Harsh ringing split the blessed calm of his dream and he woke with a start, heart threatening to choke his throat closed. Tanim glanced through the darkness to where his cell phone buzzed on the nightstand. For a moment his fingers hesitated over the flashing phone, then seemed to move of their own accord to take the call before it went to voice mail. Tanim lifted the phone to his ear as he swallowed down a cold lump in his throat. He didn’t bother to say hello. The flat, empty voice on the other end expected no greeting.
“I’m cold. It’s dark here.”
Tanim let out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. He spoke slowly, willing his own voice to portray a calm he could not feel.
“You need to go home, Daren.”
“I can’t. I’m lost. I don’t remember how to get back.”
The man squeezed his eyes shut until bright colors blossomed behind his eyelids. He commanded his fingers to unclench from around the phone and hang up yet they wouldn’t obey. Even his traitorous lips moved despite his efforts to remain silent.
“Try harder, Daren. You need to remember.”
“Will you come pick me up?”
It was not quite a plea, but the helplessness in those words stirred up the old ache, the old longing to bleed himself dry if such a sacrifice were required to protect the one he loved. Tanim tugged at his hair as he replied in a useless attempt to trump heartbreak with physical pain.
“No, darling. I can’t.”
“Then I’ll come to you. What’s your address? I’ve forgotten again.”
Goosebumps pricked Tanim’s arms, fingers frozen mid-pull, but his voice managed to veil the chill unease which crept over him.
“451 Locke Street. Number three. You know that.”
The silence on the other end of the line lasted so long Tanim was sure the call had been cut despite the faint hiss of static. When the voice finally spoke again it was as if their previous conversation had never taken place.
“It’s so dark here. I can’t find my way back.”
And then the line truly went dead. Tanim stared at the black, cracked screen of the cell phone for several minutes but never heard a dial tone. Not that he had expected one; the phone hadn’t worked in months, its screen splintered and battery pack crushed. Shuddering, Tanim hurled the useless phone across the room and buried his head in his hands.
Of course the address was a fake. He used a different address every time and never once had the voice on the other end of the line called his bluff. Tanim didn’t know what specter spoke with his dead lover’s voice, but he had no intention of leading it to his home.