“And then she had the nerve to leave her dirty clothes in the hall, I mean really?” Sue shook her head in disgust, her headset straining to stay atop her curls. Barbara was about to retort, remembering her own teenager’s dilemma when the phone rang.
“Here we go!” Said Sue with a little too much energy for two in the morning, “Always got to get these calls on a full moon.
Barbara gave her friend a wink and adjusted the microphone. She sniffed and then hit the accept button, “911 emergency-”
“Please you need to help me!” The voice echoed from the headset, feedback from close quarters. Must be another domestic, they always end up in the closet.
Barbara attempted to keep the tedium from her voice, “What is the situation ma’am?”
There was a shifting of fabric and then the voice, “I-I’m stuck inside an elevator.”
Great, just great. Another elevator. She sighed. It wasn’t that Barbara didn’t like helping other people in distress. It was the regularity that came with the phone calls. Years before when she became a 911 Dispatcher had sounded so glamorous, even dangerous. Maybe even a little sexy. But now she had heard everything, experienced everything, and it was old.
Sue chuckled into her coffee and then spluttered as she gagged on the steaming liquid.
Taking a deep breath Barbara repeated the well versed line, “Is security on their way?”
Sue clutched at her desk, slopping coffee over old transcripts. It was all Barbara could do not to laugh into the phone.
The woman’s voice grew higher in pitch, “Yes, but-”
Sure it was yet another claustrophobic individual overreacting she interrupted. “Then all you have to do is sit tight ma’am, they should be there in a few-”
“I don’t have time! Somethings in here with me.” Sue was now dabbing the front of her shirt, giggling like her teenaged daughter. Barbara slapped her shoulder, hand over her mouth.
She turned back to her computer screen, looking at the call’s transcript. Her mirth ebbing away. “Sorry Miss did you say someone is there with you, are they hurt?”
The phone receiver picked out a sob, “NO, its not with me, its outside.”
Sue continued to laugh at herself, tossing a napkin at her co-worker. Barbara waved her away as cold settled in her stomach. She pulled the microphone closer to her mouth,”The person is outside? Are they leaving the elevator?”
Another sob escaped into the phone, “Stop it! You don’t understand.”
“Ma’am, where are you?” Sue stopped laughing at the tone of Barbara’s voice.
“. . . .its moving closer. I can hear it crawling towards me.”
Now Sue was next to Barbara, cocking her head to one side to listen. “Ma’am, where are you?”
“A-a-a an office building .” The voice stuttered.
Waving her hands in the air Barbara pushed for more information. “Honey focus, which one?”
Static filled the line, garbling the woman’s voice, “-its sniffing . . . oh my . . . it can smell me. I GOING TO DIE!”
Barbara’s eyebrows raised in alarm, “Ma’am, which building?”
Fear gave way to frustration as the person on the line continued to yell, “What building?! It doesn’t matter! I’m going to die!”
Years of experience on hearing this snapped both women into action. Sue pulled on an extra head set and started pulling up tracking information on the other computer. Barbara took a quick breath, feeling a sudden pang of guilt.
“Ma’am try to stay calm, you aren’t going to die. What office building are you in?”
A harsh burst of static filled the headphones. There was a scream then more static. “Oh my- its trying to get inside. Oh Gosh, help me!”
“That’s not static.” Whispered Sue, her face going white. it was the shriek of metal on metal.
Trying to refocus the caller Barbara spoke with steady voice. “Ma’am, try to remain calm.”
There was only silence. Barbara looked at Sue, her friend wholly engrossed in a map of the city.
Then a faint whisper filled the air, “Are you still there?”
Letting her breath go Barbara answered, “Yes ma’am, just tell me where you are and I can get our guys to you.”
The voice grew more panicked, “Where am I? Where am I! Can you not hear it? It’s getting closer.”
The panic would only complicated things, Barbara needed the voice to calm down. “Focus honey,okay? Whats your name?”
“My n-n-name? Lisa, its Lisa.”
We’re getting somewhere. She glanced at Sue, still studying her screen.
“Where are you Lisa, whats the name of the building? Do you remember?”
“I-I’m in the….” More metallic protestations blocked all other noise, “It’s . . It’s climbing around!!!
“Lisa girl, focus, where are you?” Barbara spoke with authority, willing the woman to answer.
“. . .the CITI bank tower! I’m here in the tower.”
With a growl the voice snapped back, “How’m I suppose to know that? There’s more than one? What kind of . . . wait . . . I think its chewing through.”
Sweat ran down Barbara’s face, she felt it trickle onto her shirt. She looked down at the keyboard where her hands shook.
What’s going on?
Sue’s computer zoomed in a section of the financial district.
“Lisa stay with me girl, Focus! Where are you?” Barbara gripped her desk, almost pleading into the phone.
Sue went ridged and then called out, “. . . . .its the one on north and 36Th, by the freeway.”
Nodding to no one in particular Barbara spoke into her headset. “Perfect Honey we found you, we’re calling there now, just stay with me-”
A cacophony of shrieks and static filled the room, alone with a single voice screaming at the top of it’s lungs. Screams of pure unadulterated terror.
Both Sue and Barbara jumped to the feet, cords stretching taught. Headphones pulled at hair and papers scattered to the floor.
“EVERYTHING IS SHAKING! ITS SHAKING!” Screamed the voice into the receiver.
“LISA stay calm, LISA I’M HERE!” There was only so much she could do from her office. Barbara looked around the plane room. There were no doors leading to a ready helicopter. No droves of S.W.A.T. soldiers racing here and there. Just an ordinary colorless call center she’d been staring at for the past 15 years.
Nothing but silence. Coffee dripped unnoticed onto the floor.
“. . . ” Then the faintest of noises, came to Barbara’s head, someone breathing.
“. . . . .” A pause between breaths.
“Honey, are you still there?”
Please, please heavens above let her speak. Barbara prayed silently.
“. .the lights are out, I can’t. .” It was a piteous voice, weak and tired.
Barbara put as much hope, and encouragement into her voice.”Don’t worry help is on the way!”
Silence grew on the line, tightening the fit of her headset.
“. . . .”
Sue stood next to her, hand over mouth, eyes blinking furiously.
“Its inside. . .” Lisa’s voice choked out the words.
Barbara wanted to scream, wanted to reach in through the phone and pull Lisa into her arms.
“Lisa. . . .” She was going to say more but the flat tone of the woman’s voice stopped her.
“I- somethings moving. ”
Static crescendoed through Barbara’s ears.
“I . .don’t. . .”
“. . .hsssssss.”
The line went dead.