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The Phone Call

By Kayley Ulmer

  1. Transparency
    By Brittany Ahn

The night began as a quiet one on Beacon Street, as it had been for the past fifteen years. Larry and Patty Harris sat next door, eating their dinner and not causing too much noise. Two houses down, old Don and Evie Martin settled down to a peaceful evening of Scrabble and light drinks. On the corner of Prospect Lane and Beacon Street, Jack and Karen Price watched the evening news in silence, blissfully unaware of the storm brewing over their house. Jack flipped absently through the sports page in the newspaper and Karen tutted in mild annoyance over her folded laundry as the meteorologist announced the upcoming week’s forecast of rainstorms.

Things were nice and quiet and normal on Beacon Street, which was just the way Jack and Karen Price liked it. Karen liked normal so much that she dyed her hair to fit in with the other housewives in town and Jack pretended to like golf just like all of his buddies down at the country club pretended to like golfing. Karen and Jack Price did normal so well that they were almost forgettable people. Almost, that is, because of their incident fifteen years ago.

Karen and Jack might be good at fitting in, but that didn’t stop their names from permanently being written down in local newspapers from that dark night and the months that followed. A night that the town had forgotten and Mr. and Mrs. Price had almost forgotten about, too.

Karen stopped mid-fold as the harsh ring of a telephone shattered their nice, quiet, normal evening. Jack looked at his wife over the top of his eyeglasses and put the papers on his lap. Who could be calling at such an hour?

After placing the laundry aside, Karen hurried to the kitchen to answer the telephone. Her plain face paled at the sound of the voice on the other side. There was certainly nothing normal about this phone call.

“Hello, Mother,” the voice said.

“Who is this?”

Karen tightened her grip on the receiver and shot her husband a warning look. It must be just a couple of neighborhood kids causing trouble, she rationalized.

“Oh, come on, now. It’s me, Millie! You haven’t forgotten your own daughter, have you?”

The voice tsked. Karen’s plain face now looked as white as a sheet. Doug Jennings and Chase Thorpe were much too young to have known about that night. No, fifteen years ago the town’s biggest troublemakers were still in diapers. Only it couldn’t be Millie. No one had mentioned the name Millie Price in fifteen years.

Her heart pounding against her chest, Karen banged her fist against the countertop, causing Jack to rise and check up on all the commotion.

“Is this some kind of sick joke? Millie is-“

Jack yanked the telephone from his wife's shaky hands and barked into the receiving end:

“Who the hell is this?”

“Why, Daddy, it’s me! Your little Millie, remember?”

Jack and Karen shared a look of horror. Practical joke or not, this was not something they wanted to remember.

“Millie is dead. She went missing fifteen years ago and-“

The woman on the other end cackled a moment, as if she could sense the couple’s anxiety through the telephone.

“Is that what you’re calling it!?”

“Listen here, you little-“

“It was fifteen years ago today, you know.”

Jack sputtered a moment, fear tingling up his spine. They couldn’t know. It was impossible. After all these years? No, of course not.

“What was?”

“Don’t play stupid with me, Daddy. That’s not very nice, now is it? After all, it is my birthday! I’d be 21 today. Would be, if you hadn’t-“

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“No? Hm, well the knife marks in my back say quiet differently, now don’t they?”

“I’m calling the police,” Karen whispered, trying to remember where she had put her cell phone.

“Ah, yes, the police-! What a fabulous idea. Maybe you can tell them how instead of that pretty pink bike I wanted, you gave me a poisoned cake and a knife through the heart for my sixth birthday!”

“How did you get this number?”

Jack hissed lowly into the phone, overcome by a lethal mixture of anger, fear, and guilt.

“Relax, Daddy. I just wanted to say goodbye.”

“You’re fifteen years too late-“

“Time doesn’t matter so much when you’re dead, does it? It’s too bad, Daddy.”

Forgetting himself momentarily, Jack gave in to her taunting.

“What is, hm?”

“You and Mother wanted normal so badly that you chose it over me. But you see, murderers don’t get normal. There’s nothing normal about you two!”

“I’d do it again!”

“Oh, would you, now?”

“If I had another daughter as horrid as you, I’d kill her, too! In a heartbeat!”

The woman let out another chilling cackle before the line went dead.


A horrified Karen stood only a foot away, her cell phone in her right hand and tears streaming down her cheeks. Jack had left the landline hanging by the cord, but there was a faint voice echoing from it.

“Hello? Mr. Price? This is Sheriff Abbott,” the echo sounded badly shaken. “I’m afraid we’re going to need you and your wife to come down to the station. Immediately.”

As a very frightened Jack Price finally put the landline back on the hook, his wife’s cell phone rang from her tightened fist. Karen did not say a word as she lifted the phone to her ear.

“I told you, Mother. Murderers can’t be normal.”