Long Distance Call

Voice Card  -  Volume 13  -  John Card Number 2  -  Fri, Mar 23, 1990 08:25 PM

This is a response to Vol 12 John 3 ("Biography of Amber Ducket")...

[This is part five of "Indefinite Sabbatical"]

On November 19, Fastbinder dials the emergency number on the payphone.

"What is the nature of your emergency?"

"I've got a rope around my neck and I'm running out of time." Even as he said it, Emil winced. The nature of his emergency was hard to explain.

"Police, Fire, or Ambulance?"

"I'm in an attic and I'm caught in a coin operated tether."

"A coin operated what?"

"It's a kind of vending machine. Please hurry!"

"I'm transferring your call. Please hold." Emil watched the rope slither across the floor. Grendal was by the chair, twitching in his sleep.

"Advanced Vending Service & Repair, Amber speaking."

"NO! It can't be!"

"Emil? Is that you? How nice of you to call!"

"I saved for two weeks to make this call."

"I don't have much time - gotta get back up to the University. What can I do for you?"

"Damn it! There's a rope around my neck. I need help."

"You're forty five years old, Emil. You've got to learn to take care of yourself."

"But you don't know what it's like up here. It gets real crazy sometimes. I feel these sudden yearnings, but I don't know what for, you know?"

"Maybe I could get you a pay TV. Would you like that?"

"I'm out of time here."

"I understand."

These final words came just as the receiver flew from his outstretched hand and fell to the ground. It was as if Amber had fallen off a cliff and yelled up to him as she fell: I understaaaaaaaand! And as he fell into the recliner, red around the neck and breathing hard, it occurred to him that he couldn't even remember what his old apartment looked like.

Before he had sometimes toyed with the idea that all of this was a dream, especially Amber. He told himself that Amber was a creature of his own subconscious, a demon from his childhood. He was even able to convince himself that the monotonous clunk of coins into the bucket was really the ticking of his alarm clock and that inevitably the alarm would go off and he would wake up in his own lonely bed.

But now it hit him that, if anything, his old life was the dream, and that the chair and the cat and every last machine in the attic was absolutely and undeniably real.