Phillip Brown was in a dilemma. He had recently gone through an extremely expensive divorce and was nearing financial ruin. His career offered little in job security and he was often forced to live paycheck-to-paycheck. His rent was due by Monday and he hadn’t enough money to pay it. He needed help and fast.
Most of his family lived on the other side of the country and were unable to offer him any support. His friends and coworkers were too involved with their own families and problems to lend assistance. Phillip was forced to search online for some type of cheap temporary housing. After browsing endless ads, he could not find anything within his budget.
His desperate predicament had doomed him to post an ad that essentially begged for aid. He spent a few moments articulating the ad, making sure it didn’t sound overly pathetic, but at the same time attempting to invoke an empathetic response.
After reviewing his advertisement, he promptly submitted it. In another tab on his web browser he had his email account open and noticed an almost immediate response. It simply read:
You can stay with me, Phillip.
He scratched his head, puzzled by the timely reply. He continued to monitor his email for the next thirty minutes, but received no other messages. Phillip decided to call it a night and get some sleep, hoping there would be at least one or two more replies by morning. He climbed into bed and quickly succumbed to a deep slumber, his worries having weighed heavily on his mind the past few days.
His alarm clock buzzed annoyingly and read 10:00AM. It was Sunday and there was no rush to wake up, but he was eager to check his email to see if anyone else responded to his dire situation, since he shamelessly broadcasted it the day before. After booting up his PC, he double clicked the web browser icon then navigated to his email homepage. It loaded his account automatically and showed three new messages.
“Oh good,” he exclaimed.
He proceeded to read the first message:
Phillip, you can stay with me.
That’s odd, he thought. It was very similar to the response he received last night, but the email address was different. He moved on to the next message:
Please stay with me, Phillip.
He felt a bit uneasy at this point. The wording, for some reason, was unsettling. He hesitatingly clicked on the final email:
YOU CAN STAY WITH ME, PHILLIP. PLEASE STAY WITH ME, PHILLIP.
He jumped back in his chair. He didn’t know what to make of it.
Phillip spent the rest of the day perusing online ads, still looking for the gem that would solve his impending crisis. During this time, he repeatedly checked his email for further responses. None showed up.
Later that evening, he wallowed in despair, knowing he had to be out of his apartment the next day. The thought of living on the streets made him cringe. He poured himself a strong drink and sat down in one of his chairs. Tears filled his eyes as his depression exponentially got worse.
After a few hours of cumbrous drinking and self-pity, he remembered the odd emails he had received earlier. Perhaps the person was just lonely, he thought. Maybe it was a woman. Maybe her husband just died and she was desperate for company. He continued to rationalize the tone of the messages.
“What do I have to lose at this point?” he asked himself.
He quickly jumped on his computer and devised a response, leaving his cell phone number in the last line. Almost immediately after he sent the reply, his phone rang.
“What the…?” he bellowed.
He got up and walked over to the nightstand near his bed, where the phone rested. ‘Unknown Caller’ blinked on the screen. He picked up the phone, hitting the answer button, and put it to his ear.
The woman’s voice surprised him. He looked at the screen again, verifying that it was an unknown caller. He put the phone back near his ear.
Phillip, I want you to stay with me.
Befuddled, he wanted to ask the person who she was, but suddenly heard a click and then total silence, which indicated the other party had hung up. Seconds later he received a text message that contained a link to an address. It was about 30 miles from his locale, out in a rural area.
The next morning, he packed his vehicle full of most of his belongings. What little furniture he had he left on the curb, knowing someone would pick it up and put it to good use. Phillip climbed into the car and fumbled with his phone, looking through his messages. He found the link again to the rural house.
“This is crazy,” he whispered to himself.
Placing the gear into drive, he proceeded towards the curious location.
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