Sunday, April 27th:
What follows is a transcription of a recording I found on my answering machine last night at approximately 2:00 am, after I arrived home from a trip:
I just finished off a 13 ounce bottle of whiskey…
…I have to say this to you before I pass out, or get killed.
I also smoked a joint. But you know, Oswald, we don’t do drugs anymore. Not since we were young. Had to. Bought it off a bunch of kids … for thirty bucks, if you can believe…
It happened at the bus station. I don’t know what it was, Oswald, but I don’t want to see it all again. The booze and drugs will keep me sedated … for a while. You have to come and get me, as soon as you get back from your trip…
I’m saying to you to come and pick me up—right now—I am saying this to you now … in case I don’t finish this message…
I think I’m gonna die tonight…
There was a pause. Approx. 1 minute. I didn’t know what Reynold was doing in the silence. Thought something had happened to him.
I was at the Pape Street subway station, sitting down and waiting. For the 87 bus. Inside. Not outside. I was watching people—the people who were inside. The station doors burst open and people from a bus outside poured in, to go down to the subway, and…
There is another pause here. Approx. 2 minutes. Reynold’s breathing is heard.
I looked at one of them, a woman. She had long, brown hair in a ponytail, and these crazy eyes…
When I looked at her eyes, she looked around and found me looking at her, and she stared at me…
…and I knew what she was thinking…
…she was planning to kill someone that night … a co-worker. She had the intention to go to their house within the hour, and….
I was horrified. Her thoughts and intentions as clear as day. I started to get sick, but I was paying little attention, because after that woman vanished down the stairway down to the trains, I caught the eyes of four men.
Oswald … it was like they knew that someone somewhere was seeing them and listening to their thoughts, and they were looking around for who it was, and they looked at me…
But they didn’t know it was me.
…God I don’t even know how long your cassette will go on.
When I looked in their eyes, I saw what they just done. The four of them just drugged and raped a woman. They left her tied up in the attic of some house somewhere near the subway. Right near Pape station!
I knew what I had to do. I went to the pay phone and dialed the police. I told the lady on the phone what I saw. She asked if I witnessed any criminal activity. She thought I was crazy. Didn’t say that, but I know that’s what she thought. She said she’d send an officer, but no one came. She never called anyone.
There is another pause here, though it’s not as long as the last. Reynold’s breathing is not as prominent.
After these four men went down to the trains, I met eyes with a young Oriental man carrying books. He was thinking about improving his grades at college.
That was a relief!
But I wanted to look at him and just see him. I mean, I wanted to—I wanted to just see him.
I didn’t want to see his mind!
I looked at him again: He wanted better marks at school. This time we did not make eye contact. But I couldn’t get away from his mind.
I turned away and forced my attention to the other end of the concourse, to the fare collector inside his booth and immediately–immediately–Oswald, I heard him cursing about the people passing through and dropping money and tokens into his little box. He hated them, he hated his job and that stupid little box. One of the women who threw a token into the box was thinking about what kind of meal she should do up for the guests she was having over the next evening. A little girl following close behind was thinking about eating some licorice. An elderly business woman following behind was looking forward to watching a tennis game on television.
Dazed, I turned to an elderly woman on my right. With a pleasant expression she watched people going by, but that wasn’t what was she was seeing. What she SAW, Oswald, was her very self grinding up some glass very fucking finely and mixing it into batter for cake. She saw her husband eating that cake at the dinner table and choking and falling to the floor dead. She saw him coughing up blood and she was smiling.
I jumped off the bench and looked at her and she looked at me with this oh so sweet smile. She was a murderer!
I ran to the doors to see if my bus had arrived, the 87. I wanted the hell out of there. I don’t know what world I have gone into, Oswald, but I want out of it and back to the normal one.
…I don’t even know where in the city I am right now.
Another pause. This one is about the same length as the first. Reynold’s breathing is heard again.
I got onto my bus.
I heard everyone. Everyone, Oswald. The bus was only a quarter full, but it sounded like a goddam kids’ playground. A lot of what I heard was like what I got from that Oriental man—”I need to study all night so I can pass the test tomorrow” … “what am I going to buy for Susan?” “The game is on tomorrow, gotta get off work by three—”
Here my answering machine cassette flips over. Reynold doesn’t notice it.
“…I hope it’s sunny tomorrow … the meeting had better go well … Joseph will be happy to hear that I closed that deal … this book is fascinating, gotta give it to the neighbor after I’m through…”
But, in all that still echoed something else, Oswald. In all this regular stuff echoed what I heard from that first, pony-tailed woman and from those four men, and that old lady with the crushed glass.
Shit, how do I explain this? Even in all the “normal” stuff, I heard evil echoing. It was there but I couldn’t tell who was thinking it. And it didn’t seem to be coming from any one person. I was completely confused and it drove me crazy, because it seemed like everyone was thinking this … evil. Like everyone was bad.
…Was it just one person on the bus? Or was it really everyone?
It seemed like everyone. But that’s impossible.
Here is another pause. I can hear Reynold retching. When he’s finished, there is more silence. About one minute. His breathing is again prominent and heavier than before.
Another pause, though brief.
I had to get off that bus. I got off next stop, not even knowing where I was. Outside, the air was cool and fresh and it helped wake me up. I wanted it to wake me up from this fucking nightmare.
Two young women were walking on the other side of the street. They were amazed at how great the sex was that night. Sex with some fellow named “Bruce”. But next time they had to share more, because it wasn’t even.
I started walking in the direction opposite to the the women. I wanted to get far away from them, far from everyone. As the distance increased, I thought I heard the women again, thinking about me, about how much of an idiot I was, but I wasn’t sure… I walked, thinking I would be free, thinking I would have all that space to myself and not have to face another person again. Then I noticed a man further up ahead walking his dog. I thought I heard him thinking about sending his dog after me. But I wasn’t sure if that’s what he was thinking.
I turned into a neighborhood, to avoid him. Though the emptiness was soothing, I still thought I heard the thoughts of people all around me. Thoughts of them attacking me, taking me into a dark park and shooting me, thoughts which said I was useless and how my life was going to be horrible, thoughts which said everyone hated me. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from. Maybe they were coming from inside the houses, but nearly all of the houses had their lights out and looked like everyone was asleep.
It drove me crazy that I couldn’t see where these thoughts were coming from. But the fact that no people were around and I was alone was satisfying enough for me.
Satisfying, until I realized something: What’s gonna happen when the sun comes up?
I asked myself that, Oswald. What was gonna happen when the sun started to come up? It was at that moment—that moment—that I thought of calling you. I started running down the street. I didn’t know where I was going, I just ran. And I knew I wouldn’t stop until I found a phone. When I got out onto the main road, I found a telephone booth across the street and down a bit, except there was a group of people there. One was inside the booth, talking on the phone that I wanted—this phone I’m on now—the other three waited outside.
My first instinct was to turn right around and go back into the neighborhood. But I needed to call you, and you would come right away and get me and take me away from all this.
I crossed the street, started hearing the three guys who were waiting for their friend. Hearing what they were thinking. But I wasn’t listening. Y-you know, when someone’s talking to you, and you can hear them, but you’re not paying attention and not really hearing what they’re saying?
Suddenly I saw blackness…
I was punched out by one o’ these punks.
When I woke I heard voices—real only, not thoughts—and saw a young bunch of kids standing in a circle above me. It turns out they helped me up, informing me I’d been knocked out by other kids and that I had a bruise on my cheek. They asked me if I needed any help.
I was surprised I hadn’t picked up any of their thoughts, even during the breaks of silence. Instantly I clued into a connection. See, Oswald, I’d just been knocked unconscious. Punched out. I was still fazed. At the same time, I was before this bunch of kids and NOT knowing what they were thinking.
I was just seeing them. That was it!
The silence was BEAUTIFUL!
I asked them if they had any drugs or alcohol. To knock me out again, so I could block out thoughts. They sold me a 13 ounce bottle of whiskey … and I smoked a joint.
But it’s not gonna last.
Come and get me, Oswald. There are people in all of these houses here and the sun is gonna come up soon. Just get me before the sunrise and it’ll be alright…
I don’t know where I am, but I noticed the street sign for this street that I turned onto. Write it down. Listen carefully, because I don’t want you to take long to come and get me. The name of the street—
At this point, the cassette in my machine ran out. The clicking sound made me think that Reynold hung up or that something happened to him, but it was the stop point on the tape. Reynold used an entire cassette, right from start to finish.
I haven’t found him yet.
I had driven around the Pape Street area for hours, looking for him. I left my house almost immediately after hearing the full message, which was by 3 am, and I stayed out looking for him until the sun came up.
When the sun came out, people started coming out of their houses, cars appeared on the quiet streets, and stores and breakfast joints opened up. In all of that it was hopeless to find Reynold.
He hasn’t called back.
It’s the middle of the afternoon right now.
I’ve made a copy of the tape and have called the police. An officer came to listen to the tape and ask me questions. He took the original cassette with him. Since then I’ve written up this transcript and these notes.
Friday, May 2nd:
Reynold Cooper still has not been found.
Wayne Haroutunian is a U.S. novelist, short story writer and poet. His fiction has appeared in Under the Bed Horror Magazine, Theme of Absence Magazine of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, Black Petals, Aphelion, Sirens Call, Antipodean SF magazine (and narrated on a radio show), and he’s received an Honorable Mention for a sci-fi novelette in the Writers of the Future Awards, and an Honorable Mention for the story “Stranger” in Allegory Magazine. He’s also the author of the drama novel Nowhere Man and Orange Girl, written under the pen name J.W. Walker. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/wayneharoutunianauthor, Twitter: @wh_author
Image by Isengardt