No App for That, Part 3

“Okay. I’m sure they’ve just moved. Or closed down. Let’s go look at the directory.” She grabbed my wrist and hurried me down the corridor.
“But Mom – you heard what the lady said.”
“She may be new and just not know. Or she may not care.”
We stopped in front of the “You Are Here” directory and map. Mom read the name of every business in the mall. Three times. I didn’t bother. I knew there would be no listing for Allbrands Refurbished Phones.
“I put the paperwork in the glovebox,” she said. “It’s still in the car. That’s bound to have a phone number on it.”
She marched us out to the parking lot and hunted furiously through the glovebox and under the seats. “It has to be here somewhere,” she muttered.
But it wasn’t. Even under the blaring sun, her face was pale and her eyes were wide.
“Alright. I have and idea. You said the problems started when you got the phone. Let’s just try an experiment. Get in the car.”
Mom’s fingers drummed on the steering wheel as she drove. I didn’t like to see her so upset, but at least she seemed to believe me now.
She pulled into the parking lot of a large city park between the mall and our house. It was 98° and not a breath of air. The park was abandoned. Mom took a plastic grocery bag that had some trash in it from the floor of the front seat and got out of the car. I followed her to the farthest possible trash can, where she emptied the bag.
“Turn off your phone and give it to me.”
When I handed it over, she wrapped it up in the plastic bag, then looked around the park. “Tip the trash barrel, but not all the way over.”
The barrel smelled like mildew, vomit and dog poop, and I had to stand there holding the disgusting thing while she used a stick to dig a little hole underneath. Sweat was running down into my bra and I thought I was going to hurl from the stench of the trash can.
“There,” she said as she snuggled my plastic-wrapped phone into the dirt. “You can put the trash barrel back, now.”
As much as I had wanted my mTalk, I was glad for it to be gone. After we got home, I ate a bowl of cereal and went upstairs to chill in my room. The next thing I knew, Mom was shaking my shoulder. I looked at the clock. It was three hours later.
“Stacy’s on the phone for you.”
Groggy and disoriented, I sat on the edge of the bed, trying to get my bearings. “Tell her I’ll call her back. Please.” I was too embarrassed to talk to her after the Driver’s Ed incident.
I had just over an hour before I had to be at work, so I splashed some water on my face, brushed my teeth and went downstairs. Mom had her headset on and was typing at the computer. Must be trying to work from home.
“Baby, would you mind getting the mail? I just saw the truck go by and I’m sure hoping there’s a check from your father in there.”
I got myself a cola and went out to the mailbox. There was a lot of stuff jammed in there. Something clattered to the pavement at my feet. I looked down.
It was my phone.
I screamed. Mom came running out of the house, cable dangling from the end of her headset.
I was shaking too hard to talk. I just pointed to the phone on the ground. My mother’s face went white. She picked it up and slammed it to the concrete, over and over until the casing broke open. Then she stomped its electronic guts into the road and kicked the parts into the storm drain.
She put her arm around my shoulder and guided me towards the house. She took the pile of mail from me and I flopped onto the couch.
“Let’s see that thing try to come back now,” Mom said. “Are you feeling up to going to work this afternoon? If so, you’d better eat something, baby.”
I looked at the clock. Work seemed like a great place to be. Nothing weird ever happened there. Everything was completely, boringly, normal.
I went into the kitchen and fixed myself a cheese sandwich. I couldn’t manage more than three bites of it, but I did finish my cola.
Mom dropped me off at the store and Inez, the manager, gave me a ride home after closing. The whole phone episode was starting to feel like a bad dream.
Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, paying bills when I came in. “How are you feeling, Lauren? Work okay?”
“Fine, Mom. I’m just really tired. Night.”
“Goodnight, baby. Love you.”
I was in the middle of brushing my teeth when the knocking started. It was downstairs, at the front door. It was loud, but slow and steady, like a metronome. Knock…knock…knock…
I froze. People knocking on your door after ten at night can’t be good. I could hear my mom ask, “Who’s there,” and a voice asked to be let in. I slipped my robe on over my nightshirt and walked quietly to the top of the stairs.
I recognized the voice of the person at the door. Stacy? What was she doing here this late? I came halfway down the stairs. Then I stopped. There was a guy with her, the zombie Jeff I thought I’d run over during driver’s ed. Something was way beyond wrong.
“Stace?” I called to her. My breath switched from normal to shallow and I gripped the railing to keep my balance.
“Lau-ren.” She sung my name, like she was calling a dog.
I looked at my mother. She stood completely still, staring into Jeff’s all-black eyes. “Mom? Mom!”
She didn’t move.
“She can’t hear you, Lau-ren,” Stacy sang. “Not since she let us in.”
Stacy started towards the stairs. I started backing up.
Then she smiled. It was the most horrifying smile ever. It was almost as if someone standing behind her pulled her lips up and back to show her teeth. But worse, much worse, was what happened to her eyes. As I watched, they went from normal to completely black. No iris. No white. Only black.
I turned and bolted towards my room. Stacy appeared at the top of the stairs, blocking my way. Her back was to me.
“Lau-ren,” she sang. Slowly, her head swiveled around a complete 180° and she was looking at me from where the back of her head should have been. She giggled, then her face got fierce “Run!” she snarled.
She didn’t have to tell me twice. I took a shortcut by vaulting over the railing where the stairs made a right angle turn. Not only did I bang my head on the edge of the stairs going down, but I didn’t quite stick the landing and I heard something crunch in my ankle. I would feel it later, when the adrenalin rush faded.
I sprinted the five steps to the antique china hutch that stood under the staircase. Stacy met me there.
A gurgling, giggling sound seemed to be coming from her, but her mouth was closed. “Lau-ren. Time’s up.”
“Why, Stacy? Why?” I had to keep her talking for just a minute while I eased open the drawer behind me.
“Why not?” The freaky giggling got louder.
“But you were my friend.” I found what I was looking for and curled my fingers around the handle.
Stacy cocked her head at an unnatural angle. “Yes. I still am.” The horrible grin again. “Don’t fight me and I promise it won’t hurt. Not much, anyway.”
As she lunged towards me, I whipped the silver-plated cake server in front of me and held on to it with both hands. I scrunched my eyes closed as tightly as I could. I wasn’t sure it would work and I didn’t want to see what happened either way.
I felt a bump and heard screaming, snarling and bellowing, as much inside my head as in my ears. It was a tsunami of sound and I wondered if I would drown in it. I thought my head would implode. Then silence. I let go of the cake server, but found my hands were empty. Taking a deep breath, I opened my eyes.
Stacy and zombie Jeff were gone. Mom was lying on the floor, her left arm bent between her elbow and wrist. I crawled over to her. She was still breathing. I managed to drag myself over to the phone and called 911 before I passed out.
I gradually became aware of voices. My mom’s and my dad’s. I opened my eyes. Mom was sitting in a chair near the end of my bed, her arm in a cast and a sling. Dad was next to me. I was in a hospital room.
“Hey, Sunshine!” Dad, said, squeezing my hand.
There was no sign of Twila. Things were looking up. “What happened?” I asked, trying to shake the cobwebs off.
You broke your ankle and had a nasty blow to your head, baby. They wanted to keep you overnight for observation,” Mom said.
I don’t know if Mom remembered what happened. But I did. Every awful moment.
“Somebody broke into the house. Home invasion robbery. Odd thing was, the only thing they took was a silver-plated cake server,” Dad said, shaking his head. “Drugged out wackos.”
The door squeaked open and a nurse came in with a vase full of red and orange poppies. She set it on the counter by the sink. “What nice friends you have!” she said as she smiled and handed me the card.
Can’t wait to see you again. Get well soon! Love, Stacy