When he woke up, he was dripping in sweat. Life was pouring out of him and he had no clue why. Andrew was the kind of man who could sleep through a hurricane. But tonight, that was not the case. His hands were shaking and he could not focus his eyes. Two hours passed and his violent state did not show signs of slowing.
“It wasn’t my dreams,” thought Andrew. “It had nothing to do with what I ate before bed. Why is this happening?”
Most of the time the body knows what’s wrong far before the mind does. By the time his alarm clock went off, Andrew was finally starting to settle his body. It seemed to him that this was life playing a cruel joke. He was robbed of sleep and once he was given the ability to rest, he had to go to work.
For the past four years Andrew had worked at the same job. He was a customer service representative in a call center. Working in a call center is never easy work. It’s a lot of talking and most of the time the people on the other end are not happy. This can have a negative impact on someone’s view of the world.
When Andrew arrived at work that morning, he was the most tired he’s ever been before. The one thing he had to look forward to was the fact that he got to sit beside Emmanuel. Emmanuel was the happiest person that Andrew has ever met. Between calls, he could always make Andrew laugh.
When Andrew took his seat, the phone didn’t stop. In fact, it didn’t stop for the first three hours. All the calls were the basically the same; someone was upset with the service and wanted to make someone else feel bad. This is the case for most people. When a company delivers average service, they feel that this company is the fault of all of the issues in their life. And maybe it is, but I doubt that.
On his last call before lunch, Andrew treated it as all the calls before. “Telemax Corporation, Andrew speaking,” he said.
“Hi,” Said the voice on the other line.
“How may I help you today?”
“Oh you’ve already helped me enough, Andrew.” Said the voice.
“Okay,” replied Andrew. “How did I do that?”
“By showing me the man you are.” The voice said before it hung up.
“Hello?” Said Andrew.
The voice was that of a man. It spoke slowly and pronounced each syllable as if they were separate words.
“You okay, honey pie?” said Emmanuel.
“Yeah…” Said Andrew.
“You look like you saw a ghost or something.”
“I just had a weird phone call.” And he explained a few times over to Emmanuel what the voice said. Emmanuel jokingly said it is probably one of his stalkers.
“You’re cute enough to have a stalker, you know, Andrew.” Emmanuel always made sly remarks toward Andrew.
“Why would someone want to stalk me?” Said Andrew.
“I don’t know mister. But I’m just kidding. I don’t think it’s anything you should worry about. I get weirdoes calling here all the time.”
Andrew went about his day and thought nothing of The Voice. When his day was over, he took the bus home. Andrew rarely knew the date. He had no reason to. The past three years all felt like the same day. He did the exact same thing every day and he had no one in his life to make plans with so he never bothered to look at the calendar. Whenever he did look at it, it was always a few months behind because he forgot to flip the pages.
That night, when Andrew got home, he felt tired but was afraid to sleep. Andrew was afraid of waking up in the same state as he did the night before. So, Andrew watched TV until he fell asleep. He slept on the couch that night.
When the morning came, Andrew awoke perfectly. His body was not in the same shape as the morning before but something was wrong. Andrew couldn’t tell what it was though. He walked around his house trying to understand why he felt disoriented.
The doors were locked and the windows were shut but Andrew had a deep conviction that someone was in his apartment. After searching all corners of his place, Andrew felt safe. He got dressed, ate breakfast and got ready for work in the same routine that he was used to for the past three years.
After washing his face, Andrew made his way to the front door of his apartment and stood there frozen. There were three objects lying inside his front door. A lit incense that looked as if it had just started burning, a leaf from a plant and a note. The note read “I’m glad you’re rested today.” And the signature said The Voice. He automatically knew which voice this was. It was the one from the phone the day earlier.
Feeling violated, Andrew grabbed his things and left. He made sure his windows and doors were locked again and indeed they were. On his commute to work, Andrew tried to understand why this person cared about him. Andrew had nothing to give him. He had no money, no fame or status and was the most regular, mundane person he knew.
Andrew was clearly put off by his experiences in the past few days but because of his rigid routine, he was able to leave all of it at the door of his office. When he got to his calling station, Emmanuel was already on the phone. The time on Andrew’s computer read 11 AM as he clocked in.
“You’re late,” said John, Andrew’s boss.
“I know, I’m sorry John. It won’t happen again.”
“It better not, or you’ll be written up.”
As Andrew made his way to his station he thought “I can be on time for three years straight and hear nothing from him, but one day late and I get chastised.” Andrew looked at his watch and noticed the time was wrong. The time on his watch and all of his clocks at home had been changed.
The rest of the day flew by days usually did for Andrew. Before he knew it, the day was over. When he was making his way home he thought about calling the police. “Why bother,” he thought. “What does it matter if my life gets taken? I can live the same day again and again, which I’ve already done, or I could just get it over with right now. Maybe this guy is doing me a favor.”
When he stepped inside of his apartment, Andrew could tell that no one was there. He knew that the apartment was empty but he knew there was something in there waiting for him. He smelled the incense again coming from his room and with his plain indifference, he followed it. He was ready to lose his life. The only thing he held onto was the smell of the incense. The smell reminded him how nice it is to have the ability to smell. “This would be a great way to end it,” thought Andrew as he admired the incense.
When he walked into his room, he found a plant with the same leaves as were left at his entrance that morning. The sign on the plant read “Snake Plant.” Andrew wondered why this plant was left here. What is the significance of the snake plant? The snake, the serpent, symbolizes the devil. Did this man want Andrew to know he was the devil?
“But what about me?” Thought Andrew. “What do I want The Voice to know? I want them to know that I don’t care what he’s going to do to me. I really don’t.” And instead of thinking it, Andrew yelled it, hoping this person would hear him somehow “I don’t care! Just get it over with already. Kill me.”
Andrew awoke the next morning feeling as awake as he’s ever felt. His nose missed the smell of the incense. That incense was a glitter of hope. It was a fine hope that Andrew would not have to go to work again. But, Andrew woke up. He was alive and as far as he was concerned, that meant he needed to go to work.
As his day passed, Andrew was hoping that each call was The Voice. He wanted to tell The Voice to take his life. When his shift was over and Andrew was making his way home, he felt something in his pocket. It was a piece of paper and it read “The Baltimore, 10PM.”
The Baltimore was the only pub that Andrew knew about and it was the only one he’s ever been to. He didn’t even know what day it was, but that didn’t matter. On his walk to the pub, Andrew was curious as well as scared. He felt fear because he didn’t think The Voice would kill him in a pub. And not knowing what was going to happen is what scared Andrew.
He turned the last corner and felt a hand grab at his back. Before he knew it, Andrew had his back to a wall and a knife was held to his neck. The man who was holding him had a mask on. As he held Andrew he said “I’ve been waiting for this for the longest time.”
“So have I,” said Andrew.
“I wanted to taunt you more, but I realized I was only taunting myself.”
“Well then, what are you waiting for?”
The man re-adjusted his grip and in doing so restricted Andrew’s breathing. The moment Andrew realized he could not breathe, a natural instinct kicked in. It was a similar instinct to drowning. When one feels like they are losing their life, their body takes over and forces them to try to survive. For Andrew, his mind followed his body’s desire to survive. It gasped for air even though he wanted to strangle to death.
“What do you want?” Asked Andrew.
“I want your life.” Said the voice.
“It seems as if I can have anything I want in this moment,” said the voice as he released Andrew and Andrew fell to the floor. The man pulled Andrew by the hair and held the knife to his neck. Andrew lost consciousness from a blow to the head. When he awoke they were standing on a bridge facing downtown Vancouver.
“Do you know where we are?” Said the man.
“We’re on the Cambie Bridge.” Said Andrew.
“Good. Now, I’m going to ask you one question. If you answer it, you’re a free man.”
Andrew stood silent.
“The question is,” said the masked man “what are the five things you will miss after I kill you and throw you off of this bridge.”
Just like one feels when they take a gasp for air after drowning, Andrew felt relief and clarity. Five things immediately pooped into his head. Even though he thought he wanted to die, he answered The Voice “Emmanuel from work, the rain falling on my face, the view of this bridge, my mother and the smell of the incense you burned at my house.”
As soon as Andrew finished his last word, he felt himself free. The man was walking away.
When he arrived home that night, Andrew smelled the same incense burning. He followed the smell to his room and found a note. The note read “I hope you remember those five things you said you’ll miss. I want you to experience all of them this week. Hangout with your friend, feel the rain, call your mother, and walk over the bridge and burn the pack of incense I’ve left in your drawer. If at the end of this week you still want to die, I shall meet you on the bridge at three AM next Friday.”
The week passed and Andrew asked Emmanuel to go to the Baltimore pub. He had the best night of his life. One day at work, Andrew noticed it was raining and so, on his break he went to the park nearby and took his shirt off and just walked around. He got odd looks when he returned to the office that day. He called his mother and walked the Cambie Bridge every morning. And at night, he burned an incense to remind himself of how great life is.
When the following Saturday arrived, Andrew woke up to a note saying “Great choice, Andrew. Life is beautiful.”
Andrew thought his story was unique. He felt saved by an angel. He forgot the beauty of life. He forgot that no matter the circumstance, you can find beauty or disgust. But in the end, it all comes down to the filter you put on your vision. Life is as beautiful or as ugly as you let it seem. As time passed, Andrew found that he was not the only person with an experience like this. As he got closer to Emmanel and started sharing his deepest feelings, he also shared the story of how The Voice changed his life. Emmanuel admitted that the exact same thing had happened to him a few years before.
Upon realizing that this was The Voice’s plan all along, Andrew did nothing but laugh. He looked back and thought he was a fool and a sucker. But he wouldn’t have changed those feelings for they are what brought him to his perspective on life today. Just by changing small habits, with five minutes a day, Andrew learned to love his life. The world needs more people like The Voice.
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