The Red Phone In ‘Boy Swallows Universe,’ Explained: Who Was On The Other Side Of The Red Phone?



Hey there, curious readers! Today, let’s dive into the intriguing world of ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and unravel the mystery behind the enigmatic red phone. If you’ve watched the series or read the novel, you know that Eli and Gus stumble upon this mysterious red rotary phone hidden beneath their house. The big question is, who was on the other end of that red phone?


The Hidden Conversations

Picture this: Eli and Gus, two young boys, embark on a journey inside a tunnel beneath their home, filled with a mixture of fear and determination. Their mission? To uncover whether their stepfather is once again involved in the drug trade. Worried about their mother’s well-being, they stumble upon an unexpected discovery – the red landline phone.

As they pick up the receiver, a voice emanates from the other end, weaving an abstract sequence that blurs the lines between reality and imagination. The red phone, appearing almost magically in the tunnel, becomes a symbol of hope for the boys during times of crisis. It’s like a beacon of light, offering the possibility that the voice on the other side might hold the key to freeing them from their uncertainties.


The Voice of Guidance

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Who could be on the other side of that red phone? The beauty of ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ lies in its open-ended narrative, allowing us to speculate freely.

One intriguing perspective is that it might be Gus from the future reaching out to his younger self. Gus, who stopped speaking during his childhood, might have done so to protect himself from the overwhelming visions he experienced. The trauma of a near-death experience and the constant visions of violence may have rendered him silent, with the red phone becoming a channel for him to guide his younger self away from the mistakes he was destined to make.

Another thought is that Gus’s silence could be a result of deeper trauma stemming from his father’s harrowing drive into the lake. The visions we witnessed in the series may just be the tip of the iceberg, and Gus’s quiet demeanor could be a consequence of these haunting experiences. Perhaps, over time, Gus realized the limitations of staying silent and attempted to guide his younger self through the red phone, preventing a repetition of his own missteps.

In a touch of creative liberty, the writers may have delved into the realm of science fiction, turning Gus into the voice on the phone, attempting to amend the past through communication with his younger self. It’s like a dream come true for anyone – the chance to go back in time and correct the course of one’s life.


Deciphering the Symbolism

So, what does the red phone symbolize in the grand scheme of things? Eli, the resilient protagonist of ‘Boy Swallows Universe,’ navigates through life with grit and determination. His survival is nothing short of surreal, considering the challenges he faces. However, beneath this exterior, he’s just a young boy who deserves the presence of a parent during tough times.

The red phone, then, becomes a tool for the boys to comprehend the inexplicable situations they find themselves in. As young individuals facing bizarre circumstances, they lack understanding of what’s happening to them, how to confront it, and whether to stand against it or succumb. It serves as a metaphorical hand reaching out to guide them through the maze of their tumultuous lives.


The Author’s Wishful Thinking

Now, let’s get personal. What if the red phone is a manifestation of Trent Dalton’s wishful thinking? As the creator of this compelling narrative, Dalton may have woven the red phone into the story as a means of divine intervention, something he wished he had in his own life. In times of confusion and despair, a guiding voice on the other end of the line could have made a world of difference for Dalton.

Towards the end of the series, we witness Eli writing his story, mirroring Trent Dalton’s counterpart in the novel. Could it be that the person making those mysterious phone calls was Eli himself? Perhaps, in the narrative of the book Eli was writing, he altered certain aspects of the past through the red phone, shaping the life he wished he had lived.



In the end, ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ leaves us with a tapestry of possibilities and interpretations. The red phone, with its mystical aura, becomes a symbol of guidance, a lifeline for the characters in their moments of need. Whether it’s Gus from the future, a creative expression of wishful thinking, or a tool for altering the past, the red phone’s significance lies in its ability to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.

As we ponder over the mysteries of the red phone, let’s appreciate the beauty of open-ended narratives that allow us to fill in the blanks with our imagination. After all, isn’t that the magic of storytelling?


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