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New Voicemail (13)

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    Today was going to be uneventful. That’s what you thought, anyways; even though life where you lived was (mostly) continuing like nothing happened, you needed time away from everything. In fact, for the time being, you’d closed yourself off in a pocket dimension with nothing but yourself, your shadow, and the basic layout of your house, including everything in it. You figured someone was going to start worrying about you eventually, so you planned to come back in a few days, but for now, you needed peace. Even though you had only just woken up from your nap, you didn’t feel like getting up quite yet, so you gripped the fleece blanket closer to you, almost covering your face from most angles, and reclined back in your chair to continue resting.

    Suddenly, you heard the ever-so-familiar buzz of a phone vibrating against the countertop. But your phone was in your sweater pocket, so it couldn’t have been that, right? Just to be sure, you pulled it out and checked the home screen, but there was nothing new. Just the time, date, and an email you sent out to those registered with your DJ studio’s newsletter last night to let them know you were cancelling this week’s shows. With a heavy sigh, you brought yourself up from your reclining chair and stumbled to the kitchen, where you found…

    …his phone?

    No, this couldn’t be right. What was this doing here? This shouldn’t be in your possession, let alone in your home at all; the police should have had this, not you. Charging, too? The screen was badly cracked, and someone had tried to destroy the speaker, but the device still went along its business as if nothing had gone wrong that night. You struggled to sift through the countless notifications left unchecked, skimming timestamps for anything recent, but in the midst of the mess, you found a new voicemail notification.

 New voicemail (13)           3:41 pm
 Dial 5XX-909-2424

    The flashy neon wallpaper and sharp font was unmistakable. This had to be the kid’s phone. Leon’s. How did this get here? Confused, you turned around and snapped lightly at the hardwood floor, bringing your shadowy companion out from below you. When you pointed to the counter, he froze in place for a moment, before he sank with guilt.

    (I brought it,) he muttered, his voice echoing in your head like the hollow reverb filters you loved using in your mixes. He was never one to say much, but the two of you had known each other for so long that no matter what, you understood each other perfectly. You weren’t mad at him—he just wanted to bring you some kind of closure—but you wished you weren’t reminded of the kid like this when you needed to grieve. Despite that, a sort of anger burned within you, desperate to know if anyone had tried to reach out to him before… you knew what came next, but it hurt too much to think of right now. Double tapping the notification and entering the password (you were the only one besides him who knew the PIN to his phone), you waited for the familiar synthesized voice to guide you through the untouched voice messages.

    “You have thirteen messages. To play your messages, press 1. To hear information…” You didn’t need to listen that long to know what to do, waiting in anxious silence for the voice to continue.

    “New message on Thursday, May 14, XXXX, 3:40 pm.”

    “Yo, this is an automated message from Stellarum Entertainment. Your next lesson is tomorrow at 4:00 pm. Don’t forget! MZD signing off.”

    You felt your fists tense, no, your entire body, as you tuned out your own voice. This was the last message he got? A fucking automatic reminder, from you? No one asked where he was? No one asked if he was okay? You knew you were jumping to conclusions, because you hadn’t yet checked his texts or the rest of the voicemail, but you were still angry at yourself. If only you hadn’t been asleep, if only you sent Hatena to look after him that night, maybe he wouldn’t have been killed. You’d be at the studio, experimenting with new techniques, waiting for him to show up after school to teach him how to make sick beats, not sitting here…

    “To play the next message, press—“ You couldn’t put up with that breathy robotic voice again, not until you knew for sure if someone was looking out for him. You slammed the end call button and scoured through his notifications once again, swiping away anything irrelevant. You wondered how Leon could stand having so much clutter; granted, with his job at the club, he probably didn’t have much time to clean them up, but even disabling the notifications for just one of these apps would have helped.

    Most of the texts came from a chat client you weren’t familiar with, about conversations completely unrelated to anything in either of your lives. Some showed image previews, but they mostly consisted of memes you figured were inside jokes since you didn’t understand any of them. The only thing you found was a series of concerned messages from a group chat he was in with Shollkee, Ice, and Timer, after it was already too late.

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#general-rehearsal | for arranging rehearsals and discussing performances!
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Shollkee Last Sunday at 11:23 PM
Hey, has anyone heard from Leon yet? We’re still set to perform for tomorrow.

ice_official Last Sunday at 11:23 PM
not yet no,

xX_CRAZY WORLD_Xx Last Sunday at 11:25 PM
Nope!! he said he had to work overtiiiiiiiime
I wouldn’t expect anything for a while LOL

Shollkee Last Sunday at 11:26 PM
Hm, alright. I’ll try calling him, he said his break is around now usually.

xX_CRAZY WORLD_Xx Last Sunday at 11:26 PM
Good luck getting a response ken

ice_official Last Sunday at 11:28 PM
didn’t he say he’d talk to us before his shift??

Shollkee Last Sunday at 11:33 PM
You’re right. Nothing since Friday night, though. Even MZD hasn’t heard from him.
No response, by the way. Left a message, hope he’s okay.

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 (+) | Message #general-rehearsal
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    You felt your heart start to race. Scrambling back to the voicemail inbox, you went through the motions and waited once again for the muffled voices to play. You hoped this time, none of your reminders would be there anymore.

    “New message on Sunday, May 10, XXXX at 11:30 pm.”

    “Hey, it’s Shollkee. We’re wondering if you’re still able to perform with us tomorrow? If not, that’s fine, but um, it’d be cool to have you there with us. MZD told me you’re usually pretty easy to reach, but we haven’t been able to get ahold of you for a while. Is everything okay? I’m a busy guy, but if you need someone to talk to, I can find the time. Hope you’re well. See you tomorrow, hopefully.”

    About what you expected. You were just glad someone asked if he was okay. Perhaps this was your way of coping with your own inability to keep him safe. Maybe if someone else put themselves in a position of responsibility for the kid, you could find a way to take some of the blame off yourself, but you knew that was unfair to everyone else. The phone began its spiel again— “to play more messages, press 1…” but before you had the chance to hang up, Hatena sprang up from behind you once more and pressed 1 on the keypad. You looked at him with a bewildered expression, unprepared for what might be next, but you decided to buckle up and ride it out.

    “New message on Saturday, March 23, XXXX at 3:00 pm.” 

    “Hey kid, it’s me! You’re still in class I take it. Just thought I’d let you know last night’s show was super fun, the crowd LOVED it. The light shows are proving super popular so far, so who knows, maybe I’ll have to hire you at the studio, aha! Anyways, I got a sweet new turntable today, so I’ll have to show you it when you get home. See you then!”

    You remembered this vividly. Every now and then, you and Leon liked to team up during the gigs you’d host at the studio weekly, and sometimes Leon would use his light magic to decorate the place. That particular night was a remix night, and while Leon didn’t perform with you, you and Roki knocked it out of the park with the Elegoth Remix you composed together years ago. On nights you were able to get Leon to help with aesthetics, locals from the club he worked at tended to pop in, so the already large attendance numbers climbed even higher. You always figured it was them showing support for one of their own rather than to hear the music, but what did it matter? Everyone was having a good time, and the studio still made a hefty income, so it worked out for everyone involved.

    …but what were you going on about? You felt a thin, cold, almost wet string slap at your arm from in front of you. Hatena was playing the next message.

    “…rry Christmas! I hope you enjoyed the present I got you~ See you after winter break!”

    You didn’t know this voice, but you knew it belonged to one of Leon’s classmates. You remembered something about a girl from his school who got along well with him, but nothing more past that. You didn’t wait for Hatena to continue the messages this time.

    “New message on Saturday, November 23, XXXX at 2:44 am.”

    “’Ey, the fuck are you doing? Your shift was over hours ago. Where are you?! You best not be doing anything stupid, got me? …Ugh, I can’t believe this shit. Zee, I still can’t—”

    It ended as abruptly as it began. In the time since you offered Leon a room in your home, this was the first time he wasn’t able to come home after his shift was supposed to end. He had been asked to work overtime, but forgot to tell you, leaving you worried sick. Your husband angrily spam called him for a while, but wasn’t able to make any kind of meaningful progress, so he left a message and sent Hatena to the club to check up on him. Admittedly, you should have done that from the beginning, but you were too worked up to think rationally. God forbid anything bad happen to Leon.

   God forbid you let anything bad happen to Leon. But you did.

   You stopped focusing on the voices, once again caught up in your own guilt. This shouldn’t have been how things went. You were God himself, able to control anything and everything, and yet you couldn’t protect the kid you took under your wing? What kind of god… no, this wasn’t just about being God. This was about more than just that. What kind of person would let someone get killed under their watch? It wasn’t like you could just bring people back to life or anything; it was simply immoral to force someone to live as long as you wanted them to. Besides that, it broke your rule that you couldn’t tamper with someone’s life through your powers, and you never liked breaking your rules for anything, as much as you might’ve hated the situation at hand.

   Loss was something you knew to expect. Perhaps it was that you didn’t expect to lose someone so early. The poor kid never even got to graduate. 

   You only snapped out of it once you started to hear the faint ruffles of flower petals hitting the floor. This was Hatena’s way of crying, since he didn’t have eyes like you or most others did. You figured he overwhelmed himself listening to the rest of the voicemail, since there were no new messages left by now, and didn’t know how to process the memories alongside his grief; hell, you didn’t either, not in such an unexpected situation. Seeing him so upset only made your emotions stronger, and before you knew it, you were crying too, hugging Hatena closely in hopes of comforting him.

   You hoped Leon was in a better place now.