By: J.J. Cheesman
Last year, I began working as a shipping and receiving clerk for a local produce delivery service. The work was pretty easy. All I essentially did was file order receipts and verify that everything going out had the correct order I.D. Number. Very often, I was one of the last two people to leave. I had to stay late to make sure everything was filed and documented correctly, and my boss, Joseph, stuck around going about his own duties.
The first two of weeks there, I trained with the previous clerk while he finished out his days at the job. After that, I was on my own. It was the Monday of the third week that the first of some odd occurrences began.
It was nearing time to leave, and Joseph popped his head in through the door of the Clerk’s office.
“Hey Mike, wrap it up, I’m gonna start locking up. Whatever you don’t get finished I can come in early and do if you aren’t close.” He said.
“Oh, no! I’m nearly done, just give me five.” It was true, I expected that Joseph assumed I hadn’t got used to things yet, but I actually found that job pretty simple.
“Alright, I’ll be waiting at the door when you’re done.” With that, he walked away, and I could hear the clicking of switches as lights went off one by one out on the shipping floor.
I was filing the last receipt away and had shut down my computer, when the phone on my desk rang. Looking up at the clock, I saw that it was just after 6:00 P.M., I considered letting the machine get it, but I picked it up anyway.
“Lyset produce, I’m sorry our office hours are closed.”
No one spoke on the other end of the line, but I could hear a low static sound. There was something else in the background. Something like scratching.
“Hello?” I said.
No answer came so I simply hung up, grabbed my jacket off of my chair, and left.
Tuesday and Wednesday passed without any such occurrence, but Thursday was a different story. I was a little behind on my work, it was a day when a lot of our clients had returned bad produce, and I was stuck typing up refund reports. It was nearing 6 o’ clock, and I was feverishly working to get things done so that I wouldn’t keep Joseph waiting.
Right at six, the phone on my desk rang. I picked it up without a second thought and let it rest on my shoulder, and holding it there with my face as I continued typing, engrossed in my work.
I wasn’t immediately greeted with a reply, only that scratching from before. Just when I was about to say something else, someone on the other end spoke.
“How-much-longer-will-you-be?” The words came as broken fragments, like a child trying to piece together a sentence. The voice that used them was hoarse and croaky. I was a bit taken aback and I hesitated for a moment.
“How-much-longer?” The broken voice repeated.
“I… I don’t… who is this?” I asked.
Immediately after I asked my question there was a loud screech that resounded from the earpiece, nearly blowing out my eardrum and causing me to drop the phone to the desk. I held my ears in my hands for a moment, and when the ringing in my ears stopped, a dial tone was all that rang out from the handset.
“Hey, who was on the phone?”
I looked up, startled. Joseph had poked his head in and was looking a little disheveled.
“I… I don’t know, some pranksters.” I fumbled.
“Oh, well wrap it up, it’s time to go.” He left to go shut out the lights and I was left a little shaken. That day I left without finishing my work completely. I was a little too unsettled to focus.
From then on, I made sure I was done with all of my work before six. I didn’t want to get caught up dealing with whoever was messing with the phone line again. I’d decided that it was likely some punk kid trying to be funny with a fake voice, but I still didn’t want to deal with it.
Two weeks after the first incident, was the worst occurrence of all. It was Friday, and once again I found myself struggling to get everything complete on a timely manner, as we had been exceptionally busy. I had just got done with a stack of receipts when Joseph ran into my office.
“Hey, Mike!” He shouted a little out of breath,
“Listen, I need a big favor. Can you lock up for me? I need to get to get down to the pharmacy. I forgot to pick up my prescription before I came to work, and they close here soon.”
“Uh… Yeah Joe, no problem.” I said.
“Great, thanks Mike! You’re a life saver.” He threw me a key ring full of keys.
“It’s the big gold one for the back door, that’s the only one you need. It’s against policy for someone to be in here by themselves, but you can keep a secret just this once I hope.”
“Awesome, just drop those in the mail box outside when you leave, I’ll grab em in the morning.”
He then waved, said a final ‘Thank you’ and headed out the door.
I looked at the clock, it was 5:30 P.M., that meant I had thirty minutes to get done and get the hell out of there.
I turned to my computer monitor and began typing up an email. Moments later, the phone rang. I froze. The loud ring came again, echoing out through the building.
‘Just let the machine get it.’ I thought. I waited, watching the ringing phone with dread. After the third ring, the phone clicked over to the automated machine message, and then beeped. Everything was quiet for a moment, then a scratching sound came from the speaker. Followed by that croaky voice.
My heart seemed to drop like a brick into my stomach. How did they know I was alone? Were they watching the store?
“You-are-alone.” The voice said again. The fear I felt was paralyzing. I was shaking, and I had to clench my fists to stop.
But then something else came over me. I didn’t feel right. This wasn’t fair. No punk kid was going to scare me at my own damn job. I picked up the phone and shouted.
“Listen kid, this isn’t funny! You had better run like hell if I catch you!”
I waited to see what the voice would say to that, but it was quiet.
“Nothing to say?!” I yelled. There was a silence, but only a brief one. This time that scratching sound returned, and so did the voice.
“We-are-coming.” A dial tone buzzed in my ear, and I slammed the phone down on the receiver. At this point I was fuming. How dare they threaten me? I was about to sit back in my seat, but a sound rang out on the shipping floor that made my blood run cold. Loud clicks came with the lights out on the floor being shut out, one by one.
‘They got inside’ I thought.
I stood up, and walked to the doorway of the office to look out onto the completely empty shipping floor outside. One by one the lights shut out, sending the entire building aside from my office into darkness. I backed away, planning to grab the pocket knife that I’d kept in my jacket, not taking my eyes off the doorway. That’s when, in a broken and croaky voice, someone whispered behind me.
There was a loud click that shut out the light in my office. I bolted. Running blind out of my office out into the shipping floor in the direction of the EXIT sign’s red light, which had by some mercy been left on. I could hear scratching from all around me in the darkness, coupled with intermittent croaks. The fear that the sounds caused spurred me on through the dark toward my destination at break-neck speed. I slammed into the push-bar of the door, out into the cold air and the falling snow.
In that moment when the door was still open behind me, something scratched at the back of my head. I screamed out and ran even faster toward my car. Thankfully I still had my keys with me, and I drove home as fast as I could.
To this day, I have never once driven by that building, and I never will again.