Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin

Opening lines:

Earlier that same day, Julia had had a long conversation with the social security office, and it had gone just as badly as everything else this autumn, this year.As usual she had put off getting in touch with them for as long as possible in order to avoid hearing their sighs, and when she had finally called she was answered by a robotic machine asking for her personal ID number. When she had keyed in all the numbers, she was put through to the next step in the telephone network labyrinth, which was exactly the same as being put through to total emptiness.

She had to stand there in the kitchen, looking out of the window and listening to a faint noise on the other end of the line, an almost inaudible rushing like the sound of distant running water.If Julia held her breath and pressed the receiver against her ear, she could sometimes hear spirit voices echoing in the distance. Sometimes they sounded muted, whispering; sometimes they were shrill and despairing. She was trapped in the ghostly world of the telephone lines, trapped among those pleading voices she sometimes heard from the kitchen fan when she was smoking. They echoed and mumbled through the building’s ventilation system—she could hardly ever make out a single word, but she would still listen with great concentration. Just once she’d heard a woman’s voice say with absolute clarity, It really is time now.

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