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Holiday Microfiction: “Bad Call” by Richard Marpole

Happy December everyone! It’s been a long year, but we finally made it to the end of 2020!

To celebrate the holiday season the staff at Fantasy-Faction have prepared a little treat! Every Monday and Friday for the rest of the month, we will feature a piece of microfiction from one of our contributors.

Today, we have a second (longer) piece of microfiction from Richard Marpole: “Bad Call”.

– – –

Black Sunflowers by hyperstabby (sm)

“Bad Call”

by Richard Marpole

The call was impossible, surely a glitch.

I was walking to work through the chilly morning light, kicking up autumn leaves with my sensible shoes. Middle age was wrapping its flabby arms around me; my doctor had prescribed gentle exercise to keep everything running smoothly.

Our office was busy, but my team knew not to bother me when I was walking, unless it was urgent.

“Hey Frank, it’s Christine.”

Even through the phone it sounded wrong. She usually called everyone ‘darling’ or ‘gorgeous’.

“Listen. I’ve gotten completely sodding lost today. Don’t know how I did it or where I’ve gotten to. But I’ll be in a bit late is all. Thought I’d let you know now, when you can’t shout at me without looking like a maniac in public,” she trailed off into a nervous little laugh.

My face grew red. I tried to decide what to say.

She went on, “Actually. Perhaps you could help? You’re a Cambridgeshire native right? Where, in this dear little county, do they have all these black sunflowers? It feels like I’ve been driving through fields of the things for weeks now!”

I burst in, low and furious, “This isn’t funny.”

My anger rolled off her. “It’s a bit funny, Frankie-doll. One wrong turn and I can’t find a single thing I recognise. No people either! Well, one old lady. I think she was the original goth. Had those contacts in that make your eyes all one colour. Wouldn’t say anything. Just smiled a lot without opening her mouth.”

I grit my teeth. “This is sick, and you need to stop it. I don’t know how you got this number, or how you can pull off her voice so well. But I … I don’t believe you. I don’t!”

My phone crackled and her voice became distant, “Is it Bonfire Night soon? There’s ash all over the road and in the sky. I can’t smell smoke though. Maybe I’m getting a cold. I do feel a bit ‘urgh’. Must have caught something off all those interns I’ve been snogging in the break room.”

I was silent.

She was even quieter now, almost tinny. “That was a joke Frank, don’t pull that face. Oh!” A sharp intake of breath. “The old woman’s back. She’s smiling properly now; I wish she wouldn’t! She’s waving me down and pointing at something off the road.”

A pause, then, almost inaudible, “I think I have to go now Frank.”

No click, no warning. Just the dial tone.

I called her back immediately.

We’re sorry, this number has not been recognised.”

I dialled again and again, getting the same recorded message.

Images flashed in my mind.

Hearing about the accident. Black ice and a drunk driver.

Her funeral. Tears and toasts and awkward hugs.

I’d been too staid and proper to find out if her flirtations with me meant anything more than her flirtations with everyone else.

Had begged a god I didn’t believe in for one last conversation with her.

Maybe someone, or something, heard my prayers.

Are miracles supposed to hurt this much?

– – –

Thanks again to Richard for sharing this story with us! And thanks to you, reader, for reading it! 🙂

Stay tuned for more microfiction and some other fun surprises later in the month!

Fantasy-Faction is 10! To celebrate we are running a charity drive to help more people discover the joys of reading. If you are interested in helping out, please check out the full article here!

Heart Book with Lights by Theo Crazzolara (with words sm)

Art by hyperstabby.

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