“Telephone Game” by Evan Hoke
The Joanne Harrison Hopkins Literary Achievement Award Winner (2018)
“Oh my god, did you see what he was wearing today?” Cassidy asked with obvious distaste in her voice. She could hear her friends giggling through the speaker of the phone in her bedroom, and that notified her that it was time to continue with her onslaught “I mean, if his clothing didn’t give away the fact that he was an ugly loser, all you need to do is listen to him talk for like, three seconds before he shows that he’s a freak.” The eruption of laughs from Trixie and Sarah, her friends in the three-way phone call, signified that she had done a good job in entertaining them.
“Jesus, Cassidy,” Trixie spoke through her laughter, her high-pitched voice echoing through the phone “You’re so savage, you need to calm down.”
“I mean, sometimes the the truth hurts, Trixie,” Cassidy smirked, responding playfully “Someone has to be real enough to tell the little loser the truth.” Cassidy paused for a moment, twirling the crystal white telephone cord in her hand as she shifted around on her bed, turning to flip on her stomach and settling in before going on “In fact, I think I’ll remind him tomorrow how much he means to all of us.” Cassidy listened as the snickering died down on the other ends and heard a gasp of air, likely from Sarah, as that’s always what she did before she began speaking.
“Aw, come on, Cass. Andrew isn’t that bad.” Cassidy rolled her eyes dramatically at Sarah’s statement, as if her eyeballs were about to disappear into the back of her skull, but let the other girl continue “He helped me last year in calculus, he’s really smart!” Cassidy scoffed, perhaps a bit too loudly, but she had a hard time picturing Andrew being good at anything. It was really amusing. As she prepared a cynical response, she heard some faint yelling in the background of the call, coming from one of her friend’s homes before Sarah began again, “Hey guys, my mom needs me for something, I’ll call you back later if you’re still up. Talk to you later!” The sound of Sarah’s phone clicking on the receiver made it obvious she had hung up, leaving just Trixie and Cassidy in the call.
“Oh my god, Sarah totally has a crush on Andrew” Cassidy stated without hesitation, hoping that Trixie would take the bait to go in on their friend. Almost as if on cue, she heard a gasp on the other end.
“Really, Cass?” There was a pause, as if Trixie couldn’t believe it, but something seemed to click as she spoke “Actually, that would make so much sense. He went over to her house like, all the time last year! And she said she was a virgin!”
Cassidy smirked, having been given all of the information she had needed, thanking Trixie in her mind for unknowingly biting the hook.
“So that’s what she calls studying, huh? Oh help me, Andrew, I’m so confused, oh Andrew, oh Andrew, oh…oh!” Cassidy began making loud moaning noises, clearly mocking the nasal quality in Sarah’s voice, causing Trixie to chortle, a sound that Cassidy found particularly gross, but continued on with her insults, “Andrew, screw calculus, screw me instead!” The teenaged girl proclaimed passionately. Cassidy listened as Trixie lost it, a high-pitched squeak emerging through the speaker which made Cassidy winch, her face scrunching up in annoyance.
Luckily, Cassidy knew Trixie, and she had seen her laugh until it hurt to do so anymore, which would likely be the case here. Cassidy colored herself impressed, she considered herself clever and quick-witted, but if this was all it took to make Trixie believe to her, she was so much better at tricking her friends than she thought. But then again, she already knew she was good at what she did.
When Trixie’s giggles seemed to subside, she listened as her friend was able to speak again.
“You’re so funny Cass, oh my god, and I can’t wait to see Andrew tomorrow, we’ll have to save him a seat next to Sarah at lunch!”
“Literally, you’re so right, Trixie,” Cassidy mustered up as much sincerity as she could generate, navigating her eyes over to the vanity across the room and catching her reflection, locking eyes with herself before going on “That’s why you’re my best friend.” Cassidy listened as Trixie let out a relieved sigh, seemingly content, before she heard her take a breath.
“Well, of course I’m your bestie! But for real, I’m exhausted, I’m gonna head to bed. Night Cass.”
Cassidy didn’t respond immediately, seemingly lost in her image, but after a moment managed an uncaring, “G’night Trixie.” Upon uttering those words, she heard the click of Trixie’s phone hitting the receiver, and put her own phone down in response. She turned her attention back to the mirror and smiled devilishly, taking note of how her bright blonde hair cascaded down her shoulders, the curls and waves layering themselves perfectly to her, settling right above her upper arms. She knew that her look was right. How could it not be? Her silky peach nightgown only helped her image too, as she knew that when she looked good, she felt great. What a wonderful philosophy, right?
Seemingly lost in thought, she barely noticed her telephone ringing in the background, only breaking out of her trance when the ringing had continued on for several seconds. Upon realizing it was going off, she nonchalantly picked up the phone, mumbling a disinterested, “Hello?”
“Hey, Cass, did Trixie go to bed?” She instantly recognized the nasal quality in Sarah’s voice and rolled her eyes, but pitched up the tone of her voice to sound excited.
“Oh, hey girl!” She exclaimed rather fakely, gathering as much interest as she could muster. “Yeah, she was tired, but how was helping your mom?”
“Oh, it was whatever, y’know.” There was a quick pause, and Cassidy wondered if Sarah wanted to say something more, but only replied with, “So, what did you and Trixie talk about?” The edges of Cassidy’s mouth curled upwards, and she knew that she had just been given her opportunity.
“Girl, you’ll never believe what she told me,” Cassidy flipped to sit up, lying against the large pillow at the head of her bed to get comfortable, as this was gonna be great. “It turns out she has a massive mega crush on Andrew, can you believe it?” The gasp on the other line told Cassidy all she needed to know and she let her friend absorb the information before listening to her talk.
“She really said that?” There was a moment of silence before a loud exclaim, “That’s so cute! Should we help set them up?” Cassidy groaned to herself at Sarah’s positiveness to her lie, biting her tongue from spewing something unsavory at her so-called friend. As she was about to respond, she heard a knock on her bedroom door before it slowly crept open, her younger sister stepping into the small crack she had created between the wall and the door.
“Hey, Cass, are you busy right now? There’s something important I want to talk to you about, I really need your advice.”
“Get lost, Lola,” Cassidy responded sourly. “I’m on the phone. I don’t have time to deal with you right now.” God, couldn’t Lola see that she was busy? Cassidy thought that after turning fifteen, she’d have more self-awareness and be less annoying. She caught her sister’s defeated face as she returned to the shadows of the hallway, closing the door behind her. She couldn’t be bothered with her sister right now; she had more pressing concerns to deal with.
“Sorry, Sarah, that was Lola, being annoying as always.”
“It’s alright. Your sister’s super sweet!” The cheerfulness in Sarah’s voice made Cassidy gag, but not loud enough for Sarah to hear.
“Anyway,” Cassidy continued “Keep it on the down-low, Sarah, I don’t think Trixie wants anyone to know.” She could practically imagine Sarah nodding on the other end of the line, believing every second of her lie.
“You’ve got my word!” she declared with resolve.
“That’s why you’re my best friend, Sarah,” Cassidy stated dryly, smiling to herself the entire time, as if to convince herself she was telling the truth.
“Aw, that’s so nice of you Cass! But I guess I should let you get to bed. Goodnight!” Sarah’s congested voice disappeared as she hung up the phone.
Cassidy put the phone back down on the receiver before laying back further on her pillows. One of her only thoughts was how annoying Sarah’s voice is, but as she was absorbed in this thought, she heard a banging sound coming from outside of her room.
“Hey, Lola, shut up!” She screamed, clearly annoyed at her sister for making such a racket. Maybe, once she woke up in the morning, Lola would be much less annoying. She settled backwards into her array of pillows, reaching over to switch off the lamp next to her bed. She closed her eyes and let her body relax, letting sleep slowly take her over.
A cheerful ringing sound echoed throughout the walls of the room, and Cassidy sat up immediately, her eyes trying to alert themselves to her environment but struggling to do so as only moonlight shone in through her bedroom window, illuminating the room in yellow tint, staining both her carpet and vanity. She glanced around the room, spotting her alarm clock reading three forty-one in the morning, sending her into a rather pissed off mood. Eventually, she managed to focus on where the annoying pitch was coming from; her bedside phone ringing incessantly. She groaned, thinking that it was probably some prank call, but decided to pick up the phone anyway, leaving the receiver placed on her bedside table.
“Hello?” She answered groggily, not fully interested in whoever was talking to her at this hour.
“Cassidy….” A voice whined, heavy sobs leaking through her speaker “Why did you do this to me?” Cassidy instantly became more aware of whoever was talking to her, something in her head notifying her as to who was speaking.
“Trixie?” she questioned, unsure if she was actually correct in her guess.
“You did this…” her friend uttered, not answering her question. There was no doubt in her mind, that was definitely Trixie’s high-pitched voice on the other end.
“What’s going on Trixie? Are you on drugs?” Cassidy asked with a defiant tone in her words, more than annoyed that Trixie had decided to bother her this late at night.
“You did this…you caused this to happen to me.” Her friend’s voice seemed somber and unclear, as if she was holding back something. Cassidy was unsure of what was going on or what to even say, but she needed some kind of explanation.
“Trixie, I don’t-”
“You’re not my friend. You would’ve stopped this!” Trixie screaming was all Cassidy could hear as she was cut off, a loud and abrupt clicking sound signifying that her friend had hung up on her.
Cassidy huffed, clearly annoyed, and threw down her own phone. What the hell was Trixie’s problem? Maybe she was on drugs after all. Regardless, she didn’t have time to worry about whatever Trixie was up to, her bed awaited her. As she readied herself to return to sweet bliss, her phone began ringing again. With an agitated scoff, she picked up the phone again, answering with a pinch of aggression this time.
“What is it now, Trixie?” While she expected an immediate response, there was nothing on the other end of the line. She pressed the phone closer to her ear, before picking up on some kind of muffled sound on the other end that seemed like it was slowly getting louder, as if it was approaching her.
“Cassidy…” a voice moaned out, in a seemingly erotic way. She knew by the way the voice rang through her phone that she wasn’t talking to Trixie anymore, but a new person entirely.
“Who is this?” She asked ignorantly, already tired of whatever shenanigans were occurring.
“You…did this…to…me” The words were slow and were separated by deep groans, as if something was occurring on the other end that she shouldn’t be listening to. However, after listening to the nasal quality of the voice, she knew who she was talking to.
“Sarah, what the fuck is going on?” she questioned demandingly, growing more and more uncomfortable in the situation. Was Sarah having sex right now?
“You’re the…reason this happened….it was…you…the whole time….” One final moan emerged from the line, a deep one that rang throughout Cassidy’s phone speaker before a soft click ended the conversation.
The phone remained in Cassidy’s hand as she sat in awe, dumbfounded at why her friend had called her if she was having sex. Even more importantly, what had happened that she had done? If Cassidy was the reason Sarah was getting laid, she should be thanking her. It was about time that she lost her v-card anyway, right? Right. Snapping out of her daze, she haphazardly threw the phone back on the receiver, ready to go to bed and ask what the hell her friends were smoking last night when she woke up in the morning.
Yet again, though, as she tried to settle back in, that same ringing sound began again. She turned towards the sound, signifying that her telephone was going off once more. What the heck was going? Her parents were going to be so pissed if this kept going on, especially if they woke up at this point.
Beyond annoyed, she picked up the phone and started yelling into the mouthpiece. “Listen here, I don’t know what’s going on but you guys better fucking stop, like now.” She said indignantly, simply wanting to return to sleep.
“But, you never stopped, did you, Cassidy?” a deep voice answered quickly, and she was taken aback by the lack of life in the voice of the individual on the other end.
Thinking quickly, she responded, “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” Frustrated, she continued, “If you call me again I’m gonna call the cops to come here.”
“You’ll need them soon enough…after all…you did this,” the voice threatened, and Cassidy felt instant chills thrust down her spine and creep over her arms. What the hell was he talking about? What had she done? As she pondered these thoughts, a new one entered her head, one that explained everything to her.
“Andrew, did you just threaten me?” Her voice was loud and commanding, and after a few moments with no reply, she knew she was right. “Did you do something to Trixie and Sarah, you freak? I heard them call me earlier. Did you make them do it?”
“I didn’t make them do anything Cassidy,” he responded without hesitation. “Everything here is your fault. It’s all…your…fault.” The angry emphasis on the last word made Cassidy jump from her bed and she listened as the other phone was seemingly placed down carefully, listening to the click of the phone being hung up.
She slammed her own phone back down and shivered nervously. What the hell was going on? Why had Andrew called her and blamed her for something? The unnerving sensation of the three phone calls she had received seemed to hit her all at once, and she couldn’t help but feel exposed, the moonlight setting ablaze every inch of her. Maybe she should just call the police. Or was that too dramatic? Should she just disconnect the phone from the wall instead? That would probably be easier, but then again, if she called the police and claimed that Andrew was harassing her, wouldn’t she be recognized as a hero for taking down the creepy pervert who calls girls in the middle of the night? In her mind, she would be.
Deciding to do just that, she reached for her phone to dial for the police when it began to ring again. She smirked triumphantly. If it was Andrew, she knew she could gloat to his face about what she was about to do, and she knew she’d have the belief of everyone around her to back up her story. After all, who was going to believe ugly, old Andrew?
Confidently, she sat down on the side of her bed, picked up the phone and began speaking, “Don’t bother saying anything Andrew, I’m calling the police now, they’re about to zap your ass.” She gloated, but all she heard on the other end was a low humming sound that sounded nothing like a teenage boy. She didn’t say anything, but honed her senses in on the hum before it grew into low sobs, like a gutter collecting and spewing out water during a rainfall.
Thinking back to the crying she had heard earlier, she asked, “Trixie, is that you?” She did not receive a reply, but there was something different about these tears compared to Trixie’s. They were much quieter, much more reserved, as if something was holding them back. Cassidy listened quietly to the sobs for about a minute before Cassidy decided that she had had enough. She couldn’t take this anymore, and snapped loudly at the telephone in her hand, shrieking, “Go to hell!” Her voice echoed throughout her room, and within an instant she listened closely as the low sobs began to stop. Silence ensued, before a meek voice emerged from the other end of the phone.
“Goodbye, Cassidy. This is what you wanted.” The voice uttered, and Cassidy’s stomach lurched forward as she recognized the voice. She stood up and tried to move somewhere before a shadow stopped her, flying past the large image of the moon showcased in her window, covering the brightness of the glowing object for a moment, encompassing her room in darkness before it passed by the window. A large thud occurred, signifying that the shadow had hit the ground. Cassidy leapt towards her window and looked at the the mangled body below, legs and arms bent in unsightly and horrific ways. A pool of blood emanated from beneath the body, staining the grass with it’s horrific red coloring.
A low wail emerged from Cassidy as Lola’s body remained unmoving, broken by the impact of the fall, illuminated only by the yellow glow of the moon.
Posted on May 4, 2018, in Joanne Harrison Hopkins Literary Achievement Award Winners, Short Stories Spring 2018. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.