The Brick

A Ghost Story

In the head. In the back of the head. Thatís how it hit him. It was a brick... raw, broken, with enough of an edge to crush through his skull. A weapon suitable for any early hominid fleeing hunger or fleeing a snarling leopard. Into his skull. The sound of greasy frogs sliding beneath his feet. The sudden smell of burnt popcorn. Then silence.

A second brick fell. As he rolled off the sofa and stumbled toward the phone... a third.

Several late, grueling nights working on the Ogilvie rebranding account had left him feeling exhausted down to his kidneys. Only a few minutes of sweet repose would have been a great help before having to go back to the computer. But then the fucking phone.

Just as he reached for it he thought of the woman heíd chatted up at the gym the other day and who had his number. Maybe.

“Is Mr. Rozenzw... there? I mean Rozen...”

Ten years of living in New York and now San Francisco had made him hear the callerís Southern accent as somewhat beneath human. Surely real people donít talk like this.

“I donít do business with telemarketers under any circumstances,” he pronounced officiously.

“Oh, Iím not a telemarketer, sir, weíre just doing a quick survey to see...”

“No,” he shot back. “What makes you think you have the right to come into my space like this?”

“Well, sir, I make 60,000 dollars a year doing it, thatís why.”

A fiendish thought sprang into his mind. Iíll give this backwoods bitch something to work on.

“Do you believe in God and Jesus?”

“Yessir, I do.”

“Then you must also believe in Satan, the Adversary.”

Silence.

“Yessir”

“Then hear this,” he said in a somber tone that heíd learnt attending a Greek Orthodox church with his best friend as a kid. “The third night from now, you will meet an evil greater than any youíve ever seen. Beware the constant drone of hell.”

Silence once more.

“Beware the constant drone of hell,” he intoned again in a nauseously threatening voice, and hung up.


A bird pecked merrily at Darleneís scalp.

Iím driving now, she thought. No birds possible. Why is it there?

Then the second ring.

Oh, not a bird. A phone ringing. Thatís not a cell phone. Iím driving now. Why is it there?

The third ring, closer this time, and longer.

Where is that? Why is it there?

Again the ringing. Longer this time still. And sooner.

Why is it there? Whatís happening?

She shut the country music off the radio. Her monster-sized pickup truck strode along the wooded-mountain road in breathless early-morning peace.

Then another ring and two more in close succession. Longer and sooner each time.

A white terror gripped her at the throat. Oh Jesus God, she thought. Why is it there?

She pulled the truck off the road and reached anxiously into the glove compartment for a bible. A middle-aged man reached for his heart pills as the throbbing rose snidely in his left arm. The bible was missing.

But the Lord is my shepherd, she whispered hoarsely. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down... reciting, reciting from memory, spells against spells.

Another ring and another. Sooner. Longer.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. Oh blessed Jesus Father, where is that ringing coming from?

Again, one and another, but closer, closer. Less lovingkindness standing between them.

Donít let them come at once. Donít let the rings join into one, Lord Jesus, please God. That is evil.

Sooner. Longer.

Now only a brief instant of silence between rings. Only a small, sweet breath in which to find respite.

He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me.

Another ring. Long. Deliriously long.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his nameís sake.

She took the bends in the Kentucky mountain road a bit faster each time the ringing struck.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

The ringing again, only a sliver between now and again. Only a sliver of precious light separating one from the next. Separating heaven from the constant drone hell.

Beware the constant drone of hell.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

One more turn and she arrived at work.

The ringing took no mercy.

All dark in the parking lot. The early shift hadnít begun showing up yet.

She ran from the truck toward the back of the building.

The ringing came now in a sudden, sweeping, continuous drone of sinister, whimpering sorrow. No remorse. Constant droning.

Ringing, ringing. Hellful ringing. Meat cracked and torn. Stinking. Sneering. Hell full of ringing.

The boss stepped out of his pillowy SUV and strode decisively toward the back of the building, just as she came round the corner and lunged toward him. He heard her howl but had no time to turn around.

In the head. In the back of the head. Thatís how it hit him. It was a brick... raw, broken, with enough of an edge to crush through his skull. A weapon suitable for any early hominid fleeing hunger or fleeing a snarling leopard. Into his skull. The sound of greasy frogs sliding beneath his feet. The sudden smell of burnt popcorn. Then silence.


Michael Webb, October 31, 2004

home ]