“I’m scared Charlie please come”

Benedict George takes a trip into the surreal with a phone that refuses to leave its owner in peace

“Hey, you OK?”
“Fine, why?”
“You sounded weird on the phone.’”
Lo couldn’t recall speaking to Marty on the phone. It had been a rough Friday. She’d been tired that morning. Now she was finished, she thought. Homeward bound. On the bus, he asked her, “Going tomorrow?”
“To Charlie’s party? Of course.”
“Lo. Get over him.”
“Marty. I’m over him.” She wasn’t. They laughed. On her phone, she found Facebook. She’d seen Charlie leaving school with those other girls. He was not online.

“You text too much.”
“Actually, I don’t. I Facebook.”
“You text me.” She could have argued, but the bus had reached her stop. She said she’d see Marty at the party. When she got into her house, she sat in kitchen. Her sister came in and said, “You’re veggie, aren’t you?”

“What?”
“I can get quorn. For the Bolognese.” “Bolognese?”
“You said you wanted Bolognese.”
“When?”
“You texted me. I’m making Bolognese for dinner.”
“Oh. OK.” She wasn’t against Bolognese, but she hadn’t asked for it. She hadn’t texted her sister. At least, she didn’t remember it. As a rule, she didn’t text, she Facebooked. Marty had said she texted too. Was she texting without realising? Her phone buzzed. It was Charlie.

‘Call me.’

She couldn’t believe it. She and Charlie weren’t close. They didn’t demanded calls. Maybe he wasn’t with those girls, maybe he’d gone home. And sat in his room wishing Lo would call him… She ran upstairs. She sat on her bed and called him.

“Hey. What’s up?” This was good. She was controlling her excitement.
“Hi, Lottie. Not much.”
“What did you want to talk about?”
“What do you mean?”
“You told me to call you.”
“When?”
“Just now.”
“No I didn’t. Maybe it was someone else?”

“Oh. Maybe. Sorry.” She hung up, too abruptly. Embarrassing. She looked at her texts. There was a text from Charlie, saying Call me. What was his problem? Was it a joke? Were the other girls with him, laughing at Lo? She called Marty.

“I think Charlie just pranked me. It wasn’t funny, it was mean, and embarrassing. I don’t know whether to be annoyed. Maybe he expected…” Marty interrupted.

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“Right, so that’s why you’re not coming tomorrow.”

“What?”

“Why you won’t come to Charlie’s party.”

“I am coming.”

“You just texted that you weren’t. It was another example of you texting.”

“I don’t text. I didn’t text. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So are you asking Charlie to come round tonight?” She half laughed.

“Absolutely not. What are you on about?”

“You said in the text. I said it was a mistake. Don’t you remember this?”

“Let’s talk later, Marty.” She hung up abruptly again. She was worried, losing memories alarmingly fast. She’d considered inviting Charlie over. She regretted it, despite not remembering it. She shouted for her mum. No reply. Nor when she tried her dad. They were out. Sister? She must have gone out for quorn. Her phone flashed.

‘WHAT??! on my way stay put don’t move.’

It was from Charlie. She opened her phone and found texts. She had texted him.

‘Charlie please come, there’s someone here in my room.’

‘Im rly uncomfortable.’
‘Im scared charlie please come.’

She looked up at her room. There was no one but her. Of course. What was she doing? Inventing danger to get Charlie round? Forgetting she’d done it? She typed out, ‘hey charlie, sorry to worry you, im fine!! my sister was just messing around with my phone. see you tomorrow! :D’ She read it over. Her best damage control. She pressed send. She looked around her emp- ty room again. Her eyes fell back on her phone. In place of her explanatory message, she saw, I think shes gonna hurt me charlie HURRY UP. Fingers faltering, she called Marty again. He started speaking straightaway.
“No, Lo. I don’t want to talk to you. Don’t call me. I’ll see you Monday.” He shut the line. Her knees failed. She felt as though her stomach had shrunk. She ran through her contacts, trying her mum, then her dad, but their voicemail recordings pre-empted ringing. She sat absolutely still, staring at her phone with a new mistrust, still listening intently to the soundlessness of her room. Her phone flashed.

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‘Lottie help me im at the back of the sports centre car park please come.’

‘I think shes coming.’
‘Shes here.’


Lo threw herself through her empty house, forced her shoes on and burst out into the street. It was one of those savage January nights, when winter’s chill had lost the charm of Christmas and settled down to spoiling the New Year. She flew through barely perceptible rainfall to the sports centre three streets away. She stopped in the empty car park. She looked around wildly. Hedges surrounded. She called for Charlie. Nothing. She almost dropped her phone when it rang.

“Charlie? Where are you? I’m here.”

“I’m at yours, Lottie. Your mum let me in. What’s going on?” Lo couldn’t think. She had scraped her fingers picking up her phone and they stung where she touched it.

“I’m sorry. I’ll be in two minutes.”
“Are you OK? What’s happening?”
“I’ll see you in a minute. I’ll be OK, thanks.” For the third time, she hung up without waiting for goodbye. She dropped her phone. She stamped her foot on it, until the pieces couldn’t be recognised. She picked them up and flung them, one by one, into the hedges. That phone had gone wrong, malfunctioned. She’d say she lost it. She had enough money saved for a new one. Back at her house, she gave Charlie the story about her sister messing around. She apologised and thanked him. She couldn’t help noticing how quickly he had responded to the call for help. She told him she was excited about his party. He said, “So am I.” He smiled and left. She started on the stairs. She went to bed at once, more exhausted than ever. As her mind wandered into the curious hallucinations of half-sleep, she thought she heard her mum come into her room and a tiny knock on her bedside table. She even caught words.

“Darling, I found your phone.”