He’d spent the last twenty minutes whisking around the house and unplugging every electronic appliance he could find, but still the shrilling drone tortured him like nails pressing against his temples. It had begun that evening while he was coalescing with his armchair and taking in a television show about a morbidly obese man and the machines that keep him breathing. His eyes glazed in the light of the flat screen he’d bought with the last of his birthday money and a cup of milky tea grew cold in his hands.
It wasn’t unusual for him to lapse into that dead trance on a Monday night, it wasn’t unusual for any night of the week either. What was unusual about this night in particular was that, at exactly half past eight, the television screen went blue. The talking head of the fat man was weeping hopelessly while chewing on some kind of bun meat, the next moment the screen was blank. As soon as this registered with him, our hero peeled himself from the armchair and leaned in to the screen as if to ask it a question. When it wouldn’t afford him a response, he decided that pushing every single button on the remote control would remedy the problem. He was missing the fat man and he would miss no more of it.
It wasn’t just the television, it was the radio, the microwave, the kettle. Everything electronic, everything that was attached to a socket in the wall was picking up a signal from Satan’s radio station. The whole apartment shivered with the terrible screaming and weeping of static. All he could do at first was cover his ears, swear through a bound jaw and pray that he wasn’t about to be burned alive in an electrical fire, then it all became too much for him. He shuffled towards the screen and in one quick motion he unplugged the chord from the wall. The drone did not cease nor did it calm.
He rushed from room to room with hands clasped tight against his ears, unplugging everything from the walls, switching off every light, eyes darting in the darkness in search of something amiss. He leaned against the wall and slowly pushed himself down the hallway towards the sitting room. He would have attempted to fire up one of his candles but that act alone would require he remove a hand from an ear, a limb he could not afford with the risk of excruciating agony.
In the darkness he fumbled closer to his apartment door, though he knew that he would have to travel much farther than the lobby in order to escape the ghastly drone. The shapes of his apartment began to reemerge as his eyes adjusted to the dark, though sight did little to ease the torment of hearing. He hadn’t the capacity at that moment to understand what was happening or where the piercing noise was coming from, all he wanted to do was get outside, and he knew with all certainty that he was close to escape. That was until his hand reached out and searched eagerly for a door handle that was no longer there. At this point, our hero is rather certain that he is completely fucked.
He threw himself against the door with loud thumps that he could almost hear through the static wail. He pleaded with neighbours who could not hear him and swore loudly to a god he hadn’t asked of anything in years. The navy and black shapes of his apartment began to tangle and distort like mutated dancers. The window shed faint light on surroundings that he was no longer familiar with.
Then, abruptly, the noise faded to a euphoric silence. The television screen shone in his face and he was greeted once again by the ailing fat man and his blubbering. His clothes were drenched with sweat and he felt stuck to the armchair. He wondered how long he had been sitting there, wondered what had just happened. His teeth rattled and his eyes raced to every corner of the room. Everything was exactly as he had left it. Then there was a gentle tapping on his apartment door.
He picked himself up from the armchair and felt the warm slime on his forehead. He couldn’t comprehend what had just happened, but the silence he now enjoyed was overwhelming. It couldn’t have been a dream and it was too impossible to be reality. He pulled the door open, and there stood an old woman, her face a maze of wrinkles, a long black shawl hanging across her gaunt shoulders.
“How are ya, Tommy?” she smiled up at him. Her mouth hung open like a puppet’s and her eyes watered kindly.
“I’m herself.” She said. Her eyes narrowed and a cusped tongue licked at her chin “You’re not dead, sure.”
She looked him up and down once again for good measure and shook her head. He’d never met this woman before, but obviously she knew who he was. Now she was staring at him as though he were a complete stranger. His lip began to quiver as the light which spilled onto the hallway from his apartment disappeared. The hag smiled warmly once again.
“Ah sure, we’ll wait ‘til you are, so.”