A young man by the name of Donald was moving from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Poplar Grove, Illinois to work a new job that he was to start in Rockford. It was his first job out of college, and he had little money, but was able to find a 2 bedroom home for rent which came fully furnished. Donald had not seen the house in person before agreeing to the lease, but he wanted to snag the deal before it was too late. The pictures online looked good enough for him: he led a rather spartan lifestyle and was not much for flair.
The weekend before move in day he drove down to the house to sign the lease and get the keys from the owners. The house was the center of three houses along a poorly lit gravel road off the main road leading into town. The area was enclosed by thick trees on each side that had no apparent end, the only way in and out being the gravel road. All three Houses were dutch colonials of similar design and only slightly varied in coloration. Donald assumed they were part of the same development.
Donald pulled up to the drive way where the owners stood waiting, an older couple in their late 60's, he surmised. The husband was a tall, slim and pale Caucasian with very piercing blue eyes. The woman was short and stocky, of Latina descent with streaks of gray in her auburn hair. The woman did most of if not all of the talking.
"Hi Donald I'm Dotty and this is Reginald" she said, extending her hand. Reginald simply nodded. "Now before I show you around let me remind you that everything is included in your rent: gas, electricity, water, heating etc. Please try not to run up the utilities or damage any of the furniture. Anything in excess will be taken out of your deposit. Got it?" Donald nodded in agreement and Dotty and Reginald proceeded to show him around. Donald found it odd that Reginald remained silent the entire time: not so much as a sigh or cough.
The house was simple yet well kept, with somewhat modern furniture and appliances, probably all from the early 2010s. "Now we'll be out of the country for the next few weeks so if you need anything you can go to the next house over and talk to Miss Caroline, our neighbor. She lives alone with her granddaughter. I'd introduce you but they are both away for the weekend. Any Questions?" Donald had nothing to add so they bid him farewell, Dotty with a huge, unexpected hug and Reginald with an expected, silent gaze.
The following weekend Donald arrived to his new home with a few bag of clothes and linens. There was a station wagon parked outside of Miss Caroline's house. The other house, the first on the road, remained unchanged. Donald realized he did not ask Dotty about the residents of that house. Donald shrugged it off and began to unload his car. After moving everything into the house, Donald heard a faint ringing sound coming from inside the house. Before he could act a slight knock at the door stole his attention.
Donald opened the door to see a lovely young woman, around his age standing there. Her jet black hair was pulled back into a head band from which short black curly locks erupted. Her dark skin was smooth and flawless. She greeted Donald with a gentle, toothy smile. "Hi I'm Sonya, my grandma lives next door. You're renting from the Mitchells yes?" She said, Donald noticing that the faint ringing from within the house was still going. Before he had time to speak, Sonya continued.
"My Grandma has not been feeling well recently so she asked me to help you out with what you need while the Mitchells are away" Sonya went on, as did the ringing. It seemed to get her attention as well. "I'm sorry, did you need to get that?" Donald responded confused: he wasn't sure what it was.
Donald invited Sonya in and they proceeded to find the source of the ringing, properly introducing himself along the way. The ringing continued uninterrupted, the sound growing more pronounced as the pair got close to it's source. Donald found the door leading into the basement, and upon opening the door the ringing became clear. It was a phone. He turned on the light and descended, Sonya on his heels.
The basement was unfinished and use primarily as storage. Old furniture and boxes were scattered about and covered in a thin layer of dust. The illumination provided by the single light fixture was inadequate, to say the least."Why would they have a phone down here?" Sonya pondered as she and Donald tread through the cobwebs to the source of the ringing. Toward the back of the basement was an old desk with an even older phone on it. It was an antique rotary phone. The base of the phone was shiny brass with fine engravings all over. The receiver looked to be made of brass and ivory. The receiver shook almost violently with every ring, oddly not disturbing the dust gathered around it. This was not as odd to Donald as the fact that the phone did not have a speck of dust on it; the phone cord running into a small opening in the wall behind the desk was equally clean. Everything else was covered in dust. All the while, the phone continued to ring.
"Should you answer it?" Sonya asked, looking down at the phone and back to Donald. After hesitating, Donald picked up the receiver and placed it against his ear. His greeting was initially met with silence, but he soon heard an continuous, inaudible whispering. "Who is it? What are they saying?" Sonya inquired. Donald shrugged and handed her the phone. "I think... it sounds like a person. Whatever they are saying, it's the same thing over and over." Sonya shivered and handed Donald the phone back. "This is creepy. You should hang up." Donald nodded in agreement and hung the phone up.
Donald and Sonya went back upstairs, leaving the odd phone behind. Donald continued to unpack and Sonya stuck around. She talked non-stop and asked constant personal questions, but she seemed nice and he didn't dislike her company. She invited him over for dinner with her Grandmother but he decided to head into town and pick up some food and other house needs. They exchanged cell phone numbers and she took off.
It took longer than Donald expected to unpack and get settled, so when he returned home it was late. The gravel road leading up to the homes was nearly pitch black except the dim light radiating from Miss Caroline's porch. The first house remained darkened, as if abandoned. He grabbed all of his shopping bags and headed to the door, where he could hear faint ringing coming from inside. He sat the bags down to pull out his phone for light as he could not see which keys was which. The ringing continued.
Donald finally got inside and sat his bags down in the entryway. The faint ringing coming from the pitch black bowels of the house sent chills down his spine. He flicked on the lights which brightened the room, but not his bravado. He put away all of his purchases, turning on every light he came across, the ringing going on without pause. Donald became aware that the phone had no intention of stopping, so he mustered as much courage as he could and descended into the basement. The dim light did it's best to illuminate the large basement, with small specks of moonlight seeping through the windows helping the best they could. The awful ringing continued, beckoning Donald to the back of the basement.
Donald nervously approached the phone. A single beam of moonlight shone in a nearby window onto the phone, spotlighting it ominously. Donald could feel his heart rate increasing exponentially for every second he hesitated. He let out a long sigh and swiftly picked up the phone. There was a second of silence on the other end, but that was soon replaced with incessant whispers, more audible this time.
"teaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfourteaeyeinwhyyouareeldotseaohemsluhashelpeawhyyoueightsixfour" the soft voice repeated.
Donald slammed the receiver down and tried to unplug the receiver from the base, but there did not appear to be a way to do so. He tried to unplug the phone cord, but it too seemed to be manufactured into the phone. He followed the cord to its termination at the wall, but there was no apparent jack from which he could unplug it. The phone was obviously very expensive, probably worth more than his deposit several times over, so he was reluctant to damage it. With no ideas of what to do, he gave up and went upstairs. The phone remained silent for the rest of the day.
The next day Sonya came over early. She invited Donald out for lunch and to show him around town. Donald accepted and the two went into town in his car. Sonya, talkative as usual, told Donald about how her parents were military and were stationed in South East Asia but she didn't want to leave. "So that's why I'm staying with my Grandma." Donald told her about the phone ringing again and the inaudible whispers. She told him that she talked to her Grandmother about it, who said that the man in the first house, Mr. Ross, used to collect antiques, and that he must have given the phone to the Mitchells as a gift. Donald asked about the man, and Sonya's countenance changed drastically. "Well, my Grandma said he left one day about 2 years ago and hasn't been back. The lawns are tended to by a housing association that Mr. Ross, my Grandma and the Mitchells pay into monthly, and apparently he is still making payments."
Sonya soon changed the subject, asking more about Donald and his family, and after spending much of the day in town, they returned home. Sonya picked up a movie in town and convinced Donald to invite her over to watch. As they exited the car, Donald could already hear the faint sound of a ringing phone from inside the house. "Oh my God, what is going on?" Sonya said as she joined Donald at the door. When he opened the door, the sound of the ringing exploded out of the darkness of the house, louder than it had been previously. Donald flipped the light switch but the house remained in darkness.
"Donald why won't the lights turn on?" Sonya asked, griping his arm tightly. He pulled out his mobile phone to use as a light as he stumbled around the house looking for a working light with no success. "We should just leave" Sonya said nervously. The ringing was continued on, it's volume as if it was right next to them. Donald felt compelled to answer the phone and informed Sonya of his intention. She reluctantly agreed and the pair carefully descended into the basement.
The sound of the ringing became deafening once they entered the basement. They could barely hear each other speak. When they made it to the phone, Sonya and Donald looked at each other for confirmation, and then Donald picked up the receiver.
Sound exploded from all directions in the basement as if the walls were lined with speakers.
"TEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOURTEAEYEINWHYYOUAREELDOTSEAOHEMSLUASHELPEAWHYYOUEIGHTSIXFOUR" a distorted, horrifying voice shouted from all over at them.
"HANG UP THE PHONE DONALD PLEASE" Sonya cried out, covering her ears with her hands. Donald located the receiver and slammed it down onto the base, and just as soon as the sound evaporated, light returned to the room. "This is insane Donald. You can't stay in this house. Let's get out of here!" Donald agreed and the two fled the basement and ran outside.
Miss Caroline allowed Donald to stay the night, but she was very old fashioned and asked that Donald remain on the main level while her granddaughter slept upstairs. Donald agreed and Miss Caroline gave him linens to sleep in the guest bedroom. Late that night he received at text from Sonya.
"Don i thnk i figured out what the phone was sayin" the message read. Donald did not receive any additional messages from Sonya, so he went to sleep.
The next morning Donald woke to bright sunlight pouring into the window. The house was quiet, with no signs of Sonya or Miss Caroline. He called out to both of them, but no one responded. He checked the drive way and Miss Caroline's station wagon was still there, and their shoes were on the rack by the door. Concerned, Donald went upstairs to Sonya's room where the door was slightly cracked. Inside he could see Sonya sitting at her desk, but she appeared slumped over.
Donald rushed to the chair and was overcome with grief upon seeing her. Her once youthful, brown face was gray and sunken. Where her eyes once rest was nothing but an empty void. One shriveled hand clutching her computer mouse tightly, the other her cell phone. Donald fought back tears as he cried out to Miss Caroline, when out of the corner of his eye he noticed something on her desk. It was the phrase that horrible phone taunted them with. Sonya had managed to make something out of it.
Before he could read it fully, the phone slipped out of Sonya's cold hands and clattered against the floor. The screen was open to a text message to him, her final words reading "DON DONT G" before ending abruptly. Guilt washed over Donald. Had it not been for him, she would be alive. She would have never ended up like this.
He couldn't explain it, but despite her warnings, he knew he had to otherwise he could not live with himself. He was not sure if he wanted to. He took a deep breath and once again looked down at Sonya's decrepit corpse wrestled the mouse from her other hand.
He opened up a browser and slowly, nervously, typed into the url that Sonya died decoding.