Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
Has anyone else seen the post yet? The guy messages someone whose phone number is identical to his apart from the last digit, which is either one number up or down.
I scrolled past it like any other post you see on the internet, gave it a quick chuckle and continued like any other time. The idea was pretty absurd, I thought, especially with how easy it is to look someone up these days. Not to mention, you’d have the same area code, and there are a lot of lunatics out there looking for a reason.
Those thoughts came and went and before I knew it I was going about my day as usual, when I felt my pocket buzz. My hands were full of groceries at the time so I didn’t pay much attention to it but it continued to buzz at random intervals. When I finished putting everything away I was able to reach into my pocket and pull my phone out.
“Hello?” the text read. That was all. And of course, it was from a number I didn’t recognize. So I replied, asking who it was, already subscribed to the idea that someone had simply dialed the wrong number. I didn’t get a response.
I continued doing my chores without interruption until the sun began to set, and my pocket vibrated again. It startled me as it had been several hours since the individual’s first message. I figured they realized their mistake and just moved on, but there they were again. Another message.
“What time is it where you are?”
The message completely ignored my earlier inquiry, and I nearly decided to just block the number after that. I scoffed when I read the number to myself. It was the same area code as mine, so why were they asking me what time it was? That’s when I had the chance to go over the number in my head.
You don’t say your own number out loud very often, so it can be pretty easy not to recognize it immediately upon seeing it. But there it was, every digit in the string the same as mine, with the exception of the last one, which was a 4 instead of a 3. That was at least one mystery solved in my mind, and the realization gave me some slight relief.
I got a quick chuckle from it and decided to play along. Maybe I would get a good screengrab from it that people could share around. I replied that it’s the same time where I was that it should be for my number neighbor. I wanted the person to know that I was picking up what they were putting down, so to speak.
“Is it hot where you are?” a new text asked.
This message came in much faster. I was already getting the feeling that this person was either confused or was having a one-way conversation. Or perhaps they were just trying to lure me into saying something stupid so they could post it online.
It was the middle of summer, and it was quite warm out, but I wasn’t about to play into the person’s game. So I lied, replying that my A/C was running full blast due to the heat, and that I was pretty comfortable. Almost immediately the next message came through, the vibration from the notifications shaking my hand.
“Your A/C isn’t on,” it read.
I must have read the message about fifty times. With each letter engrained in my eyesight I felt a chill run along my body. The feeling wasn’t from the cool air blasting in from my air conditioner because as the text correctly stated, it wasn’t on. It was currently off because I had decided to just deal with the heat in an effort to lower my electric bill.
When I finally managed to lift my gaze from the glowing screen I quickly scanned around my living room, paying particular attention to the windows. With a faint beam of light still peeking over the horizon I tried to see if any shadows stood out. Before I let myself panic, I decided to probe further. Maybe it was just a lucky guess. I couldn’t have been the only person sweating it out to save a little money in my area code.
My fingers quickly tapped against the screen to reply. I made mention that it was a lucky guess. In jest, I asked where they were, noting how astronomical the odds of us being actual neighbors would be. Once again, almost the moment I sent the message, a notification lit up my screen. It was as if the person already had their message typed out.
“The backyard,” it said.
Another message quickly followed it, this time containing my home address. I didn’t stand there and stare at the message this time. Instead, I stuffed the phone into my pocket and started moving towards my number neighbor’s supposed location.
When I got close to the kitchen, which had a large sliding glass door that overlooked my backyard, I stopped. With my hands on the doorway, I slowly peeked around the corner to try and get a look at the yard. The first thing that became clear was that the motion light hadn’t been triggered, and since by then the sun was no longer offering light, it was difficult to make anything out.
I felt the rhythmic beating of my heart as I peered into the darkness trying to get my eyes to adjust. Either there was no one there, or whoever was there had been standing pretty damn still for a long time. My heart nearly stopped working altogether when my phone vibrated once again. My senses were so on edge it felt like my whole leg was trembling.
Ducking back behind the door frame, with the glow of my mobile’s screen the only source of light, I realized just how dark it had become.
“Don’t be afraid, we’re neighbors now,” the latest message read.
Just as I finished reading it, beams of light pierced through the dark and pressed against my back. The motion light had been triggered. Though my body was shaking and I wanted to shut down, I fought the urge and went to make a call to emergency services. But as soon as I clicked on the icon to dial a number I received another text.
It said: “We’re neighbors, Darcy.”
The message halted my movements. It would be one thing if the person knew my name, but so few people call me Darcy. My finger lowered to pressed against the number “9”.
“We’re neighbors, Darcy,” an identical message came through again. And when the notification for that text went away it repeated yet again. One after another the same text appeared at the top of my phone. I could feel the phone rattling consistently as the stream of notices struggled to come through.
They just kept coming in, faster than my phone could keep up with, the number of notifications at the top ever-growing, and quickly numbering in the hundreds. When I was finally able to press the “1” key, getting closer to making my call, I watched in horror as my input failed to register, and the phone began to lag. All the texts coming in were slowing my phone down dramatically.
My breath caught in my lungs after I’d pressed the final button, and I waited for the number I’d just called to appear on the screen. Finally, it did, and I let out the breath I’d been holding. With a relieved sigh, I pressed the green key to initiate the call. All the while, I continued to be bombarded with the same message, over and over again.
Before I could even bring the phone up to my ear, however, the screen flickered to darkness. I could barely see myself in the reflection of the blank screen. I could see myself just enough to watch the expression on my face drop. I was so caught up in my emotions I hadn’t even noticed how hot the phone in my hand had been getting.
The device was working overtime trying to get through all the messages. I cursed myself for not buying a newer phone model. With the phone overheating it must have just shut itself down or outright died. Either way, I was left completely alone and defenseless.
With the motion light having gone out again, I had no idea where my number neighbor was anymore. I clutched the phone and tried to steady my breathing, but my efforts to calm myself were cut short as I heard a distinct crash coming from my living room, the sound of something hard puncturing a window.
I recoiled in response to the impact and waited for something else to happen. If someone was going to climb in, they would have to make a bit of noise and give away their position, but I heard nothing. Only my hot, stifled breath filled the air. Then there was a click, a simple turning of a dial, that caused my noisy A/C unit to rattle to life and begin humming.
It occurred to me that any shuffling sounds from outside would easily be drowned out by the noise my air conditioner was producing. Quickly I turned and made my way to my back door, I thought if I was fast enough I could make it out before the person got back. The light hadn’t gone off yet, so I thought it was safe to make a run for it.
Approaching the sliding glass door, my hopes were quickly dashed. The light hadn’t gone off again because it had been dismantled. There it lay discarded on the patio, bits of it laying around like it had been mauled. Panic set in as I realized the broken light had company. An imposing figure, a man easily the size of a bear, stood just inches behind it.
My eyes shut tight, and I could feel thin veins of liquid being pushed out onto my cheeks. The man stepped forward and placed his handle on the door, and with one quick movement the wooden rod locking the door snapped and the door was pried open. The splintering of the rod sounded like bones being bent in half, which served to remind me of my own frailty.
There was no time to think or try to concoct a plan as the intruder started advancing. Only my instinct remained. My gut told me to turn and run out the front door as hard and as fast as my body would allow. With a pivot of my sweaty bare feet against hardwood floor, I turned my back to my assailant.
If I was more alert I would have noticed the lights and heard the yelling, but all I was focused on was survival. In the chorus, my body made a mad dash to the front door. Before I was able to reach the living room, however, I ran chest-first into something.
Out of instinct, I tried to fight against the obstacle. Large hands cupped mine and two figures moved past me. As my senses returned, I looked into the eyes of the man in front of me, and realized he was wearing a blue uniform, bathed in the light of red sirens.
The other two men that were shouting commands began to restrain my number neighbor as the officer who caught me tried to calm me down. With my cellphone still in my hand, I pressed the power button and repeatedly asked if my call made it through. I didn’t get an answer at the time.
My number neighbor didn’t put up much of a fight. He had no problem intimidating a girl all on her own, but with two pistols aiming his way he became a lot more submissive. Before I really got a good look at the guy they were pulling him out through my busted front door.
Officer McKinley, the one who I ran into helped my calm down and made sure I felt safe before he answered any questions. When the time was right, I asked again how the cops knew what was going on, and if my call managed to get through.
“We got a call but no one was on the other line, so we decided to come check it out,” Officer McKinley said with a gentle smile. I asked him why they would investigate a call without any information or how they knew what house to go to. “I’m the chief of police, so no one can really tell me no. After a while, you develop a hunch for these things,” he explained.
Even in the dim lighting, I could see the sharp features of his face. “What’s your number?” he questioned. I figured he needed to know for his report, so I read the number off. Once I finished reading it, he let out a booming laugh that echoed through the house.
“That’s crazy!” he said. “We’re number neighbors. Can you believe that?” He laughed as he held up his phone and my eyes scanned the number. It was exactly like mine except the last digit was a 4 instead of a 3. My stomach and his cheerful expression dropped in tandem and he looked down at his phone, quickly typing a message.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him until I felt the buzz from my pocket. A new message from the same number that had sent me over 300 of the same message.
But the newest one was different. It read:
“No one will ever believe you.”
McKinley held the phone he just messaged me with up to his face and twisted it left and right as he mouthed the word “burner” before smiling ear-to-ear. “Have a good night, Darcy,” he stated in a commanding tone, as he tipped my chin and flashed me a quick wink.
After everyone had left me with two broken doors and a smashed window, I decided to find a motel to sleep in until they were fixed. I didn’t want to risk going to my parents’ place.
I’m here now, in this shitty motel, unsure of my next move or how I to handle this. I don’t know who the larger man was but I know criminals will do anything to lower their sentence.
All I know is that my number neighbor can go fuck himself.
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