head was getting weary and she felt she would fall off to sleep right there… a dull beat was throbbing at the back of her head, threatening to blow up into a bad headache.

She decided to charge her Blackberry too as it had just about 20% charge in it. She rummaged in her desk drawer for its charger and her fingers closed around something. She pulled her hand out and saw her fingers wrapped around the Blackberry… its screen had cracked, the edges were chipped… the phone was dead. She didn’t understand… she had just used it to message him. How could it end up cracked and inside the drawer?

She rushed back to the couch and there it was, her Blackberry, intact… she picked it up and checked it… and turned it on. On a whim she opened the chat window to see if the BBMs were delivered. The messages were still stuck, undelivered… and she noted the date of the “I love you!” from him… it was dated almost a year back. Her head throbbed, the headache was blinding her… she didn’t want to think anything over. Not yet, at least. She just wanted to lie down and sleep. She would wake up and try to make sense of the weirdness around her. She sank onto the couch and in no time she fell asleep.

… She was at the railway platform… waiting for the local train. All around her everything seemed out of focus… a little ‘not there’. She had her Blackberry out and was typing out her reply to his routine enquiry about her lunch. She said she was at the station and that she would have lunch “in a bit.” She typed out, “How is your day shaping up?” He replied, “ Don’t ask!”… and then unable to stop herself, she typed out, “I miss you… a lot.”

There was no immediate reply… her eyes started to sting with unshed tears. The purple LED on the phone lit up. She looked at the phone with expectation… the message read, “ Don’t forget lunch.” The tears did fall then… she could hardly see through them, but she could hear the fast train coming in on the other side of the platform. A madness seized her… with the Blackberry in her hand she walked to the edge of the platform. She saw the train approach through the curtain of her tears and as it came whooshing in, she jumped onto its path. The Blackberry flew from her hand… hit the platform edge and then skittered down the track. Its screen had cracked. Its edges had chipped.

She heard a big commotion… her head was throbbing. She whispered or maybe those were just her last thoughts… “I shouldn’t have died…”

**The characters in this short story are fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone dead or alive is purely coincidental!… Or is it?**

***This short story, the whole text in this post is the sole property of Surya Murali (that’s me). You do not have the permission to copy it and / or use it anywhere without my express permission. I would allow the use of the post only with a link back to the blog and with due credit to the author (that’s me, again!)***

© Surya Murali

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