My supervisor pulls out a cigarette and places it in her mouth. “Job’s pretty easy,” she says as she lights a cigarette. “Wear the headset, answer the phone, follow the script.”
She gestures to a large book sitting on my desk and exhales a large mouthful of smoke. I cough as it burns my lungs. “I’m going on my smoke break,” she mumbles.
With that, she exits the room, leaving me all alone. A moment later, the phone rings. I freeze and yell for my supervisor. She doesn’t respond. I gulp and answer the phone. “911, what is your emergency?” I say, sweat dripping down my brow.
A voice emerges from the other end of the phone line. A quiet, raspy voice, belonging to a young woman. “I need someone to talk to,” she mumbles into her end of the phone.
“I’m sorry, this line is reserved for emergencies,” I say. “If you don’t have an emergency-”
“I think I’m going to kill someone,” she says.
My blood turns cold. I frantically search through my manual, trying to find the protocol for this situation. “Could you repeat that?” I ask.
“I’m sorry, this was a mistake,” she says before hanging up.
The line goes dead. I sit there for a moment, trying to process what just happened. Then I spring into action, searching through my manual in a futile attempt to find out how to call the woman back. I shout for my supervisor. She doesn’t respond. Then I notice it: a phone number printed on my computer screen.
I rip my smart-phone from my pocket and open up the video call app, inputting the number on the screen. I hold my breath as the phone rings over and over again. The call goes to voicemail and I immediately call again. This time, she actually picks up. On the other end of my phone I see a girl with dark hair. Half of her face is covered by bandages and her right arm is held in a sling. Her eyes are glossy and the mascara beneath them has run down her face, disturbed by tears. “What do you want?” she asks.
“You said you were thinking about killing someone,” I say.
“That was just a joke,” she says, forcing herself to smile.
“A joke?” I say.
“I have a weird sense of humor,” she says, her voice free from any emotion.
I peer through the phone, trying to figure out more about this girl. She’s sitting on a rooftop, one high enough that I can’t identify any other buildings. The roof is shabby and covered with garbage. On the ledge of the roof, I spot a silver revolver.
“Look, I’m sorry to waste your time,” she says.
“You have a gun,” I say.
She reaches to hang up the phone and I panic. “Wait!” I shout. “You said you wanted to talk. Talk to me.”
She doesn’t hang up. “What’s your name?” I ask.
“What happened to your arm, Sabrina?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got plenty of time to listen.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay. Who are you planning to kill?”
She doesn’t respond and starts biting her nails. “Sabrina, I think you called because you wanted someone to talk you out of doing this,” I say. “Am I right?”
“There’s this girl,” she says.
“She goes to my school. I hate her.”
“I’m sure you do, but do you really want to kill her?”
“Come on Sabrina, there has to be a better solution. No matter what this girl has done to you, she doesn’t deserve to die.”
“She broke my arm.”
“Okay, that’s horrible. Sure. But do you really want to kill someone? Once you do that, there’s no going back.”
Sabrina stares at the ground. “I’ve killed before,” she says.
I gulp. “You have?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says, a pang of sadness in her voice.
A tear drips down Sabrina’s face. “How did it feel, when you killed someone?” I ask.
“Like hell. The guilt was like water, filling my lungs. I felt like I was drowning every minute of every day.”
“Do you really want to feel that bad again?”
“Last time, I killed someone who was innocent. But, this girl, she deserves to die. I won’t feel bad if she dies.”
“How can you say that? No matter what she’s done, she’s a person, a person who deserves to live. Please, Sabrina, don’t do this.”
“I have to.”
With that, she hangs up the phone. I hit the call back button, hoping with every fiber of my being that she’ll pick up. As the phone rings, I turn to my computer and type in the name Sabrina Bloom, trying to find out any information on her I can. I discover a local newspaper article about Sabrina and quickly read it.
Sabrina picks up the phone for the final time. This time, the phone sits on the edge of the roof, with its camera pointed at the sky. In the bottom corner of the screen I see Sabrina. The revolver is in her hand. “What do you want?” she mutters.
“I found a newspaper article, Sabrina,” I say. “Would you mind if I read it to you?”
“I don’t care,” she says as she loads a bullet.
“Tragedy struck yesterday at eleven PM when three students at a local college were killed in an automobile accident,” I read.
Sabrina stops loading the gun. A single tear rolls down her face. “Do you want me to stop reading?” I ask.
“It doesn’t matter. Everything’s going to be over soon anyway,” she says.
“The sheriff’s department has determined that the crash was a result of brake failure that caused the car to drive off the road, crashing into a tree and killing three of its four passengers. The driver, Sabrina Bloom, is currently recovering at St. Raphael Hospital. Reports say that she should make a full recovery.”
“A full recovery. That’s hilarious,” Sabrina says, her words filled with bitter rage.
“Sabrina, the person you’re about to kill, it’s you, isn’t it?”
“Congratulations, you solved the mystery. Now, could you please let me die in peace?”
“You don’t want to do this.”
“I think I do.”
“Then why did you call me?”
“I told you, that was a mistake.”
“Then why did you pick up the phone when I called you back?”
Sabrina doesn’t answer that question. She places the gun on the ledge and starts crying. “I’m so scared,” she says. “I’m scared of dying, I’m scared of living, I don’t know what to do.”
“Sabrina, listen to me. This isn’t a solution. You aren’t getting rid of the pain, you’re just giving it to other people.”
“How selfish of me,” she snaps.
I wipe the sweat from my brow. “Look, I’m not a therapist, I wasn’t trained for this. Hell, this is the first call I’ve ever had to take,” I say.
“Lucky you, getting a basket case like me on your first day,”
I smirk at that and Sabrina laughs. Her eyes drift back to the gun and she frowns again. “Do you believe in God?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say.
“Me neither. I don’t know if the existence of God makes this whole shitshow better or worse. Either this is all happening because of some grand cosmic plan, or it isn’t. Either my friends were killed by an omnipotent jackass as part of a plan I can never understand, or life is just a meaningless charade twirling towards oblivion.”
“I don’t know if I believe in God, but I know life isn’t meaningless. Everything has to have a reason for happening.”
“What the hell was the reason behind my friends dying?”
“I don’t know, but-”
“Let’s put your little theory to the test,” Sabrina shouts.
Sabrina grabs the gun and spins the barrel. She points the gun at her head. “Sabrina, please, don’t do this!” I plead.
“Come on, if everything happens for a reason, then let’s see what that reason is,” she says. “There are three bullets in this gun right now. I don’t know where. If this is all happening as part of some grand cosmic plan, and that plan includes me surviving, then I’ll survive. If not, so be it.”
I shout Sabrina’s name as she pulls the trigger. My supervisor returns from her smoke break shortly after. I walk away from my desk and out the back door of the building. I’ve had a terrible first day.