How could it not have really been the telephone ringing out?
It had sounded so clear, such an ominous calling out in the early hours of the morning that it surely had to have been more than just a fevered dream, the result of his overactive imagination.
And then, beyond the sound of the phone itself, there had been the brief conversation. It had been his father’s voice on the phone, he’d heard him speak his name, twice he’d heard it. There was no mistaking the voice that had spoken his name for over forty years – never had a voice in any dream-like state sounded so crystal clear and unmistakable to him.
It might have been a simple ‘Dad?’ in response, but he’d continued to say it, repeating that one word over and over again when it sounded as though the line had gone dead, eventually wailing the words as he’d crawled across the bedroom floor, the phone clasped tightly to his ear as he’d shuffled into a foetal position in the far corner of the room, knowing that his wife would see him there, his crouched body would be illuminated by the light coming from the bathroom.
But she hadn’t so much as stirred.
He was alone, so very alone. More than he’d ever felt in his entire life.
It was only when he pulled the phone away from his ear in fury, his hand still a fist, that he felt the constraints of the duvet, the sudden restriction forcing him to wake to discover why he could not stretch his arm out fully. It was at that same moment that his eyes came to focus on the red LED display of the bedside alarm, it was 5.15am, and on the red glow of the telephone base-station, it sat there empty as though mocking him.
He rubbed at his face, willing himself awake and wanting the nightmare to simply dispel, rolling over to hold his wife tightly.
The space beside him was empty and cold.
From downstairs he could hear a whispered voice.
He knew it was his wife, he knew it wasn’t a telephone call she’d wanted to make or to receive – nobody expects good news to come calling at that hour.
Pacing downstairs, he stopped three stairs from the bottom and sat down, knowing his legs would fail him if he continued.
‘He’s here now.’ He heard his wife say quietly into the phone. ‘Do you want to speak to him, or should I…?’
He placed his head in his hands and spoke slowly.
‘It’s okay.’ He said. ‘If that’s Mum, then just tell her I know.’
He felt the questioning gaze coming from his wife without looking up.
‘I don’t know how, but I know. Dad called me. Just now. While I was dreaming. I think he called to say goodbye.’