Jeff listens intently to my story, the occasional grunt of acknowledgement the only indication he was still on the line. When I finish there’s complete silence, nothing but the hum of the static through the connection. I wait, not sure what to expect.
He speaks slowly, clearly weighing each word carefully. “Is this a hoax?” he asks. “Surely you don’t think he’s hunting you down, do you? That just seems….extreme.”
I don’t know how to convince him this is real. The fear that quivers in my voice is real. The quaking in my legs as I stand in the parking lot of a small convenience store is real. The rolling in my stomach as panic threatens to set in is real. There is nothing more real than this.
“Jeff, I wouldn’t be calling you if I didn’t need help. Please, I need you to find someone. Don’t you have a buddy who was into Black Ops?”
After some back and forth about why the police won’t step in, he finally relents. Jeff is a good guy. This situation is just a little hard for him to comprehend. He promises to get back to me soon and then hangs up.
Checking my watch I see that it’s now 12:36. I pray he doesn’t take too long.
Needing to wait somewhere with cell service, I head into the store. There’s a lunch counter toward the back on the right hand side so I head that direction. There are a total of 12 stools at the old fashioned diner-style counter, two of which are occupied by men who look like locals. I choose a seat as far from them as possible and grab a menu that’s propped between the napkin holder and the ketchup bottle.
The sticky laminate protects a one page list of questionable food options. When a sweaty, balding man with a stained apron protecting his round beer belly comes over I order a burger with fries and a Diet Coke. This seems like the safest alternative given the dubious culinary skills of the cook/waiter in this backwoods establishment.
I also ask for a pen and paper. In my heart I’m a writer and it occurs to me that I will feel better if I start journaling the thoughts that overrun my mind these days. As I begin to write on the page ripped from a spiral notebook, I become totally engrossed, losing myself in something other than worry for the first time in weeks.
Words flow from me effortlessly, my hand gliding over the sheet with the grace of a ballerina. I pour every ounce of my emotions out through my fingers. The feeling is cathartic and the tension in my shoulders begins to ease slightly.
When the phone rings I grab it, eager to see what Jeff has found out. Glancing at the caller ID from habit, I find that it’s an unknown number. It’s not Jeff after all. Pausing briefly I debate whether to answer it.
I know I need to. It could be Jeff’s friend calling me directly. I can’t risk not answering, yet somewhere deep inside I know who it is. And terror grips me once again.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Hoax and is part of something longer I am working on.