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Your True Tales
January 2007
- Page 12

Phone Call from a Dry Future?
by D. F. Alves

I spent the first two decades of my life in a quiet New England town. At the far end of the town green, partially surrounded by a thick hedge, is a small bronze plaque marking the location of a time capsule buried in 1953 on the bicentennial of the town's founding. The capsule is still there, but my story concerns a two-week period when it was located in the trunk of my Cutlass Supreme.

On Thanksgiving night in the year I graduated college, a friend and I decided that when the town aldermen dedicated to capsule to "posterity," they meant us. While the satiated town drifted off to sleep, we unearthed the three-foot square riveted steel box and loaded it into my car. The capsule proved to be a tough nut to crack. We tried every tool in my father's garage before we resigned ourselves to the fact that only a blowtorch could reveal the contents of the capsule. Young as we were and unused to defeat, we fell to bickering and mutual recriminations. In the end I was stuck with the white elephant, and for lack of a better place, I decided to keep in the trunk of my car.

The next day the strange phone calls began. Oddly enough, they always came when I was alone in the house. When I picked up the receiver, a tinny, androgynous voice on the other end of the line would repeat: "Put the capsule back" or "It is very important that you put the capsule back" until I hung up. The voice talked straight through any questions I put to it, almost as though the speaker couldn't hear me.

My first thought was that the calls came from my co-conspirator, something that he steadfastly denied. Now I knew better than to take him for his word, but other circumstances made me think he was telling the truth. The phone calls were preceded by small but noticeable electrical anomalies in the house (i.e. flickering lights, poor TV and radio reception, the smell of ozone). Also - and this is difficult to put into words - the calls left me with blurry vision, muffled hearing, and a profound fatigue.

The last call, the one that drove me to leave the capsule on the steps of town hall, came on a Sunday morning when my parents were away at church. For several minutes prior to the first ring, I noticed that the house seemed to become charged with electricity. My every motion seemed to yield shocks that increased in severity. When the phone rang, the TV screen flickered and dissolved into the staticky pattern that people usually call "snow." The voice was louder than usual. The whole house was humming, as if the speaker were expending massive amounts of energy to contact me. The instant before I hung up, the TV screen was beginning to resolve into a silhouette of a face.

The calls stopped abruptly after I returned the capsule. I can only imagine that someone in the future had a very important reason for wanting the capsule to remain buried. The contents, which I researched at the local library, were unremarkable enough: a Leica camera, a baseball glove, a pewter mug with an engraved image of the high school mascot, a bottle of bourbon, a laminated copy of the town charter, an assortment of vacuum-sealed seeds from the local vegetable farm, etc. Is it possible that the caller was living in a time when the earth could no longer be cultivated, when humans had forgotten how to distill alcohol?

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