The telephone rang.
His other telephone, the one sitting on the glass top of the coffee table.
Hamm grabbed up the receiver. “Leave me alone!” he screamed.
“Um, Mr. Hamm?”
Not the same voice. He recognized this voice, or thought he did.
“Mr. Hamm, it’s Darlene.”
“The secretary?” Hamm muttered.
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry to bother you at home, sir, and it being so late and all. But they said to let you know.”
Hamm’s mind tried to make sense of this newest disturbance. Not the same person, his mind said. Just the skinny receptionist from WEBWATCH.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m here.”
*Why’s she callin’ me? Does she know? Do the bosses know?!*
“It’s the creature, sir. It escaped.”
Hamm thought he felt his heart stop beating.
“Escaped.” He repeated the word.
“Yes, sir. A couple of hours ago.”
Hamm hung up the phone.
He started to laugh. *Escaped!* Big belly laughs that turned into groaning sobs. *It escaped!* Then into a scream. *My only hope!*
Later on, when looking back on it, Phil Hamm would remember this as the moment that changed him, though he didn’t realize it just yet. All that would come after, all the things he would do, things he would have never believed himself capable of doing, it all could have been avoided if not for this one instant in time. It all began right here. But he didn’t know that yet. Just now, all Phil Hamm knew was despair.
The real horror would begin soon enough.