James, the phantom caller.

phOn a quiet and secluded section within the town of Lenox exists a small lesser traveled road which plays host to the great swamp conservancy of Central New York. You will often find muck fields and farming equipment as well as some residential homes that sit quietly affront of the glorious natural landscapes and swamps. You are also guaranteed to cross an occasional snapper and herds of deer and a fleet of turkeys and other feathered wildlife. This is the little part of the wide world I call home, and the location to my next ghostly encounter with a phantom caller …

It was the Summer of ’07; the year that an almost surreal calmness o’ercame central New York’s usually obscene weather. The heat was as fair as a drifting breeze along the coast of the ocean. My home was about as calm, with occasional moments of minor crisis o’er who was watching what on television.

In those days I was home a lot more with my growing children, and we usually spent a great amount of time outside running the grill or wandering the well-kept conservation trails on little journeys.

One night a heavy storm that spit out a great amount of hail had rushed in from the north eastern direction which kept us inside of the house for the duration of that afternoon. We sat down as a family to watch a movie in the living room. At the time, I had a 90’s style corded speaker/answering machine telephone plugged into the wall jack and it rested by itself on a small wooden telephone stand I had picked up at one of the many antique fairs I attended.

We had become absorbed in the Disney film we were watching when the phone rang. I’d decided that since we were otherwise preoccupied that I would ignore the telephone.

After about 5 rings the answering service picks up and the message rattles out but what came directly after the beeeep is what caught my attention … A voice that sounded as though it was reaching through a heavy amount of static had said what sounded like this: “I see you sitting there.”

My initial reaction was to check my windows and lock the doors. The curtains were still drawn shut and the doors were already locked. The road I live on has no street lights but I switched on an outside porch light and saw nothing. I took time to make sure nobody could see inside of the windows and eventually had called a neighbor over to check outside of the house. There were no tracks and no sign of a peeping tom to be had.

I calmed my children to sleep for the night and sat down at my computer to browse the internet a while. As I began digging through book recommendations, the phone hang rang again. I figured the caller to be my mother or maybe even my brother and so I answered.

Again a sea of static reached my ear. I said “hello” numerous times, and in return through that static, I could hear a voice saying something that I just couldn’t clearly make out. My curiosity was now peaked and so I quietly listened closely with a pen and paper nearby to jot down anything I recognized. A moment of heavy static came back at me and though I could barely hear, a voice was there on the other end trying to speak with me.

I’d remembered that I ordered the *69 feature and hung up from the static call. The message I got from the query explained that the source call was from an unknown number and the service had little to offer me in way of answers.

The rest of that night I sat in wonder of the call but then had drifted to a deep sleep where I recall having lucid dreams of being lost within an unknown dwelling and each room that I discovered next was empty. The dream was so real that even today I recall a lot of detail about the rooms and hallways, and at some point there was even a huge screen with words displayed on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a dream journal back then and most of those words are lost to me but I can remember the intensity of feelings involved.

Weeks would go by and the incident with the phone was just as easily forgotten as well.

About a week after school was back in session, I was again sat in my living room with my drawing table sketching a few characters for the sake of practice. I’d exhausted myself that afternoon from jotting poetry and wasn’t real amused with anything that television had to offer.

As I worked on shading, the telephone again had begun to ring and this time I had the answering machine disabled. After the 3rd ring, a voice shot through the speaker through more static and it clearly said “answer me!”

There hadn’t been a car on my road for at least an hour that day. That’s how it always is, even today. If you were traveling my road, it was because you were visiting someone or owned a house here, which is how desolate the area truly is. I looked out around the house with a bat in hand just in case and there was no sign of anyone on my property, or even near it. There wasn’t a car in the drive to signify I was even home, and none of my neighbors were home during daytime hours. There was no rational explanation for this situation …

I walked over to the telephone and I tried to turn the answering machine on. I wondered if there was a glitch and maybe the tape in the machine just automatically played, but … there wasn’t a tape inside of that machine. I picked up the receiver and was met with the calm buzz of a live phone line that waited for you to make your call.

I hung up the receiver and tried to carry on with business as usual, though this time it was a little hard to ignore what was happening. A moment went by where I thought of any other answer, and then I again tried the *69 feature which returned with no answers.

I left the house a while to get some fresh air and to hang some laundry. About an hour passed when I headed back inside to make something to eat for lunch.

The phone went off again, and this time I ran to answer it. More static had reached my ear and instead of yelling “hello!” I listened closely and what I heard after a moment was exactly this: “you dreamed of me…” in a breathy male whisper. I slammed the receiver down in frustration and then took a seat outside on the front porch.

The night prior, I had another intense dream about a high school friend who had taken his own life in 1994.

In the 5th grade, I had become extremely close to a boy in my class whom for obvious reasons I will simply call James. We were in orchestra together. I played the violin and viola in concerto setups and he strummed a cello. We sat aside another during music and even art and other classes. Our parents took us to ice cream socials together and in these interactions, we had both grown quite fond of another.

As middle school began; I was led by foolishness to other things and other avenues that had taken me away from James. In an event I quietly have regretted up to this day, because of peer pressure and judgment of other kids, I had one day pushed my friend away in order to maintain status. I was as well not the most popular kid in school and found myself distressed from the mishaps our fellow melodramatic school-period peers would cause me. His torment had gotten quite worse from the cruel bullies of school-era and it had reached a point where he’d even transferred to a nearby district. Amid the sea of harassment and bullying … James one day had taken his own life because not only was he bullied in school, but he was as well sexually violated and raped. The cruel students of our classes had known of this and continually labeled him such names as “fag” and “bitch-boy” to only name a few.

In my dream, he forgave me for my adolescent mistakes and we sat aside a foreign lake a while.

As I took time to assess this realization, I thought about the time leading up to this point and if I was thinking about him what so ever. We could perceive that a grief deep within had rendered this unusual situation to play out. We could also question whether or not any sort of faulty wiring could be the primer of the experience. I hadn’t thought about James and the tragedy that became of him since the late 90’s and therefore couldn’t gather why at this time in life, those incidents did occur.

I would like to believe that perhaps something of my past had recognized the deep buried grief that existed within me and it chose to render me a sense of relief from the weight of it.

Perhaps that could explain the phantom calls but what I am certain of is that I won’t have any real answers to this riddle. I had observed other possibilities and had gone the length to see them through until I had exhausted any and all possibilities. I may go to my very grave without ever truly knowing what was occurring that late summer of 2007 but what I will also have is a sense of inner peace. I hope for James that he as well has been released from any earthly prisons and is adrift someplace in the nether free to explore the vast unknown universe within the 5th dimension.

Rest in peace my friend.

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