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I Used to Call Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline But Now I Work Here
NoSleep Horror Story
I wrote a few episodes for a now completed series on the Nosleep Reddit Community called the Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline (BFSH).
These are horror stories, so if horror isn’t your thing or you don’t want to read fiction that includes suicides, you may want to skip reading the stories about BFSH.
Considering how many times I’ve tried to end my own life, I was the perfect candidate to work for Brighter Futures. I knew a lot about suicide.
Well, how to fail miserably at it.
My therapist says I didn’t really want to die, and that’s why my attempts failed. She also recommended that I volunteer at Brighter Futures.
My last suicide attempt was thwarted by the kindness of a woman named Jenny. I’d already swallowed a handful of antidepressants and washed it down with Jack Daniels, but she made the 9-1-1 call that brought paramedics to my apartment.
You have such deep empathy for others, Maggie, my therapist told me. Be the voice that saves someone else.
So, I decided to volunteer at Brighter Futures for a couple hours a week. But they’d recently lost an employee--not to suicide, I was assured--and had an open part-time position. I took the job.
It was only later that office gossip revealed that the “lost employee” was Jenny. The Jenny that had been instrumental in saving me.
Tony Darling was our Staff Supervisor and the one who trained new employees. In the conference room, he sat down with me to go over the basics.
He plopped the Brighter Futures Employee Handbook on the table. Madison was written on the cover. He took a black marker and X-ed out the name and scrawled Maggie underneath it.
“Sorry. We’re out of handbooks, so I’m giving you one that used to belong to another employee.” I pointed to the corner, where someone--presumably Madison--had written in shaky handwriting: You can’t stop it.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
Tony used the marker to black-out the phrase. “Probably Madison making a note to herself.” He capped the pen and then tapped it against the handbook. “See that?”
Underneath the Brighter Futures Employee Handbook was the bolded phrase: We must answer every call.
“That’s our most sacred rule. Every call must be answered. No matter what.”
“Sure. Makes sense.” After all, what kind of heartless asshole didn’t answer the phone at a suicide hotline?
I opened the handbook. Page 3 was titled PROMPTS. I looked at the first three items on the checklist. Are you thinking of suicide? Have you thought of suicide in the last two months? Have you ever attempted to kill yourself?
I remember Jenny asking these questions. My answer had been the same to all three: Yes.
“What happens if a caller has already done something to themselves? Like … popping a handful of pills?”
“If the caller admits to taking suicidal measures, you’ll ask Jenny--” Tony stopped, and shook his head. “Sorry. Jenny usually mentored the new recruits. Don’t worry. I’ll sit next to you until you get the hang of everything. You tell me if we need emergency services, and I’ll take it from there. But first, you have to get through our certification process.” He looked at me, his gaze haunted. “The truth is, Maggie, either you have a knack for this work or you don’t.”
After I finished the six-week training course, I passed the written exam with flying colors. The next thing I knew, I was a fully certified suicide hotline specialist. I was confident I could help someone in crisis, the same way I had been helped.
I don’t know what I expected as a worker for Brighter Futures.
According to the handbook, there’s supposed to be an Employee of the Month Award. At other places I’ve worked, those awards are displayed out in the open with pictures of the employees along with fancy plaques stating names and dates.
Some businesses even have little ceremonies that include cake and punch. You’d think a suicide prevention hotline service would do everything possible to keep up morale.
Anyway. I asked a guy named Cole about it, and he said I’d be better off focusing on my job and not asking questions.
I’d say he was being an asshole, but he looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Poor soul wore his stress like an undersized coat with bricks in the pockets. Shoulders hunched. Pained expression. Fists clenched.
I have to admit I felt a lot of trepidation about the toll this place took on its employees.
After two days of taking calls and actually helping people through the worst moments of their lives, my confidence had grown.
On the morning of my third day at Brighter Futures, I sat down at my station, put on my headset, and accepted the call ringing through to my line.
“Hi there. I’m Maggie with Brighter Futures. How can I help?”
“I’m depressed, Maggie,” said the caller. “So, so depressed. You see, my girlfriend got pregnant and didn’t tell me.”
Cold horror pooled in my stomach. I recognized the man’s voice. But … but it was impossible. All my confidence drained away. “Who is this?”
“You know who it is, Maggie,” said the man. “The little voice in your head. The one that never shuts ups.” He sighed. “You are such a failure. I mean, you couldn’t even keep custody of your own daughter. How long has it been since you saw Holly?”
“I’m getting better,” I said, feeling defensive. “And soon, I’ll have my daughter back.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tony frown at me. So much for six weeks of training. No one had ever taught me how to handle a scenario where the caller put me into crisis.
“My, my. You are optimistic. She’s what, almost five-years-old now? You’ve barely qualified for supervised visitation. Such a shame.” How could this man sound exactly like dark ugly voice in my head urging me to do bad, bad things?
“Oh, that pesky postpartum psychosis,” said the caller. “I guess we should all be grateful you plunged the blade into your own stomach instead of baby Holly’s.”
I muffled a cry of despair with my hand as hot tears crowded my eyes. What the fuck was going on?
I recognized this awful voice. It was the very same one that had encouraged me to grab the kitchen knife and drive the sharp blade into the flesh of my newborn.
I stabbed myself instead.
After Holly had been taken from me, that same voice visited daily to suggest ways for me to take my own life.
Slit your throat. I used a switchblade to draw a line under my chin, but I didn’t cut deep enough to bleed out. I woke up in the bathtub, neck throbbing. After they bandaged my wound, they put me in the psych ward for 72 hours.
Jump into traffic. I tried, but every car zipping down Main Street missed me. I got a lot of vicious honks and one “Are you crazy, lady?” screamed at me.
Drive your car into the lake. I was so overcome by the desire to drown myself, I drove to the lake. But at the time, I was driving my sister’s car and massive sibling guilt about ruining her new vehicle stopped me from plummeting off the pier and into the cold, dark water.
Swallow the pills. I did. I swallowed a big, gulping handful of the antidepressants I’d been prescribed. But then I called Brighter Futures and Jenny saved me.
“You know who would like to see Holly?” continued the insidious voice. “Her father.”
My stomach squeezed as acid darted up my throat. I pressed a shaking hand against my belly as if doing so would stop the roiling nausea. “He disappeared before I could tell him.” The untruth tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop it.
“Liar,” he hissed.
My so-called sweet, considerate boyfriend turned into an abusive psycho after we moved in together. Given that he’d tried to strangle me the last night I saw him, why the hell would I want him around my daughter?
I felt a tap on my shoulder and I looked up to see Tony studying my face. His expression morphed from disapproval to concern. He mouthed the word “police” to me and I shook my head.
“Who is this?” I asked again.
He laughed. “I told you. I’m the voice inside that pretty little head of yours. And you’ll never, ever be rid of me.”
The call ended. I yanked off the headset and ran to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet in time to puke.
After I pulled myself together, Tony told me that the call hadn’t recorded. He admitted that glitches like that happened a lot at Brighter Futures. He told me to take the rest of the day off. I was too shaken to take any more calls, so I gladly left.
I went home to my small, dingy apartment, kicked off my shoes, and hauled my box of wine out of the refrigerator. Five large White Zinfandels later, I dropped my glass on the kitchen floor. It shattered.
“Damn it,” I muttered as I picked up the largest piece. I hesitated as I stared at the curved edge.
Go on, whispered the diabolical voice, use it.
I put the sharpest point against my wrist. That’s right. Bring us more. I pierced the vein and cried out as pain radiated from the wound.
Blood welled around the glass, dripping onto the floor to mix with the pale pink wine. You can’t stop it. I sobbed, my hand shaking as I resisted the urge to drag it up my arm. I thought of Holly. Of my beautiful daughter with her blonde curls and blue eyes and happy smile.
I threw the glass onto the floor and heaved myself to my feet. I grabbed a kitchen towel and wrapped it around my bleeding wrist.
I knew how difficult it would be to regain custody of Holly.
Getting diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder didn’t help matters, either.
But I would have no chance at all if they’d known what really happened the night my boyfriend disappeared. He tried to kill me. Strangle me to death. Because I’d gotten pregnant. But he didn’t know about the switchblade I’d hidden in my back jean pocket.
He pressed me against the wall, squeezing my throat, his eyes alight with manic joy as I struggled for breath. Still, I managed to wiggle the knife out.
Dots danced before my eyes as his grip tightened.
His mouth pulled into a wicked grin, flecks of spittle staining his lips. I swear I could hear my own trachea cracking.
Even though I was on the verge of blacking out, desperation gave me strength to flick open the knife and jam it upward into the soft flesh under his chin.
His eyes widened as blood dribbled from the corners of his mouth. He let go of me, stumbling backwards.
I kicked his legs out from underneath him. He fell onto his back, uselessly trying to remove the knife. I slapped his hands away and yanked out the blade. Hot rage surged through me as I thought about all the times he slapped me. Punched me. Kicked me. Strangled me. Fine. Beat me. But the child growing inside me? He didn’t get to hurt the baby. Not. Ever.
I slit his throat.
Blood sprayed everywhere, but I didn’t care about the red staining my clothes.
I dragged him into the garage, putting him behind my car. I opened the garage door and backed over him.
Knowing the tires had crunched his bones and liquified his organs brought me a terrible joy. My fury-driven adrenaline gave me the resilience I needed to throw him in the trunk.
Then we took a little trip to the lake. I cut open his stomach and stuffed him full of rocks. I put bungee cords around him to make sure not a single pebble would fall out. When I shoved him off the pier, he sank down, down, down into the deep, dark, cold water.
That was about six years ago. I filed a missing persons report, but nothing ever came of it. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, he was gone.
Until the day his voice started whispering inside my mind. Telling me to hurt Holly. And when that didn’t work, he figured out vengeful ways to make me hurt myself.
You can’t stop it, Maggie, murmured his treacherous voice.
“Fuck you,” I said. “I just did.”