When I was a student at Hull University, lo those many years ago, I was involved in a cruel and unusual April Fools prank that I still feel rather guilty about now.
It wasn’t my idea, you understand. I could never have dreamt up anything that reeked of so much wrong. I didn’t have much to do with the prank’s execution, either. I just grabbed a seat at ringside, kept my mouth shut, my face straight and watched it all unfold.
The target was my very dear friend, Jude, who was (and still is) one of the loveliest and most genuine people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. Unfortunately for Jude, however, she used to be (but isn’t any more) a tad gullible. This loophole in her personality profile was something her trusted circle of friends were not averse to exploiting.
It was 1993, I guess, and a bunch of us were sitting in the living room of the house that Jude shared with our mutual friends Jo and Rick. We were all watching daytime TV when the telephone rang and – as planned – the rest of us feigned laziness so Jude would have to pick it up.
On the other end of the line a man claiming to be an engineer from the phone company told Jude that emergency work was currently being carried out on the local exchange. Her telephone line would be out of order for the next hour and, as a result, she would not be able to make or receive any phone calls. If her phone were to ring during the next hour then this will be caused by the engineering works and she should not – under any circumstances whatsoever – answer it. He was quite emphatic about that.
Over the next hour, the phone rang on several occasions and, on each occasion, Jude refused to answer it. Then, almost an hour after the engineer spoke to her, it rang again.
“Is it an hour yet?” asked Jude.
“Yes,” we said. “It’s more than an hour since you spoke to him. Answer the phone.”
It was still ringing. “I’d better not answer it yet,” said Jude. “It might be dangerous.”
“Yes you should. It could be urgent. Answer the phone.”
It was still ringing. Slowly, reluctantly, she reached for the blower and – at the very instant it left its cradle – a terrible, blood-curdling scream erupted from the receiver.
We could all hear it.
Panicking, she pressed the blower to her ear and heard a second voice yell: “”Blakey! Oh my God! You killled Blakey!” Jude slammed the blower into its cradle and looked at us in terror.
“I think I’ve killed someone,” she sobbed.
And, for about half an hour, that’s just what we let her believe. Until, that is, our friends who made the phone call arrived at the house and admitted to everything…