Return of Four by Flash Piece 9: Callback


“For God’s sake don’t let him get on that plane!” The shrill voice yelled through the telephone.

Cathy instinctively recoiled and pulled the handset away from her ear before the crazed woman on the other end of the line could deafen her. The voice sounded familiar but she could not place it. Cathy vowed that next time she received a call from an unknown number, she would just let the voice mail take it. She thumbed the red “hang up” button and the call disconnected. Probably just some crank, she figured. The phone rang again, playing a tinny version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe before ringing off. A scant moment later, her phone beeped and the green voicemail light started to flash. The same “unknown number” as before felt the need to leave a message. Cathy sighed and dialed the voicemail number.

“Seriously, if you let Mark get on that plane, he’ll die!” The caller said. Her tone seemed calmer, as if she had taken several deep breaths before speaking.

Cathy wondered if her son’s name, “Mark” was just a lucky guess on the caller’s part. Mark did say something about a flight today. He needed to meet a client in Beijing tomorrow after a week talking mergers with a company out of Kuala Lumpur.

The caller probably just played the odds with the name, but Cathy found herself a little disquieted. She checked the time. Eleven thirty PM. She recalled that Kuala Lumpur was twelve hours ahead of New York, and that Mark’s flight left at close to one in the morning local time. She decided to call him.

“Hello?” Mark answered after the third ring, the unmistakable hubbub of an airport audible in the background.

“Hey Mark, it’s Mom. I got worried about you,” Cathy said.

“No need. You’re the one that’s scared of flying. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Just be safe for me.”

“I will,” Mark said.

“What’s your flight number? I’ll feel better if I can track it on the computer.”

“MH370. Look, I’ve got to hang up now. Need to get through security.”


The phone abruptly went dead. A moment later, it rang again as “unknown number” tried again.


In 2018, Cathy wiped away her tears and took a calming breath as she tried again to call her 2014 counterpart.

“Why won’t I listen to me?” she asked the empty house.


As followers of this blog are no doubt aware, back in March of this year, I participated in a Flash Fiction writing challenge known as “Four by Flash,” which had the goal of producing sixteen flash fiction pieces (four a week for four weeks) in a single calendar month. However, the full extent of that challenge was to repeat that schedule four times in a calendar year for a total of sixty-four pieces. I had earmarked June as my second month to attempt this feat, vowing to do better than I did in March, where a late start meant that pieces were still dribbling out in April.

I clearly failed miserably on the actual deadline thing, but I’m still determined to get all the sixteen pieces out. This piece is my ninth of the set and I still have ideas for the rest. 

The inspiration for this piece was a survey question I saw on a forum (I forget which): “You have one phone call to any person at any time in the past as long as telephones existed. Who do you call and what do you say?”

As you can imagine, that set the old brain juices flowing and the above piece was the result. I think it’s an idea that might be better for a long form fiction rather than flash, so I may tackle it again at some point.


Stock photo courtesy of Natalia Pankova


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