At first, he thought it was his own pulse he was feeling. That he was gripping his phone too tightly, feeling the interruption of the blood beneath his skin. He finished his call, replaced it in his pocket - thought nothing more of it.
In bed, with the curtains drawn, he felt it again. Holding the phone loosely this time, but it was there, the pulse - the feeling of something alive. Had something slipped through the thin join between phone and case, somehow? Could it even now be trapped beneath the smooth plastic?
The phone was laid flat on the bedside table, two fingers pressed against it the way he had once been taught to check for someone’s pulse in a First Aid class. There it was again, steady and regular. Pumping.
He would take the case off the phone and open it up, he thought, in the morning. See if something was trapped. If it had been there all day and was still living, waiting until the morning would not make a difference. There, the deal had been struck. He tapped his fingers against the back of the phone, seeing if there was a reaction or movement - there wasn’t. No bloated bulge beneath the surface, no call of a creature. He could not sleep, tossing and turning until finally, refusing to acknowledge his own reasons for doing so, the phone was moved into the living room until morning.
He slept, still restless.
In the morning, cautiously touching the phone in the light streaking in through the blinds, at first he thought there was nothing. He had been overtired, it was his own pulse after all - living alone could play tricks on the mind, sometimes. But then - there it was, one steady beat after the other.
He would look inside now. He had to.
The phone had a case on it, to protect it - thin plastic, surrounding the polished metal of the phone itself. He had not thought much about it when he purchased it but here it was now, and he tried to prise it off, first one side and then the other. It moved reluctantly, eager to ease back into place, as though there was tacky glue attached, sticky and not quite dry.
Perhaps he had spilled something over it previously which was now inside, holding it together - he went to the kitchen and with a thin knife, he inserted the blade into the join between the case and the phone, dragging it across to free the hold of whatever was inside.
The knife came out; the blade now shiny with a slick red coating.
Was this his phone? Had he, perhaps, dropped his phone only to pick up someone else’s item? An art project, maybe, some kind of experiment? But there was the scratch on the screen where he had dropped it once, there was the case he had chosen himself.
Helplessly, at a loss, he set the phone back down. A nap, maybe - a lie down, time to collect his thoughts of what to do next. He slept with his back to the phone and face pressed into the couch cushions, eyes fluttering, caught between sleep and wakefulness. He dreamt of the phone, of creatures, bright lights flashing before his eyes. He did not know if he had slept at all.
The phone was still there, where it was left, resting on the dark-grained wood. It hadn’t moved - he won’t admit to himself that he was relieved. He picked it up and it pulled, reluctant, silver ooze catching the light and trying to hold the phone in place as it stretches. This was it - he had enough. He would stand for this no more.
In the toolbox, there was a hammer. One hit; two. The phone laid in bloodied pieces, held together with a silver glue. But it was done - the pieces were thrown out. There was nothing more to them. There was nothing there at all.
The next morning, the phone was there, solid, on the bedside table; the silver glue leaking from his ear.
About the Author: Grace Carroll lives in England, writes short stories and is currently working on a novel. She seeks inspiration where she can find it, and you can follow her on twitter if you want: @graceblaise