's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Dissection "

Submitted by Linus Drumbler

This time, the phone is an LG Optimus L9. Its owner, who looked fresh out of high school, just knocked on my door, handed it over, and practically ran away. She even left the case behind, though inside the case was a little slip of paper with her home phone number and the cell's number. But she didn't need to explain, and I didn't need an explanation.

After all, there's only one reason people find that obscure entry in the phone book and come to visit little old me.

I open the door to my workshop, the device in one hand or, more accurately, held in tongs by my hand. I've been in this line of work many years now...twenty? Since before the advent of smartphones. Anyway, when you've been in this line of work as long as I have, you want to keep a safe distance from your work. One of my earlier phones, an HTC Magic, tried to escape by vibrating at such a speed that it gave me friction burns on my hands. That one was a pain to fix, but at least it had given its position away. That was actually a valuable find for me.

I lay the Optimus L9 down on my workbench, and carefully hold down the power key with a gloved hand. The LG logo appears, and stays for several seconds. Good, this owner had the sense to power it off, as I explicitly say in the phone book listing. Boot can give you a good idea of where the evil is hiding itself.

But boot proceeds normally. I don't see a lot of phones with possessed bootloaders or other low-level software, but when I do it's a real pain to extract them.

The lock screen appears. That's another of my conditions; phones must have their screen locked with the password 2753 (there's nothing special about those numbers, I swear). If the phone won't let me in, that's an important clue. I enter the password and am greeted with a home screen full of apps. I've seen all the icons before; there's nothing unusual here.

Now comes the most fun part of the job: testing every application on the phone. I have to test them thoroughly; sometimes a single flickering pixel is the only clue that there's a demon hiding behind that intuitive interface. This girl has racked up four pages of apps, and I don't realize how much time has gone by until I glance at the device's clock by chance. It's 10:30, and I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary so far. But I suppose I must end my day.

I put the Optimus L9 back in its case, and then I put it into a Tupperware container. The container is bolted to my workbench. I haven't noticed anything iffy with the vibrator yet, but like I mentioned earlier, phones can use it to try to escape.

I go upstairs, strip off, and haul my weary bones into bed. The demon will probably reveal itself tomorrow.

I complete the testing of the last app in the morning, and there's still no trace of my evil friend. Demons love playing games, so it's in the entertainment applications that they usually take up residence.

At this point in the process. I begin to wonder if it's a prank. Some people don't take my line of work seriously and leave me phones in perfect working condition. When this happens I'm tempted to keep them for myself, but I've always been dutiful and returned them.

The thought comes over me suddenly. I haven't yet tried the system apps, even though they sit right there at the bottom of the screen.

The Play Store loads normally, and I successfully download and install Angry Birds. It costs her a few bucks, but that's included in my fee, which I charge at the end of the job. And hey, she gets a game out of it.

I once encountered a phone with a possessed version of Angry Birds. It isn't very fun to play when the birds simply smash into the structures and die, just like they would in the real world.

The email app loads normally, and I save a message in her drafts indicating I tested it.

The music app starts blaring Nine Inch Nails the moment I load it. There's been some messed-up stuff in rock and roll, for sure, but I've seen one or two possessed music apps and they were nothing like this.

The last app is the phone. Here, I strike gold. I dial my land line number normally, but my home phone (right next to me) doesn't ring. Instead of a dial tone on the iPhone, I hear a piercing scream.

Note to self: don't hold possessed phones so close to ear. Actually, I already made that note a few months ago after a phone with an occupied ear speaker had attempted to bite my ear off.

This narrows my search considerably. I take the phone away from my ear, hang up, and try to dial another number. At this point, I'm guessing the problem isn't in the software itself. A possessed phone app I found wouldn't let me dial anything except 6.

There was a message on the lock screen: "Emergency calls only - No SIM". I should still be able to dial 911, since all cell phones are legally required to have this ability, regardless of their limitations. But when I try, I get that scream again.

Now I know what the trouble is. It's the SIM card the small card that control's phone number. I've never actually seen one of these, but I can imagine its effects: calls from no one, ringing at inopportune times (with no way to shut it off)...I can understand why she ran away. Come to think of it, she did look tired.

Unlike some of LG's phones, the L9 is an easy one to open. I get my fingernail under the bottom of the back cover and pry the case open. The moment I do, there's a hiss from the phone. Unless this girl somehow sealed and pressurized her phone, I'm really close.

I grab some tweezers and pull at the tiny white card at the right back. It resists. It twists and squirms, as much as plastic can twist and squirm (though you might be surprised when it's demon-possessed). Just when I think it's anchored itself permanently into the phone, my strength overcomes it and I pull it free.

I stare at the little white card in the tweezers. It's still squirming. I throw it into the same bolted-down box where I stored the phone overnight. It stops moving and looks perfectly inanimate now that it's caught, but I wouldn't risk handling it with my bare hands.

The phone itself, now fully exorcised, reboots all by itself. After that it looks like a typical Android phone, complete with the warning "Emergency calls only: No SIM".

I call the owner with my home phone. She's not home, so I leave her a message that Gary's Cell Phone Exorcisms has successfully freed her phone, and she can come pick it up any time, and she'll be charged $50 for my efforts.

But now I have even more important business to attend to.

With my tweezers, I remove the SIM Card from its box. It was never meant to stay there long, anyways. With my screwdriver I unscrew one of the bolts that holds the container down. There's a key welded to the end of it, and once more I applaud myself for thinking of such a clever hiding place.

I insert the key into the lock for a drawer on my workbench. I've oh so cleverly designed it so that when that key is inserted, it unlocks something other than the drawer. A door, camouflaged into the wall, pops open, and I enter.

I'm in a small, secret room. There is nothing in here but a table and a toolbox in the far corner. There's a laptop with a flash drive plugged into it on the table, and sitting in a bolted-down on the table are hundreds of tiny parts: screws, an LCD display, a camera that took me a whole day to extract (blindfolded, because it kept activating the flash). The flash drive holds software of every kind you'd want on a mobile phone, yet it's the most dangerous virus you could imagine. Every one of these pieces of hardware and software is thoroughly possessed.

This is my life's work. Every one of these parts was scavenged from a different phone. They were scattered across the world after their origin was destroyed. And it all culminates in the addition of the last piece: the SIM card.

Breathlessly I lay every part on the table one by one, open my toolbox and laptop, and begin the final task. I insert, assemble, weld, screw, until finally I have a fully assembled mobile phone in front of me. It looks something like a cross between every smartphone ever created, but the screen's small enough that it could be a flip phone. It could probably come to life any minute and kill me

The phone's USB cable squirms like a snake as I connect it to the phone. It's not until both ends are inserted that it goes limp. I open up the Fastboot program for installing operating systems on mobile devices, and send all the software from the USB drive to the phone. The laptop goes to a blue screen of death as I do this, but it's a small price to pay.

Once installation is complete, the phone boots. A waving Android robot appears, but his head (which, if you'll notice, isn't attached to his body) suddenly falls off, and blood spatters everywhere.

The logos of every phone manufacturer appear in succession and are brutally destroyed. The reddish LG logo explodes and spurts blood all over the screen; the sharp ends of the Motorola logo stab it to death; Apple's logo gets eaten by an unseen mouth.

When the system boots, an encouraging message appears:


The unlock code is just a slide. Brimming with anticipation, I open the phone app and dial 666. I've tried this so many times on other phones since I was a kid, but now I truly have the chance.

The dial tone is the same shriek I heard from the possessed SIM card. Only now, I like it.

A voice answers. It speaks in a set of disgusting growls and murmurs that would make anyone else faint. But I've studied the language. I know exactly what he's saying.

"Satan here. Hello?"

"I've found your phone."

"Hmm. Thank you. I'll send someone by to collect it."

"Hold on. What's in it for me?"