The message came from an unknown number, traditionally for Edward this meant spam but the fragment of the message which appeared when his phone buzzed began simply and unusually with “Hello Edward…”
There were tonnes of companies, subsidiaries and fraudulent individuals out there who had at one time or another come across Edward’s details. In his head he was just one name on a long list and like jury duty, it was just his turn. They all had their angles, this over-familiarity was one he’d seen countless times before, but this one was different.
Normally the endless emails and text messages from dubious origins would begin “Congratulations Edward!!” or “Edward! You’ve been chosen!!” always punctuated with false exclamations to give off the impression of excitement and always employing a first-name basis to mimic a secure friendship with no ill intent.
Edward’s response to these correspondences was no response at all, barely scanning the message he would immediately hit delete and forget about it seconds later. This message was of a different nature, intriguing in its apparent neutrality, as if a stranger were reaching out with no ulterior motive other than to extend their greetings.
The approach was effective and Edward broke from tradition; instead of deleting the offending message he tapped on the ‘open message’ button with his thumb and waited as it began to load in its entirety. The message read:
Hello Edward, I hope you are well –
Edward stopped for a minute, maybe he was wrong, the robotic-sounding inquiry to his well-being already seemed to be trying to sell him something, but it also reminded him of another kind of correspondence; postcards, letters, epistles to friends, family and lovers. There was still a scrap of sincerity in the message’s words and so Edward resolved to continue.
Hello Edward, I hope you are well. Don’t worry, we don’t know each other so there is no obligation for you to respond or even read any further, but I hope you will indulge me.
Edward puzzled over the message several times debating whether or not to respond. Who could it be? A charitable organisation soliciting for donations? The Samaritans just checking in? It is nearly Christmas, he thought.
Still more intrigued than suspicious, Edward responded to the message with a perfectly rational question:
Who is this?
Edward hit send and within seconds of the message going out, another was returned.
It’s understandable that you would like to know who I am Edward, though who I am is not really important. However, if it would put you at ease, you may call me Candice.
Candice? Is that the name of a telemarketer? It seemed uncommon enough not to be false. Candice was also a woman’s name, somehow this seemed to add pressure to his next response and he wrote and re-wrote his message a number of times before finally hitting send.
Hi Candice, what is it I can do for you?
This time Candice’s response took a little longer and Edward occupied his time by checking his backlog of messages to see if she’d attempted to contact him before. Nothing…any text messages were all from him mum or sister. Just when he was beginning to think he’d scared Candice off, maybe even a little sad that she wasn’t returning his message, Edward’s phone buzzed and lit up.
It’s sweet of you to ask Edward, but I’m not contacting you for your help, I’m here to help you.
This was getting odder with each message, why would a complete stranger want to help him and what could he possibly need help with? These were rational questions to ask and Edward responded instinctively with them. This time he waited a full ten minutes for Candice to get back to him.
You’re alone right now, aren’t you Edward? I don’t need to ask I just know. You’re up at two in the morning on a Friday night talking to me and all of the other messages and missed calls on your phone are from family, not girls or even friends.
Candice’s latest response was becoming distressingly personal. Yes, Edward was alone, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d entertained the company of a girl. Just talking to Candice over text message had got him a little excited, but how was she going to help him? Was she offering to sleep with him, go on a date? Edward continued to read:
– I just want you to know you’re a good guy, undervalued maybe, but still good and you deserve to be with someone.
Uhh…thanks, I guess.
I get the idea that you’re proposing something?
Was it that transparent? Listen I know about Lisa. She lives just a little while down the road from you and you’ve been in love with her since you can remember. She’s alone too, tonight in fact. You need to go to her. I promise she will answer.
How did Candice know all this? Was he really considering knocking on the door, of the house of Lovely, Luscious Lisa? Candice had been right about everything so far and she was proving to be very convincing.
Edward didn’t even have to respond this time before his phone sprung into life again:
Don’t doubt yourself Edward, Trust me. Go now.
Edward stood up purposefully, but didn’t move. Could he really do this? Surely this was all too convoluted to be just a bad joke at his expense. Before he knew it, Edward was out the door onto the dark, lamp-lit streets marching towards 62 Unicorn Drive; a small cul-de-sac at the end of the road.
Edward reached Lisa’s house and approached the front door. Perspiring, he reached for the doorbell but halted himself, turning away. He couldn’t do it. Suddenly his phone sprang to life playing its melodic ringtone. This time it was a call from an unknown number.
Don’t run away now Edward, you can do it. Ring the doorbell.
The caller hung up. It had been a woman’s voice, Candice’s voice. He couldn’t do this anymore, the pressure had gotten too much and he resolved to walk away. Before he did so, Edward hit re-dial. He wanted to thank her and apologise for his cowardice. The phone rang out a few times before a click signaled someone picking up the receiver. Edward went to say hello but dropped the phone to his side. Lisa had appeared at the door, aroused by the sound of Edward’s ringing phone.
“Edward?” she exclaimed looking puzzled.
“Is everything okay? You’re sweating, do you want to come inside?”
“Uhh…sure if that’s ok?”
Edward couldn’t believe it and he assented, walking zombie-like through the front door still clutching his phone at his side. Edward was in a daze, unaware of the voice emitting from the receiver:
You have reached customer relations, congratulations Edward, you have been chosen!
Edward hung up and closed the door behind him.