The Devil's Dream: Chapter Three
So, for long time readers, this won't matter too much. However, if you haven't read anything from me, I'm going to post a chapter of The Devil's Dream every week on here. So if you're bored at work, or your spouse is angry with you at dinner, pull the site up and start reading. Hope you enjoy!
If there was one thing he shouldn't be doing right now, it was this. Still, Matthew couldn't stop staring at the pay phone. He knew her number, or rather, knew how to find it. Matthew figured out a couple decades ago that phone companies didn't assign numbers randomly. They wanted the customer to think that, of course, but it didn't make a lot of sense in the larger picture of the world. It would be easy to have a computer program come up with endless amounts of permutations of ten numbers and assign them at random, crossing them off the list of possibilities when they were used, but how would that help the government track someone? That meant the government had to go through courts and obtain warrants and any number of other things. So a few decades ago government officials sat down with the CEOs of the phone companies and made a deal no one could resist.
Matthew hadn't figured this out by studying history; he figured it out by studying the numbers. What he discovered was that they are assigned using a combination of a person's name and social security number. Different letters combined with different numbers gave different possible combinations, so even when someone changed their number, the government could track them down if necessary. Today? He imagined all they needed to do was press a single button and see every possible number for each person they were looking for, then ping them to see which one was active. Each person probably had around ten possible numbers they could use in a lifetime. Matthew still knew the permutation of how the numbers were created, even after ten years of practically living in a dream. Rally had only ten numbers she could be using, and he remembered the three she had used before he went into The Wall.
He was sure she had it changed after his arrest, so there were seven combinations left to try.
And yet, to call them would be the dumbest thing he could do. Why call her? She'd report him the very minute they got off the phone. They would trace the number to here and then know he was heading east. If they had any sense, it would be easy to find out a Greyhound Bus went through this route and stopped at this gas station to fill up and let people grab something to eat. The call wouldn't throw him back in cuffs, but it would move him a lot closer to that point.
And yet, here he was looking at the phone, holding two quarters someone on the bus lent him.
When it came down to it though, he knew he couldn't tell himself no with Rally.
He walked to the pay phone, picked it up and dropped the quarters in. He ran the permutation in his head, coming up with the most likely candidate for his ex-wife's phone number and then dialed.
Matthew knew he was right when he heard the first ring; the number was active and he would soon be talking to the last person on Earth he loved and at the same time setting himself up to see an actual gas chamber, one where he would die instead of float in a coma.
This is your problem. Right here. This is why you were caught and this is why you'll be caught again. You're addicted to idiocy. You're addicted to doing the dumbest possible thing you can at any given moment and then hoping your brains can get you out of it. You're going to die because you couldn't leave Rally out of this. Because you have to let her know you're getting your son even though she will never come along. She'd rather turn you in than help you.
Matthew didn't hang up.
She'd aged. He could hear it in the slight strain of her voice box. What had he thought would happen? That she would remain unchanged while time went on around her, looking the same as she did when they gassed him ten years ago? That maybe she was gassed too and had just recently escaped her prison as well? No, only he looked the same; Rally went ahead and did what was normal, she aged.
"Hey, Rally," he said.
She said nothing for a few seconds and then, "Is this a joke?"
"No. It's no joke."
"How?" She spoke only that one word.
"It doesn't really matter, does it? Not by any legal means, which is all you're really concerned with."
More silence permeated the line.
"What are you going to do?" He didn't hear any fear in her voice. Had he thought he might? That she might be frightened he would come for her? There were reasons for him to, of course, but Matthew wouldn't. Not ever—and apparently she knew it too.
"I'm going to do the same thing I've been trying to do for twenty years. I'm going to get our son back."
Matthew could hear the tears over the phone as she wept.
"You can't get him back, Matthew," She said.
"You know that's not true. I'm going to bring him back. I just wanted you to know."
He heard her trying to stifle the tears, probably wiping her face and nose with a tissue. "I'm going to hang up, Matt, and then I'm going to call the police."
Matthew breathed in deep, closing his eyes. He didn't know if he would love her like he did if she had decided to do anything else but that. He was here, outside of The Wall, because he was going to see his son again. He wanted her to know that, but he also wanted to know that not all of her had changed.
"You using your maiden name now?" He asked, eyes still closed.
"I'm remarried, Matthew."
Neither spoke for a few seconds.
"I have to go," Rally said. "You don't have to do this. You can disappear. You can live any life you want, solve any number of problems you see, but you don't have to go through with this. You can let it go; I have, Matthew. I've let the past go and I've forgiven. You can too."
"There doesn't have to be any such thing as the past, Rally. Our son can live and there's no reason he shouldn't."
"Fine then. Goodbye, Matthew. Don't call again—you know the line will be tapped."
He heard the click from her side of the line. He stood next to the pay phone, looking at the large bus in front of him, watching the travelers walk slowly back to it with bags of pork rinds and plastic bottles filled with soda. None of them noticed him.
Matthew Brand hung up the phone and went to his seat at the back of the bus.