Friday, July 18, 2014
Note to readers: This story is a revised version of an earlier story I published to my blog titled Prank Call. If you wish to read the original, please browse through the archives on the right-hand side of the page, or just click this link:
By Daniel Skye
Five simple words echoed through the speakers of Melissa Alden’s phone and chilled her to the core. “You’re going to die tonight.”
The caller’s voice was distorted, yet she could clearly make out their tone. They didn’t speaker in a threatening manner, they spoke sincerely. And that’s what truly disturbed her.
“You’re going to die tonight.” The caller had said it in such a matter-of-fact way. The same way you’d tell a person where you were born and raised when asked, or what schools you attended.
There was nothing urgent or pressing about the caller’s statement. Though, they did seem in a bit of a rush to get off the line once the message was received.
Melissa never even had a chance to respond. The phone rang twice; she answered and heard heavy breathing, followed by the haunting words, “You’re going to die tonight.” Then the line went dead.
She didn’t try *69, as the number came up blocked on her caller ID. Instead, Melissa dialed 911, and an operator connected her with Suffolk County police. The local police worked fast and hard to trace the call, although they were slightly unsuccessful in their efforts.
They were in fact able to trace the number…to a store-bought mobile phone with no GPS. The caller had used a prepaid phone card to add minutes to the phone and place the call. And tracing one particular phone card to one particular location was seen as a major waste of time and resources to the police, especially when the police were convinced that this was the work of a prank caller. Four more people had called the station that evening with claims of a similar call being placed to them.
It was October 30th, otherwise known as Mischief Night. And the cops were receiving an influx of complaints from local residents about prank calls, spray-painters, acts of petty vandalism and wanton destruction.
The police said if the creep called her again that she could dial them from a different phone–her cell phone perhaps–and they would try and pinpoint the location while she still had the creep on the line.
Melissa Alden had no enemies, no crazed stalkers. She was happily married with two kids in college. She managed a department store and all the employees adored and respected her. How many bosses can honestly say that?
Shane, her husband, was a construction worker whose free time revolved around hockey, football, model trains, and most importantly, family.
Devout Catholics, the Alden’s attended Mass every Sunday, with or without their children present. And Shane was always the most generous when it came to the collection plate.
Why on Earth would anyone want to harm me? Melissa wondered. Not just harm me. KILL ME.
As soon as she finished speaking with the police, she dialed Shane. His cell went straight to voicemail. She tried two or three more times and got the same result.
Then she bravely did a full sweep of the house; she checked every closet, made sure every door and window was locked. The basement door didn’t have a lock on the outside and could not be locked by key. But there were windows in the basement that a person could easily smash and crawl inside if they so desired. So Melissa grabbed a chair from the kitchen table and wedged it firmly under the knob.
If she heard the glass shatter, she could be out the front door in five seconds before an intruder even had time to realize the basement door was jammed.
She remembered the Snub .38 that Shane kept loaded in a shoebox under the bed. She was cursing herself for never learning how to use it. Shane had offered multiple times to take her down to the shooting range, but Melissa just couldn’t get into the idea. Guns were never her style. Just the thought of holding a loaded gun in her hand was enough to make her entire body quiver.
After she conducted her search of the house, Melissa sat in the living room for hours, her back against the wall as she watched television at low volume. Every light in the house was on. The place was lit up like Yankee Stadium. She had taken a butcher knife from the knife block on the faux-marble countertop and was clutching onto handle like it was a new appendage.
Her mind was racing, her heart pulsing. Where the hell are you, Shane? I need you here.
Melissa knew of Shane’s after-work ritual. Every evening after he punched out at work, he’d swing by the BBQ Shack with his co-workers for a pulled pork sandwich. And if they twisted his arm enough, he’d follow them over to a local bar and knock back a few beers before returning home.
It was one of the few things Shane Alden did that irritated his wife, but she was always willing to look past his minor imperfections. And at that moment, all she wanted was for Shane to be at her side, to assure her everything was going to be all right.
The front door of the house sometimes sticks when you try to open it from the outside. You have to give it a hard push every once in a while to pry it open. When she heard that hard push, followed by the door bouncing off the inside wall and swinging back, she screamed loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.
“Jeez,” Shane said, dusting snow off the shoulders of his jacket as he stepped past the threshold of the door. He walked over to the living room where Melissa was cowering in the corner. “What’d you see a spider crawl under the couch or something?”
“Shane!” She exclaimed.
“That’s my name,” he said, shrugging his broad shoulders. “Are you ok, babe? You look really pale. And are you holding a knife behind your back?”
“Why was your cell phone off? I tried calling you so many times.”
“My battery died on the ride home from work. Sorry it took so long. I didn’t want to, but Louis insisted on stopping for a beer. Now what the heck is going on here?”
“I got this weird phone call a few hours ago. Someone threatened me.”
“What’d they say?”
“I don’t even want to repeat it,” she sighed. “I’m just so happy you’re home.”
“Oh come on,” Shane shrugged again. “How bad could it be?”
“They said, ‘you’re going to die tonight’. Then the line was dead.”
“It’s probably just some punk teenager trying to scare you. It is the night before Halloween, after all. Mischief Night. People love to play pranks around this time of year. Someone did that to my aunt once. Scared the daylights out of her. You’ve got nothing to worry about now. You’re safe with me. So put that knife away before you hurt me accidently.” He chuckled as she lowered the knife and placed it on the glass coffee table. Then she wrapped her arms around him like it was the first time she had seen him in years.
“I’m so glad you’re home, Melissa reiterated.
“Me too,” Shane said as she released her grip around his waist, and he removed his gloves and jacket. “I hope you didn’t make too much for dinner,” he said as he stepped out into the hallway and headed for the staircase. “I’m all filled up on barbequed pulled pork.”
When Shane had removed his gloves and winter jacket, he had tossed them aside on the floor; an unbreakable habit that irked Melissa every time he did it.
As Melissa unwrinkled and neatly folded Shane’s jacket, his phone slid out from the pocket. But it wasn’t Shane’s iPhone that landed on the beige rug. It was a cheap flip-cover phone; a brand she didn’t even recognize. One of those drug dealer phones you’d buy at a pharmacy or a 7-11.
She should’ve stopped right there, turned around, and ran straight for the front door. But Melissa had to know for sure.
She dug her hand into the pocket that the phone had fallen from, and her fingers brushed a thin slab of rectangular-shaped plastic. She drew her hand from the pocket and held the phone card up to the light of the ceiling fixture. The card had been recently activated, as the spot where you obtain the code to activate the card had been scratched away with a coin.
“Tell me if this sounds familiar,” Shane crowed from the hallway. Melissa turned and froze at the sight of the Snub .38 in his hand. “You’re going to die tonight.”
While the rest of her body remained frozen, her lip was quivering involuntarily and her hands were tremoring at her sides.
Shane lowered the gun almost instantly, when he saw all the color drain from face. It looked as if she was about to keel over.
“Oh, honey,” Shane said, lowering the gun gently to the floor. “It was just a joke. I’m so sorry. I guess I went a little overboard.”
“You sick bastard!” she screamed, running over to bat his chest with her tiny fists. “You scared me half to death! Why on Earth would you do this to me? The phone call was more than enough.”
“Honey, I didn’t make that call,” Shane insisted. “I swear. I just saw how jumpy you were and I thought I’d have a little fun at your expense. Did you really think I was going to shoot you?”
“I found the phone card, Shane,” Melissa said, pointing towards the jacket he carelessly discarded on the rug. “And I found the phone. You’re not fooling me.”
“Oh…I’m so sorry, Melissa. I never meant for you to find that. I honestly didn’t make that call. The phone…I use it to call my supervisor.”
“Why can’t you just call him on your regular…” Melissa trailed off when she remembered meeting Shane’s supervisor once at a company Christmas party. His supervisor was a woman, not a man. And that’s when it dawned on her what Shane was trying to convey.
Before Melissa could blow a gasket and go off on a profanity-laced tirade that Shane certainly had coming to him, a noise grabbed her attention. It was faint and unclear, but it almost sounded like glass crunching underfoot.
“Did you hear that?” she asked.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Shane responding. Then he added, “Oh, I moved that chair away from the basement door. I guess you did that when you got that phone call. Well, there’s nothing to worry about now.”
“Shane,” Melissa gasped, her body suddenly quaking again. Her throat was dry and she was on the edge of shock, but she ultimately managed to utter the words, “Behind you.”
Shane Alden turned to face what was eagerly waiting behind him. A man, nearly seven feet tall, his face shrouded by a crude mask of what could only be deduced as rotting flesh. A butcher’s apron was tied around the waist of this giant and at his side, his catcher’s-mitt-sized hand grasping at a crimson stained machete.
The blade cut through the air with a vicious swipe, decapitating Shane with one quick strike.
The towering figure stepped forward, machete still in hand. “Hello, Melissa,” the giant spoke, using a small voice box that distorted his speech. “We finally meet.”