I’m going to start publishing the stories I complete for writing prompts here, in order to obtain some criticism and hold myself accountable to completing more work. Most of these will likely be somewhat rough, as I’m spending very little time editing them.
The first prompt is: Every morning at 9:00 a.m. sharp, you get a call on your cell phone. The speaker says “I know what you did” and then hangs up. This has been going on for two weeks straight. What did you do and how do you react to these calls?
“I know what you did.”
The voice was a man’s this time – the thirteenth voice so far. It changed every day. It was clear that they had coordinated to always call at 9:00 am, but I had no clue as to how they were organized. How many of them were there and how much did they actually know? I had tried to ask questions, although they always hung up as soon as their message was delivered.
“Who are you?” I yelled as quickly as I could.
I looked anxiously around my kitchen. The knives gleamed on their magnet above the counter; the gas range was clean except for a splash of marinara near the burner. Keys in hand, I checked the back door and then – as a second thought – the ground level windows, as well. I cautiously locked the front door before turning to walk down the sidewalk to work. A car careened through a mud puddle, thunk-ing loudly as it hit the pothole underneath. I stuck to the grassy side of the concrete.
At work, I tried to get to my desk as quickly as possible, peering out of the corners of my eyes at the cubicles I passed. I wondered if I would see anyone peering back at me. I slid into my seat with some relief at the security of my cell. I completed the morning by focusing solely on the inbox of loan applications, ready to be denied for reasons such as a missing comma or a spelling error.
A growling stomach took me out of my delightful trance. I again wondered who could be calling each morning– was it someone I knew well?
“Hey! You’ve been quiet this morning! We’re heading to Zorro’s for lunch, come and join!” came a brassy voice over the top of my cubicle.
I bit back the refusal that was waiting in my throat and grabbed my purse, smiling. “Sure.”
The group talked blithely about the office, weekend plans, and the weather. I didn’t feel like I could join and instead studied their faces through bites of mole sauce. For the most part, my silence went unnoticed, but if one of them glanced my way I hurriedly looked in another direction.
That night, I lay in bed. I left the tv on in the other room with the sound off so I could listen for intruders. Was this their intent: to make me lose sleep? Was their only game psychological? It couldn’t be, I knew. They had to be priming me to make a mistake. Setting me up so I was jumpy and weak by the time they came to finish me off. I was certain I knew what this was about. If only I hadn’t given that bail money to my ex’s cousin. He had always been on the wrong side of the law – and now the denizens of that side were going to make me pay a second time for getting him released.
My phone rang as I was leaving the house again, but I didn’t answer. I could perhaps ignore them into oblivion. Too-cheery co-workers tried to stop me as I hurtled toward my desk, but no amount of denial could stop the pursuit. A note waiting on my keyboard said: I know what you did.
I spun around, frantic. Someone here, someone I knew was involved. The adrenaline of fear transmuted into anger. My gaze locked onto the first person I saw – the woman at the cubicle next to mine.
“Did you put this here?” I shouted, “Did you see who did?”
“Y-yes,” she stuttered. “But only because Tom told me to, I didn’t know it bothered you-“
I broke her off as she pointed in the direction of a blond man at the water cooler and stormed in his direction.
“What are you playing at?” I shouted at him. You’ve all been avoiding my questions, but now I want to know! Why did you leave the note?”
A hand landed on my shoulder. “In my office, now,” said a deep voice. I looked up into my boss’s face and he nodded his head toward a nearby door.
The adrenaline left me and I felt a shaky mess as I walked into the manager’s suite.
“Tom had a threatening note left on my desk. I needed to know why he would do such a thing.”
The manager looked concerned. “I did tell Tom to pass out memos regarding a lunch meeting, but if there are also notes being passed which make you feel uncomfortable, this must be addressed. What did it say?”
“It – it just said, I know what you did.”
The manager raised an eyebrow, but thankfully did not ask me to explain.
I lead him to my cubicle and he glanced down at my desk while I stood in the doorway.
“I see here only the standard memo which I asked Tom to pass around,” he said.
I walked in and looked around. My desk was clean and organized, as usual, the only stray paper being a standard workplace memo, informing us of a productivity conference over lunch today.
‘’It – it was here.”
“I’m not saying I disbelieve you. However, if this happens again, hold onto the note as proof, okay? I’ll see you at the lunch meeting.”
“I think I’m not feeling well,” I said. “I think – is it alright if I take a personal day for the rest of the day?”
My manager now frowned. “I would like you to make it to the meeting, if possible. However, if you must take a day to recover, please do so. It would be best if you returned with a clear mind. Also… any further outbursts toward other employees will be met with disciplinary action. That’s a warning,” he added before walking away.
I took the bus home instead of my usual route. I didn’t know who would be following me, or how much they already knew of my schedule. I was determined to stay safe. I am not dumb, after all.
At home, I boarded up the ground level windows. I strung a length of yarn with aluminum cans attached across the back door. I would hear any intruders. In my room, I set my camera ready near the window. I was determined to keep track of everyone who went past my house, at every hour of the day. That way, I could discover who was themselves keeping an eye on me. Exhausted, I fell asleep without eating in the late hours of the afternoon.
I was woken at nine a.m. by the ringing of the phone.
“I know what you did,” a strident voice said.
“You won’t be able to get me!” I yelled, but they had already hung up.
Methodically, I set up for my day, then called into work and asked them to send my documents to me via email. I would be working from home, I said.
I was too smart to get caught, I thought. If I never left my home, they would never follow me as I walked down the street; never corner me in a bathroom or elevator. Here I was perfectly safe. I would live each day in my room, watching the world, and every morning I would be woken by the brassy ringing of the telephone.