From Another World
Quentin was breathing hard and didn’t know why. A dream? He was lying on his mattress, looking for shards from a nightmare. But nothing was there. Awake, adrenaline-infused, he remained stretched out flat, dragging his hands across his face, rubbing dry eyes while gradually realizing that the telephone was singing.
The world made sense; he was awake for a reason.
An invisible syrup had filled the room. Every motion required effort. Putting feet to the floor and standing were long-term projects. His galloping breath plainly wasn’t feeding muscles. Buying time, he told the phone, “In a minute.”
The machine answered with silence.
Quentin collapsed on the sofa. What was the time? The old diver’s watch offered an impossible answer. Ten minutes before three in the morning. But which morning? Thursday insisted that it was the answer, except it was lying. The week had reached Friday, and he couldn’t seem to recall four minutes from his last four days of life.
Quentin sat back, ready for sleep on the hard sofa.
The phone sang again.
Surprise made him jump. His left hand grabbed the receiver and held tight, and he breathed deeply twice before lifting the receiver to his ear and mouth. Electricity greeted him. Long cables of copper whispered at him, and then a voice shouted, male and excited enough to sound angry.
One word sounded obscene.
Quentin assumed insults, which was why he told the hapless caller, “Fuck you, it’s late, don’t bother me.”
He hung up.
Then nervousness took hold, chewing at his belly, and there wasn’t any surprise when the telephone again broke into its little melody.
This time, he intended to ignore the caller.
Stubbornness failed him.
Into the same crackling current, he said nothing. Then too quietly to be heard, he said, “Yes.”
“I am sorry,” said a thickly accented voice. “My Latin. Poor.”
“Who are you?”
“Uncle. Her uncle.”
“Farah, uncle of.”
“I want to speak to Farah.”
Anger surged. “It’s the middle of the night here.”
“She’s not with you?” The voice was caked with bright despair.
“She's not here right now.”
“Find her. Right away, have her call uncle in Shiraz.”
“Okay. I will.”
A pause. Then the man asked, “Can I trust you, sir?”
“I’m Farah’s husband,” Quentin said. “Of course you can trust me.”