The vision of the lock and its key was a blur. In Aaron Child’s inebriated state, he jabbed the point of the key to where he felt the lock was, hoping luck was on his side and it would nestle into its home just so he could enter his. On his third try he was successful which indicated he was not as drunk as he had been on previous occasions, or last night to be frank. The wide spread of scratches around the lock could have been a reminder of tales of stupors far beyond his current condition, but they would have only been suggestions. Even though the evidence was there, his recall of such events had been lost at the bottom of many cheap student bar priced lagers. He smirked as he placed his money on the kitchen table and took a loaf from the breadbin. The fact that Aaron still had coins in his pocket and the sensibility to make a sandwich meant two things: the first, he might actually be awake early enough in the morning to pack up his things for when his parents were going to pick him up, probably around midday. In a normal context, early was usually around half past eleven, but seeing as he had not organised anything, early might have to be around eight o’clock because he did not want the nag from this Mother. The second was most of his drinking friends had already finished for the end of term and travelled home.
Aaron had left his games console on pause before he went out so he carried on with his army shooting game with half a sandwich hanging from his mouth as both of his hands were required to use the controller. Once he had reached the end of the level, he gave himself time to eat it and was about to continue the game when his mobile phone rang. He looked at the time. It was 1:33am. The phone number was just that, a number. His caller was not saved in his contacts and he certainly did not recognise the sequence of digits. Thoughts of ignoring it and letting it run to voice mail entered his head. It was probably a wrong number. Who would be phoning him in the middle of the night if it was not one of his friends, he thought? Certainly, nobody from his family would call him at such a late hour, unless it was an emergency. Could it be an emergency? Has something happened? Aaron picked up the phone and slid his finger across the screen. The call connected.
At first there was silence. Aaron listened carefully. The display on his phone was showing the line had definitely connected. “Hello?”
There was more silence before the quiet mewling of a woman crept through the ear piece.
“Hello? Who’s there?” Aaron could now hear gentle breathing. The crackle of static began to break up the connection before the female voice on the other end of the phone whimpered. It was obvious she had been crying.
“I know it’s coming, it has come for everyone else. Why can’t we see it coming?”
Aaron Childs put down his game controller and frowned. “Who is this?”
“It’s here, it’s in the room with me. It must be.”
“What’re you talking about?”
“I am being watched, I can feel it. It knows I’m here.”
“Who is this?” There was a pause. Aaron listened to the woman’s quiet sobbing. “Do you need help?”
“I’m cut off.”
“Cut off from where?”
The woman took a sharp intake of breath. “Oh God.” She began to panic. “I’ve seen the shimmer. How does it know I’m here?”
“Can you tell me where you are?” The static increased, distorting the connection. “This line is very bad, can you move to a place with a better signal?”
“Fog Cottage is the only place.”
“You have to warn others. No one must ever come here.”
“Here? Where’s here?”
“I’ve seen them, I’ve seen the shimmer.”
“The Shimmer? Where are you?”
The woman began to cry a little heavier as the static increased into bursts of white noise. “It’s like spiders crawling on my skin.”
“I think you’ve dialled the wrong number, because if this is a joke...” The static on the line seemed to explode and Aaron pulled the phone away from his ear, wincing as he mouthed an expletive. When he heard the noise slightly fade, he moved the handset closer to his ear.
“What’s your name?”
Through sobs, the woman mumbled, “Jessica Pu…”
Aaron pulled the phone away from his ear for a second time as the dull thump that chilled his skin was followed by a shriek of pain. A second, louder thump suggested something had cracked or broken. The third strike seemed to meld with a groan, the resonance of a dying breath.
Aaron pressed the phone to his ear. The line was once more filled with static before suddenly falling into silence.
“Hello? Jessica? Jessica?” Aaron ended the call and fell back into his arm chair. He was unnerved, but his puzzled expression melted away as inebriated sleep took over. Whoever had called him, the strange woman who needed his help, would have to wait until the morning.