Have You Seen Frankie?
A Horror Story
Sebastian is the number one support technician at Sinjin-Smythe Finance.
It's a title he takes seriously, and the reason he's taking calls at 6:30 on a Friday night while his coworkers are sipping margaritas from salt-laced glasses and shouting karaoke Kate Bush into shared microphones.
Not that he's ever invited.
Sebastian doesn't mind though. He prefers to work in an empty office. It's so peaceful without all that inane chatter bouncing off the partition walls. He likes the quiet hum of the sleeping technology, the green glow of charging batteries that lights up his many framed Employee of the Month photos (seven in total).
Most of all, he likes that he can access information that he shouldn't.
"All right, Mrs Snyder," he says, fingers tap-tapping, headset flashing. "That password has now been updated for you, and I've also upgraded you to our platinum protection free of charge, for the inconvenience..."
Mrs Snyder is grateful for the free stuff. They always are. She promises to stay on the line to rate his performance–another five-star review, no doubt.
He ends the call. Picks up his cell phone and screenshots her password. DOLLY1965! Please–she should expect to be robbed with that one.
"Aren't you supposed to be on vacation?" his boss pauses at his desk on the way out, shrugging on a creased suit jacket.
Sebastian hides the screenshot. Smiles big. "I would but the calls just keep coming...and you know I can't let a Sinjin-Smythe customer down, Stanley."
"That's why we love you, Sebastian." Stanley shoots a pointed finger of approval his way. "Hey - enjoy Cabo!"
"Oh I will, Stanley," Sebastian says, finger-shooting back with a shit-eating grin.
He watches him leave. Judges his crisscrossed jacket. Keeps the sales mask on til that last TING of the elevator. Then his smile drops slack, and his mouth twitches, and he turns his focus back to the cell phone with dull black eyes.
There's only twenty-odd grand in Mrs Snyder's account. He takes it all. Deposits it into his personal slush fund. Feels the familiar bite of frustration. He's almost at a million now and he's not heading south until he sees those seven digits.
His cell phone buzzes in his hand—it's his mother. The third call since lunchtime, when all a guy wants is some ham on rye and a little peace and quiet. She leaves a voice message. Probably something hysterical again. He doesn't bother listening to it. The office phone is ringing again and he has seven figures to manifest.
"Sinjin-Smythe Finance, how can I help you?"
"Hello?" The voice on the other end sounds frail and shaky. Easy prey.
"This is Sebastian. how can I help you today?" His fingers linger over the keyboard.
"Hello?" There's a crackle of static on the line. "Did you say your name was Sebastian?"
He taps at the headset. Tries to clear the audio. "Yes, you've called Sinjin-Smythe Finance. Would you like to start with your name and account number?"
The caller says something in reply. He can't hear it over the white noise. Something about a dark place...
"The dark web?" he says, all sales and charm. "Yes, we do continue to apologise for the recent data leaks but I assure you we are doing everything in our power to protect your privacy and your money."
Nothing but crackle.
Sebastian clears his throat. "If you start with your name and account number I can help reset your password and upgrade your security to our platinum protection, free of charge..."
"Yes. Protection." The caller's voice cuts through the static. "I need to make sure everything is in place for when my Frankie comes home."
"Here at Sinjin-Smythe, we completely understand the need for financial security, and that's why we are here to help. If you'd like to just start with your name..." He's tapping his index finger impatiently.
"It's not my name that matters. It's my Frankie you will want to know about."
"Does Frankie have an account with us?" he asks.
"Oh no. My Frankie doesn't care much for currency. He just likes to creep. He got out somehow...through a hole or a window...and I just can't convince him to come home." White noise hisses down the line like rasping breath. "Have you seen my Frankie, Sebastian?"
He ends the call. Shakes off the residual unease. Just a prank caller–it happens. He scans the office. Nothing but the hum of slumbering computers.
He exhales. Gets it together. Thinks about Cabo. Takes another call.
The first thing he hears is the static.
"Have you seen my Frankie yet?" It's the same frail voice. "He likes to hide in the darkest corners...he's afraid of the light, you see. Maybe you will find him crouched beneath your desk. When you see him can you tell him to come home?"
Sebastian hangs up again. "God damn weirdo."
He checks under his desk just in case. Nothing but cobwebs and dust, left by incompetent cleaners. He chuckles, chastises himself for being unnerved. Decides he needs caffeine.
He's smashing the broken Espresso button on the coffee machine when the office phone rings again. He hesitates. Takes the call.
"Sinjin-Smythe Finance, how can I help?"
Crackle. "Have you seen my Frankie yet?"
His skin ripples with pin-pricks of fear. "Who is this?"
"Who I am is inconsequential. It's Frankie you will know in due time. He likes to creep for a while before he says hello. Have you seen him lurking in the shadows yet?"
"Look, I haven't seen your fucking son."
"He can see you, Sebastian," the caller says. "He can see you, times seven."
He hears it then. A cracking sound, like glass self-splintering...it's coming from inside the office.
He leaves the coffee pouring. Steps cautiously through the green-glowing partition maze. Stops.
His Employee of the Month photographs have been smashed into spider-veined jigsaws. All seven of them.
He speaks into the headset. "Ok. What do you want? Is it money?" He checks behind him. Arms himself with a shard of glass.
The static contorts in peaks and troughs, and he swears it sounds like laughter. "Frankie desires only logic and reason and eradication. Have you seen him yet, Sebastian? Have you found where he is hiding?"
"Fuck this." Sebastian heads for the master switch–turns on the main lights. They hiss and spit above him, and he sees a flash of inorganic energy, like electricity and dirty smoke combined, a darkness that is both no shape and all shapes at once.
Then the lights are exploding and the apparition is gone.
"Did you see him?" The voice whispers to him from the ether.
Sebastian backs into his cubicle. Keeps the glass shard raised in defense. The edges cut into his fingers, blood droplets twisting like wire threads down his forearm. "What was that?"
Crackle. "Did you see my Frankie? I told you he doesn't like the light."
Sebastian can hear him now. Creeping.
He creeps past the coffee machine, and the lights blink on, one by one...
He jumps through the menu like a tidal waveform, rising and crashing from one end to the other. Then, he starts to creep across the cubicles, waking one sleeping computer at a time.
Sebastian steadies his breath. Whispers into the headset. "Please. Just tell me what you want."
Crackle. "It's not what I want, Sebastian. I am but a union of data, a conglomeration incapable of personal agenda–"
"Just tell me what the fuck Frankie wants then!" he screams.
He can hear David's laptop start up. Then Maria's. Jesus, the thing is coming right for him.
Sebastian crawls underneath his desk, seeking refuge in the empty cavity behind the drawers.
"Have you seen Frankie yet? He likes to find you once he's done hiding. Has he found you yet, Sebastian?"
His computer screen flashes on. Sebastian can see the light against the carpeted cubicle wall. He cringes beneath the desk, glass shard wavering in his outstretched hand. He uses his other hand to swipe his cell phone...sends a long overdue message to his mother:
It was me who stole your money. I'm sorry.
Then he drops the phone and waits. Shard poised to slash at any shape or shadow that moves.
The hiss of white noise fills the cavity. He likes to hide in the darkest corners...maybe you will find him crouched beneath your desk...
When Sebastian meets Frankie, he knows. There is no question, no argument, just knowing. Just logic and reason. And eradication.
And as he lies bleeding, with glass lodged firmly into his gushing artery, he takes off the headset. Lets it fall to the ground so Frankie can hear.
Crackle. "Frankie? I know you're there. I miss you, Frankie. Please come home."
I love this! Great story!
Ooh, I really like this. Nicely done.
This is very clever! Gave me goosebumps. Timely too given all that is happening with AI. Just brilliant!