This story was originally submitted to this prompt. This is part 2 of a new series by me titled Just Keeping Tabs. Will I complete it? Who knows, but I love horror and I love meta-narratives so expect a few entries from me in the future.
For an FBI agent, Dale seemed more anxious than me. While the message continued to play out Dale asked me where my bathroom was. I pointed the direction and he took off in a hurry, hands over his mouth leaving me alone with my phone on speaker while the message continued to play out.
“The decent of the demons and the ascent of the angles shall meet along the overlook spine. Contours and deep chasms…” I hadn’t listened this far before. When I first received the phone call I hung it up only a few words into the nonsensical ramblings of the presumed prankster on the other side. To be honest though hearing this message play out from Mike’s voicemail greeting relieved me a bit. This could still be an elaborate prank. Despite his good nature perhaps he had a mischievous side to him. I continued to listen to the cryptic message until Dale returned to the bathroom. By the time he returned the message had been garbling up a nonsense string of numbers.
“…nine, zero, zero, nine, nine, zero, one, two, three, four…” the message said. The female voice now dominated the other two, although echos of the male and child voice could be heard in the background. The whirling sound had long faded in place of a staccato percussion that I could only describe as a rotation, like a gyroscope, if that makes any sense.
Dale, now pale in the face, look at the phone and closed his eyes shaking his head. “Could you please turn that off?” He asked.
“You okay?” I asked.
“We have to get to the bottom of this. Is there anyway to contact Mike?”
“Yeah, I can message him. But he doesn’t wake up until later in the day since he works nights.”
“Do it,” Dale said.
I pulled out my phone and opened up my messaging app. Before I began typing I looked at Dale.
“So uh, out of curiosity. Were you guys just watching what was on my computer or like everything?”
“Normally I wouldn’t divulge such sensitive information, but considering our lives are fucked, why the hell not?” Dale said. “If it’s got an account of yours or connected we’ve seen it all. Computer, phone, you’re phone’s mic, smart TVs, Alexa, iPad, if it’s online we can get in.”
“Searching for iPads online,” my Amazon Echo said from across the room. Dale flinched. “Would you like to order an iPad for $299?”
“No thank you Alexa,” I answered.
“Order canceled,” Alexa said.
“I guess Abe’s paranoia was justified. He hated being in the same room as that thing,” I said. “I’m guessing you know who that is?”
Dale nodded. “I followed your whole relationship with him, as short lived as it was. The break up was the right call. You deserved better.”
“Well I’m sure glad my omnipresent personal FBI agent agrees that Abe was an asshole.”
“I knew a guy just like him in college. Thought the world of himself. Complete narcissist. Whenever nobody was talking about him he would steer the conversation towards himself and if he couldn’t he’d just walk away with no comment. Just get up and left whatever was happening. Those late night talks you had with Abe dug up those long forgotten memories.” A fullness had began to return to Dale’s face as he reminisced.
“Yeah, he was quite the dick. So you guys know everything about me?” Then it dawned on me. If they could observe everything, even through my phone’s speakers that meant even my most intimate moments weren’t my own. “Oh god does that mean that you’ve heard everything during sex?”
“Technically yes, but in practice… Well, after the second time I began removing my headphones. I began wondering what my wife would think if she knew what I was listening to. So if that’s any conciliation.”
“No not really.” I crossed my arms.
“Order are orders,” he said taking a sip from his mug.
“This whole thing is so fucking unreal,” I said. “First the shitty video, then the phone call, and the next thing know I have an FBI agent telling me that he’s listened to and watched everything in my life. I would have have much rather have just gotten that phone call with its foreboding message and be living out a horror movie on my own, but I guess here I am doing it with a complete stranger who’s listened to me during sex.”
“Only once,” he said.
“You know what I mean!”
A ringing came from Dale’s pocket. Dale reached in pulling out a flip phone.
“It’s the missus,” he said flipping it open. “Hey honey, how are you?” He stood up and began walking out of the living room. “I told you I got called into work today. I won’t be able to make it. I know, I know. Do you know how hard it is for me to miss his first soccer game too? I know that this is an important day in our son’s life. There’s just this nasty problem that came up at work that I have to deal with.” He looked at me.
I shook my head.
Before he rounded the corner down leading to the hallway he placed one hand over the speaker and said, “Message,” before returning to the conversation. “Yeah it’s a big problem, like a thorn in my side…” his words trailed off as he disappeared behind wall.
It took me a moment to register what he had meant by message until I looked at my phone and saw that my texts to Mike were open on my phone.
“Wanna grab a bite at Showdy’s this afternoon?” I sent. Mike never said no to Showdy’s.
The message shot from the white text box and into the thread, sitting right below the link that got me in this mess in the first place. As I heard the muffled voice of Dale in the other room I wondered if Mike had his own personal FBI agent too.