CHAT

Written by: Ray Stone
Maximum number of words per chapter: 500
Minimum number of words per chapter: 450

I felt alone and invisible, as usual, but even more so within a crowd. Kids screamed, and mothers chided or bribed while dragging their offspring away from the brightly coloured storefronts that featured either Santa mannequins waving or sitting in sleighs. Holiday music echoed down into the mall; a loud but muffled background accompaniment to the general hubbub. For three hours, bathed in this nightmarish din, I sank into a deep frustration at having no escape until she arrived. According to most dictionaries, loneliness is a complicated and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. For me, sitting in the middle of a crowded mall all day without having one word of conversation was isolation and therefore loneliness.

She had finally succumbed to my continual barrage of requests that we meet on my day off. The ‘Chat Room’ was a great place to make new friends, but after a few months and with feelings of trust established, one starts getting closer to understanding another person’s likes, dislikes, and their view of life in general as they open up. Apart from generalities, all we knew about each other was that she worked in an insurance office uptown and me at Sun Bank in the mall.  

‘Ruby’ asked for my phone number and without too much careful thought, I had given it. Ruby called and explained she wanted to hear my voice to make sure I was a man. One could tell, she explained, by my voice, if I was someone she could get along with. We made plans to meet but with the proviso that she would arrive between ten and two and take a look at me before deciding to meet me at a place she chose. I agreed to wear a green baseball cap and sit on a certain bench. She would be wearing a pink beret if we met. No call by two o’clock meant a no-show.

***

 “Hi, Ray, nice to see you.” There was a little giggle, followed by - “Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.”

I’d got used to her sense of humor. “Okay, funny girl, where do we meet?”

“There’s a Cosa kiosk at the end of the mall, near your bank. Let’s get a coffee there.”

With relief, I left the bench and strolled across the open center of the concourse and took the main walkway back to the main entrance. Shoppers, all lost in thought or conversation, brushed shoulders, spoke into phones or texted with two thumbs as I made my way through the throng. When I reached Cosa’s, I looked around for a pink beret, but there was none. I sat at a table and waited. Seconds later, the phone rang.

“Hi, Ray, how ya doin’ man?”

The strange male voice startled me. I checked the number and knew it was Ruby’s. “Excuse me, who am I talking to?”

“That doesn’t matter, Ray. You just listen up and do as we ask if you want to see Ruby again.”

My heart started to thump.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

This is a real life scenario that happened to one of my friends. She was communicating with a guy (or so she thought) on Tinder and what followed was a nightmare involving blackmail, extortion and what not. The virtual world is really scary at times and I can't wait to see how we all share our experiences through the medium of this serial. Your descriptions are vivid as usual Ray, actually transporting the reader to a busy mall during holiday season. Loved it!
Thank you, Hemali. I am hoping that this serial becomes a warning message to parents and teens who read our work. Chat rooms are in the main, unregulated and therefore a dangerous place to form relationships unless personal moral rules are kept to. To often we get carried away and forget that the other side of the screen may be occupied by a writer with dangerous intentions. This story is already part of a short I am writing.