01 Feb My Final Call As A Police Dispatcher Has Scarred Me
I’d worked as a police dispatcher for 9 years of my life. It’s a career that takes a level of mental fortitude that I don’t think many possess. I used to hate saying stuff like that, always thought it sounded so pretentious, but the truth is it takes a special type of person to be willing to voluntarily listen to some of the things we have to hear every single day. Don’t get me wrong, the job wasn’t always grim, and it even had its decent moments; I’ve got enough decently funny drunk 911 call stories to last me several lifetimes, though the reality of the job was usually far darker.
I understood that, though, and felt that I was more than equipped to deal with anything the job could throw at me. I was right, for a while. For years I had answered every call, always able to keep a steady head despite being faced with some horrific situations, my confidence in my ability to handle the job unwavering.
Until the final call, I ever took as a police dispatcher.
I glanced at the time displayed at the corner of my computer screen. 11:43. I yawned, leaning backward in my chair with my arms extended, as I stretched my back. I’d been at the desk since 3 in the afternoon, answering calls and dispatching officers as they were needed, which wasn’t very often in this town. I lived in a little port town in Washington, about an hour or so out of Seattle, and though we weren’t without our fair share of crime, our phones never rang off of the hook, which meant a lot of free time for me.
I was always okay with that. As soul-wrenching as many of the calls could be, moments of respite were always more than welcome.
A notification on my screen caught my attention, and in an instant, I had returned to my seat, headset on.
“911, what is your emergency?”, I spoke into my headset as automatically as any line repeated hundreds or thousands of times can be spoken.
For a moment, the line was only dead silence before I heard a reply.
“I need policemen. I think somebody is in my house?”, a child whispered from the other line.
I felt the smallest of knots beginning to form in my stomach. I shifted in my seat.
“Do you know your address?” I asked, adopting a firm, but lighter tone in response to the caller’s age.
I heard shuffling and heavy breathing from the other end, followed by a faint ‘Wait.’
The caller returned and whispered their address. She was a little girl, by the sounds of her voice, and she sounded scared.
“Good job, what about your phone number?”
The process repeated, and I quickly relayed her information to dispatched officers. Her address was on the edge of town, a little out of the way, and I understood that it may be a while before help arrived. I stifled a sigh, not wanting to vocalize my worry as I received an estimated arrival time.
“Is there an adult with you in the house?”, I continued.
“No,” the little girl replied breathlessly, and I could hear the anxiety rising in her voice as she spoke. “My mom works late, and my sister i-” there was a pause, followed by an audible sniffle.
“She’s camping with her friends, and- “
Somewhere on her end of the line, there was a crash. Then a scream. My heart dropped.
“Are you still there? Are you alright?”
There was a repetitive thumping sound followed by the slam of a door.
“I’m here.” The little girl spoke breathlessly into the phone.
“Are you alright?” I repeated the question.
“Yes,” was all she replied, barely above a whisper. Her tone worried me. She sounded more than afraid. Sad? No, disturbed was the proper word for it.
Then she began to cry. Not as quiet as you would expect given her situation, but a deep helpless sob that made my heart sink. When she spoke, it stopped altogether.
“Please. Please, please, Help me.”, her sobs turned into a hysteric cry and I could hear loud repetitive thumps from her end. Footsteps and they were clearly not hers. They were heavy, far too heavy for a little girl. Without warning a shrill cry, like the sound of microphone feedback, rang through my headsets. The sudden assault on my ears caused me to jump, and my heart set off to racing like a jackrabbit. I fought the instinct to throw the headset off and instead clenched my eyes shut as the noise faded as suddenly as it had come.
“I saw it,” she sputtered through sobs, “Oh please, please, I don’t know what it is!”
The frantic and frenzied nature of her begging increased, and a strangeness began to settle in the air that I couldn’t quite place. A quick glance around the room confirmed that most of the desks around me were empty, and I was on the call alone. The thought made me feel very isolated, and a growing uneasiness continued to take hold of me that I couldn’t place. Something about the call just felt wrong.
“Police are on the way,” I began. I tried to infuse the statement with my usual level of assertiveness and confidence, but I worried that the uneasiness may be audible in my voice.
“Can you tell me your name?” I asked.
“Alright Amber, are you or can you get somewhere safe? A room with a door you can lock?” “I’m in my room,” she said through sniffles, and it was obvious that she had been crying profusely. “I-I locked the door.”
“Good, I’m gonna stay with you on the line, is there anywhere for you to hide?”
The sound of footsteps grew in the background, as her voice lowered to a whisper.
“I think…under the bed…” she whimpered.
“Okay, is there-” I paused, thinking over my words before continuing, “anything you can use to protect yourself?”
There was silence on her end for a moment, followed by a hushed “yes”, as she dropped the phone, I assumed to get a weapon.
The clamor from within the house had grown closer to the phone, and the piercing ringing sound had returned. I was almost certain there had to be something wrong with my headset or with Amber’s phone, and the sound grew to an almost unbearable extent, matched only by deafening thuds from somewhere on the phone. It sounded too close. I could feel the hairs begin to rise on the back of my neck, and the ominous sense of panic began to give way to an unexplained fear.
The urge to look over my shoulder grew harder to fight, as the persistent thudding sound grew louder. Nearer. It all sounded too clear, I guess. There was no static, none of the white noise typical of a phone call…nothing.
Just the sound of footsteps approaching closer. Closer. I gave in to my instinct, whipping around in my seat, nearly losing my headset. No one. I had no time to settle my nerves, as Amber returned to the line.
“Are you there?” She whispered, yanking me from my fog and back into the moment.
“Y-yes,” I replied. I struggled to shake off my fears. Something was very wrong with this situation. Despite my worries, I shifted my attention back to Amber.
“I- there isn’t any weapon,” the girl muttered, “but, I have something..”
There was a pause.
“O-ok, what do you have?” I asked, realizing my prompt was necessary.
“Uh, a rabbit. A pink rabbit,” she said, and even over the phone, I could hear a little embarrassment.
“My dad gave her to me when I was little,” she sniffled. “He – he said she would keep me safe.”
I didn’t know what to say for a moment but didn’t want to miss a beat.
“He was right,” I said, as encouragingly as I could. “Everyone knows pink bunnies are great protection. Can you go back under-”
I was interrupted.
“Amber, I miss you.” I could hear a man call from within the house. So the intruder knew her?
I furrowed my brow.
“Amber, do you recognize that voice?” I asked, hoping she could identify the intruder. There was silence for a moment, before her response.
“It..it sounds like my dad..why does it sound like my dad?”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s my daddy’s voice! Why does it have my daddy’s voice!?”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, hell I didn’t know what to think about. Had his voice? Before I could ask what she meant, we were interrupted by a sound.
The thing we heard has taken me years to try to understand. I’ve come to believe it was that…things laugh. At the time, though, we couldn’t know. It was the sound of metal crunching in a car accident as it met flesh, a wet, grinding shriek that shook me to my core. I wanted to vomit, and my vision began to blur…I can only imagine what it was like for Amber, hearing that all in person.
“A-amber,” I panted, my senses returning to me all at once. She barely had time to respond, before we heard it. A voice, or voices, calling for her from somewhere nearby. They spoke as one, all with the same odd inhumane nature, dripping with malintent.
“Ammmber,” My blood froze. Amber began to cry, and her cries eventually becoming pleas, as she begged for help, her life, her mother, and my intervention.
“5, 5 more minutes. Just five more minutes.” I muttered, mentally cursing the timer which displayed the estimated arrival time of the dispatched officers.
I prayed it would be soon enough.
“It’s..outside..the room,” she whispered, her voice one of utter panic, before breaking into a quiet sob.
I silently swore under my breath.
“Amber, I need you to hide right now if possible. The police are three minutes away. Stay as quiet as possible.”
There was no response, but I assumed from the shuffling sounds I could hear that she had gone back under the bed.
For a few moments there was silence, then Amber spoke, and my heart dropped.
“I’m going to die.”
“You are not going to die, Amber,” I began, worry now audible in my voice, “I promise.”
“I..it’s reaching under the door… I…oh my god.. ” she muttered.
There was a crash, louder than before, and Amber began to shriek. The noises continued, and it began to dawn on me what I was hearing. It was breaking down the bedroom door. Amber’s screams had devolved into horrified babbling and pleas for her life to…whatever was on the other side of the door. Her screams were soon drowned out by the same noise as before, that sick fucking laughter.
“What are you?!” Amber shrieked, loud enough to make my ears ring. “Please! WHAT ARE YOU!”
“What are you?!” it mocked, in a voice that was some sick parody of Amber’s.
Panic gripped me as I glanced back at the corner of the monitor displaying the dispatched units’ arrival time. 1:36. Please god, let it be soon enough.
“Amber, are you there?” I called, “Amber?”
As suddenly as it had started, everything went silent. Somewhere in the distance, I heard sirens.
“I hear them, Amber! Officers are a minute away!”
Silence. My heart began to sink. “Amber, are you there?”
I could hear something shifting. Breathing.
“I..I think it’s gone,” Amber said.
A surge of relief rolled through me, and I let out a sigh and leaned back in the chair. 00:27, the dispatch time read, and the sirens in the background grew louder.
“You did very well, Amber. Police are almost there. You did really well.” I couldn’t think of what else to say. I’d never had a call like this, and something about it all felt so strange. Something Amber had said began to ring in my mind.
‘What are you?’
“Amber,” I began, “what did you see?”
I was met with silence.
Amber began to laugh.
“Amber…” I said, my voice pleading. A wave of realization crashing down on me.
The laughter grew more raucous and less human with every second. Somewhere in the background, there was a knocking sound. They’d finally arrived, too late.
I asked the only thing I could think at the moment.
The laughter stopped abruptly, as the thing on the phone spoke.
There was a click, and the line went dead.
The house was empty when officers arrived. No signs of forced entry anywhere except the door to Amber’s bedroom, the bottom of which had been torn away by something leaving a wide space to crawl beneath. And Amber…or what was left of her decorated the room. Whatever had been there left nothing behind to identify it, only carnage.
The case was never officially closed, and everyone had their theories as to what had happened that day, ranging from serial killers to a bear attack, and everything in between. The call was never made public, not my decision, but not one I necessarily complained about either. I never want to hear that recording again. I put in my two weeks’ notice that same night, though I never returned to work after that day.
I’d been content to try and forget about that call. As callous as it may sound I was content trying to forget about Amber, to forget..whatever I had spoken to on that phone, but I don’t think it’s done with me. Last night I dreamed..or had thought I was dreaming the sounds of footsteps running throughout my house, as something screeched and laughed and mocked me just outside my bedroom door. I stayed in my bed long into the morning despite the sounds having stopped, paralyzed by a mixture of fear and confusion, until eventually, I convinced myself to leave the bed. I crossed the room, cursing every creak the floor made under my weight. I lowered myself to the ground, holding my breath as I peered under my bedroom door. There was something there, but it wasn’t moving. I mustered up the little bravery I had left, and rose to my feet, my eyes shut tight and a prayer on my lips.
I pulled open my bedroom door slightly and stuck my head out just enough to see what lay outside. I stifled a gasp, and tears flooded my eyes as I bent over to pick up the object.
Placed right outside my door was a little pink bunny, covered in dark stains. From somewhere within the darkness just beyond the bedroom door, Amber’s laughter echoed.