The Kali Symmetry - Cover

The Kali Symmetry

by Jon Fenton

Copyright© 2024 by Jon Fenton

Time Travel Story: After Silas Jennison receives an antique phone, he never expects to receive phone calls from it, especially in the middle of the night. But when he realizes these calls are from the past, he isn't sure how it will affect these strangers' lives or even his own. This story was intended to be a throwback to anthology shows like Twilight Zone. It takes place during the pandemic.

Tags: Science Fiction   Time Travel   Pandemic   Crime   Drama   Detective   Secret Agents  

I held up the mysterious gift the delivery driver left on my front porch and pondered over the enigma of this obsolete antique. It was a vintage rotary phone, a relic of the past, with a base crafted from lacquered wood and two metal bells on the front, resembling eyes that seemed to hold secrets. The receiver hung on the side, and the speaker end met in the middle with a wood finish, adding to its mystique.

The Khadga Symbol, a central feature of the phone, was a puzzle in itself. Its three double-edged swords, two curved and one straight, were encircled by a ring. A quick internet search revealed Kali, a god associated with time, change, power, destruction, and, ultimately, death. Yet, the symbol offered no clues about the phone’s function or purpose, leaving me to wonder what secrets it held.

The absence of a return address only deepened the mystery, leaving me to wonder who could have sent this intriguing relic. Yet, the presence of my name, Silas Jennison, on the address confirmed that it was indeed intended for me.

Despite the mystery surrounding it, I decided to keep the phone. Without hesitation, I put up mounting posts and hung the phone on the wall in the kitchen right next to an old ISDN line jack. It added something decorative to an otherwise plain two-bedroom home built around 1960 in a suburb of Philly. I’d keep it as long and as long as it didn’t blow the house up; what harm could it do?

As I retired early that night, the house fell into a hushed silence, broken only by the occasional dog bark and passing cars. But there was something different, something unexpected. The enigmatic phone, now a part of my home, seemed to whisper its secrets in the quiet. Its presence was a mystery, a puzzle I couldn’t ignore. I might’ve forgotten about it had it not been for its unexpected presence in my home.

As I lay in bed, the house was enveloped in a hushed silence, broken only by the distant sounds of the night. But then, a sound, a ring, shattered the calm. It was the phone, the source of the mystery, vibrating with each ring as if it had a life of its own, filling the air with an eerie atmosphere.

With a mix of trepidation and curiosity, I hurried through the front room, my mind flooded with questions. Who could be calling at this ungodly hour? And why on this old, forgotten phone? I lifted the receiver, my hand shaking slightly, and brought it to my ear, ready to unravel the mystery on the other end.

‘Hello,’ I said, my voice trembling slightly. ‘Who’s calling at this hour?’ Someone spoke on the other end, but their words were muffled, with plenty of crackling over the line. I gave it a bit before interrupting the party on the other end. ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t understand your words. Call back another time, please.’ I hung up and blew out in frustration. Another question ran through my mind. How in the world did this line still have service? I glanced up at the wall clock and noticed the time as just after three a.m. The answer would have to wait until the morning. I need sleep. I’ve got a long day of work ahead of me. I turned my eyes back to the rotary phone and unplugged the line. There’d be no more interruptions tonight.

Due to COVID, I work from home on weekdays, so my days start at eight am and end between nine and ten hours later.

Once I’d started the coffee maker and let Pattie, my little Yorkshire Terrier, run in the backyard to do his business, I strolled to my home office and switched on my laptop. I’ve been a Software Developer for Med-Tech, developing web applications for their company portal for nearly ten years. Our monthly release schedule keeps me busy daily and occasionally spills overnight. Once I grabbed coffee and toast, I noticed the work I had ahead of me and felt overwhelmed but being home and living by myself at least meant I had few distractions I’d have if I were still in downtown Philly working.

Around ten-thirty, Pattie started pounding on the back door, so I let her in. While I opened the door, I heard someone working from the side of my house. Suspicious, I went there to check out what it was, to find a plumb man on a ladder doing something to my telephone line. His wild, curly hair looked like it rarely saw a comb, and he also sported. Cupping my mouth, I shouted to get his attention. ‘Hey there.’ He turns in my direction. ‘What do you think you’re doing, Captain Lou.’

He said something, but I couldn’t hear, so I moved closer.

He took off his glasses and started cleaning them with a tissue. ‘I’m fixing your phone line. What does it look like I’m doing?’

I gave him a puzzled look. ‘But the line shouldn’t even be in service. I’ve got a cell phone; I don’t need a landline.’

He sighed in frustration. ‘Look, I was sent here by a subcontractor. If you have an issue, contact Iris Inc. It was their call, not mine.’

‘Fair enough. But can I get your name?’

‘It’s Jay. Jay Walker.’

I chuckled at the name before returning to my work.

When I returned to work, I got so involved that by the end of the day, I’d nearly forgotten about that incident with the telephone tech. The time on my microwave was seven PM, and I hadn’t eaten since noon, so I ordered a Greek salad from a local restaurant called Dahlia’s and set it for pick up. As soon as I stepped outside, I immediately regretted not wearing my raincoat because it started sprinkling, but storm clouds loomed overhead, and by the time I got home, I knew I’d be soaked. I also forgot to call the phone company about the repairman but had other things on my mind.

I hopped into my Mini-Cooper and was on my way. When I arrived, the kind server informed me that the wait would be another ten minutes, which was no issue. It allowed me to run to Marty’s Liquor store and grab a few bottles of well-needed Tequila Blanco.

I pulled my car into the garage by seven thirty PM, and nothing seemed out of place, at least not yet. After getting back inside, I noticed my neighbor, an older lady named Mrs. Barlowe, walking up the stairway that leads to my front porch, but then, when she got about halfway up, her husband, Jack, came running over and clutched her by the arm and to gently lead her back home. I’ve never heard the woman speak and was told by Jack that she had Alzheimer’s and may act out sometimes. They live across the cul-de-sac from me and are around seventy-five. I must credit the old guy for caring for her, but some of us in the neighborhood fear something terrible might happen someday.

They were back in their house shortly, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she had a legitimate reason for coming over. It almost looked like she wanted to tell me something.

I sat down to eat my Greek Salad at a small table in the kitchen when I noticed the side door in the same room open just a tad. Standing up, I closed and locked it, but the experience made the hair stand up on the back of my neck as I had a clear memory of both shutting and locking it. After I turned around, I noticed something on the kitchen floor that I hadn’t seen before. There was a trail of muddy footprints leading into the front room. (The front door was still locked tight, which puzzled me further) I took a few minutes to check over the house carefully, first to ensure I had no intruder present and second to ensure nothing was missing. The house had no extra tenants, and nothing was missing. The whole thing baffled me, but what could I do now? I considered calling the police but decided not to because nothing was broken or missing.

After I finished the Greek Salad, I called the phone company. It went directly to an automated message informing me that their business hours were only until seven, so I’d have to call back tomorrow.

After I drank about a quart of Tequila Blanco, I went into the front room where my baby grand sits in my finished basement and spent a few hours practicing Moonlight Sonata. I stopped playing once a few neighbors gathered outside, one pounding furiously and shouting at me. I might’ve been playing it worse than usual, as I was drunk then, but when I looked at the clock on the wall, I realized how late it was and decided to turn it in.

The rotary phone rang again around two am, waking me from this drunken slumber. I went to it, my blood boiling. I picked up the receiver and shouted, ‘Who’s calling at this hour?’

I waited for a response, but all I heard on the line was static. ‘I can’t hear you,’ I said, then was about to hang up, but the static suddenly cleared, and a voice could be heard.

‘Hello, who is this?’ I’d guess the voice belonged to a man in his early thirties.

‘Strange question to ask someone you called, but this is Solomon Wick. I’m a mechanic from Toledo, Ohio, who has to get up in three hours. Make it quick?’

I grunted. ‘My phone rang. I didn’t call anybody.’ I paused. There must be something wrong with this telephone line. Some knucklehead was here today working on it. It’s just a misunderstanding, I guess. Goodnight.’

‘Did my ex-wife, Laila, put you up to this,’ Joe asked.

‘No,’ I said scornfully. I think I’ve talked to you enough. Goodbye.’ I slammed the receiver so hard that it fell off the hook, which was all the better.

Thankfully, I returned to sleep quickly and without interruptions but was sure to jot down the name so I could give it to the phone company.

I slept in a bit that morning, which is an advantage of having your office right down the hall from where you sleep.

I set a reminder on my phone to give the phone company an earful when I got done tonight. For the time being, our director of communications, Ashley Madison, just gave us a two-day deadline for our main website release, which means we’ll all be swamped the next few days, and I’ll be chained to this laptop for at least twelve hours a day. Working furiously could bring mistakes, so I paced myself to avoid burnout.

I hadn’t thought about last night’s strange call until I took a required half-hour lunch break, during which I Googled the names I had written down.

My jaw dropped when an obituary for someone with that name appeared at the top of the list. The top few results told a story about a vicious murder. The name matched the man I spoke to, and an ex-wife was involved; her name also matched the one he’d given me.

The article was from February 7, 2014.

Solomon Wick, a Toledo resident thirty-two years of age, died after being ambushed by his ex-wife, Laila Wick, and her friend, Nevaeh Ellis. Laila and Joe had been in the middle of a custody dispute at the time of the murder, which was the motive for the crime. Police say Laila lured the man out into a remote area, and Nevaeh shot him in the back. Joe was survived by his two loving parents, Scott and Linda, and a beautiful little girl. Joe had a love for bowling and turkey hunting. His employer says he was the hardest working mechanic he’d known at GE.

Due to all the similarities, it was easy to rule out this being a different Solomon Wick. But if he’d been killed back in 2014, how could he have spoken to me if he died back in 2014? The idea caused me cognitive dissonance, but I realized it was possible this Joe may not have ever died at all.

I checked a few more articles and found out that both women were sentenced to over forty years in prison. I confirmed that both were located at the Ohio Reformatory for Women using an online offender search.

Once my lunch was over, I was back to work. I had too much work ahead of me to research Joe’s murder extensively. I’d have to wait for the call tonight and ask the man directly. Maybe I could warn him and change history, given that this phone makes calls to the past. I put the phone back on the hook before returning to my workday.

That night, I slept like a log, though it was only due to my exhausting workday. Under any other circumstances, I would’ve been up half the night to prepare for this call.

Much like clockwork, the call came in at precisely three am, sending me right on my feet and bolting into the kitchen to answer it.

‘Solomon Wick, I couldn’t wait for your call. It’s me, Bill Morgan.’

I heard the man sigh heavily over the line. ‘Bill Morgan? Could you please explain why you keep calling me so late?’ I’d made up the name on the fly. There’s no way I’d give a stranger over the phone my real one, especially since there was a murder involved.

‘This is important, a matter of life and death. Tell me, what year is it where you are?’

‘What year is it?’ Joe said quizzically. It’s 2014. What other year would it be?’

‘Of course, it’s 2014.’ I laughed.

‘Do you mind explaining what this is all about?’ Joe’s tone was short. I needed to make this brief and not waste the man’s time. Otherwise, he might hang up or think that this was a prank.

‘It’s your ex-wife Laila and her friend Nevaeh. They’ll kill you shortly. Take whatever precautions you need to take to prevent it.’

‘Oh really! Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me, but please tell me one thing. How the hell do you know about this?’

‘I’m a friend of a friend,’ I said.

‘What’s his name,’ Joe asked.

‘Can’t tell you,’ I said quickly, then hung up.

I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, thoughts racing through my head. I couldn’t bear the thought of googling the names of each party involved and seeing the result. If these phone calls to the past were just that, then some effect or change should’ve taken place, but I’d wait until the morning to find out.

After getting coffee brewing at six am, I fired up my laptop and googled Solomon Wick. My stomach churned with worry as I waited for the results. The top result was an article from February 7th, 2014.

Two women are dead, and one man is in the Lucas County Corrections Center in a custody battle gone wrong. Police say Solomon Wick showed up at a remote location where he was supposed to pick up their son from ex-wife Laila but had a surprise waiting for her and her friend Nevaeh Ellis in the form of a Glock 19. But that’s not the twist, police say. Nevaeh was said to have a shotgun in the car, but they aren’t sure if she was planning to use it or just had it for protection. Police confiscated Joe’s phone after he was arrested and say, according to texts, he received the gun from a friend but told the man it was only for his protection. Solomon Wick is currently being held on a one-million-dollar bond and is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Police are interested in speaking with a man named Bill Morgan. If you’re out there, Bill, call them immediately.

After reading the article, I closed the lid of my laptop and put my face in my hands. ‘What have I done,’ I said to myself. Because of me, now two people are dead, but was this my fault? I took some time to consider it but had to admit I did all I could.

I had to make sure no more phone calls from the past came through. With a pair of scissors from my desk, I went into the kitchen and cut the cord, taking both ends out and cutting them into tiny pieces, then throwing them in the trash.

Not too much later, I started my workday. With the release due today, I had too much work to worry about someone else’s problems. Changing what already happened was as terrible as I’d imagined, but there was one more loose end to tie up.

Iris Inc. will receive a call after my twelve hours, and I hope they can tell me who Jay Walker is. If the guy had entered my house illegally, I could have fired him or charged him with burglary, but I won’t be leaving this house today. I couldn’t let anyone tamper with that phone again.

I repeatedly Googled Solomon Wick throughout the day, getting the same results and story each time. But as the day went on, I could only remember it with the new result.

We missed our release by a few hours, which turned my day into a sixteen-hour marathon, and I was exhausted by the end.

Before bed, I double-checked the phone to ensure it was still unplugged. I had no visitors, so there wasn’t any reason for it to be plugged in, but after what happened the other day, I couldn’t be too safe. Finally, I’d get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

I sat up abruptly when the phone rang in the middle of the night. How could this be possible? The thing isn’t even plugged in. I’ve never believed in the supernatural, and an unplugged phone ringing wasn’t possible in and of itself. The phone must have worked through some other method I wasn’t familiar with, but figuring that out would have to wait for later.

I went to answer the phone, this time bringing my Pixel to do searches.

I picked up the phone, waiting for the other party to speak.

‘Thanks for calling Ki Jewelers, Ann speaking.

‘Hi, Ann; this is Officer Bill Morgan from the local police department. We received a notification of a cut line at your location and need to send someone out. Can you tell me what road this store’s on?’

‘Sure,’ she said awkwardly. ‘We’re in the Dakota Hills Shopping Plaza right off Duncan Road. The third building in.’

I started googling the location. ‘Is everything okay where you are? No one’s holding up the place, are they?’

‘Everything is fine here. Are you sure there was a cut line?’

‘Positive Ann. What’s your last name?’

‘Cromwell. Listen, I’ve got a customer, so I’ve gotta go.’

I quickly googled her name and couldn’t believe the name of the road hadn’t struck a bell. This was Ann Chapman. Killed in a jewelry store in a small town in Missouri back in 92. The killer was never caught but was known as the I-70 killer. A police sketch came up with the results as well. I was never an art critic, so I can’t knock what they had, but since it never led to the killer being caught, it’s easy to write it off as ineffective.

‘Just a moment longer, I swear. What time do you have Ann?’

She made a tisk noise, but I still hadn’t lost her. ‘What! It’s a quarter after two in the afternoon. Why? Don’t you guys have a clock?’

I noticed the time on an article about her. It listed her time of death as two thirty. There was little time to spare, so I had to make this quick: ‘Ann, you’ve got to listen to me; this is an emergency. I work for the police but am not at the station now. You must call us back and get an officer at your location when we get off the phone. Tell them it’s a life-or-death situation. A dangerous man may be with you at the store already. Lock yourself in a backroom if you need to.’

‘All right, Officer Bill,’ she said in a whisper. ‘He’s looking around right now. I’ll go in the back and call. This guy does look creepy. Thank you!’

I hung up, taking a deep breath and blowing out slowly. I’d done my best with what I had to work with and could only hope for the best. There was no way to be sure when a change would occur, but if I stayed up any longer, I’d go mad, so I laid back in bed.

I couldn’t help but obsess over the murder of Ann Chapman and whether I spoke to her in time. Would there be another chance to save her if my warning hadn’t been in time? Somehow, I doubted it. I googled the name again and pulled a separate page to Google the I-70 killer. Nothing had changed yet, so I’d have to wait until morning again; otherwise, I’d get no more sleep tonight.

I woke up before the sun rose and researched Ann Chapman’s murder, but no change had taken place. I fell asleep at my desk and opened my eyes again when the sun was up. With a belly ache, I typed the girl’s name into Google and looked at the top few results. The articles spoke about authorities getting to the girl after the I-70 killer had attacked her with a knife, stabbing her multiple times, but she lived, and the killer was caught. His name turned out to be Blake Darcy. Several lives have been saved thanks to one phone call into and from the past.

Somehow, the gadget still worked. A call was made without a cable plugged in. I thought of a plan to find out, but it would have to wait until tonight.

As I went through my day, I was distracted by this new case. I repeatedly typed the names into several search engines, each getting similar results. Still, even after seeing proof of a change, I questioned whether all of it was real or imagined. At one point, I wrote it off as a simple Mandela Effect. Nothing had changed, I told myself. Eventually, I could only remember this new version of the murder case, just like the others.

During the afternoon, I asked a few of my work friends if they’d heard of either case; while Jason hadn’t, Olivia was familiar with both. When considering which resolution she remembered, I was surprised to learn that she initially remembered the original but seemed to change her story later. I recalled a note I found the other day that read:

‘Only the revision will be remembered.’

The cognitive dissonance frustrated me, so I took a reasonably long walk in the afternoon. When I returned to my work laptop, about thirty messages and emails were waiting for me to respond. Some of them were from my boss asking for a meeting tomorrow morning. I dreaded meeting with her since I had no idea what it’d be about. The thought of it made my belly ache—so much so that all I could stomach tonight for dinner was a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

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