Long-listed for www.brilliantflashfictionmag.wordpress.com-springtime-writing-contest
The Future, I saw it, spray painted on a derelict building at the side of the motorway and then later, the words Deja Vu. When I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not a fleeting thought transcribed in ink. A message, maybe?
I dialled it on my phone’s keypad: 388873.
The line rang differently, odd, like an animal in distress. And then, there was the response.
I paused and briefly consider hanging-up, but then, I didn’t. The “Hello” came again and then, the answer escaped me.
“Who are you?”
“You’re the one who rang, don’t you know who you are?”
“Of course I do, but that’s not what I asked.”
I thought for a moment…a crossed wire? Maybe he’d misheard?
“No, I know who I am.”
“Well that is good to hear….So, who am I?”
This guy was getting frustrating to say the least.
“Fine, who are you?”
The phone squealed in my ear and then went silent. I replaced the handset and redialled.
388873…it took some time before he answered again.
“It’s me, again.”
“Oh, hello me.”
“Look, who are you, what do you want?”
“Again, you called me, isn’t that a question I should be asking you?”
“Yes, but something tells me you already know.”
An almost palpable pause came down the line, like a grin. I thought back to the road and then asked.
“What’s it like…the future…my future?”
That smile again, but not as condescending as I’d first thought.
“The future…it’s just around the bend, over the hedge row, past the corner shop. It might even be in that box of cereal under the counter.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“It’s not a lie either.”
“Look, I dialled, OK. I committed. I took the plunge and rang the Future.”
“Did you, or did you just ring a playful drunkard in a different time-zone?”
I thought about that for a moment.
“No, you’re not drunk, you’re real, you have to be.”
“Why, why must I be real, you’re not…not anymore.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I have caller ID, 7278.”
I let my eyes run to the telephone keypad. 7/P, 2/A, 7/S, 8/…
“I saw the sign on the motorway too, but mine didn’t spell Future, it didn’t even spell Present…”
“How many times have I called you?”
“I’m losing count, but it’s OK, We don’t mind, do WE?”
“I must be losing my mind.”
“I must, I will, I am!”
“No you won’t.”
“No, well, I don’t think so, but then again, WE are talking to Ourself, aren’t we.”
My heart began to pound, thundering forth and begging to leave my chest. My mind raced. I could feel the question and I could hear my voice even before my words left my mouth.
“Who are we?”
A phone began to ring, I could hear it down the line. It sounded so familiar.
“I’m sorry, I really should get that. Would you mind holding, shouldn’t be long”