Dial W for Whatever
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I've only used a Ouija board once in my life. My best friend Peter had a version manufactured by Parker Brothers, and one day after school at his house we took it out. Seth was with us, and Andrew, but only Peter and I were 'on the board.' We were all in eighth grade at the time and the fad sweeping through St. Jacob Junior High School was prank phone calls. The goal was to be as outrageous as possible, in the hopes that the story of your crank call would be circulated the next day at lunch, and you would be admired for your cleverness and bravery. So naturally, after a few preliminary questions to the board regarding whom each of us secretly liked, or would ultimately marry, we implored of the dark spirits to provide us with a local phone number we could call. The palette, lightly touched by the hands of Peter and myself, moved slowly until seven digits had been pointed to and dutifully transcribed by Andrew. In an instant we were off the floor and racing into Peter's room, where a phone was located next to his bed. We weren't terribly concerned about caller ID, since only a few people had them then, and besides, it was Peter's phone, and he didn't seem to mind. Peter was elected to make the call, since he had the deepest voice, and also because he had recently perpetrated a legendary prank call against none other than the principal of our school. He had called him pretending to be a member of a performance/dance troupe interested in performing at a school assembly for a nominal fee. Peter explained that although the routine involved tigers, leopards and several pyrotechnic effects, that it was perfectly safe, and all the legal clearances had been obtained. Principal Flinders expressed that he wasn't interested, and in retrospect, the call lacked a distinct punchline, but nevertheless, Peter had pulled one over on the highest authority figure we knew, and that was enough. Also, he could keep a straight face, which none of the rest of us could do. We had to have pillows ready, in case we needed to laugh into them while Peter was speaking. Peter, however would be carved out of stone, which made the whole thing funnier somehow.
So Peter sat on his bed and picked up the phone.
"What are you going to say?" I asked.
Peter smiled sideways, "You'll see."
Andrew sat at Peter's desk and Seth and I took the floor, giddy with anticipation. Peter dialed.
"It's ringing." We looked at each other grinning anxiously.
Suddenly, Peter's face lit up and he spoke, "Yes, hello, I..." And then he stopped, like he was cut off. Andrew, Seth and I looked at each other. Why was he hesitating? Peter's expression changed. It was slow and imperceptible, but within ten seconds the blood had left his face.
Seth whispered, "What is it?"
Peter didn't answer. He remained perfectly still, staring blankly at the wall above my head. He was distinctly white now, and I noticed the hand beside his leg begin to tremble. This time, I spoke. "What the hell is going on Pete?"
Peter still said nothing, and now I could see his whole arm starting to quiver. The knuckles on the hand gripping the receiver began to whiten, as though he was squeezing with all his strength.
Seth looked at me, and I could tell he was uneasy. But it seemed like all of us were as frozen as Peter. I got the distinct impression that I was witnessing something important. Seth was getting more and more anxious, until I thought he was going to burst. "Peter," he said finally, standing up from the floor. He walked to the bed and grabbed Peter by the shoulder, then drew his hand back. Peter didn't react.
Seth looked at us, "Guys, something's wrong."
I got to my feet, I was frightened now. "Take the phone, hang it up!"
Andrew was the first to the phone base, and he depressed the hook switch. Seth waved his hand in front of Peter's eyes. Peter turned his head and looked at Seth. His hand still twitched. Seth shook his head and took a step back. "What the hell, Pete?"
With some difficulty, Andrew wrenched the phone from Peter's hand and placed it in the cradle.
Peter's glassy eyes got wet, like he was going to cry, but his expression remained blank.
"You're such a jackass." Andrew said. Peter turned to look at him."We can tell you're faking. What was it? A dead number?"
Peter swallowed and leaned back on his bed against the wall. He opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing. His eyes were still blank, his face expressionless.
"It can't be fake," Seth said, "look at his face. He's totally pale."
I still felt uneasy. "Yeah," I said to Andrew, "you can't fake that."
Andrew looked at Peter, "Who was it Pete? Satan?" Seth and I laughed nervously, and Andrew continued. "You called Satan himself, and all you can say is 'hello'?"
Peter licked his lips. The colour began to return to his face. He looked at each of us, but still he didn't say anything. He smiled sheepishly.
I spoke again. "Peter, I'm serious, what happened?"
Peter leaned forward and stood up. "Nothing." His voice cracked when he said it. "Nothing. For real guys, I was joking. It was a dead number."
Seth squinted and glanced at me. "No way. No way Peter, quit being such a liar. Something happened, we all saw it."
"Yeah, I know." Peter had regained his composure. "I know, I had you all going." He laughed. "I totally got all of you. You're so gullible."
Seth shook his head. "I don't believe it."
I picked up the pad of paper from Peter's desk, where Andrew had placed it. "Easy enough to find out..." I held the phone number up.
Peter looked at me. "Go ahead," he said, "you'll see, I was just kidding."
Nobody said anything for a moment as we all considered it. Seth was the first one to move for the phone. He picked it up and turned to me. "What is it?" I read him the number. He dialed. "It's ringing." He looked at Peter. A moment later Seth shook his head, and held the phone up to Andrew.
He took the phone from Seth and put it to his ear. He looked at Peter, and after a few seconds handed the phone to me. I placed the receiver to my ear and heard a pre-recorded female voice intoning:
"The number you have reached is no longer in service. Please hang up and try your call again." I hung up the phone.
Peter looked at the three of us and shrugged his shoulders. "See?"
We were a little spooked, and I don't think any of us knew what to think. We all left Peter's house soon after that. But I couldn't shake the feeling that something had happened; that something was wrong.
Later that evening Peter killed his family and then disappeared. Weird, huh?
Fraser Tingle is THE MASTER OF HORROR!