Shreya Rajgopal: The Phone Call

It was a tranquil morning. I was curled up on the couch, reading a book. I was so engrossed in the book that the world around me was almost nonexistent.

I was midway through the book, when the phone on the table beside me rang monotonously. I was captivated in the book and decided not to pick up. It stopped ringing. After five minutes, it rang again. This time I could feel the vibrations. Vibrations of urgency and the sound kept getting louder and louder. Eventually, though it took a great deal of effort, I decided to pick up. Little did I know, that call changed my life.

“Hello?” I said in a nonchalant tone.

“My dear girl, run. Run down in five minutes. And take your mother and sister along with you, for what will happen will be a calamity,” said the voice on the phone. I could not recognise the voice, but I assumed it to be my father.

“Stop the drama, dad! And why should I run? I am in the middle of this fascinating book. Play this prank some other time.”

“If you care about your life, then you will run. I must keep the phone down. Now run. And this is not your father.” The call ended.

I was puzzled. What would happen in five minutes? And who was that man? The more I thought about it, the more frightened I got. I decided to inform my mother about the call, but I as I walked to the kitchen, It happened, The prediction.

The sofa began shaking and so did the fan on the ceiling. The alarm of the building rang and all of the residents ran down the stairs for their lives. My mother came out of the kitchen, carrying my sister and, in a frantic tone, yelled at me to open the door and run out.

Once we ran down about five flights of the stairs and were outside the building, we stopped to finally catch our breath. I realised that it was a tremor that we had experienced.

After about fifteen minutes, when people calmed down, the security guard assured us that it was safe to return back into our respective apartments. As soon as we went back home, my mom turned on the television to find out the epicenter of the earthquake we had felt. It turned out to be Nepal. “The magnitude of the earthquake is 7.5,” said the news reporter. “It has shaken up the city.”

As I thought it through, none of it made sense. How did that man know about this? How did he predict it so confidently? And why did he call me? Why not somebody else? How did he get my number? Who is he?

The phone rang again. I was scared. “Mom, let me pick up,” I said. Even though I was scared, I wanted answers,

“Hello,” I said in a frightened voice.

“Sweety, are you alright?” I recognised the voice. It was my father.

“Yes dad, I am fine … are you alright?”

“Yes, don’t worry about me. Can you give the phone to your mother?”

“Sure.” I handed the phone to my mother.

Hours passed, days passed, week passed, months passed but I never received another call from the mysterious caller. Slowly, slowly my prospects of receiving it seemed to reduce. A part of me actually wanted the man to call. But every single day that passed, my expectations reduced.

Suddenly, in the midst of the breezy autumn where the sky was filled with shades of scarlet and garnet, the phone rang. I had forgotten about everything that occurred months back. And so, again, I answered casually.

“Hello!”

“I understand that you are taking care of your friend’s cat while she is away. Am I not right?”

The tone, the sound! I held my breath and answered. “Yes. Who is this? How do you know all of this?”

“My dear, the sky is covered with coal-charred clouds and the wind is heavy. But not as heavy as the guilt you will feel within a few seconds. The food you fed the cat, it is poisonous. If I were you, I would not waste a single second. Run.” And the call ended as suddenly as before.

I ran. I ran only to find that Mishay, the cat, had licked his bowl and left it sparking clean. I broke down. I searched for the packet of the cat food only to see that the expiry date had passed a week back and I had not even noticed.

Mishay began to puke. I tried everything I could but none of it helped. I called my mum.

Luckily, her friend is a vet. We took Mishay there and thanks to the vet, Mr Malik, she survived. She had to spend a few days in hospital but by the time my friend returned, she was fine again.

I told her about my careless mistake. Indeed she was upset and I did feel that heavy guilt, but thankfully, Mishay was back to normal. I could not be more grateful. That call had saved Mishay’s life and had saved my friendship. Who was that man?

Every time the phone rang, I felt a chill run through my spine. I was the only person who was aware of his existence. I surely could not even tell anyone about him. People would think I had gone crazy. Maybe I had.

Two months passed like the speed of lightning. Windy autumn was followed by icy winter. The sky was filled with darkness. The ominous dark clouds gathered overhead. It was that time of the year when old things were disposed and new things created. It was all ending.

I had just returned home from the market. The icy temperatures outside had caused a sudden craving for the warm delight of my blanket. I curled up on the couch, reading and enjoying the view out of the window when the phone rang.

I checked to see the number but it was not visible. I knew who that call was from instantly.

“Look, I do not know who you are and I want to know your identity. How do you know me?” I asked sternly. It was about time. Time to end it once and for all.

“My dear, the sky outside is as dark as the incident you are about to witness. Once the darkness sheds, the brightness appears. You have that power. Go down to the park. Cars will rush. Kids will play and the sun will rise high. You are about to save a life.”

“I demand an answer to my question. Who are you?”

“Only time will tell. Remember what I told you. Do not forget.”

“Tell me. I am furious and–“

The call disconnected.

I had to do what he said.

I went down and stood near the park. Everything seemed alright. What was going to happen?

A girl of about eight was running to get on to a swing. Her didi followed slowly behind. The girl suddenly turned around and dashed out of the park. (Later, we found out that she had forgotten her water bottle at home but was also concerned about another child getting the swing.)

Near the park was a basement where cars were parked. Cars usually slow down as they enter the basement, but for some reason, this car did not. The driver did not even notice that small girl. He was just few seconds away from hurting her.

I ran. I yelled at the girl to move away. Once she saw the incoming car, she froze. I caught her and threw her out of the way. The car was very close now. The driver suddenly noticed me and abruptly pressed the brake. I closed my eyes and waited.

When I felt no impact, I opened my eyes. By the grace of god, the car stopped a centimetre away.

That was it. I was done. I did not know who that man was but I wanted to ended it. As soon as I reached home, the phone rang. It took me a few seconds before I picked up as I was busy rehearsing for the conversation that would happen. I picked the phone up.

“You must be proud, dear girl. You saved her life.”

“Who are you? And you better answer my question this time.” I said rudely.

“Patience is a virtue.” He responded

“Answer me NOW.” I emphasised harshly on the ‘now’.

“It is truly a mystery,” he answered.

I did not say anymore. I cut the phone. There was no point.

Who that man was, it is truly a mystery. Was it an intuition? Or an illusion? Was he even real? It did not matter now. I slowly paced my footsteps back to the sofa and began reading my book again. I did not have to worry anymore. He would never call anyway.

Shreya Rajgopal is fifteen and studies in Class X in The Shri Ram School, Aravali.

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