Landline – Creepy Pasta
By Dakota Priest
Zachary coos in delight as he “talks” to his grandmother over FaceTime. We don’t have a house phone, because we frankly don’t need them, since we both have cell phones. Face to face is better, anyway. My iPhone battery is burning my hand, but as long as my little boy is happy, I’m willing to endure the feeling. I try to keep my tired eyes glued to the television screen, where plays a rerun of one of my favorite cartoons. My wife isn’t home this week. She’s overseas, at a friend’s wedding, and she’ll be gone all week. I’ve never complained about having to keep him by myself. In fact, even though we both work full-time jobs, I’ve been the only one to go any significant amount of time taking care of Zacky alone. Not holding it against her, just a fact. He claps his hands in a wild fashion, demonstrating his lack of ability to control all his arm muscles. He’s 11 months old and refuses to take steps or speak correctly, but I’m not afraid for his development. I didn’t utter a single word until I was 6. Nothing at all. My first word was a curse word.
My wife’s mother begins to blow kisses to the baby, signaling to me that the call is about to end. Thank goodness. I will go dip my hand in some cool water after this. Maybe get to second base with a bag of peas or something. I look at her face and she nods to me, giving me permission to hit the hang-up button. Because you know…she has no idea where it is. It’s 9:30 p.m., Zacky’s bedtime. He’s doing his normal “I’m really sleepy” whine, turning around and clinging to my shoulder, walking his feet up my stomach, his knees scrambling to meet his own tummy.
I curl my left arm around his bottom and support him while I stand up out of the chair, carelessly letting the iPhone fall freely to the floor so that I can go rescue the nerves in my hand. I peacefully hum his favorite song all the way to his crib, “Tear Away”, by Drowning Pool. He’s always like that song. Nevermind the lyrics, I just hum the tune and he fades right off, with his thumb in his mouth. I step silently through his room, across the plush carpet, casting a well-defined shadow against the wall in the light of this beautiful full moon. The night is warm; the wind provides a delicate chill. It’s perfect. I pray that my son may always rest his head on nights like this for the rest of his life.
Down he goes, twitching as he feels the falling sensation in his extremities, into his crib and onto his body pillow, cuddling up to it. His mother likes to refer to it as his “girlfriend”. I’m not so fond of that title. I stand above him, still rubbing my hot hand lightly against the skin on my chest underneath my shirt. It feels hot and cool at the same time. I slowly back out of the room, not making any audible sounds, pull the door nearly closed, then head to the bathroom to run some water on my hand.
I jam my hand into a sink full of chilly water with a masturbatory roll of my eyes. It feels so good that my knees quake a little. I breathe deeply and ponder what to do with my next two or three waking hours. My wife does not return for another 5 days. I have hobbies that I never get the chance to indulge. I have books to write, pictures to paint, yo-yo’s to design…
I think I’m just going to watch a DVD.
Oh, the lost concept of the digital video disc. I shuffle through my library, looking for a movie that meets my standard of “it’s been a while”. I come across “Bringing Down the House”, and I am pleased. Never been a fan of Steve Martin, but Queen Latifah could totally get it in this movie. I crack open the case with one hand, simultaneous searching for my eggshell colored phone case on this eggshell-colored floor. While removing the disc from the clasp, I find it and pick it up with my foot. Damn. Screen is broken. Thank goodness for device protection. Looks like I can’t call my wife or mother in law until I take care of this in a couple days.
…Oops. Peace and quiet
I sigh and place the phone on my bedside table, turning on the movie and jumping into this lovely queen-sized bed. If there’s one thing I get to rule in this house, it’s the bedroom. It’s really the only thing I’ve ever been “in charge of” in my life. That being said, we get to have a large, heavy, hotel-grade comforter on our bed. You know, the kind that you know for sure is on you all through the night, the kind that almost restricts your breathing when you first put it on but is too comforting to ever take off? Yeah, that kind. It’s so comfortable that even on my bad days, a smile crawls across my face when I get into bed. It just feels so good. We have a ranch-style home, all rooms on the first floor. No need for a baby monitor. I don’t turn the TV up very loud, and we always sleep with it off, so we can hear everything. Or at least she can. Usually nudges me to go check in the middle of the night, though.
I’m watching the movie in my underwear under the blanket, wiggling as the gentle touch of these high thread count sheets and the smooth fabric of the comforter tickle me all over. It’s the most pleasant itch I’ve ever felt, and I enjoy it until I drift off slowly into a hypnotic half-sleep.
Some amount of time later, of which I am not sure, the TV has gone off. My room is nearly jet black. There is silence roundabout the halls. I open one eye slightly and let my ears taste the air. No alerts or alarms. Cool. I close my eyes and drift off back to sleep, deeper than last time. I have the strangest dream: my wife is my wife, but she looks like my ex. We find ourselves in a room in some building somewhere. She’s wearing the strangest combination of street clothes and negligee…I have to admit, it’s pretty sexy. She gives me a flirty look and bites her lip, switching her hips as she approaches me. I recognize who she is, and I know who she is supposed to be, but I enjoy the look and feel of her familiar body all the same. Her hands meet my cheeks as she lays her lips on mine. My pants get shorter. My hands lift to her sides, laying a dominant grip on her waist. She gives into me completely and allows herself to fall back against the closest wall. And just as I’m about to take her jeans down, I hear a siren in the distance. My eyes are wide in curiosity, looking around as I make out with her. Her eyes are closed; she is fully enveloped in the situation. The siren grows louder by the second until it is nearly unbearable. Soon, I find myself feeling upset. Dirty. Guilty. Depressed and bemused by the sound of this siren. It’s not a sharp, ear-piercing sound, but it is certainly loud. My heart beats faster and faster until the pounding finally kicks my adrenaline and wakes me up.
It is at this point that I realize the siren is actually Zacky crying. It’s not the start of this cry, either. It sounds like he’s been wailing for a little while. I hear the chokes and hiccups in it. I step out of the bed, shuffling briskly to his room. I really don’t feel like it tonight, Zack…
Once I am just outside his door, I hear what sounds like a cabinet close. There are no cabinets in his room. Out of reflex, I kick the door in, noticing the awkward drape of the curtains as their trains are now stuck in a just-slammed window. Zack is screaming his lungs out, recoiling repeatedly as if in severe pain. I practically teleport to his bedside, scooping him up quickly, but gently, looking him over to see what, if anything, has happened to traumatize him so. His pajamas are moistened on the back. I shudder to turn him over. I’m too afraid. I can’t look at his back. The adrenaline from my dream has still not worn off. My eyes shoot to the window, the curtains apart in the middle, revealing the clear pane behind it.
And the thin man running away at top speed.
He’s right there. If I run, I can catch him. I could simply dive through the window, hit the ground running, and tackle him. I could take him down. I could kill him for whatever he did to my son. Who is he? Do I know him? Why would he choose to attack my family? Why did he hurt my boy? What have I done to him to deserve this? Was he watching us? How long has he known about Zachary? Was he waiting for me to fall asleep? How long was he in here?
Every successive question makes me more and more nauseous. Every passing second, the man’s footsteps carry him further and further away. I can’t take my son out there, running after this criminal with my baby in my hands. Zack can’t run. He can’t tell me what’s ailing him. My eyes water. My lips tremble as I try to shush my hurting child.
Dear Heavenly Father, how could you let me sleep through such a thing? How, when you saw that man in my house, could you have watched him, let him put my child, MY BLOOD, through pain and torture, with impunity? How could you not wake me that instant and allow this to continue? How could you? God…why have you forsaken me?
“Sssh, ssshhh, baby… Daddy’s right here; it’s okay, sweetheart.”
I don’t even know if I believe myself. My knees are in sprint mode, prepared to take off through the glass without any notice at all. I’m almost afraid that I’ll do it involuntarily while still carrying Zack. Then I realize: this is not a job for me. I need to call the police, NOW. I turn to the door, taking several steps until I reach the hallway, remembering…my phone is broken. I can’t even call my wife. We have no house phone. My nearest neighbor is a good ride-on lawnmower ride away. My heart is beating the hell out of the bottom of my throat. I tilt my head back in agonizing exasperation, begging for this to be a continuation of my dream-turned-nightmare. The stress contorts my face, but I can’t show the fear to my son. I can’t show him the weakness, the terror in his father. I am his tower of defense. And his safety means the world to me.
I’m left with the choice between revenge and comforting my boy. He is too developmentally behind to communicate the issue to me, or to recount the event to police. He is too young to understand justice. The man is too far away to me to scare into stopping…not that he would. My only hope to catch him would be to drop Zack and take off out the window. My head goes back to the window. Then my wet eyes fall back down on my crying son, who is clearly begging for my immediate, intimate attention.
…Dear God…WHAT DO I DO?!