Brian dropped his bags on the small, rustic cabin’s floor with a thud. Nestled deep in the woods, he arrived just as the Sun began to set. The cabin was miles from any distracting neighbor or neighboring distraction. It was the perfect place. Here he would write the Great Armenian Novel.
The cabin was intentionally sparse. One bedroom. One outhouse that was indoors, called a bathroom. One kitchenette that wasn’t anything more than a small wood burning stove, a single, dusty wood burning Keurig machine, and a piled of burned wood. Finally, there was a small living area where Brian could write.
Brian’s great grandfather had built the cabin with his own bare hand. He had had two working hands, but always wanted a challenge. Just like an Armenian. Nobody knew when it was built except for Brian’s grandfather, who refused to tell the exact year, only hinting that it certainly wasn’t 2057, which everyone already knew since that was far in the future.
The cabin emitted a deathly stillness. Fitting, since it was rumored that Brian’s great grandfather hung himself in the cabin’s living area. Ironic, Brian thought, to die in the living area, but it was only a rumor, albeit a rumor that the police started, the newspapers verified, and everyone agreed was true. There was an old Armenian folk tale about rumors, but Brian didn’t know what it was.
Brian got right to work, putting away his things, setting up his typewriter, and brewing an old fashioned K-cup like his ancestors used to do to as a source of entertainment. However, after a few minutes of practice typing, Brian suddenly felt a strange presence in the cabin. He got up and checked the small rooms and then looked out of the cabin’s windows.
“Hmm, must’ve just been the wind,” he said to himself. Brian was fond of talking to himself. It was the listening to himself he hated.
When Brian went back to write, his gaze stopped at something he hadn’t noticed before. On the table next to his typewriter was an antique phone, blacker than the night of the darkest day of the darkest month, Darktober. Brian could’ve sworn that the phone hadn’t been there just a few moments before, and Brian was someone who noticed phones. When he wasn’t writing, that’s what he did for a living. He noticed phones for an eccentric billionaire who hired people to do absurd things like notice phones or wink at the Moon once a week.
Approaching the phone, Brian noticed it wasn’t plugged into anything. He cautiously reached for the receiver and placed it to his ear.
Nothing. No, it wasn’t nothing, Brian thought. It was less than nothing. Almost as if the phone’s receiver was sucking sound into a vortex of pure anti-sound. If the Devil were in a band, this would be their hit single, Brian thought of the lack of noise, and the B-side would be eternal damnation.
He slammed the receiver down and grabbed the old phone. He ran outside and threw the phone into the woods. Brian immediately felt his spirits lifted.
“Good riddance!” he yelled into the woods. “There’s an old Armenian folk tale about throwing a phone into the woods! I wish I knew what it was.”
Brian trudged back to the cabin and locked the door. He sat back down at the desk and continued what was surely to be the Great Armenian Novel.
“In my younger and more vulnerable Armenian years my Armenian father gave me some Armenian advice that I’ve been turning over in my Armenian mind ever since,” he read aloud as he typed. Brian thought that was good, but he knew it didn’t even have to be good. He was Armenia’s only novelist, and whatever he wrote would simply become the Great Armenian Novel. Plus, the title of the book was to be The Great Armenian Novel.
As Brian started his next sentence, he heard a distant ringing noise. While it started faintly, it slowly got louder and louder like the part in the song “Shout,” but not the “Little bit softer now” part, the other one. The louder part.
ring Ring RING RINGGGGGG
“Phones ring,” he said loudly and correctly. He ran to the door, unlocked it, and looked outside. The ringing was louder outside and all the normal sounds of the woods were oddly missing. Brian knew the phone wasn’t plugged in. It shouldn’t be able to ring. But the ringing said otherwise.
Louder and louder it got. Brian slowly walked towards where he had thrown the phone earlier. Louder and louder. Louder and louder. The obnoxiously loud ringing reverberated through Brian’s entire body, shaking him to his core. If he had been a soda, he’d have been all fizzy and would need to be set aside before drinking. But he wasn’t a soda. He was an Armenian. Just like an Armenian.
Stepping into the spot where he had been when he threw the phone, the ringing immediately stopped and the noises of the woods instantly returned. Spooked by this sudden change, Brian ran back into the cabin, locked the door and placed a pillow on the ground in front of it. An old Armenian folk tale claimed that a pillow in front of a door would force any malevolent spirit to stop in its tracks, bend down to pick up the pillow, and then ask, “What is this pillow doing on the ground?” As long as you didn’t answer the question, the demon would be held at bay. However, Brian didn’t know that old Armenian folk tale. He threw the pillow on the ground for no reason whatsoever.
Hiding under the bed, which was barely a wire frame, a mess of sheets, and a Space-age tempurpedic mattress with laser-guided dream sheets, Brian waited in complete silence for what seemed like an eternity, but for anyone with a stopwatch would’ve been around 7 minutes.
When everything seemed fine, Brian crawled out from under the bed and walked towards his desk. It was just how he left it with the typewriter, his cup of coffee, and his Armenian flag draped over the chair. He sat back down and decided getting back to work would put his mind off whatever terrifying scenario he was dreaming up.
He re-read the last sentence on the page, but didn’t recognize it. “Ring Ring Ring?” he read. “I didn’t write that…That’s something a phone would write!” Brian jumped up and spun around. He looked at the bed and noticed a strange, phone-shaped lump under the covers. He trembled over towards the bed, sweat pouring out of his glands like the torrents of sweat constantly cascading down Niagara Falls. With a quick snatch he pulled off the covers.
Brian stared at the phone in disbelief and utter horror. “That’s impossible!” he screamed. Then he remember that nothing is impossible. “That’s highly improbable!” he correctly screamed.
The phone’s deafening ring shattered the cabin’s rustic fluorescent light bulbs, throwing the room into complete darkness. An early Darktober, Brian thought, as he reeled backwards and bumped into a cold, lifeless object. Brian froze with fear like so many popsicles right before being eaten. The heavy object swung backwards ever so slowly and bumped Brian again.
Diving to the floor, Brian grabbed his bag and rummaged around for his trusty flashlight, only to find he had accidentally packed his untrusty flashlight. He flicked the on switch 4 times before it finally shot out a paltry beam of light onto the cabin floor. The cacophonous ringing continued to bash Brian’s strong Armenian eardrums, dazing him slightly. Fighting through the mental fog, Brian slowly lifted the flashlight to point at the cold, swinging object.
As the flickering light rose, Brian gazed in horror at an extremely old pair of boots below an absurdly old pair of pants below a “you have to be kidding me” level old and moth-eaten shirt below a “I had no idea rope could look old”-ly old noose rope below a “that’s even older than the rope, which I wouldn’t have thought possible, but of course nothing is impossible”-ly old decaying face of a hanging corpse.
Brian knew who it was hanging before him. It had to be him. He was the only other person really mentioned in the story. The story that was his life. “Great grandfather!” screamed Brian.
The corpse slowly nodded and slowly raised a skeleton thin skeleton finger and pointed at the ringing phone. With his other skeletal hand he did nothing, liking the challenge. Brian wanted to run away, to escape this madness and deranged turn of events, but something inside him told him that he couldn’t. He had to see this through to the end, to face his fears, and answer the mysterious hell phone. Plus, he was pretty tired and just didn’t feel like running or moving that much.
Brian crept towards the bed, reached up, and slowly pulled the receiver to his ear.
“Who’s there?” he asked.
A clicking and rattling echoed from the receiver and slowly formed into words. “Briiiiiiaaaaannnnn? It’ssssssss I…your greattttttt grandfatherrrrrr.”
Brian dropped the phone and walked up to the hanging corpse. “I knew it! Why are you doing this?!”
The skeleton finger jabbed towards the phone. Brian slowly picked it back up.
“Useeeeeeeeee theeeeeee phoneeeeeee,” the voice clattered. “That’sssssss what it’ssssssss forrrrrrr!”
“Oh, the phone is the only way you can speak!”
The hanging corpse shrugged. “Welllllllll…noooooo, but sinceeeee it’ssssssss hereeeee we ssssshould useeeee itttt!”
“…uh…okay. What’s wrong, great grandfather?”
“Myyyyyyyyyy phoneeeeeeeeee,” the voice howled. “Dooooooooo youuuuuuuuu likeeeeeeeeeee ittttttttttttt? It’ssssssssss niceeeeeeee, noooooooo?”
Brian furrowed his brow in confusion and because he hadn’t furrowed his brow in a while and wanted to stay in game shape. “Uh…yeah, great grandfather. It’s nice. Now why have you shown yourself to me? Do you need me to do something to put your soul to rest?”
“Ohhhhhhh,” said the skeleton, whose eyes would’ve been darting back in forth looking for an answer if it still had eyes. “Ummmmmm….YES!!!!”
“What must be done? Is it like in the old Armenian folk tale where I have to uh…where I have to…I know there was like blood involved…or was that Blade? That may have been Blade.”
“That WASSSSSSS Bladeeeeeee! Brrrrrrrrriaaannnn, toooooo putttttt my souulllll to resttttt, you musttttttttttt…………….complimenttttttttttt myyyyyy phoneeeeeeeeee.”
Brian pulled the phone from his ear and shouted at the hanging body. “Great grandfather, is that REALLY what I need to do? Or is that just what you want me to do?”
The decaying mouth creaked open. “Damn it, Brian! Use the damn phone! Damn!”
Brian pulled the receiver back up to his ear while displaying great annoyance. “Is that really what I need to do or is it just what you’d like me to do?”
“It’s a nice phone.”
The room fell deathly, nay, ghostly, nay, I was right the first time with deathly, silent.
“Isn’ttttttttt ittttttttttt?” the voice repeated.
“Yeah, it’s great,” Brian said, hoping to put an end to the whole ordeal.
“Thankssssssssssssssss! Askkkkkk meeee how muchhhhhh ittttt wasssss!”
“How much was it?”
“Wow, great deal, great grandfather. Anyway I gotta finish writing the great Armenian novel, so…if you don’t mind leaving.”
“Sureeeeeeee. Thankssssss for visittttting your dearrrr olddddd greatttttt grandfatherrrrr and forrrr thoseeeee kind wordsssssss abouttttt my phoneeeeee! Be goooooooooooooood!”
Brian hung up the phone and waved to his great grandfather’s hanging corpse. The skeleton hand of the corpse waved back.
The whole encounter may have been terrifying, but it allowed Brian to finally have some closure with a relative he had never met, and, to top things off, he thought of the perfect way to end his novel. He’d have the rich bootlegger character get shot in the head. It was so perfectly Armenian.
Brian kept waving and waiting for his great grandfather’s body to disappear, but after a few minutes of that not happening, he grabbed his flashlight and walked towards the typewriter to get back to work. He sat down and was about to type a real good word when-
ringgggg Ringggggg RINGGGGG RINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
“Great grandfather!” Brian said with irritation. However, when he turned in his chair his great grandfather’s decaying face displayed great confusion.
“…that’s not me,” the mass of decaying flesh and bone whispered in fear.
Brian slowly trudged over to the phone and picked it up with a trembling hand.
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