“I’m going to find you and smash your skull in.” The call ended with a clatter. She didn’t have time to process what happened. The next customer was fed through the telephone and the call process started again.
“Hi, you’re through to Jen. How can I help?” She kept the tremor from her voice, the perfect happy-to-help adviser, though typing the flood of details from the new caller didn’t stop her hands shaking.
She told her colleague about the incident. Reported the threat to her manager. Standard procedure.
“You did nothing wrong.” her colleague told her, though the reassurances didn’t help. Her mind kept going back to it. Even when she wasn’t thinking about it, the anxiety didn’t go away. It sat inside, jittering and hot, a constant reminder.
She knew there was nothing in the threat. An angry customer. There were always angry customers, people she couldn’t help no matter how hard she tried and people who didn’t want to be helped. She’d done her best. She was proud of herself for handling the rest of the day without breaking down.
Walking home with the winter chill clinging to her skin and black night wiping away the sky, her gut rolled. She glanced behind her as she turned onto her street. Her paranoia was stupid really. He was just a man on the phone. He didn’t know where she lived. He didn’t know her full name. Even if he meant the threat, he couldn’t get far.
Though it’s easy to find someone online, she thought late that night. Had she put her place of work on her social media?
He had her first name, but he didn’t know her face. She was safe.
The next day of work, she took her calls. Three hundred. A new record. She was called a bitch only three times, once when she misheard what a customer said one too many times, and the other times she wasn’t sure why. She couldn’t concentrate.
Smash your skull in.
She could picture it. Hands twisting in her hair, fingers overlapping her ear and squeezing so tight until it burned. The pavement rushing to her face in one moment, in the next covered in blood.
She’d known someone who had been found. He couldn’t remember the caller until after the attack. Blamed himself, poor boy. He was ever so sweet, so polite. He used to make origami swans out of notepaper and gift one to everyone. He’d found a new job shortly after he left the hospital.
Rare case. One in thousands, tens of thousands. People hardly ever mean a threat. She’d told her prankster sister that she’ll kill her hundreds of times. She never meant it, even when she was angry enough to.
That next night, there was a man she’d never seen before stood at the end of her street. She gripped her house keys tight. Did that figure look like it could belong to the voice that threatened her?
She waited in a fast food restaurant until the man disappeared.
Each day at work got harder. Sick to her stomach. Scared. She couldn’t think. Every call she took she prayed went well.
Three weeks went by. She was just beginning to convince herself to relax, but walking out of work that evening, she heard a familiar voice.
“Excuse me. I want a word with you.”
Photo by Kat Jayne.