by Jeremy C. North
“Hello, you’ve reached Nevada Roadside Assistance. Addison speaking. How can I help you today?”
My eyes drift lazily around the call centre floor as I recite my customer service spiel into the headset. It’s just my luck that I’m back here again, working a Saturday. With a grimace, I remind myself that—at the very least—I’m not saddled with the night shift like Lena is.
“Oh hello there, dear” warbles what I assume to be a middle-aged man on the other end of the phone. “Thank you ever so much for accepting my call. I was wondering if, perchance, you’d be able to help me out of the predicament I find myself in today?”
Immediately, I realise that I’m being faced with one of two possibilities. I’m either going to have to hand-hold some hapless nut-job through the fundamentals of using a telephone, or this is a prank call. Either way, I’m convinced—if I never answer another phone ever again, it’ll be too soon.
“That’s what I’m here for, sir” I respond, quickly resuming my perky diction. “What seems to be troubling you?”
The caller’s voice undulates up and down with whimsy, as if he were recounting an anecdote to a dinner party instead of frustrating an underpaid shift worker.
“Dearie me—I’m afraid I’ve gone and gotten myself stuck. Not by my own volition, mind you. It was those dratted youth who regrettably waylaid my plans.”
My brows furrow cynically.
“Sir—just to make sure that I understand correctly—you’re saying you’ve been the victim of a…hit-and-run? Have you contacted your local authorities?”
“Oh no, that shan’t be necessary!” counters the jovial voice. “Youth will be youth, I suppose. Anyhow, fate shall catch up to the rapscallions who wronged me in fair time.”
Using all of my remaining professionalism, I resist the urge to mute the call and burst out laughing. My cubicle-mate, Terry, would get a kick out of this guy. He lives for crackpot callers—especially ones that sound as if they were plucked straight out of the 18th century.
“Could I please grab your name, sir?” I ask.
“Giles, dear. You can go ahead and call me Mr Giles.”
“Alrighty, Mr Giles—are you currently registered with Nevada Roadside Assistance?”
“Hmm…I don’t think so, dear. I do hope that shan’t be a complication in the task of my retrieval.”
“That’s…okay. I’m just letting you know that members have a discounted rate on roadside services, in case you’d like to sign up. Will you be needing a tow truck or a road service from us today?”
“I’m honestly not too sure, dear” falters Mr Giles, a hint of unsureness appearing in his otherwise calm demeanour. “I imagine I’ll require a great deal of force to unsheathe me from my current surrounds. Perhaps, an extraction machine—if that permits?”
“A tow truck job it is, then.”
By now, I’ve realised that the sooner I get this done, the sooner I can get onto another call. The last thing I need is management jumping down my throat for not reaching my KPIs again.
“I’m going to go ahead and dispatch a driver to your location” I explain, pulling up the list of company tow trucks on the screen. “Are you currently by your vehicle?”
“My vehicle…ah, yes. Indeed, I’m presently within it, dear. I’m afraid that it’s fallen into a…ravine. A pit of sorts.”
“Uh huh. And where is your vehicle currently located?”
“Oh my…I’m not absolutely certain of the name of the road. But I can offer you exact coordinates, however.”
I exhale my irritation. Coordinates? How on Earth does this putz know his exact coordinates but have no idea what road he’s stalled on?
“Mr Giles, that isn’t how we usually—”
“I can pay any price you demand, my dear!” Mr Giles yelps, cutting me off mid-sentence. “Please, if you cannot rescue me, I…I don’t know what I shall do.”
Sighing, I relent and jot down the long string of digits he repeats back to me. What pops up on the map corresponds to a bluff next to a state highway in Nye county. It’s a bit out of the way from where we usually operate—but hardly the farthest we’ve ever sent a tow truck before.
“That looks doable, Mr Giles. Now—what type of vehicle are you driving?”
Detail by detail, I tie up the remaining loose ends of the call, eager to finish this mess and attend to the call queue.
“Well, Mr Giles,” I conclude, “we can send someone out to your location in the next two hours. Please be advised that you’ll need to fill out some registration documents upon the truck’s arrival to finalise your service. If you’ll hold for just a moment while I contact a driver, we can get your vehicle freed ASAP.”
“Thank you so very much for your aid today, Ms Portsmith” glows Mr Giles. “I am certain this will be a day to remember.”
With a click of a button, Mr Giles’ old-timey drawl is replaced by the hold music. I let out a small sigh of relief—to think I was expecting that one call to suck up the whole afternoon.
Yet, even though he’s no longer on the line, I can’t quite shake the lingering feeling of Mr Giles’ presence. I don’t know what, but there was just something off about that strange man and his ominous parting words, some miniscule detail that I can’t pinpoint.
Just as I’m about to put out a call to a company tow truck—out of nowhere—it hits me. My blood runs cold at the realisation, the sudden epiphany throwing me into momentary dizziness. Reluctantly, my quivering finger returns to the hold button.
“Mr Giles? I…I never told you my last name.”
Part of me had expected Mr Giles to pipe up and insist that—in fact—I had told him my surname. For him to put my mind at ease and continue the call as if nothing unusual had happened. Hell, I might have even expected him to get angry at my accusation and demand to speak to my manager. These were all normal, earthly scenarios that I—anyone—would be used to experiencing.
What I hadn’t expected was for him to laugh.
A cruel, twisted, inhuman laughter rattles down the other end of the phone in a sea of octaves. Upon hearing it, I feel the instinctual desire to throw my headset across the room. Instead, shock keeps it firmly on my head.
“Of course I know your name, dear” this new, grating voice hisses. “I know everything there is to know about you mortal insects.”
The being on the phone with me no longer resembles anything I’d consider human. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything remotely like it before, even in movies. Horrified, I listen on as the voice sheds its kind façade and degenerates further and further into malice.
“To think I came so close to achieving my goal at last. Such an unfortunate slip of the tongue—not that I myself possess such a fragile human appendage”
This definitely has to be a prank call. Someone that I know is calling the line to try and screw with me—I’m sure of it. But my mind is coming up blank for anyone that hates me enough to go through all this effort, just to creep me out.
“You believe my existence to be a prank?” sneers the voice knowingly, sending me knocking over my coffee flask with its mental intrusion. “Oh, the only foolery here is you mortals thinking you could ever contain me.”
Mustering up what little confidence I have left, I decide to face this absurdity head on.
“Say…say what you’re telling me is true” I utter under my breath. “Say I don’t drop this call right now and phone the police on your ass. What are you? Where are you from?”
The voice squeals with delight—a guttural mixture of barnyard animal noises—as if it had been waiting this entire call for me to ask those questions.
“Curious, are we? I would be too, my dear, if in the presence of such majesty. I hail from an infernal dimension—a realm over which I held complete, merciless dominion. I was known as Gilestrophenes the Deafening, Bringer of Chaos and Unrelenting Torment. Where I reigned, your kind suffered.”
On some level, I’m aware that the story I’m hearing is insane. Am I seriously talking to a voice on the phone as if it’s a transdimensional eldritch god? But, against what logic would dictate, I remain rapt with attention as the abominable speaker drones on.
“Alas—centuries ago, foolish mortals amongst your ranks mistakenly summoned me to this plain. Upon my materialisation, they soon realised the magnitude of their transgression, the power I held to decimate your society. Fearing my wrath, the amateur sorcerers entombed me before I could resume my rule as God—in the very temple they retrieved me in, for the price of their lives.”
“And what a shame that was” adds Gilestrophenes fiendishly. “I was so looking forward to thanking them.”
Here, it pauses and descends into impish cackles reminiscent of drumming knives. I notice a cold sweat starting to creep down my forehead.
“Hey—are you alright?”
Terry’s concerned voice sounds from beside me. I promptly realise that my expression has been contorted in one of abject fear for the past two minutes. Half-heartedly, I mute the dialler and try to deflect from the situation.
“Yeah, uh, definitely—it’s just one of those calls” I reassure my co-worker with a weak smile. “I’ll be fine, Terry.”
“You shouldn’t tell lies, Addison Portsmith” taunts Gilestrophenes, popping back into my muted headset without warning.
“If you’re imprisoned, then how are you calling me, huh?!” I fire back at the entity. Monstrous deity or not, this creature was testing my patience.
“Ah—I am but for the innovation of humanity. When you industrious creatures invented telephone technology, I was gifted an opportunity. Every five decades, I amass enough power to intercept one of your primitive cellular devices. Gilestrophenes calls and humans swarm—like moths to a flame.”
By now my body is stiff with anger. I’ve had enough of this aberration threatening me and dangling the fate of my species over my head. For the first time in the past few minutes, I feel empowered.
“Looks like you wasted your call then, ‘Bringer of Bullshit’!” I shout, barely bothering to conceal my outburst from the staring onlookers anymore. “I’m not sending anyone your way, and you can consider yourself blacklisted from ever calling this company again! Good luck finding someone to drag you out of your pit—fifty years from now.”
Entirely unfazed by my fury, Gilestrophenes instead adopts the sing-song tone of the company slogan.
“Oh, I needn’t worry about that. ‘Come rain or shine, with Nevada Roadside Assistance, freedom is only a matter of time!’”
“Bye, cretin. I’m hanging u—”
“One more thing, dear!” Gilestrophenes trills unexpectedly. “I recall you mentioning that, if you never answered another phone ever again, it would be too soon? I simply wanted to add—what a marvelous sentiment.”
The hell god’s roaring laughter instantly overwhelms my headset—a cacophony of immeasurable volume—as the raw force of a hurricane is funneled directly through the speakers. Amidst this split-second whirlwind of audio, I hear devastation—the sounds of houses splintering apart, vehicles smashing together, humans howling in unremitting terror.
And then I hear nothing.
Suddenly, I feel the sound vanish from my world, seemingly siphoned right out of my eardrums. I topple from my chair, and my headset clatters to the ground with me. I’m vaguely aware of my panicked response to my all-encompassing deafness, but I hear none of the hysteria—only glimpse reactions to it on the faces of my steadily amassing colleagues.
In the void of my empty screams, I don’t even notice the line go dead on the last call I’d ever make.
About the Author
Jeremy C. North is an author of short stories encompassing horror, sci-fi and melodrama. His writing has made its way onto podcasts such as The NoSleep Podcast and Creepypodden, and into publications such as Ink & Sword Magazine and The Book of No Sleep. Besides writing, Jeremy enjoys growing his hair to absurd lengths and getting strange but cliché tattoos.