By Patrick Ngugi
My new phone rang several times but for some reason I could not get myself to pick it. Every time I stretched my hand it seemed to move out of reach. I made one extra effort and tried to grab it. Again, it moved an inch farther. Then I woke up. It must have been a crazy dream, I thought.
But the phone rang on, its bright blue luminous screen brightening up the dark bedroom. I sat up and turned to pick the call, my feet hitting the cold tiled floor, a chill running up my spine. I picked the phone and peeked at the screen to see who was calling at this ungodly hour.
But it was no use, the phone was still new and I had not saved many numbers after the previous one was stolen a day earlier. This meant I would have to ask who the caller was, if I did not recognize their voice.
I was struggling to study the number in order to see if I could identify it, but the impatient shrill of the ringtone almost knocked me out, so I answered the call.
“Hello!” I said with a shiver, as I stole a glance at the clock on the bedside table. It was 3.45 am.
“Hey, this is Gerry!” the man’s voice introduced himself hastily “are you at home?” he asked.
Gerry? I could not remember this guy clearly though the name rang a loud bell at the back of my mind.
“Yes,” I said, he sounded familiar and my mind convinced me that this was no stranger, as my intellect struggled to remember who exactly it was. I thought it would rude to ask immediately.
“Listen, please don’t take that trip. Something bad is going to happen.” he said hurriedly. I could barely hear his words. He sounded in a great hurry but at the same time eager to convey the message.
This was strange, I thought, because I was not planning to take any trip to any place, and this familiar stranger was warning me about some danger in a trip that I didn’t know about.
‘’Who are you?”
“What are you talking about? What trip and … and who are you?”
“Just don’t. It’s Gerry,” he said faintly and I could hear some crackle in the phone, and I feared the line would be disconnected before he told me more. Before I could take another breath, there was more static and the line went silent.
“Gerry, Gerry,” I called, “Hello!”
It was silent for some time, except for some faint crackle, then the voice came back again, “Yes… Don’t travel.”
“Who are you?” I managed to ask, I could hear his voice getting fainter.
“Don’t worry who I am… but you can call me an angel…” the voice said dying off.
“Angel?” I asked, but there was not response. The phone was now not only silent, but also off.
I looked at the dimming phone in the blackness of the room. What did this mean? I wondered as I threw myself back on the bed, staring at the dark ceiling. Was I dreaming? Who was this Gerry, and what did he mean I shouldn’t travel? What trip was he talking about?
No, I have to call him and tell him he must have gotten a wrong number, and whoever he wanted to warn must get the message. I decided to call him and explain that he had gotten the wrong person, and that I was not travelling. But the line was busy. It couldn’t connect.
So I decided to save the number as “Gerry” so that I could call him in the morning when the line was clear so that he could deliver his message.
Then I saw her face turn into a frown
Before long I was asleep.
The next morning after my younger sister Diana brought breakfast, I decided to call Gerry. The number could not go through again. I wondered whether it was my new phone which had a problem, so I asked Diana to lend me her phone so that I could use her line.
“Give me the number so that I can call,” Diana told me, and I gave her my phone.
“The guy’s name is Gerry; call that number,” I said as I took a sip of my coffee.
Diana scrolled my phonebook and got to Gerry. She keyed in the number to her phone, then I saw her face turn into a frown, then looked at me.
“What’s wrong, Diana?” I asked “haven’t you found the number?”
“But Gerald, I have this number on my phone already. Are you sure it’s the right one?” she asked.
“Yes, I didn’t delete it I just saved it after the guy called. What do you mean you have the number?” I asked wide eyed.
“But bro, this is your number!” She said as she walked to me and showed me her phone.
I looked at the name: “Gerald (Bro)”, then the number was actually mine.
“What! How!?” I said.
“And you say the guy’s name was Gerry? Isn’t Gerry short for Gerald?” she asked, then exclaimed: “Haiyaaiii!”
This was really crazy
This was really crazy. How could I have called myself using my own line and my own name? This was really uncanny.
Then my phone rang. Just like that … a loud piercing burst that shocked Diana and I.
She still held the phone and when she looked at the screen she took a sigh of relief and said.
“Its Dorothy,” then she picked the call and started talking to our eldest sister as I held my chin and stared at the ceiling as if the answer to this puzzle was hidden there.
“No, he’s okay, why?” Diana was telling Dorothy and I looked up quizzically. Diana shook her head gently then shrugged and told Dorothy: “Okay, you speak to him yourself, here he is,” she handed me the phone.
“Hi Dotty,” I said after taking a deep breath. After some niceties she asked me; “Gerald, did you sleep well last night?”
That question hit me like a sledge hammer. What kind of coincidence was this? I decided to test her.
“I slept like a baby, kwani, why are you asking?”
“Well, you know as a big sis, am like your mother, I care about you all. Was just asking,” Dorothy said and I thought it odd. She never called us every other day to ask us how we were, and I’m sure she hadn’t asked Diana how she was doing.
“Well, to tell you the truth sis, I had this strange dream. Someone called Gerry called me to tell me to cancel the trip.”
Gerry is short form for Gerald isn’t it?
“What trip?” Dorothy snapped back.
“I have no plans to travel anywhere, that’s the odd thing. The first odd thing.” I said.
After a brief silence she asked; “And what is the other odd thing?”
“You see this Gerry, had my name. Gerry is short form for Gerald isn’t it?”
“Yes, Gerald. Gerry is short for Gerald.”
“Well not only did he have my name, but the number he used to call me was mine… calling my own line…” I said sounding a bit silly.
“What?” she shrieked.
“Yes, I saved that number so that I can call him this morning, but it could not go through until Diana and I discovered it was my own number. No wonder I couldn’t go through.”
“Gosh… and you were sure you weren’t dreaming? Maybe you were half asleep when you saved the number and punched in your own number?” Dorothy asked. I could hear she was breathless, as if reliving a horror movie.
“Dotty, I did not punch in the number. I just went to phone record and saved the last number I received. And it’s mine,” I said then after a short while I added, “my call from me.”
After a brief silence she said… “So, after telling you not to travel, what else did he say?”
“Nothing. I asked him who he was but the line was not clear, though I heard him say something like ‘angel’.”
“Then I woke up and realized it was a dream
After another short spell of silence she asked. “Gerald, do you think it was your guardian angel warning you of some danger?”
If this question had come before I received that strange call, I would have laughed it off. Strange things were happening to me and now I could believe anything.
“I don’t know…” I answered, then, after another brief silence she said:
“You must take that warning seriously,” she said.
“Why do you say that sis, it could have been a dream…” I tried to convince myself.
“I also had a dream. That is why am calling.” she said ignoring my response.
“What?” I asked. I could see Diana was getting curious, so I turned the phone speaker on for her benefit. I did not have to explain this oddity to her later on.
“In that dream you telephoned me. Funny enough, you introduced yourself as Gerry. We have never called you Gerry; we always call you Gerald. In the dream you told me that you had been involved in a bad road accident and that you were at Kenyatta Hospital. Before we could speak further, the line got disconnected.
“Then I woke up and realized it was a dream. I would have brushed it aside but this morning I saw your two missed calls, all came between 3am and 3.30 am. You see I usually put my phone on silent mode, so if the calls came I did not hear them. But they were from you.”
I was now engaged to Angeline for almost 18 months
“Funny, I have not called you at all,” I said.
We agreed that this was an extraordinary occurrence and that I should be careful since some divine intervention was trying to save me from some calamity.
And careful we were and nothing sinister happened, and no call came again and we eventually thought that this had been nature’s weird joke, until…
Two years later.
Diana had moved to Dorothy’s and I was now engaged to Angeline for almost 18 months. Once in a while Angeline would come visiting at my place and stay with me for several weeks before going back to her house the other side of the city.
One Saturday evening I drove her to her house and as I waited for her to disembark, she asked me in for a drink before I would leave. I obliged and parked the vehicle and followed her to her apartment. The evening got cozy and one thing led to another.
“Why don’t you stay? Do you really have to go to your place?”
I did not have a good reason to leave. I had a change of clothes in her apartment, in which I could slip into the next morning.
We had a snack that Angeline had prepared and watched a movie as I took brandy and she nursed a glass of wine. Then I remembered that I had not informed Dominic, the watchman, that I would not be coming home tonight.
I reached for the phone in the pocket, but it wasn’t there. I then released I had left it in the car. Oh, it could as well stay there. There was no way I would leave the cozy atmosphere just to collect the phone. I’m sure everything would be fine at the house, I thought.
I reached for the phone in the pocket, but it wasn’t there
Being a Sunday we woke up at 10, in order to attend the 11 o’clock service at St Benedict’s church.
“This is weird,” Angeline said staring at her phone, then at me confusion written all over her face.
“Three missed calls,” she said.
“What’s weird about them?” I asked, my heart starting to thump at the back of its mind.
“Two are from you!”
“But I don’t have my phone with me…” I protested.
“Yeah, that’s what I mean, it’s weird.”
Then I remembered two years ago… and asked her: “Where is the other call from?”
“Your sister Dorothy.”
“Call her… let’s see what she wanted to say,” I told Angeline, my heart starting to run wildly. Could Gerry be at his old game again, I wondered.
She dialed Dorothy’s number as I held my breath.
“Hello Dotty… how are you?” the niceties were getting into my nerves and I gestured Angeline to skip them. “I see you tried to call me?”
She listened as Dorothy spoke and nodded a few times then handed me the phone.
“Yes sis, what is it?” I asked in a cold sweat.
“What does all this mean?” she asked sounding scared
“Hey thank God you are fine.”
“Yes, kwani what’s the problem… same old dream?”
“Yes, this time it looked so real,” she said.
“You were in a plane crash and everyone perished… but you walked out of it unscathed, how, I don’t know,” she said.
“It was just a dream,” I told her, but did not tell her about the two calls from Gerry that Angeline had received. I still didn’t believe it. Was it happening again?
After we finished the conversation, I told Angeline what had happened two years ago, something I had forgotten a long time ago.
“What does all this mean?” she asked sounding scared.
“I don’t know… forget about it… let’s go to church.” I said.
More shock was waiting for me when I got to the car. My phone had four missed calls. Two were from Gerry; the other two from the office. I looked at the time they had come. One had come last night at 9 pm and the next one this morning at 8 am.
“What is it?” Angeline asked, and I did not know how to start telling her…
There was also a text message from Mr Ndambuki my boss that came last night apparently when he failed to get me on phone. The text message said that I should take the first flight to Mombasa for the urgent meeting that we a client had been postponing.
Oh gosh, I was already late. It was now 10.45 and obviously I had already missed the flight.
I decided to call Mr Ndambuki. Perhaps his call this morning was to confirm whether I had travelled.
“Hello,” Mr Ndambuki said. He sounded surprised to hear my voice.
“Mr Ndambuki, I’m sorry I didn’t get your call and text in time. I didn’t travel.”
“Gosh, Gerald you are alive!?”
“Y-yes… I am… what do you mean?”
“Thank God… Thank God.” he said and I was dumbfounded.
“Kwani what happened?”
“The plane you were to take…”
“Yes?” I said my heart thumping and my throat going dry.
“It crashed killing all passengers. I thought you were gone… oh Jesus.”
I stared at the phone in my hand… then at Angeline who looked at me in a daze. Then I remembered Dorothy’s dream, and the two missed calls from Gerry.
“What is it?” Angeline asked, and I did not know how to start telling her…
© Patrick Ngugi 230715