21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: One Phone call away

The Telephone
Christine Lawrence

It was on the skip.
Steve was cycling home from work, just another long day in the factory, when he saw the skip sitting in the street just around the corner. He had never been able to pass one without looking to see what was discarded there. "One person's junk," he would say, "could be another's treasure."

He was always taking home 'treasures' such as this, and today it was a black, Bakelite telephone. One of those 1940's style, heavy, with a silver dial on the front. He thought he'd surprise Mandy and put it on her desk in the spare room. "That'll be handy for am-dram," he thought, as he pushed aside Mandy's work to make more room for it. It did look good there, as though it 'belonged' in its place.

"Where did you get that?" Mandy was pleasantly surprised, he thought, when she finally got in and went upstairs to her desk.
"Do you like it?"
"It's brilliant. Where did you get it? You haven't been rummaging through rubbish bins again, have you?"
"No." Steve was a little indignant at this, but conceded, "I saw it in a skip, actually."
"Thought so. Still, it does look good on my desk. I wonder who it belonged to."
"It was outside one of those big old houses round the corner from the factory. They're gutting the place."
Mandy picked it up by the base. It was solid and heavy in her hands. "I love it. Thank you." She hugged him, smiling.

Much later, that evening, Mandy was alone at her desk, trying to finish the play she was writing. Nothing seemed to be in her head at all. At least, nothing which would help get the play finished. She was just drifting off into a dreamlike trance when the telephone rang. It took her a few moments to realise what it was. The bell was loud, a real ringing sound, not like the mobile ring-tones that everyone seemed to have these days. She sat and stared at the telephone for a good few moments, whilst the ringing seemed to become louder, more urgent, somehow. Mandy shook herself into action and reached out to pick up the receiver, holding it tentatively to her ear. "Hello?" Her voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"Hello, Hello!" A woman's voice, sounding urgent and clear. Mandy slammed the receiver back down into its cradle. She wiped her sweating hands down the front of her jeans, and realised that she was shaking. Before she could think it through, the telephone started ringing again. This time, she jumped about a foot in the air, and spun her chair away from the desk. "This is not real," she was trying to think it through logically. "The phone's not even connected." But it kept on ringing, and ringing, and ringing.
Mandy snatched the telephone up and held it to her ear once more.
"Hello! Hello!" That woman again. "May I speak to Doctor Barnfield. It's urgent!"
"What?" Mandy listened in disbelief.
"Dr. Barnfield. This is an emergency! I must speak to him, now!"
"Oh, very funny. Good joke." She called towards the open doorway,
"Steve, you really got me going there."

But as she turned towards the door, she realised that things in the room had changed. The bookshelves were dark oak, instead of the cheap white wood from B & Q, a chaise longue sat in place of the second hand bed-settee, and the floor was polished wood instead of the thin carpeting which had barely reached the skirting boards. The room was dark, dimly lit by a lamp on the desk, the windows were draped with heavy velvet curtains.
"Steve, where the hell are you?"
Mandy was beginning to feel just a little bit scared, looking around the room in horror. She made her way to the door, afraid now to stay alone in the room. "Steve?"
A shadow appeared in the the open doorway; it was not Steve standing there, but a tall man in a grey suit, old-fashioned, yet comfortable looking.
"Ah, there you are, Amanda," he smiled as he spoke. "Did I hear the telephone ringing?"
Mandy was amazed. She had never seen this man before, yet somehow felt she knew him.
"Er, yes. A woman, wants Doctor Barnfield. Urgently, she said."
The man crossed the room and picked up the telephone. "Hello. Yes. This is Doctor Barnfield. Yes, Mrs. Davies. Yes. I'll come straight away." He placed the telephone back on its receiver.
"I have to go out Amanda. Mrs. Davies is in labour and she's all alone in the house. I may need your help until her mother arrives from Farlington."
Mandy hesitated.
"Come along. Chop! Chop!" The doctor was insistent now. "I'll get the car out of the garage."

Mandy followed him downstairs, noticing on the way how the whole house had changed. All of her own personal touches were gone. The cheap and cheerful prints she'd bought at various holiday destinations were replaced by solid, old-fashioned portraits of people she vaguely recognised.

A short while later, Mandy found herself sitting in an old Ford motor car with the doctor as he pulled into the driveway of a large house. He grabbed his bag from the back seat and jumped out of the car, his footsteps crunching on the gravel drive towards the front door. Mandy quickly followed, not wishing to be left alone in the strangeness of the night.
The front door was ajar as the doctor pushed it open and called up the stairs, "Mrs. Davies," but he need not have bothered as her loud screams were immediately carried to their ears, overlapping his "Are you alright?"
They rushed up the stairs two at a time, Mandy's heart thudding in her chest as she flew straight into the room at the top.

The birth was over in what seemed like a flash to Mandy, who was sent to fetch hot water, clean towels, and glasses of water. As she was feeling quite queasy about the whole birthing business, she was quite happy to leave that part to the doctor, whilst she flitted about the house looking for items she'd been sent for.

At last, as she was waiting in the kitchen for the kettle to boil, a strange cry was heard from the room above. It took her a moment to realise that it was a baby. Mandy felt a flutter of excitement as she carried the water carefully up the stairs and into the bedroom.
"It's a boy, a healthy, baby boy," the doctor was quite emotional.
Mandy moved towards the bedside to peer at the red-faced, slippery creature that Mrs. Davies was holding with a look of happiness and relief on her face. Mandy was thinking to herself how disgusting it looked, but somehow out of her mouth came the right words. "Oh, he is beautiful. Amazing. What are you going to call him?"
"James, after his father. He was lost six months ago at Dunkirk."

A strange feeling passed through Mandy, a flicker of a memory, but it was gone before she could grasp it, because just then Mrs. Davies' mother arrived. She bustled into the room, completely taking over the situation.
"It's time we were getting you back home," the doctor announced, wiping his hands on the clean towel beside the wash basin.

Once bundled back in the car, it was only a few minutes before they were outside Mandy's house once more.
"I'll put the car away. Go and put the kettle on, will you?"

Mandy stepped inside, hearing the hum of the central heating starting up. It was already six o'clock in the morning. The house was back to normal, her own familiar treasures in the same old places. Running up the stairs and into the spare room, she made for her desk. She looked at the telephone, shook her head, then crept into the bedroom where Steve was asleep. He stirred as she sat on the edge of the bed. "You O.K.?" he asked. "You're up already?"
"Something weird just happened. Too wierd. Steve, were there any doctor's in your family?"
"What you talking about? There was only my Granddad. He was a soldier, killed during the war, in 1940, just before my dad was born."
"You never talk about your dad. What was his name?"
"He left when I was small. You know I don't like talking about it."
"Yes, but what's his name?"

The telephone started ringing....

© Christine Lawrence Feb 2009

Christine is studying for her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

More Stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.