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Her phone rang a little after three o’clock in the morning. Bleary eyed, half asleep, she knocked it off the table as she tried to pick it up.

“Damn,” she muttered, leaning off the bed to pick it up. “Hello?”

There was silence on the line for a moment, then a clattering sound as if the person on the other end had dropped their handset.

“Very funny,” she said, angrily. “Yes, I dropped the phone, so what? Who is this? Doug? Stop messing about.”

There was a muffled scream on the other end of the line. She frowned and sat up.

“Hello? Who’s there? This isn’t funny.”

She listened, increasingly concerned, to scuffling sounds, another muffled scream, and finally a woman’s voice, distorted but terrified, begging for help before the phone went dead.

“Jesus…” She looked at her phone in shock for a moment. “Who the hell was that?”

Her hands shaking, she brought up the call log on her phone.

It showed no calls in the last twenty four hours.

“Jesus,” she muttered again. “I must be going crazy. Imagining things.”

She checked the call log again, but it still showed no calls. Just to be sure, she called back the last number.

A sleepy male voice answered. “Hello?”

“Doug? Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. I just… Sorry. Goodnight.”

She hung up hastily.

Confused, convinced she had dreamt it all, she lay down, went back to sleep, and forgot about the call.

Years later, she got a job at a nightclub. The hours were long, and she hated being ogled by drunks all night, but she needed the money. The bouncers kicked the last customers out as she put the last load of glasses into the washer. After wiping down all the tables, sweeping the floor, and taking the bottle bin out, she was finally free to leave.

The taxi rank was empty. She sighed. It wasn’t a long walk home, but at three o’clock in the morning it wasn’t one she was keen to take.

“Get a grip, woman,” she muttered. “The exercise’ll do you good.”

She pulled her jacket around her body as she strode from one patch of streetlamp light to the next. The city was spooky at night; the usually busy streets empty of cars, the shops closed, nothing but cold tarmac and yellow pools of light.

There were footsteps behind her. She quickened her pace and put her hands in her pocket. One hand closed around her keys, the other around her mobile. Trying not to look as if she was concerned, she dialed three nines, ready to hit send.

The footsteps behind her burst into a run, and she was tackled from behind. She hit the button as she fell to the ground, pulling her fist of keys from her pocket to defend herself.

A fist collided with the back of her head. She dropped the phone.

As her face was pushed violently into the tarmac she heard a familiar voice coming from the speaker of her phone.

“Very funny. Yes, I dropped the phone, so what? Who is this? Doug? Stop messing about.”

© Kari Fay