International Writers Magazine:
To Disappear Completely
have reached the How to Disappear Completely automated helpline;
you will shortly hear a list of options; please consider these carefully
before selecting the corresponding number on your keypad."
Telephone wedged between his ear and shoulder, he peered out through
the blinds at the black car still parked across the street.
completely, press one; if you wish to vanish for between three and five
years, press two; for all other queries, please press three; not sure
how long you wish to disappear for, please hold the line to speak to
With an impatient finger, Karl pressed one and waited.
"How to disappear completely. Press one to amend your existing
account details; if you have previously received a quote from one of
our representatives, or online, please press two; for all other enquiries,
He listened to the pre-recorded female call-centre voice reel through
the options before punching number three on his phone. "Your call
is in a queue; please hold the line while we try to connect you; all
our calls are recorded for training and monitoring purposes. Your call
is very important to us."
Movement inside the black car flinched him back from the window onto
his knees; phone and hold music lost from his ear, skittering across
the vinyl flooring against the skirting board. Keeping below the windowsill,
he reached out for the phone and slammed it back next to his ear.
how can I help you?" Another female voice; this one
was slightly breathless and abrupt.
"Yeah, hi; I need to disappear, today." He thought about adding
a please to the end, but didnt really think he had the time. Eyes
tentatively peering above the windowsill, the front passenger window
of the black car slid down to eye level revealing a lungful of blue
smoke mist above the dark interior.
"Okay, Sir; I just need to take a few details from you
"Cant you just send somebody round here?" Black cars
passenger window now fully down; the driver, sat in shadow; the whites
of his eyes glaring up in Karls direction.
"Im afraid its not that simple, Sir. If youd
like to give me your surname and postcode, please?" The voice,
in no rush whatsoever; sat somewhere safe in front of her computer screen,
headset snugly in place atop her head like an electronic halo.
With each question, Karl spat out his answer as he watched the man in
the black car smoke his cigarette; flick the stub out into the road;
roll up the passenger window; then, slowly exit the drivers side
The man was lean; he stepped out of the car like a circus performer
on stilts and stood on the pavement opposite watching the window with
a grin that stretched across his face like a lipstick line. His hair
was jet black and slicked away from his forehead, causing his face to
appear more drawn and pale that it naturally was. Beneath his neck he
wore a loose-fitting shiny black faux-leather jacket with pockets that
he folded his dangling arms into; below that, he wore faded blue demin
jeans and white trainers. To look at him wasnt that intimidating;
he appeared as a weird bloke you might see perched at the bar of the
local. But, the reason why Karl feared for his life was he actually
knew the man; this recent stalker, now checking the flow of traffic
before he crossed the road to approach his building, had apparently
died on his twenty-first birthday in a car crash that Karl caused around
fifteen years ago. This man, now wandering across the street toward
his front door, was for all intents and purposes dead and buried to
everyone unfortunate enough to have met or known him.
If it hadnt been for Karl spotting him while walking through a
motorway services two days ago, the man might still be dead. If Karl
hadnt needed to interrupt his short journey home from a training
course in order to stop off and use the public facilities, he might
still be none the wiser; in fact, he wouldnt have stared at him
in the mirror across from the urinals and thought he seemed familiar
(nobody could mistake this man for anyone else) and ask him if he was,
who he thought he was. The realisation that this man should still be
dead didnt dawn on him until they started talking outside and
be revealed that he hadnt died but had faked his own death all
those years before.
Laughter and the humour in it left Karl as the man did toward his own
car parked outside in the two hours free parking area as anger took
over; Karl was almost imprisoned for his supposed death. Actually, Karl
had been quite shaken up for a couple of years following that accident
which had affected almost every relationship he had been in; he had
also lost his job and touch with his family.
Outside Karl ran over to the dead man walking to his parked car and
let fly the burning and, until now, buried hostility he had unconsciously
held toward this man; causing quite a scene for groups of passers by.
From what he could visually recollect of the encounter, the man had
backed off to retrieve his wallet from his back pocket; Karl assuming
he was trying to buy his forgiveness where, in response, lunged at the
man, knocking him to the ground. Several minutes of scuffling later,
Karl was pulled off the man who got up and disappeared into his car
and fled the service station car park before Karl could free himself
from the good Samaritans in shorts and business suits.
It was in the space previously taken by his old friends black
car that Karl spotted the wallet; and, it was inside, as he bent to
collect it, that he found the business card for How to Disappear
Completely. But, that card only held his attention for a fraction
of the time than the driving license that carried his friends
new identity. And, with this evidence in his possession, Karl decided
to take it to the police and, belatedly, clear his name for the crime
he never committed.
It was sometime the following day when Karl found that the business
card must have fallen out of the wallet and onto the floor of his car;
and sometime after that when he received a telephone call from his old
tall still-breathing friend who threatened his life for what he had
done; as his new life was now over, soon so would Karls. "It
was just a matter of time" Was what the man said.
From the high-rise window looking down, the tall man was no longer in
view; phone still pressed against his ear, Karl pleaded with the woman
on the other end of the line to do something.
"Im sorry, Sir; but your account appears to be already active;
one of our operatives are on their way to get you started."
It had been fear; real and genuine terror that some supposed dead man
from his past was coming to kill him. And, now? Was it just another
joke at his expense? This lanky loser that had died in the car wreck
he had been airlifted from, only gaining consciousness in his hospital
bed to be greeted by a policeman who informed him that his passenger
had died on impact but had, in fact, unbeknownst to him instead called
on the services of a small and somewhat obscure company that had assisted
in faking his death and providing him with a whole new identity, while
everyone else around him continued to live in complete ignorance.
Karls new emotion swept him back to the service station car park,
two days earlier, as he threw the telephone receiver against the wall
and leapt up toward the front door of his flat. After all these years
and all this time, for this man to wander back into his life in order
to almost destroy it a second time was inconceivable; this joker wasnt
getting away with making him a fool again.
The only weapon he had handy was a fire extinguisher fixed to the wall
in the hallway; ripping it from its fixtures, Karl strode toward
the staircase to make real the death that his old friend had so successfully
faked all those years before.
© Mark Robinson
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