The stench from Rizzo’s grimy coat wafted past the lunchtime crowd awaiting the crosswalk light. He sat propped up against the building, oblivious to their stares and harsh comments. A cell phone began to ring, and seemed to originate in a trash can chained to the light pole. When no one answered it, he struggled to his feet.
The light changed however, and he had to push his way through the surge of oncoming pedestrians. Rizzo dug through the discarded newspapers and soggy lunch bags. Finding a half-eaten sandwich, he shoved it in his mouth and continued foraging. Near the bottom, he found a black, rectangular phone and placed it to his ear.
“Hello, Rizzo,” a sultry voice replied. “I’ve been trying to contact you for days.”
“You must be mistaken. I just found this . . ., hey, wait a minute! How do you know my name?”
“That’s not important,” she replied.
Rizzo glanced around, grinning sheepishly and looking for a hidden television camera.
“Okay, is this one of those Punk’d show pranks, or something?”
“Rizzo!” the voice demanded. “Be quiet and listen. The next time I call, you answer and do not hang up until I tell you otherwise. Understand?”
The phone went dead. Rizzo started to throw it back into the trashcan, and then thought, what the hell, it’s a free phone, and slid it into his pocket. Returning to the flophouse where he rented a room, he threw it in the dresser drawer and forgot about it.
In the middle of the night, the phone’s incessant ringing woke him. Rizzo buried his head beneath his pillow, but finally answered when the ringing.
“Hello,” he muttered.
“Hello Rizzo, I’m so pleased you decided not to throw me back into the trash. Now we can talk freely.”
“Look, who are you?” Rizzo asked, “And how did you know I would find the phone?”
“Who and how are irrelevant. What IS important is you do as you are instructed. You do want to be rich, don’t you?”
She rattled off a series of numbers. “Buy a lottery ticket with these numbers today.”
He did, and won five thousand dollars. Every few days he received a phone call and given a series of numbers.
After three months, Rizzo won over a hundred thousand dollars. He continued to receive phone calls giving him winning numbers, and he moved to another flophouse with a private bathroom and a little more security. He continued to buy his daily bottle of Muscatel without having to panhandle, and spent evenings either bar hopping or visiting massage parlors.
Late one night, the cell phone rang.
“Hello Rizzo,” she said, sounding quiet and weak.
“What’s wrong?” He asked. “Are you okay?”
“No, Rizzo. My battery is running down and I feel so tired. I need recharging. Will you help me?”
“Of course!” Rizzo said, concerned his meal ticket might be in jeopardy. “What do you want me to do? I’ll buy a charger to energize you, if you want, or another long life battery. What size do you need?”
Her voice began to fade and she whispered, “Chargers won’t do any good. Please Rizzo, just hold me close, and talk to me.”
Rizzo’s hand trembled as he held the phone to his ear. “Of course. I want to help you.”
“I know, and I can’t wait any longer.”
“Wait any longer for what?”
“For you,” she whispered. “I want you to always be a part of me.”
A low piercing, screech filled the receiver, and pierced his eardrums. The sound increased in crescendo, and the prickly feeling in his head became a stabbing pain. His head seemed to be sucked against the earpiece, and Rizzo stumbled around the room, trying to pull it away.”
“Let go!” he screamed.
Rizzo felt something clawing at his scalp. He fell to the floor, writhing in pain, and grabbing at the scaly tendrils growing out of the phone.
They burrowed into his skull and crept through his body, consuming him from within. After the horrific screams stopped, the spiderlike tentacles retreated, leaving a gelatinous pool of skin and bones in its wake. The pulsating, engorged phone skittered into the night through an open window.
A month later, a bag lady foraging through a dumpster heard something ringing. She found a black cell phone buried in the trash and placed it against her ear.
“Hello Cheryl,” A voice resembling Rizzo’s replied, “I’ve been trying to contact you for days.”
©2011 Hal Kempka
Hal Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Flashes in the Dark, Ascent Aspirations, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Night to Dawn, Black Lantern, Black Petals, Microhorror, and Thrillers Killers and Chillers among numerous others. Anthologies include Post Mortem Press: Shadow Play, Pill Hill Press: Rotting Tales, and Blood bound Books: Seasons in the Abyss. He is a FlashXer flash fiction workshop member and lives in Southern California. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org