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16+ Violence Mature Content

LMS VI: Let Me Live Tonight 1.1

by winterwolf0100


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence and mature content.

   

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For a few years in my early twenties, I worked at a 911 call center as a dispatcher. It was an easy job— a few months of training, and then all we had to do was get the right information out of the person on the call. After one of my worse migraines, my boss had discovered me in the back of the bookstore and called 911. I’d been unable to move, unable to open my eyes. Even in pitch blackness, brightness stabbed through my skull. The ambulance had taken me to the hospital and they’d been able to make it stop. I didn’t have a goal in life, nowhere I was heading towards. But after that, I thought maybe I could do something like that, something to help people. I didn’t have medical training, and I knew I’d be no good at it if I tried— but I could operate one of the phones.

I’d completed the training, the late night shifts, listened to people sobbing on the phone in pain. Looking back, I don’t know how I sat through hours and hours of those calls in the beginning. I don’t know how I made it through day after day of driving home in the dark. Maybe it was the reassurance that they would be getting the help they needed, that I was sending an ambulance to them, and after this, they’d be okay. I felt like I might actually be helping people— I felt like I might be making a difference.

I was twenty-four, and it was still sunny outside. There was a forecast of rain later in the evening, and I was hoping it would hold off until I was home. I’d finally wormed my way into the day-shifts, no longer disconnected and nocturnal. I’d just ended a call for a car crash and barely had a moment to breathe before the phone began to flash again, and on my headphones, I clicked “receive.”

“911, what’s your emergency?” My voice sounded foreign back then, even to me. It was that disconnected, inhuman voice— the one that didn’t feel emotions, that managed to hold it all together. The technique of keeping a calm voice was drilled into me during the training— you couldn’t panic the caller. You couldn’t scare them away.

On the other end of the call, all I could hear was panicked breathing. It sounded distant and echoed, like the phone was in a bathroom. I waited several seconds, then said, “Is someone there? Are you hurt?”

A moment of silence passed. Then, a soft, barely audible response: “He left,” she whispered quickly. I could hear her voice trembling. “He’s coming back, he’s going to kill me, oh my god, he’s going to—”

“Calm down,” I soothed, “can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?”

“I’m Ophelia Duncan, I— I don’t know where I am, please tell my family I love them,” she whispered, a small cry leaving her throat as she tried to stay quiet.

“Ophelia—” I said calmly, “It’s going to be alright, we’re going to find—”

“He’s coming,” she whispered. I could tell she was barely holding back her tears. Through the phone came the sounds of heavy footsteps, shaking and powerful. It was as if I could feel the floor vibrating through my headphones. Her whispers turned to sobs as I heard a deep, angry voice call out, “Open the door Opi.”

“Don’t open the door Ophelia,” I urged, “stay with me, alright? We’re going to find a way to get you help, okay? Is there anywhere you can—”

She cut me off, barely managing to push her words out through her crying. “He’s white, brown hair, I’m 5’10” and I’m— I think I’m eye-level with his nose, I don’t know his height, but he’s, he’s really big and stocky, and this is his phone, I stole his phone, can you track the number? I’m gonna be dead by the time you’re here, I’m gonna be dead, oh my god—”

The deafening sound of splintering wood crackled over the line like static stabbing into my ears. I fought the urge to rip off my headphones at the noise and winced. Ophelia screamed. “Please, please no, please don’t—”

There was a loud skidding noise, and I could tell the phone had been knocked from her hand. She sobbed and then cried out, sounds of hits and kicks echoing inside the room. She grunted, then began to cough violently, gasping for air as she whimpered, “Please, please don’t do i—” The line went silent, such a loud silence it hurt my ears— the man had hung up.

I sat in shock for a moment before shooting up out of my desk, running to my supervisor. I know that somehow, I followed protocol. I gave all the information I had, and after the phone number was tracked, police and an ambulance were sent to the location. I don’t remember any of that though. The more I replayed the conversation in my head, the deeper her voice sunk into my ears, stabbed through my eardrums and buried itself in my brain.

“Nothing to do now, James,” my supervisor said. “The responders’ll take care of the rest. Might as well go home early and get some rest.”

I didn’t feel like I could drive though. Even hearing my last name felt distant, like it belonged to someone else, to something else entirely. Instead, I walked slowly to the break room and sunk down into one of the chairs. After fifteen minutes or hours, another dispatcher came in for a cup of coffee. I recognized him vaguely, though I didn’t remember his name— he’d helped with some of the training. He was older, with graying hair and a mastered blank expression. He seemed to do a double-take when he walked into the room and saw me.

“Thought you got sent home early,” he noted as he began to pour coffee into his cup.

“Couldn’t drive,” I murmured. I could still hear her voice. What did Ophelia look like? It wasn’t fair that I knew what he looked like, but I didn’t know anything about her but her name.

“Rough call, huh?” He commented, leaning back against the counter and bringing the cup to his lips with a vacant expression, not bothering to add anything to the coffee. He adjusted his lavender tie and tugged at the sleeves of his wrinkled button-up shirt as the A/C in the room kicked on, filling the silence with a faint whirring noise.

“Yeah, had my fair share of those before,” he continued. He took a sip of his coffee. “Had a little boy call when his mommy stopped breathing once. Cardiac arrest. She was dead before the ambulance left the hospital. Nasty stuff.” He shook his head and took another sip of coffee.

I glanced up at him suddenly. “Did you ever care?”

He didn’t seem offended by the question, even though I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth. He seemed to ponder it for a moment, before he just shook his head. “Can’t care in this job. It’ll kill you. Too many calls, not enough happy endings. You just gotta stick with the script.” He raised the coffee to his lips again, then glanced down at his watch. “Well, that’s five minutes,” he said distastefully, then looked back up at me. “Let me know if you need a ride home. First call like that can be rough; not good on the mind to be alone, alright?”

He walked over to the sink and in one quick motion, splashed all the remaining coffee down the drain before setting the cup down firmly on the counter. “Tastes like shit,” he grimaced. And then he walked out the door, back to his desk.

I watched him leave, my emotions raw and red. How had he numbed himself to this? How was it possible for anyone to do that? I pushed myself unsteadily to my feet. I needed to leave.

On my way out, my supervisor stopped me. “Hey, James— just thought you might like to know. They got there and found the guy hanging from his living room ceiling. Suicide.”

My throat tightened. “And Ophelia?”

“Head bashed in on the bathtub,” he said, then patted me on the shoulder. “Take it easy tonight, yeah? And a piece of advice— never remember their names.” He patted me one more time, then pulled his arm back and walked away. I watched him go, his posture relaxed as he walked around to check on people. I felt nauseous.

I don’t remember how I got home. One minute, I was there, and the next, I was getting out of my car. I couldn’t stop hearing her voice. It was everywhere. I wished I could numb myself like they had, like everyone seemed to know how to do except me. I wished I could push it all away.

I still think about Ophelia sometimes. I wonder what her story was. I wonder how she got there. I wonder if that even matters— maybe her ending is all that mattered.

The very next day, I went in to work and I gave my two week’s notice. And for those final two weeks, the voices all sounded like her.

     

~~~

      

1557 words

I appreciate all feedback, and would love to hear it all, but I especially love hearing about how the piece makes you feel, your theories on what it means and its implications for the story, and your opinions. Thank you for reading!


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Thu Sep 29, 2022 10:52 am
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hello!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

I think with just two parts, you have established the mood of the story very well. I did not expect the start of the story to be so intense, but from what it looks like, this is not the start of the novel, but rather a start of the narrator's story. It is marked by grief, shock and trauma and it makes me wonder if they are a central theme of our narrator's life. I was a little surprised by your decision to start the story with a flashback but the way this part was narrated, it did not feel so much as the first part of a novel's chapter than it did as a building block of the narrator's character. I am very interested to see how this scene ties into the main plot of the story, how it affect's the narrator's life and what he takes from this.

I love the way you have established the voice of your character. It is very much distinctive of his personality and its like his thoughts have a life of their own. I found it very easy to connect with him and empathize, and because this is a first person narration, that is a really impressive advantage to have.

It seemed to me at times, that this was not really the first time the narrator had to face the ugly side of life. From the very beginning, his narration hinted a lack of energy and a solemn resignation to life. It is not as if he is not affected by the happenings of life, but it felt as though he experiences everything from underwater. There is a sense alienation in his narration that made me wonder what led him to become like this in the first place - he does not seem to have a purpose, his decision to work in the call center was not a structured move but it was motivated by a sudden rush of emotions. He does not seem to have many people in his life and appears to be generally disconnected from the world, his decisions affecting nothing and no one. He seems like someone just getting by in the world; just one among the billions of persons in the world, unknown and unheard, carrying a treasure of stories that are just waiting to be told. And that makes him such an incredibly relatable character for me.

Now coming to the plot of this chapter, it was truly disturbing and chilling and I actually held my breath the entire time. For some reason, I really had not expected the ending that you gave us and it made the whole event even more impactful for me. I think the whole incident took on a more profound meaning because of the way you have narrated it. The dialogues were all on point and I could hear the desperation in Ophelia's voice, the helplessness in the narrator's as he just listened to the events that took place. I could imagine the scene taking place and the fact that it was our imagination at work here and not the facts of the story somehow made it worse for us and for the narrator too, I think.

A few details:

It was an easy job— a few months of training, and then all we had to do was get the right information out of the person on the call. After one of my worse migraines, my boss had discovered me in the back of the bookstore and called 911.

The way you have written this it was a little unclear to me which job the narrator was referring to and when. At first, I had missed the mention of the bookstore and had simply assumed that the migraine episode had happened while his job at the call center. It took me another read to realize he had been talking about his previous job. Since you describe his experience at two jobs in consecutive sentences, you should make sure that the transition here is a little smoother so that your readers don't get confused.

Too many calls, not enough happy endings. You just gotta stick with the script.

I thought this scene was very profound as it reflects the nature of their work at the call center. It is not as though they do not react to these happenings, but they have trained themselves to not let it affect them and their work. There is something so utterly sad about this entire conversation and this unnamed character who moves and talks like a well-trained machine and makes disgusting coffee that he does not intend to drink. I think this conversation and the one with his supervisor made the narrator that this is not something that he can continue to do. He cannot become like them.

And for those final two weeks, the voices all sounded like her.

There could not have been a better ending for this section. The sentence, disconnected from the previous one, contained a haunting finality that hits really hard. You captured the entire incident's impact on the narrator so well that I could feel how internally disturbed and conflicted he was.

That's all!

Thank you for sharing this amazing chapter and keep writing!

Until next time!




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Wed Sep 21, 2022 2:51 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, this is certainly shaping up to be an intense story! I liked how in-the-moment this section was compared to the previous part; I think the last one raised a lot of questions and was more abstract, whereas this one introduced some characters more concretely and gave us some actual potential plot. I think both sections played off each other very nicely, though!

One thing I enjoyed was your narration; I think your main character has a really strong sense of voice so far. There's this sort of no-nonsense superficial layer to it, but then as you dig deeper, the emotion starts to come through. Much of it is very narrative-feeling, in a way; I know that that's kind of like, "duh, because it's a narrative," but I almost feel like it's a testimony or oral tale, in a way, just because of the way that it's written. The plot of this section also felt very conclusive, like a little vignette; it makes me wonder if you intend to continue this pattern, or if this specific story about Ophelia and the narrator's experience as a 911 dispatcher is relevant to the main plot of the story. I'm excited to read more!

I was curious about the choice to start the story in a more flashback kind of place; given the first few sentences, it seems like this happened in the past as opposed to the true present of the story. I thought that was an interesting choice, given that the first part was also not really set in the present of the story. I'm curious to see if it'll make more sense given the parts following it, but for now I'm very interested to know exactly how long ago this was for our narrator and how long it'll be before we get to the present. (And not that it has to go there! I think it'd be really interesting to have a story told through flashbacks, if executed correctly!)

For the most part, this section left me wanting to read more. Not necessarily about the things introduced in this section, but since I know this is going to be a longer work, I'm intrigued about where exactly you'll go from here and why this might be relevant to the larger plot.

Specifics

I didn’t have a goal in life, nowhere I was heading towards. But after that, I thought maybe I could do something like that, something to help people.


I thought that the bit about goals felt a little abrupt before you added the last part; to make it less abrupt, maybe you could add "before" to the first sentence? Just so there's more of an evident connection right away; when I was reading, it felt a little disjointed.

“Head bashed in on the bathtub,” he said, then patted me on the shoulder. “Take it easy tonight, yeah? And a piece of advice— never remember their names.” He patted me one more time, then pulled his arm back and walked away. I watched him go, his posture relaxed as he walked around to check on people. I felt nauseous.


Somehow, knowing the conclusion to that chilling phone call is simultaneously both relieving and disturbing. One thing's for sure, though: it was definitely very hard-hitting and brutal, which served your story well. That piece of advice about never remembering names is also amazing—pretty sure I audibly said "ooh!"

Overall: nice work! I think your prose is very engaging and characterizes your narrator very well, and I'm curious to see how you continue the plot/timeline in the next section. Best of luck with LMS!!






Hey Plume!

Thank you so much for the reviewww!!! It means the world to me! I'm always super excited to hear people's thoughts. :]

It's definitely an intense story, and I won't be spoiling anything by saying that most chapters are going to be very disconcerting. In fact, the pieces probably won't really start falling together connection-wise for at least a few months, but I do have everything mapped out (all 70 stories that will be in this book XD) and I have them all mapped out chronologically for me to keep track of, and then in the order I'll write/post them in a way that leads the story in the most intriguing and put-together way possible to portray the emotions and messages I'm trying to get across. You can rest assured though that there is a plot and recurring stories!! They're just going to be a little out of order, and it'll take a bit to figure out what's happening. (In fact, where book three [or section three, if you like] starts is where the very first chapter occurred and I think that's where any present tense stuff begins to occur.)

I'm really happy that the narrator is coming off that sort of way to you! That's how I've been hoping to portray him. There are lots of mental health struggles, and so trying to show that in a very blunt way that still gives those emotions is something I've been pushing for.

For specifics, that first point definitely makes sense. For the second point, I both hate and am very happy that it made you feel that way. It was what it was meant to make the reader feel (and it definitely made me feel that way) but that doesn't make it any more comfortable to confront. I did giggle outloud though reading that you audibly said "ooh!" That is a very high compliment to receive XD

Again, thank you so so much for putting this much time into a review and leaving your thoughts on the piece! It makes me super excited and feel fueled to keep writing :]




Maybe what most people wanted wasn't immortality and fame, but the reassurance that their existence had meant something. No matter how long... or how brief. Maybe being eternal meant becoming a story worth telling.
— Roshani Chokshi, Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality