I was in the initial death throes of a ruthless hangover, the cheap booze consumed in Dean's flat a few hours earlier still sloshing about inside me, poisoning my veins and my mind. I thrashed about in bed, every skin pore sweating alcohol mercilessly.
2:00am, the calls came. I'd ignored the first two, aggressively pulling pillows over my head to try and drown out the shrill, unforgiving ring-tone.
You could communicate with dolphins with frequencies that high-pitched.
A third time my mobile phone rang. I finally reached down to the side of the bed to pick it up, fumbling blindly in the dark. I eventually found it and brought it up to my squinting face.
UNKNOWN NUMBER read the caller's name.
I deliberated whether or not to answer it.
The way I saw it, why hide your identification?
Was it someone I owed money to? Was it a pissed-up mate who had lost his keys and wanted to crash for the night on my couch?
Was it the police?
Was it the grim reaper?
Only one thing for it.
"'Ello?" I croaked, still half-asleep. My voice sounded different, strange, OLDER to my own ears as I pressed the ANSWER button on the cheap handset.
I could hear the unmistakable sound of a TV set on at LOUD volume in the background, but there was no real voice echoing down the line to me.
"HELLO??" I repeated, sitting up now, growing more irritable and alert as I rapidly started to wake up fully, my brain and senses lighting up like a NASA mission information screen. That strictly male supersonic snap of testosterone, endorphins and the indescribable shudder of reality you only get when you get taken by surprise flashing through your person.
You know what I'm talking about.
It's frightening yet thrilling at the same time.
The kind of feeling you got when you were 14 and nearly got run over by a goods lorry.
Or catching a MAJOR new story on the television set like 9/11 breaking when you had just got back from living in Tenerife for 6 months, sunburned, athletic and as sexy as you'll ever be. Yet at the same time, you're suffering from glandular fever and chicken pox simultaneously and were lounging on yer mam's couch, thinking to yourself:
"It's a bad Hollywood thriller".
But hang on a minute, why is it on every channel?? And why do I suddenly feel so sick to my stomach??
Or, here's a killer. Your Jack Russel terrier getting killed on a busy road when you were 9 years old and all the kids in the street were sobbing in horror.
Or climaxing the first time with your girlfriend, or a....................
A female voice, slow and measured, with a nervously playful tone & an alluring lift at the last breath of each sentence finally broke.
"Is this...Mister...... RYLANDS??"
Wow, that woke me up.
How did they know my name??? My number???
A kick of the old common sense.
PLAY IT COOL, MAN.
IT'S ONLY A PHONE CALL, NOT AN ARGUMENT IN A PUB, FACE-TO-FACE.
It's a phone call.
Right, deep breaths. Get your head together. Chill, baby. You can handle it. No sweat......It's alright man.
Whoever it was I responded to, I thought in my zen-like state, they didn't sound official. It was a Liverpool accent, and given that it was now Saturday 23rd October 2009 at 2:30am in the morning GMT. No way it could have been the bank, the TV license people, the coppers.
"Does Mister Ry-Al-Lands remember telling a certain lady about her warm gentle soft kisses and her gorgeous smooth hair, and her kissable silken skin?? Does he truly remember saying that? In writing??"
Though the words sounded and read like they were from my pen, mind and soul, they freaked me out for real.
Were they taking the piss?
I tried to play it like it didn't matter, like it was a game, a joke.
DON'T GIVE ANYTHING AWAY.
"Well, erm....that...kinda narrows it....down..." I whispered with a naughty smile.
They - she - whoever - had put the phone down on me.
I sat there for what felt like 30 minutes, a million questions running through my mind.
What was the fucking script here?????