In the dead of night there is a strange phone call. The number showing up was unrecognised, but he knew the number. The voice on the other end wanted to speak to someone he was not.
When it comes to David – who he is, where he comes from, what he does – there is little that interests us. We know he has a father, a mother and a brother and some extended family. That he eats porridge in the morning with a cup of tea to wash it down, dash of milk, no sugar, and that, to wake himself up, he finishes the daily sudoku. We also know that he fakes who he is so that he can meet people online. He does not feel good about it but cannot help himself. It is well-known that he reads books – his favourite genre now is science fiction – does karate, goes to the movies, and cooks his daily food. In the summer he goes to the beach; in the winter he completes jigsaw puzzles. He lives in a typical English city with his cat. He does not leave the house very much.
It was past eleven and David had turned off his computer, wondering whether he could haul himself out of bed through the icy corridor to go and brush his teeth. He had just been talking with a friend. For a month or two they had been exchanging messages. It was beginning to be a chore. That day David’s neighbour had been making loud noises all day, so this was all he had to talk about. Online David was someone he was not. He promoted political correctness gone mad, being in a bad mood, terrible weather and not having a penny to his name. He also told people that he was a post-punk-rock-and-roll vocalist in a band. David was knackered, feeling like he knew this online persona intimately but was no longer himself.
This is how the telephone conversation went. David was beginning to fall asleep, drifting into a death like slumber. He heard the phone. Glancing at the time made him apprehensive, no one calls him. It rung until it eventually stopped. But they redialled.
There was a shuffle on the other end but no response. Just as he was about to put down the phone – thinking it was a wrong number – a waspish, raspish voice muttered down the line:
‘Hello?’, the voice questioned.
‘Yes?’, David wondered. Who was on the other end?
‘Who is this?’, asked the voice.
‘You called me, who are you?’
‘Is this Ben Miley-Smith? It’s urgent.’
‘I don’t know him.’
‘I would like to speak to Benjamin Miley-Smith.’
‘No one by that name lives here. I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.’
‘It’s urgent, there’s no time to explain.’
‘I can’t help you, I’m afraid.’
David ended the conversation there. This conversation continued to rattle in his head, preventing him from falling asleep.
An original story by Benjamin Miley-Smith
Featured image: Rene Magritte, The Happy Donor, 1966.