New Writing: Volume One

Off the Hook

“It’s quite the case, you see. We have not yet seen its like. A unique phobia, so to speak. A phobia so dense in the patient’s mind that she has been reduced to this present state. She believes she has been reprogrammed. And she desperately wants to know what she was before she was reprogrammed. The desire is driving her insane. The desire to remember. The desire to be whole.

“And she believes, most curiously, that it all began with a phone call.”

Just another phone call. One of the tens you get in a day. I was working in the kitchen. Cooking up a storm. I take pride in my cooking. Come, drop by for some gyoshas. You won’t regret it.

So I was cooking in the kitchen and the phone rang. Cursing as we tend to do when unexpectedly interrupted, I nonetheless interrupted my recipe.

I picked up the phone and...




All I heard was a weird static. I don’t know exactly what happened next. As I tried harder to listen in on the static, it got clearer, more coherent somehow. So, naturally, I strained to hear it better. I don't know what it was—perhaps my mind playing tricks on me, or perhaps my subconscious desire to know what that static meant resolved it somehow—but I could have sworn I heard
my name.

“And that is the last recorded statement she gave, while she was still sane regarding her condition. The tapes following this one get considerably worse. She claims that she is being attacked by extraterrestrials and that they have brainwashed her.

“I am tempted to just brand it as acute schizophrenia and get it over with. But the unique origins of her particular condition bear a closer look. Hence, my prodigal student, I appoint you her case. Your files are prepared. Study them, study her, and within the week,
diagnose her.”

*  *  *

She looked frail behind that glass cage. She had been here a while and had grown considerably weaker, yet she had a certain beauty to her. Her eyes were wild, and gleamed at odd angles. And her skin was so white it appeared to be porcelain. Very fragile.

Very brittle.

He wanted to empathise. Wanted to feel what she had felt. What had driven her to this juncture? A part of him mourned for her. Perhaps a part of him even loved her.

He wanted to save her. And a part of him knew it was an impossibility.

He flicked open the file again and skipped through the details he had already memorised. When he entered her room, he had a smile on his face.

New Writing: Volume One

“’allo, Nell.”

She smiled at that. She hardly ever spoke now; all she made was a slight cooing sound over and over again. Sometimes she spoke, and when she did she was remarkably lucid. She liked the name Nell. She liked him. He would take her outside while the others locked her in. He would take her to see the stars.

Never in the day, though, never in the sunlight. Sun light, light bright, stealing sight. But in the dark, during the deep hours. Oh, then she would dance her rhythmic dance. On such nights, she embraced her wild soul; free and without care she danced in moonlit gardens, as the fairy folk danced in the stories of old. Together they would be alone, under the stars, her eyes gleaming wildly in the dark. He could have sworn she saw much better than him in the dark.

Finally tired and resting next to him, he began to prod her for answers. Always with gentle touches and probes. Calming words, thoughts, intent. She was very intuitive and could sense the mood behind the words. Eerily so.

“I must know, Nell. I must know what happened.”

She looked at him with her big eyes. For a moment, he thought she would speak. But then she looked away to the stars, cooing softly.

“They called you, told you your name. Then what? Who came? Were you taken somewhere?”


“Where are you now, Nell? Are you here? Or are you with them?”

“I did not go anywhere.”

He froze.

“They came. You wish to see? They will come for you too.”

There was something odd in her voice. It was a coldness, the cold touch of eternity. It struck him. And her words, so lucid and clear, burned deep into his mind. Silence stretched out between them, an elastic thread pulling them apart.

Until he broke it with a nervous laugh.

“Hahaha, oh, Nell, you almost had me there.”

But she was gone. He kept trying for a while, but she did not return. Instead he sat next to an elfen girl cooing softly under the stars.

*  *  *

When he reached his place, he was tired. His head was hurting. He needed sleep, a fire, food, and wine. He needed a home. Her recent words were still fresh in his mind. Indeed, he was mulling over them when the phone rang.

A startling coincidence. He hesitated but for a moment and made a choice. A choice like so many he had made today. A choice like so many we all make. He picked it up.

And all he heard was static. He strained to listen.


“... Olvaggga ...”


He realised that someone, something had whispered in his ear. But that was not all, true comprehension dawned. He had understood the whispering voice with a frightening clarity. For he knew he had heard his true name. A flash of memories unlocked in his sleeping mind. And a lifetime passed by in front of his eyes. His legs buckled and he nearly fell back catching himself at the last moment.

They were whispering his name. In a thousand voices they were whispering his name.

He died, was reborn.

He. Remembered. It. All.

Dropping the phone he jumped back and away. But already it was fading. All of it, the flash of memory. The name. His name.

And soon it was forgotten. He knew he had been called, and he knew they had told him his name, but little else.

At night he slept fitfully, plagued by nightmares.

“Are you alright? You look like hell.”

“Ahhh, it’s nothing, couldn’t get proper rest last night. Had all these weird nightmares. I kept dreaming my phone is ringing and then I would wake up only to see it not ringing.”

It started with the dreams. A singular nightmare, constant and never changing. He slept and he saw the phone, ringing and ringing forever. It took him three days to realise that the phone was, indeed, ringing everytime he fell asleep and it would stop dead silent the moment he woke up to it. Three days to realise that it was not just a dream.

The day he realised that was the day he called in sick.

The phone still rang. Every time he slept, the phone rang. Every time he closed his eyes . Every time even the hint of a dream would dare come together in his mind, he would see it. See the phone and it was still ringing. His eyes would snap open, and there was the phone in front of him completely silent.

It was driving him insane.

On the fifth day they tried to reach him, tried calling. But the line was always busy. He always kept it off the hook now. But it mattered not. In his dreams it still rang. Again and again it rang, off the hook it rang, and when he opened his eyes all he saw was silence. Nothing changed.

So he started to record himself sleeping.

The first morning after that he was overjoyed. The recordings clearly showed that the phone wasn’t ringing. He was free of the cursed nightmares at last. Tonight he would finally get a good night’s rest.

At night, he slept fitfully—plagued anew by nightmares.

The phone was still there, off the hook. Staring at him. And he was right there staring at the phone. Trapped in a crystalline moment, frozen eternally in time. For what was time in a dream, but another illusion? The phone did not ring, but the shadows moved around it. At first he could not tell what it was, but the more he stared at it the more it drew closer. The more he saw it for what it was.

There were thousands of them. Thousands upon thousands of tiny shadowmen. Crawling out of each of the holes in the earpiece. A line of tiny shadowmen writhing though the dark, snaking towards him. Crawling upon him. Writhing on his face, burrowing deep into his ear, whispering as they went inside. They were whispering his name. In a thousand voices they were whispering his name.

He woke up screaming.

That day his eyes were fixed to the tape. He saw every single minute, every single frame of the night’s recording. He stared endlessly at the phone in video. At that earpiece. Fragile mind breaking apart. Until finally in the deep hours of the night, he saw exactly what he had wanted to see. At first he was sure it was a smudge, but he tried to wipe it away and it would not go. A tiny spot of shadow, a trick of the light. And the more he stared at it the more it drew closer. The more its shape resolved, familiar to his mind's eye, the more he knew it for what it was.

A tiny man of shadow, crawling its way out of the phone.

*  *  *

In his glass cage he cooed softly, singing songs old and new. His songs now, all his songs. Once so long ago, he had been someone else. Once he had known something he had now forgotten. But it was alright, they were here with him, she was here with him. To be together and alone again, dancing spirals under the stars.

Anirudh Singh

Currently unemployed and with a slight talent for the written script, Anirudh is a self-proclaimed poet, writer, wannabe artist, and all-round Jack of most trades.

Ananya Singh

Ananya is a design student and dog lover. When she's not busy drawing odd faces, she loves munching on some grape-flavoured Tang while keeping her stationery intact. She has a weakness for fine-nibbed black pens and
handmade books.

New Writing: Volume One
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