Short Stories

Visions of Hell

Junk Fail

Visions of Hell: A PsychoToxin Press Anthology
PsychoToxin Press 09/26/2023

Visions of Hell. Nine creators. Nine unique visions. Come with us as we descend one circle at a time and discover just what’s going on below.


The jangle of the telephone echoed in the room, shattering his reverie. Joseph clambered off the sofa, and rushed to the table. A name was on the display, but not one he recognized.

Don’t pick up.

He pressed the accept button. “Hello?”

The familiar tones of a robot voice started, its words beginning halfway through a sentence, trying to make Joseph believe he had missed something important. This one was about a car warranty. He was aware of many more, including solar panels, health insurance, social security scares and IRS threats. His company had been one of the ones among those responsible for launching the service, supplying robo dialers with the ability to target thousands of numbers for next to nothing.

He listened to the spiel the entire way through, until it invited him to press seven for more information or nine to decline. He hung up without going through to a live person. He was familiar with what happened next. He had little sympathy for the fools who allowed themselves to be taken in. Anyone who thought they were getting something for nothing was a fool.

For some reason, he couldn’t refrain from picking up. It had started since his heart attack and near-death trauma. Now his doctors had him on a health and exercise plan. Responding to solicitations heightened his stress when he’d been told to reduce it.

Yet every time the phone rang, he answered. Even those that came in as “potential spam”—as they often were—he responded to. Whatever was going on with him he wasn’t required to buy anything, but he had to pick up.

His line dinged once. He was aware of this trick, though it wasn’t one he allowed. The one ring trick was designed to get victims to dial back. If they did, the person would be charged absurd rates for long distance. The whole idea was to keep the victim on as long as possible. They were shady cons to make a buck, and Joseph didn’t participate. His companies were legit, if on the questionable side of legal. He had his limits. Everything he’d done was above-board, as the feds found out when they went after him. What he had done wasn’t prohibited. Everyone was entitled to make a buck.

His ringer echoed, and again fell silent.