by Than Pence
Harry wakes up to a text message that slowly changes his life
|His phone buzzed on the nightstand, rattling against the glass horribly.
Work Shannon: you up?
Tingles rolled down his spine. Harry turned to look at Mary, but his wife wasn’t in the bed. He held the phone with caution, like it was a sensitive time bomb about explode.
Running his fingers over his cracked lips, he thought about his response. Was he up? I am now. But he knew what the texter meant. Harry also knew that it wasn’t Shannon from the office sending messages in the dead of night.
A breeze outside knocked the wind chimes on the front porch. Harry sat up in bed, looking down at his phone. He’d finally decided on a message to send back.
Now I am
In seconds, the reply was already vibrating his fingers, generating more chills.
Work Shannon: god. get UP in me
A taste of bile swelled up in his mouth, making Harry think he’d have to carry this silent conversation on in the bathroom. He looked up from his screen. The bedroom was black as pitch. I’m thirty-seven. I don’t even know what pitch is. His eyes slowly adjusted after he’d turned the screen away and let the darkness form shapes around him. A gentler breeze sounded, bringing a softer ting from the chimes outside, below the window.
Harry didn’t hear anything else. He looked at the empty spot next to him and wondered about Mary. Where is she? Resolute, he slipped from the bed and started down the hall. She sometimes woke up with terrible cramps and would use the bathroom. She didn’t like to use the one adjoining their bedroom because she said she didn’t feel “ladylike” when that happened.
He thought she was just embarrassed by the grunts and sighs that she’d send down the hall in the dead of night. But there were no unpleasant noises to further embarrass his wife.
Startled, he looked down at the phone again.
Work Shannon: we doin this???
Feeling dizzy, Harry stood motionless as he stared at the text, at the words being sent from Simon. His jaw clenched as he thought about the gall Simon had in texting him when he knew Harry’s wife was with him, in the middle of the night. His little fling with Simon had been just that: a fling. Some oral action, some rubbing, some other stuff that had been biting at Harry’s bit for years.
The nerve had been worked up to finally go through with sating his curiosity. Simon had been a tempting twenty-something guy but Harry had seen no need to return to the sleazy side of town with him. Mary had thought Harry was on a business trip. That had been two months ago.
Now Simon was texting. Harry had thought to delete the number but knew that, though he had no desires to revisit Simon in the near future, he couldn’t deny the fact that he might want another go down the road. So he hid the number under Shannon from work. Mary knew her and thought she was nice but also knew the woman to be quite obese.
The risks of getting caught were making him sweat a little. If Mary rounds the corner now and sees me texting, she’ll wonder… He shook his head and rubbed his stubbly jaw. Harry was becoming a sweaty mess.
A breeze buffeted the house as Harry made his way down the stairs. He assumed Mary would be found in the kitchen eating a snack, or watching an infomercial about non-stick pans or organic make-up. As if she needs more of either.
His phone vibrated again. Harry huffed once as he turned off the vibrating feature completely and shoved the phone into his pajama pants pocket. Stepping off the landing, another wind howled outside… and made Harry pause.
Harry was near the front door. The wind chimes were just outside and had made their presence known for the past three years when even a whisper thought to kiss his house. Another breeze whooshed by: no chimes.
Looking at the door, Harry stared at the etched, prismatic glass. It wasn’t possible to see through the door clearly, but shapes could be seen. With darkness outside, he didn’t expect to see anything, but his nerves started to rattle. He wanted to open the door and see what had stopped the wind chimes, but he also wanted to leave the door closed in case whatever had halted the chiming wind would try to halt him, too. Whatever. The wind probably blew them down.
Harry stepped to the front door and, his hand outstretched, was about to grab the handle when a ghostly face appeared in the glass. He stepped back quickly, silently, and stared at the face, at the young, boyish features. It looked a little like Simon but the distortion made it impossible to be sure. The face was looking down at something before it.
Then it disappeared.
Moments later, through the thin fabric of his pajama pants, the screen on Harry’s phone lit up, signaling that a text had come through.
Stealing a glance at the front door, Harry realized Simon was outside. Is! Had he seen the rectangular light shine through the glass just as easily as Harry had seen Simon’s screen-lit face? Padding his way around the corner, worried about light from his phone bleeding into the darkness and unmasking his presence, Harry slowly pulled out the phone and tried angling it as best he could to withhold the light while still reading it.
There were two messages, the first sent when Harry had been coming down the stairs.
Work Shannon: cum play with me or else…
The second message was even shorter, more chilling.
Work Shannon: say goodbye
A cold sweat broke out over his torso and Harry bolted around the corner to the door, knowing a threat when he saw it and fearing for Mary.
Opening the door, he stopped.
On the porch with wind chime wires around her neck and metal rods entangled in her hair was Mary. Slumped against the pillar, her neck was down against her chest. As if it had been planned, her weight broke the chimes and she folded down on herself, lifeless, metal rods clattering on the porch. Her nightgown slid up, exposing her to the cool air and Harry let out a guttural shriek as he lifted her limp body up, cradling her
His phone, dropped in the doorway, silently lit up the world.
He didn’t care if he ever read it.
Word Count: 1,100