Truth be told, I’m not sure why I answered the call. When my phone vibrated aggressively on the surface of the particle board conference table like a small creature had been trying to break free from within the black rectangle, I checked the screen. I hadn’t recognized the number, some 777 area code that I had never seen before. I let it ring for a second before I excused myself from the meeting to answer the call.
“-‘inking, about another visit. What do you think?” the voice on the other line said. It was deep full, but distant and muffled. Like a whale’s call deep in the ocean.
Somebody answered the caller’s question, a woman’s voice. She was too far away from the microphone for me to quite make out what she said.
“I told you Julia, you’re brother’s too busy to go.”
She spoke up, her voice still inaudible.
“I know, I know he promised he’d go again, but he’s too busy with work to go. He won’t be free not for a, let’s see here…” his voice trailed off, a series of gentle clicks and clacks followed it, “…three and a half millennia. Wait a second, where are my readers?” he paused, “Ah here we go, eight and a half millennia. I need you to fill in for him. Who knows if the place will even be around by then! Can you do me this one favor? Please?”
The call went quiet for quiet a while, I checked my phone to see if had cut out. It hadn’t. I contemplated hanging up, clearly this was a private conversation and I had no business listening in. But my curiosity had been piqued when the man used the world millennia. Plus I really did not want to return to the meeting. It was one of those meetings that could easily be an email, but the project manager insisted on the meeting anyways. So I stayed on the line.
Finally, the woman’s voice answered. I was still unable to make out the words.
“Oh thank heaven!” The man said. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down Julia. What decades work best for you? Last time your brother went he stayed for just over three.”
“Oh really, five? Trying to one up your brother again I see. I’ll see where I can fit you,” the clicking and clacking resumed. “Ah, how does twenty sixty seven to twenty one eleven work?”
She answered again, this time brief. No more than a word.
I felt an itch in the back of my throat, I fought against it.
“Great! See that wasn’t so ba-“
Before he could finish his sentence I coughed.
“Oh my self,” the man said. He sounded startled. On the other end of the line I heard the sound of shuffling. “Excuse me, which child of mine am I speaking to?” His voice was much clearer now, and closer.
“Ugghh, don’t call them that. It’s creepy.” I heard the woman groan on the other side of the line.
“Uh what?” I asked, not entirely sure how to respond to being addressed as a child, nevertheless his child.
“Your name, what is your name?”
“Jaime,” I said. “I think you butt dialed me.”
“Butt dialed? What does that even mean?”
“I means exactly what it sounds like,” the woman answered. “Your butt dialed them.”
“Don’t be outrageous,” the man said, “my butt can’t dial anything. That’s why I put the fingers on the hands.”
“You know, if you would just get a smartphone like everyone else up here this wouldn’t have happened.”
“I know it’s policy to adapt our technology with the times, but these humans just innovate so quickly now it’s hard for an old man like me to keep up. I’m so sorry you have to hear this Jamie.”
“Look, clearly you two are working out some stuff,” I said. “I’m going to go, and just pretend that this never happened.”
“Wait, before you go. What did you overhear?”
“Nothing, just some dates. That’s all.”
“Alright, good to know. If you heard anymore I’d consider smiting ya,” he laughed a hearty laugh. “Alright child, have a blessed day. You take care now, bye, bye.” He hung up, and I suddenly felt very vulnerable.