Influence of Other VoicesAuthor:
They just let it ring, so he didn’t even try them now, just called me straight away.Notes:
Un-betad. And quite possibly the worst thing I've ever written.
I was lacking sleep for a number of reasons. The dryer on the upstairs landing was going, as the maid had forgotten to do the last load of laundry and thrown it in before she left. Hulking machine made the whole floor vibrate. I couldn’t sleep. Sore back, courtesy of having to carry in the new TV the label had delivered this afternoon. I really should have been able to sleep, what with things going so well. Maybe I knew I’d be woken up in a few minutes anyway, because I was the only one of the guys who would answer the phone.
Really, I was the only one. They just let it ring, so he didn’t even try them now, just called me straight away. Same number every time, same name, but the voices, so many fucking voices and stories that I’d rather not deal with at three in the morning. Or rather not deal with at all.
The pillow next to me glowed green and I heard a muffled humming. Rolled over, shoved my hand under the pillow and grabbed my cell phone.
“Mmhmm,” I said, barely holding the phone to my ear.
“Hey Brad, it’s Mike, I just wanted to warn you-”
“I know it’s you, man.”
“Right. Okay. Well, um, I wanted to say, don’t answer your door if someone knocks, okay?”
“Why’s that?” I said, because when you’re tired, playing along is easier than starting rational arguments with the alter egos of unstable people.
“Because. I think they’re coming tonight,” Mike said.
“I think you’re right, they might just come tonight. Thanks for the warning, man.”
“Seriously, don’t open your door, alright? For anyone.”
I was eager to get back to my fruitless attempts at sleep. “I definitely won’t, thanks Mike.”
The album was selling well. Even better than the last one, which I didn’t think any of us expected. With this came a lot more friends and business partners and this quiet neighborhood that I had a moderate appreciation for, and this house, which was so big you heard every sigh and creak of its personality. Incredulously, I thought the humming air conditioner was stopping me from falling asleep.
My phone lit up and played an MC Hammer song (I remembered Chester messing with it earlier that evening), and I snatched it off the nightstand.
“Brad, man, can you believe I forgot to listen to that demo you gave me yesterday? It must have totally slipped my mind or something.”
“That’s okay, man, I’ll play it for you at practice tomorrow.”
“And if tomorrow never comes? I really should have listened to it.”
“It’s not a big deal, Mike, we can work on it later.”
“Damn, I just…”
I fingered a tear in my shirt. It was a clean shirt, other than that tear.
“Tomorrow,” I said. “I have to rerecord part of it anyway. Okay?”
“Okay,” Mike said.
Three nights later, I was in a jocular mood and still couldn’t sleep. And my phone was on the floor, barely within reach. The stretch hurt my arm.
“Hey Mike, how’s it going?”
“Brad, dude, you need to duct tape your windows and stuff.”
“Hey, did I ever tell you I accidentally opened the door last night?” I joked. “Strange thing, I must have not been thinking right. Anyway, there was no one there, except a robe and some shoes. Weird, huh?”
“Okay, that’s fine, but seriously, start taping up. Everything, all the cracks in the windows, the doors. I’m not trying to freak you out or anything, but if you don’t do it fast enough, it might get in.”
“What might get in?”
“I think the air is supposed to get in, Mike, it’s how we breathe.”
“You know what I mean, Brad, you’ve been watching the same news I have.”
I sighed, hating when he grounded it so far in reality that it was impossible for me to ignore that this was not normal, that this was beyond the game I often pretended it was in my half-sleep state.
“I’m way ahead of you, man,” I said. “Already got the downstairs fully taped, now I just have to do the top floor now and then-”
“Don’t forget the attic. That’s the mistake most people make, they forget the attic and the air-”
“I won’t forget the attic,” I said, lazily swinging my arm back and forth over the edge of the bed.
Very much after three, this time. I grope on the floor for it again.
“Brad, we never went out to celebrate.”
“The album. We were gonna go out to that new place, remember?”
I sighed. “Tomorrow, man.”
“We should go now.”
“Mike, the place isn’t gonna be open at three in the morning.”
“I feel like you’re not listening,” Mike said, and hung up. And I kind of felt like he was right.
He didn’t call for two weeks. I slept relatively normally and became immersed in the new TV. Chester called one morning, kind of early given his tendency to sleep in.
“I got a call from Mike last night,” he said. “Did you know he’s sleeping on his roof?”
“The roof? Why?”
“I don’t know, Brad, he was kind of freaking me out. Talking about the people in his house getting to him. To the point where he had to sleep on the roof, apparently.”
“Jesus, that’s…I don’t even know what…”
But I did know, it only seemed a step up from what I’d come to see as normal in the middle of every night.
“I’ll call him,” I said. Put down the phone and picked it up again to dial Mike’s number, then put it down instead. Waited a few hours and a few more hours, and waited a long time until it got dark and quiet, before I called him, around three in the morning.
There was a click and a tentative, “Hey,” on the other end.
“I just want you to know that you can call me,” I said. “You can call me, pretty much whenever, and we can talk. I won’t mind it, I’ll enjoy it, really. The calls are okay. But I want you to get off the roof and stop going up there.”
“Yeah. You can call, but you have to stop that.”
A pause. “I’ll get off the roof,” he said.
“Good. I’ll talk to you later then.”Fin