It was around nine p.m. when Sherry answered the telephone, an ancient land line that, while antiquated, was something she and her husband just couldn’t let go of. They preferred to turn their cellular phones off after dinner, to avoid work calls or text messages that took their attention away from one another. The evenings were dedicated for family time, and that was that. The land line, however, they still answered on the rare occasion that it actually rang. Both Sherry and her husband, Robert, had aging parents, and the possibility of some sort of emergency always seemed to linger. Sometimes, however, one of their mother’s called just to check-in and catch up, and that’s what Sherry was expecting when she picked up the receiver this night.

She was quite surprised when an unfamiliar voice spoke to her from the other end of the line.

“Hello? Mama? Is it you?”

The voice belonged to a young woman, and she sounded strangely far away. It was almost as though she were speaking into a phone that was several feet away from her, audible but distant. Sherry balked at first, confused, but then relaxed a little as she realized this was obviously just a case of a wrong number dialed. She chuckled a little as she answered, already moving back towards the table where the base for the cordless phone rested.

“I’m sorry, dear, I think you have the wrong number. Have a good night.”

“No! Mama, I know it’s you,” the woman insisted, sounding a little frantic now. “Mama, it’s me! It’s Lynn!”

Sherry felt her blood run cold then, all the color draining from her face. She was just standing there in disbelief, phone still in hand, when her husband came into the room with a bowl of ice cream. He saw her face though and immediately made his way over, shaking her gently with his hands on her shoulders. His assumption was that something terrible had happened to one of their parents, quizzing her about it as he leaned in close.

“Is it mom? Dad?” Rob asked, starting to panic as he shook Sherry again. “Sherry! Who is on the phone? What is wrong?

“Some woman,” Sherry whispered, finally meeting Rob’s eyes with her own. “She says…she says she’s Lynn, but that can’t be, Rob. That can’t be.”

Robert faltered for a moment, taking a quick step back away from his wife and the phone in her hand. He got his wits back quickly though, snagging the receiver from her and bringing it to his own ear. “Alright, listen here,” he snapped, anger replacing his momentary state of shock. “Whoever you are, this isn’t funny! Do you understand me? It isn’t funny and if you call here again we’ll inform the police!”

“Daddy? Daddy it’s me, it’s Lynn! I want to come home, please let me come home! Mama! Mama, please! I know you can hear me, I just want to come home!”

Sherry burst into tears then, covering her mouth her he hands. She just shook her head at her husband, backing up until the backs of her knees connected with the sofa and she sat down hard. “Just hang up! Hang up the phone, Robert!”

Rob clicked the off button and then put the phone back onto the base, his hands shaking. It began to ring again almost immediately and he made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat, turning away from the phone to face his wife. He walked over and sat down next to her, the phone still ringing shrilly as he took her hands in his. He gave them a firm squeeze, trying to reassure and calm her down.

“I’m sure it’s just a sick prank,” he told her gently. “Lynn is dead, and we know that for a fact. She died thirteen years ago, and they never found the body. I made sure of that, to keep you safe. Someone is just being cruel, they probably saw her on a missing persons list and thought it would be funny to try to fake us out. Don’t let it get to you, Sherry. It’s nothing, I promise.”

“What if it really is Lynn?” Sherry asked, voice quivering with fear. “What if she…what if she’s coming to torment us for what I did? Maybe we should have told the police the truth, Robert. I didn’t mean to hurt her, she was just being a brat that day. I didn’t mean to hold her under so long in the tub. I didn’t mean for that to happen-“

The phone had gone silent, but now began to ring again. Rob got to his feet and ripped the cord from the wall, severing the line between their house and the outside world. He was breathing a little hard now, rubbing his temples with his finger tips. “I can’t be Lynn, she’s dead! Dead, dead, DEAD! Okay? Dead people don’t make phone calls!”

He was staring at his wife, who was staring back at him intently, as the phone rang again. Disconnected, cut off, but still ringing in a reminder of the horrible thing they had done.