If You Want to Leave a Message …

By G. W. Thomas

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The red light was on. Laurie reached over reluctantly. Her finger pressed the replay button. SQQUEEEEP! Was it her/him? She knew it even before she heard the asexual voice, neither male nor female. Sensual but sexless.

Laurie listened to the whispering buzz. Not a human being, the niggling voice said inside her head, alien, a fish singing a libretto, navels kissing in the dark.

SQQUEEEEP! The message ended. She rewound it, listened to it again. And again. And Again. Then she erased it.

***

She put down her valise by the couch, threw her coat on the chair. The red flashing button greeted her. A sweaty finger jabbed it with anticipation.

“Ahh–” Laurie sighed audibly. The babbling that rose from the speaker was a dull, irritating whine. The words “ankh” and “intestines” were clear, punctuated with loud snorts.

Laurie stripped off her skirt and blouse. She walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower, slipped out of her underwear. Ducking back into the living-room, she bumped up the volume to full. The hall filled with bizarre grunting.

Showering done, Laurie rewound the tape. And she played it again. And again. And …

***

The valise remained beside the sofa. The door did not open often now. Occasionally, a form shuffled out to return with a brown paper bag, filled with audio tapes, connecting wires.

On the table in the living-room, a menagerie of wires ran from two answering machines, a reel-to-reel tape deck, and an equalizer. No message that ever came in would sneak past this electronic fortress.

The phone rang. Switches clicked. Reels spun. The brown spaghetti tape captured a soft male voice. “Hello, Laurie? Are you home? I’ve been kind of worried about you. You haven’t been showing up for work lately. All your sick days are gone. If you don’t …”

Laurie shut off the tape deck, rewound, the man’s voice becoming a chipmunk’s. The record/ready button was reset.

In another room, a second deck played a cacophony of gibberish.

***

“Habbabbbabba nengggagga vomit mmmmmennnengggggagag. Nenganenganenga-vooooooooo-pppeesssshhhh–dish towel–habhabhaha…” Laurie howled, beating her dirty fist over her naked breasts. The caked blood and excrement on her leg cracked and fell to the litter-strewn carpet. “Henga-venga-wenga-vooooooooop!”

A dull gleam came to her eye. Laurie turned her head in a wide sweep, her gaze falling on the silent telephone, wrapped in its wire nest.

She picked up the receiver, began to dial…

***

Chris Burman lifted the receiver. What an unusual sound! Was it someone talking? He knew he should hang up. He didn’t want to encourage pranks.

But he couldn’t. Instead, he sat down, switching the answering machine to record ….

THE END

G.W. Thomas began writing in the Mythos in 1987 with “The City in the Sea” for Chaosium’s Cthulhu Now!  Since then he has moved into fiction with his collection The Book of the Black Sun and his Book Collector stories. He edits the genre magazine Dark Worlds which features frequent Mythos tales. His website is www.gwthomas.org.