#fridayflash: Ringtone, ringtone

Ringtone, ringtone

by Tony Noland

The cell phone in her lap rang again, the same blaring mix of synthpop trance laid over a baby crying, set to full volume.

Again, Tamura ignored it. After half a minute or so, it stopped.

It would ring again and she would have to act. Maybe on the next ring, maybe on the one after that, but it wouldn't be long.

Around her on the bus, the sidelong looks had grown, becoming more obvious. With every call, the comments, too, were rising. Private eyerolls had given way to disbelieving whispers to seatmates. Exasperated sighs and irritated mutterings, loud enough for her to hear, came next.

It wouldn't be long now.

From three seats behind her, she heard a woman's voice, young sounding but with a smoker's gravelly edge. She was swearing to God that if that fucking phone rings again, she'd go up there and answer the damned thing herself. Did anyone doubt her? She wanted to know, did anyone doubt her? After a day like hers, and with four hungry kids to face when she got home, she shouldn't have to put up with crap like that, wasn't that the truth? Wasn't it? Around her, other voices gave assent and encouragement. The voices agreed that someone certainly had to say something.

Please, Tamura thought, please don't. Not you, whoever you are. Not somebody's mother. Let it be a man. Please. Make it a man.

Gray skies threatened, but the windows of the bus were dry. The traffic was thin, rush hour long since over. Only the last shift people out now. Working people, the bottom rung.

She had to put out the left eye of the first person who said anything to her about the phone's incessant ringing. The randomness was part of the task set before her. Whoever it was, Henrique had said, man, woman or child. The first person who complains to you about the ringing, you stand up, point your fingers, pop-in-pop-out and run away with the eyeball. Bring it to me, he'd said. Bring it to me so I can hold it while it's still wet.

Or else.

Tamura sat still in her seat, sweaty palms spread on her thighs, waiting for the phone to ring again.

Inked up blue jeans, red hightops, and a throwaway plaid jacket. Bits of shiny steel superglued to her face and ears, made to look like piercings. No one would be able to give a meaningful ID on her, Henrique had promised that. They'll never know what hit them. They won't have time to react. It'll be over in a flash.

He'd promised.

The bus rolled on, the muttering behind her grew as the woman with the cigarette voice worked up her courage, egged on by her seatmates.

And Tamura waited for the phone to ring again.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Ewww even though it hadn't happened yet it promised to be gruesome. Now I have lots of questions, who is he? why does he want an eyeball? How did she become trapped into doing this task?

    and will somebody answer that bloody phone! ^__^

  2. Ditto what Helen has said... ı want to know more..x

  3. Ooooh this was dark. Why does he want the eyeballs? We must know!!!

  4. Maybe he wants the eyeball to make soup as served to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
    Great way to leave the tension out there.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  5. That was disturbing! Glad you stopped before she actually had to do that to someone. I agree with the others - this leaves me intensely curious. Why was she forced to do this? And why this particular act of violence?

  6. I like that it ended before you found out who would complain, but why did she have to do it? Creepy story!

  7. Plenty gross, Tony. And I thought that ringtone would be the worst of it.

  8. All the questions just go to show how successful this was. Good job, Tony. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: 'nuisance caller'

  9. Wow, that was really dark for you Tony. Somebody piss you off? ;)

  10. This is a lot more like the dark stuff I remember when I first started reading your stuff, Tony. It does leave a lot of unanswered questions, but I think that only adds to the tension.

    Nice capture of the people around her — "I'm not going to say anything, but I'll egg on anyone who says he/she will." Maybe that's why people never want to speak out?

  11. What's interesting and gratifying to me in reading everyone's comments (and thank you all for them!) is how dark everyone is seeing this. I was trying to establish an ominous tone, a sense of tension built up the breaking point and held there. It looks like I succeeded. ;-)

    Notice, though, that in point of fact, what has happened here? Nothing. The phone's been ringing, that's all. Will she really pluck out someone's eyeball? Will she chicken out? Will she try, but fail? Will she get caught? Henrique sent her for an eyeball this time... what will it be next time? Or is he just tired of her and sent her off to be arrested just because he wants her gone?

  12. Oooh. This was good, Tony! Loved the slow entry, the pacing, the subtle reveals along the way. Excellent choice to stop where you did. That further sets up the 'what if' questions you point out in your comments too. This is a story that will stick with me for a long time. And that's exactly what you want. Thanks for the #FridayFlash fun!

  13. Waiting for the next ring!
    The tension from the fact that only this woman knows what will happen when another call comes , and is unable to warn anyone puts me on edge. The whole story is a great, big mystery which I'd love to see revealed!

  14. I love this story Tony. It is completely bonkers but it still has your trademark internal logic ticking all the way through it like a bomb waiting to go off.. Ambiguity pours out of every line.. I disagree with Cindy..don't reveal it..keep us guessing! You may have worked out by now that I am into obsessive personalities and old Mr Eyeball man..is my kinda guy!

  15. The shock of learning what she is expected to do works well here as it is totally unexpected. It takes the story to a whole different place in a couple of words. For the first time in my life i asked someone to turn off their phone in the cinema recently. I consider myself lucky to have escaped unharmed.

  16. Thanks, everyone! I'm really pleased that you all like the "questions left unanswered" aspect of this.

  17. I think what really makes this work, Tony, is that two word line... 'Or Else.'

    Whether she goes through with it or not, it's a horrible thing and yet whatever he has over her makes her contemplate doing it. Whatever he has over her must be worse...

    So I agree with everyone else, very dark, and leaves me wanting more... ;)

  18. Love it's eyeball plucking darkness. Well done.

  19. Seriously creepy and the tension is stronger in the not knowing what will happen. The questions left are frustrating and intriguing.

  20. Fantastic stuff, Tony. Brought up images of the eyeball plucking in Kill Bill, for me.

  21. Ok, I'm never going to complain about someone's phone ringing again.

  22. Maybe you could put this in a collection of your work called 'Bad Tony'. Hmm, maybe not, maybe 'Bloody Tony' would be better...actually don't listen to me!

    Anyway good story this week. Like the way the grimness revealed itself. I also like that we don't know if she'll do it or not.


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