You’re in the kitchen making dinner, listening to one of your favorite albums in your headphones because the neighbor is out mowing the lawn yet again. Chopping up the potatoes, singing along because the house is empty, still, and then the music stops.
You frown, wipe your hands off quickly, and pull your phone out of your pocket. Oh, it’s a call. Your area code, but unknown number. You shrug and pick up. “Hello?”
A woman’s voice you don’t recognize says, “Is Sandy there?”
“No, sorry, you must have the wrong number.” For some reason you’ve been getting a lot of these lately. You rattle off your number.
“Oh, shoot, you’re right. I should have known! You don’t sound like a Sandy,” she says.
“Yup, have a nice day…” And you’re about to hang up when a moment of deja vu makes you stop and wait. Didn’t this exact conversation just happen recently? You could swear that ‘You don’t sound like a Sandy’ line is just too familiar. Where did you hear that?
Then her voice breaks your reverie. “Umm, sorry. You still there?” She says ‘still’ with a slight drawl, but you can’t place the accent.
“Yeah, uhh.” You blink. “You want something?”
“What… what’s the date? I mean I know this sounds like a prank call…” But it doesn’t. She sounds earnest, and a bit stressed out.
“Uhh, I’m not sure. It’s Sunday. Like the twentieth or something, maybe?”
“But it’s… it’s 2017 where you are, yeah?”
“Look lady–” And just as you’re about to yell at her for messing with you, a strange echoing series of clicks interrupt you, rhythmic and almost musical, but loud and getting louder. They get so loud that she’s saying something you can’t hear at all beneath the noise.
“Gah!” you yell, as you rip the earbuds from your ears. Your phone shouldn’t be even able to get that loud. You stand there, weirdly embarrassed, staring at the wires as they sit placidly on the waiting pile of chopped potatoes.
The mower next door buzzes. You can hear something coming out of the headphones. Oh, right… it’s the album you were listening to before. You pop the earbuds back in, pick up the knife, and slice the onion down the center.
And then the music stops again. Another call. Same number. You have to confess to yourself that you’re kind of curious. Even if it’s a prank, she’s at least entertaining.
So you answer it. “Hello?”
“Is Sandy there?” It’s the same woman.
“No, you still have the wrong number.”
“And you still don’t sound like a Sandy,” she says.
“Well, it’s 2017 still, if that’s what you’re after.”
“Who’s president? Trump, right?” Her voice sounds like she’s almost too nervous to ask it.
You sigh. “Yeah, sad as that is, right?” Your reply comes out of your mouth before you realize how strange her question is. Then a strange whooshing noise comes across the line, and you hear what sounds like an argument in the background.
“Listen, Frank,” a man’s voice says loudly. “It’s too late, the branch has grown too long after we cut the root.”
“No, I’m telling you, we can take this upstairs.” A different male voice.
“Forget upstairs. We’re talking about fundamental laws,” says Not-Frank.
A tiny click and then you hear the woman sigh. “I’m really sorry I involved you in this.” Then she breathes your name like she knows you. “I’m sorry.” In that moment, you could swear she’s a relative. Or an old friend. But you just can’t place her.
The clicks start overriding her just as she starts to say something else, and you yell “Bye!” as you rip the headphones out.
Standing there, staring at the cutting board still, you shake your head. Then you pull up your call log and call back.
A man with gravel in his voice answers. “Hello, this is Sandy.”
“Oh, uhh, sorry. Wrong number,” you find yourself saying, feeling slightly dizzy.
“Look, we’ll try to purge and reincorporate the branch you’re on, but it probably won’t work. Things have gotten too strange. We just clipped a root of Trump branches, but we must have missed one.”
“Branches? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Now your time is isolated. You have our apologies, but there’s nothing else we can do…” He trails off, like he’s waiting for you to say something.
“Okay. This is officially the weirdest prank I’ve ever been subjected to,” you say.
“Yes,” he says. “It sure is. A prank.” He doesn’t sound real sure of himself. It’s a pretty convincing act, you think. “Again, sorry. Goodbye,” he says.
The phone clicks, and your music starts back up. You poke at your phone to go save the number, but there’s nothing in your call log. No outgoing, no incoming. None from today, none at all. Just blank. That’s weird.
Oh well. You pick up the onion again and start mincing it. When the next song kicks in, you start to forget all about the calls. You love this song, so you start singing along.