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The phone rings deep in the night, reaching like a hand in my sleep to shatter me awake. With frantic pulse I grope in the dark, the shrill chime of the phone demanding attention.

I answer the call. “Hello?”

There is a brief pause during which I hear a hushed sound like a very distant breeze disrupting the calm of dreaming trees. Then the tense, sad voice of a woman.

“Hello. I’m sorry for disturbing you like this.”

I glance at the clock. It’s forty minutes after midnight. “Who is this?”

“I know we’ve only just met, but well, we had such a nice talk the other day. I felt as if we really connected.”

The voice, heavy and subdued, carries no ring of familiarity. I can’t pair it with a face.

“I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong number.”

The woman becomes overcome by urgency.

“No, no. Don’t you remember? On the ferry. We talked about the bridge, and the waterfront sculpture.”

The woman who’d sat beside me on a ferry full of evening commuters—she’d worn a white coat and a taut smile. Expensive purse, nails painted burgundy. She sipped a vodka tonic from the bar on board, and by coincidence I had one too—that’s how we started talking, joking about our well-earned drinks after a long work day. We talked easily about a number of things, but there was an edge to her words, an undercurrent of restrained anger, even beneath observations about the weather.

She was an interesting conversationalist but I recall pulling back from deeper topics because her bitterness was so close to the surface, and thinking to myself how we could never be friends. We chatted because we were fellow passengers on the ferry. I’d felt no sense of connection with her at all.

“Oh…right,” I reply carefully. My mind turns over the details of our ferry ride conversation, how we’d parted. We mentioned how we should meet up for drinks some time, but had I given her my phone number? “Yes, of course I remember. What’s going on? Is everything all right?”

She releases a quivering exhalation which could be a sigh or a sob. “No. The thing is…right now, after what’s just happened, I’m getting one chance to connect with someone. It had to be you. I’m not completely sure why. But there’s no one else I can reach right now.

A jolt of alarm shoots through me. “Where are you? Are you in prison?”

“No, not exactly.” Her voice is becoming fainter, just slightly, as if drowsiness is taking over, her energy seeping away. “Perhaps it’s similar to prison in some way. I can’t say, yet—I’ve never held any beliefs about it. All I know is I have one chance to
reach someone. Leave a final message, if you will. Somehow you came up first. I was pulled to you first and apparently you don’t get second chances—you’re stuck with your first choice.” A defeated huff of laughter, angry to the end.

“A final message?” My hands turn cold. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“I’ve been murdered. I have to let someone know.”

My first panicked impulse is to laugh. I manage to hold it back. I’m sure I’ve misheard. “I’m sorry? Did you just say…?”

“I guess he had it in for me. All these years. I had no idea…” Her voice becomes more faint. “He’s on a plane now. He’s left me in a tub of cold water. They’ll say it’s suicide.”

“But how…” The questions lodge in my throat.

“We’re allowed final contact, so I had to let someone know before I move on.” Her voice is becoming a rustle of shadowy wings, the stirring of slumbering creatures.

“So,” I push away a choking sensation rising up in my throat. “So, is there anything else? Something else you want to say?”

“I’m not even sure anymore. I thought when the time came, I’d have so much left to say. But there’s nothing. What’s the point? It’s all in the past now. It’s too late.”

I listen to the darkness settling into place around me, unfolding like a carnivorous,
night-blooming lily.

“What’s going to happen to you now?” I whisper.

“I don’t know. But I have to go.”

I nod, clutching the phone. I wait for a tone, a farewell, a shift, a transition, a conclusion. I hold the phone to my ear, listening to the silence.

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