Fiction: “Payphone”

Old payphoneFrom an unfinished manuscript found in a dumpster outside a diner in southern New Jersey:

The phone rang again.

The one that shouldn’t ring. The old payphone hung high up above the back door, high enough that you’d need a ladder to get to it. The disconnected one, the one that’s NEVER been connected, not in the entire time it has graced Sal’s with its ancient, boxy, coin-operated presence.

It rang. Again. And this time, I almost answered it.

I stopped myself just in time. It’s just as well, since Sal probably wouldn’t have liked it too much if I’d gone and hauled the ladder out of the storage closet and set it up over the family of four unlucky enough to have been seated at the table by the back door. ESPECIALLY not because of that phone – I’ve had a hard enough time with her about it as it is.

The first time it rang, I actually picked up the phone by the kitchen, thinking someone was calling in an order. The ringing kept going after I picked it up, though, and there was a dial tone in my ear anyway, so I figured maybe I just hadn’t gotten enough sleep or something and shook my head a few times to clear the cobwebs out.

The second time, I had conked out for about ten hours the night before, so I knew it wasn’t the mad ravings of a sleep-deprived mind. No one else looked up when the BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING! noise cut through the clatter of the kitchen, though, which kind of wigged me out.  The only other phone in the joint besides the one by the kitchen is that payphone, and I didn’t think it was capable of ringing; maybe it was, though, and someone had managed to call up the number for it as a prank? Ha ha, very funny, funny? I asked around the kitchen to see if anyone knew what the deal with it was – how long it had been there and so on – but everyone just kind of shrugged and said that as far as they knew, it had always been there, and no, they’d never heard it ring, not once. Sal started giving me the stinkeye then, so I stopped my chattering and got back to chopping tomatoes.

The third time it rang, Sal told me shut up about it, no one CARESabout the goddamn phone, it’s DISCONNECTED, it’s always BEEN disconnected, there’s not even a PHONE hookup there, one more mention of it and she’d give me my WALKING papers, thank you very MUCH.

I shut up about it.

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Fiction: “…And Time”

pocket watchI’ve never exactly been an accomplished fiction writer, but occasionally weird little storylings spill out of my brain. Sometimes I feel like sharing them. Do me a solid and don’t reproduce them without permission, though, mmmkay?

This one is an old one that I once published under a different title on FictionPress waaaaaay back when (don’t judge). It’s kind of a different sort of scary — or at least, it is to me. Here. Have at thee.

She didn’t know why or how, but time, it seemed, had stopped.

It was a day like any other, so she wasn’t entirely sure why today was the day that the flow of time had decided to suddenly cease; at first, she had thought that it was simply another hot, muggy, silent day. But as her gaze wandered off into the distance, she noticed that the ocean was completely still, and it was then that she knew time had stopped.

It was an odd image, a still ocean: no waves, no white caps, no colors. No layers of infinite shades of green, blue, and grey. No sound carrying over the water. No breeze. No movement. Motionless. It was as if all of the things that gave the ocean life had been sucked up out of the air and spirited away somewhere, perhaps into a box or a tightly-sealed jar. She thought of all those elements—the waves, the breeze, the colors—swirling around in a chaotic mess, unsure of where they were or what they were supposed to be doing, and felt a pang deep in her stomach for them. What if they were trapped? Left behind? What if they forgot what made them what they were?

What then?

She felt the heat of the sun beating down on her shoulders, and she turned her face upward. She stared into the sun without blinking until spots began to dance across her vision. Shutting her eyes, she waited until the show of light flickering before her faded before taking a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, her everyday common sense told her that the sun should have moved by now, but since she had already deduced that time had stopped, she wasn’t surprised to see that the blinding patch of brightness was exactly where it had been a moment ago.

But of course, moments had no meaning, now that there was no time.

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