“Sheila and the Tele-Breather” / A Memorable Fancy #132

The telephone rings – Hello? Hello? Heavy breathing. A prank? A nut? Something worse? It happens again over the next few days. Sheila worries: perhaps it’s someone she knows – someone she works with. Who knows when or if he would do more than just phone? She watches her co-workers. Could it be one of them? Or the nice man at the ice cream shop where she buys a strawberry shake once in a while? Or the barista at Starbucks?

She advertises in the neighborhood’s free newspaper – If you have been bothered by tele-breather calls … she gives a false name and a PO Box, in case the Breather happens to read it. But no one responds.

Her precautions become more extreme:

.. She adds two deadbolts to the door of her apartment.

.. She has her phone number changed, switches cell providers also.

.. She installs two fake security cameras on her terrace.

.. She trashes them and has two real security cameras installed in their place, and motion sensors, and sound sensors.

The sound sensors detect something unusual; it’s not clear what. The motion sensor suffers a breakdown. The cameras record a blurred image. The breathing continues throughout. She seems to hear it wherever she goes, now, not just on the phone.

She responds to a web ad from a security firm: they say they will scan her home and place a tap on her phone line, trace the breathing to its source.

The next week they phone her. You are putting us on, they say – a prank – you know we could report you to the police for a false report of tele-breathing. Has there been any molestation, by the way? Anything physical? And you know we have freedom of speech in this country and it includes breathing, no matter how heavily, you know. Would you deny someone the right to breathe? Has anyone fondled your breasts lately? And down below? She gradually realizes that the call is from the Breather, who’s pretended to be a security specialist.

“I know who you are!” she lies, trying to scare him off. “You will,” the voice responds, “just turn around. Slowly.”

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