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Anywhere, At Any Time

"Pick up the phone, tell me what you hear."

Audrey looked over at her friend, scanning her face for clues, and walked to the phone booth. It looked like a normal phone booth, the kind you used to see everywhere, block to block on city streets. But this one was different. She walked in, shut the folding glass door behind her, and took the black phone off of its silver holder. The plastic of the phone was hot. Almost too hot to touch. It hurt, when she placed it to her ear, but not in a bad way. She kind of liked the burn of it. It woke her up. Made her feel more present for what was about to happen.

At first, she couldn't make out any one noise from the other. They blended together in an exciting whoosh that felt like eavesdropping on someone else's stress dream.

"What am I listening to?" She mouthed to her friend Rita, standing outside the booth, watching attentively. Audrey gestured to the phone, still held to her ear, and shrugged. Trying to give the impression that she was unmoved. About to hang up. She was neither of those things.

"Keep listening," Rita mouthed back. Making a whirl in the air with her finger that didn't mean anything. Just the body's way of participating. Interjecting in these rare moments of delicious strangeness that popped up only a few times in a lifetime, if you were lucky.

Audrey kept listening. She'd been listening.

The uncertain blend of noises, familiar but hard to place, continued. Then things started to get clearer. She heard a car door shut. A handful of change falling to the concrete, some in a flat plink, and some in a zizzing roll. She heard the thin, taught, leathered tap of a man's business shoes, walking at a steady, calm pace. She heard a woman's laugh, deep, weathered, push in from the underneath of her right ear. The grand finale. Then the line went dead.

"What was that?" Audrey asked.

"That was Chicago."

"Chicago when? Was it some kind of recording? Is this one of those art things? Like the tiny horses?"

"It's Chicago right now."

"But why?"

"Nobody knows why," Rita said. They were both staring at the booth, like it was some huge new rollercoaster they'd both just braved. "These booths started popping up, just a very few of them, in different cities, and different countries. No one knows where they came from."

"No one know where they came from? If there's so many of them, how is it that no one has seen them being put up? That doesn't make sense."

"There's not so many of them," Rita said. "I mean, there's a few. But not many. They seem to pop up over night. No one has seen it actually happen yet. I hope no one does."

"You don't want to know?"

"No. I mean, isn't it more fun to not know? Plus, it would probably end up just being some company trying to promote some new sports drink or something. That would kill it. Knowing about things kills them."

"I guess you're right."

The two girls stood in silence. Felling peculiar.

"Do they all reach Chicago?" Audrey asked.

"No. They're all different places. And they switch. Tomorrow, if this booth is still here, it could reach Los Angeles, or Tokyo for all we know."

"I wanna try it again," Audrey said, walking towards the booth again.

"Don't," Rita said firmly, grabbing her arm.

"Why not?"

"Just don't."