Can You Hear That?

I think this one was inspired by my smoke detector making a beeping sound because the battery was low :)

“Can… Can you hear that?” I stared up at the ceiling as the light of the foggy night scratched its way into the side window. A few moments of silence passed before I got my answer.

“Hear what?” She rolled over slightly, an annoyed huff escaped her lungs before she continued her thoughts. “I hear a cricket outside the window. I think there’s a frog out there, but… I don’t hear anything else.”

“You can’t hear--” I paused and thought about what it was that was playing in my head. “I don’t know, it kind of sounds like talking.” I focused on the sound a bit harder. “Yeah, like people are talking. I can’t make out the words, but it definitely sounds like a conversation.”

“You’re probably just hearing the TV next door or something.” She groggily pulled the blanket over her shoulder and turned away to ignore me. “This is the third night in a row you’ve gone on about this, please, just go to sleep, Wayne.” Her dismissal didn’t mean much to me at this point, after seven years of marriage, distance is expected. Still, the fact that she couldn’t hear what I was hearing was nothing less than disappointing. If she wanted me to shut up about it, I would shut up about it. Despite this, I wasn’t planning on going to sleep- I was going to figure out what the hell was going on, where this sound was coming from.

For a few moments, I just lay there and stared at the cobwebs in the corner of the room. I counted the water spots in the ceiling from the time we had a hole in the roof. I traced imaginary lines in the popcorn bumps in the plaster that coated the surface above me. None of this was helpful, my brain was racing, and there was no way I was going to be able to ignore the conversation as it played out.

The best way for me to describe what I was hearing, besides just saying that it was someone talking; put in a pair of earphones, set the volume on your phone to the absolute lowest setting you can, then play some sort of sports commentary, or something, but make sure it’s in a different language. Basically, it felt like that, like I was listening to a conversation in a different language, at the absolute lowest volume possible. Despite what my wife said, this was not the third night with the voices, this was the second. The first night, it was simply a beeping, or something like a tone; then the second night it turned into the voices, and while she may have wanted nothing to do with the situation, I had to agree that it was a pain in the ass.

I turned and sat up on the edge of the bed, glancing over at the clock. One-forty-six, It was a quarter to two in the morning, and I was stuck sitting there, listening to something that only I could seem to hear, unable to sleep. I pushed myself up and walked away from the room, toward the hallway and into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. I stepped up to the sink and ran the water, then splashed myself in the face a couple times, staring at the drops as they fell into the sink. At that moment, it almost seemed like the voices stopped, like there was nothing more than silence pulsating in my ears. For that moment, it almost seemed like things were going to be ok.

That moment was short-lived, though the voices were no longer what I heard. At that point, the sound of conversation was replaced once more with the sound of beeping, that weird, rhythmic tone that would occur every second; Beep-- beep-- beep… This was actually more annoying than the talking, and what’s worse is that it was actually louder this time, almost like it was coming from within the same room, or a room adjacent. I walked around the small bathroom with my ear to the wall, and for three of the four walls, there was nothing, no indication that the tone was in any of those directions. However, when I stepped into the shower, and firmly placed my ear against the plastic-lined wall, I could swear that the tone was louder. Part of me was certain that, whatever was making these sounds, had to be on the other side of that wall.

I thought about the layout of my own home for a moment, and became even more confused. As far as I could tell, that wall was directly against the walk-in closet in my bedroom. If it were in there, the sound should have been louder when I was in the bedroom. I shook off my confusion, and walked back toward my bedroom, around the bed, and into the walk-in closet. It was cramped, and full of clothing and various other stowaway items, but the sound didn’t seem any louder when I entered. I started to pull boxes away from the wall, I threw clothing out onto the floor of the bedroom until the room was pretty much empty- the tone continued, but it hadn’t increased. I once more pressed my ear against the wall, the wall that was on the other side of the shower- and at that moment, it seemed that the tone had gotten just a bit louder.

This sound, this consistent beeping, this constant droning that was sure to drive me insane, was somehow on both sides of this one wall simultaneously. I pulled back and stared at the painted drywall, that shade of eggshell white that every modern home seems to be painted, and thought about this situation. There was no way that the sound was coming from either side of the wall, I had access to both rooms, which meant that it was likely coming from inside the wall. Whatever the hell it was that was keeping me awake, whatever it was that was producing these sounds, had to be inside the wall. The matter of how was a question that I assumed I could answer later, but I had to find whatever this thing was.

I turned back into the pile of items on the floor and grabbed a screwdriver, readying myself to tear into the wall, only to pause for a moment as I heard my wife snore. It would’ve been impolite for me to start in on the wall right next to her, so I took myself back to the bathroom, back into the bathtub, and back to the plastic lining on the wall.

It was difficult, I will admit. At first I couldn’t seem to pierce the plastic with my simple flat-head screwdriver, then it occurred to me that this was likely just a protective covering over the drywall, and all I had to do was find the edge. I scraped along the corner until I was able to pry a small space between the two layers, and I pulled it away. The vinyl cover ripped away from bare drywall, pulling chunks of the paper cover with it. After a few minutes, and a few cuts on my hands, I was able to completely remove it. I then started into the sheetrock, prying away chunks of gypsum and successfully destroying the wall of my bathroom. From an outside perspective, I probably looked crazy, but I knew I was making progress, the tone sounded just slightly louder. I stabbed the wall over and over, breaking it more and more, until there was a sizable hole, leaving only exposed insulation and the piece of drywall for the closet. The wall between the two rooms was rather thin, but I was certain the sound was coming from there.

I paused, listening closely and waiting for the next hint of where it was coming from. I could hear it, the tone, and it was certainly coming from inside the wall. I glanced around at what was exposed until my eyes landed on an electrical wire- an electrical wire that seemed to go further into the wall. Why on earth would there be wiring in the wall, behind the shower? It had to be the power line to whatever device was in there. I took my screwdriver and kept prying away at small pieces of the drywall, tracing the wire all the way around the corner, and to the door frame, where it went up and over, and then into the hallway.

I tirelessly tore holes into the walls, tracking this cable that I knew had to go to where I needed it to. A few times I thought I lost track of the line, but I just made a bigger hole in the wall to make sure I knew exactly where it was going. It ran through insulation, I ripped it out. It ran through the studs, I used the screwdriver to crack them enough to pull the line. It ran behind the tile of the kitchen, and you can be damn sure that a little ceramic wasn’t going to stop me. I admit that I was left with a bit of a mess when I was done- and what’s worse is that my adventure led me nowhere. The wire I was tracing led to the garage, which then ended at the circuit box, and out in the garage, the sound seemed the quietest.

In my moment of disappointment, I had a brilliant idea. If this device, this annoyance, was running on our electricity, then I could just flip the breaker and it would go away. I reached up to the main breaker and shoved it to the off position. As soon as I heard the click, the sound stopped- there was no more tone, no beeping, no voices. There was nothing. I could feel myself grinning at the electrical box as the pride of solving this problem washed over me; I felt it was time for me to go to bed and get some sleep, I’d earned it.

I walked back into the house from the garage and glanced around the room, only to be met with my wife staring at me from the hallway. She stared with her mouth wide open, her eyes shifting to the various holes in the wall, the damaged tile, the detritus that was scattered around our home. I held my smile; yeah there was a bit of a mess, but I could deal with it in the morning.

“What the hell did you do, Wayne?!” She screeched at me, I stepped into the living room and reached out to her, embracing her in a tight hug; she didn’t reciprocate.

“I solved the problem. The sound is…” I paused as I held her in the hug. From the silence of the room rose a familiar sound; that horrifying sound of a conversation in a different language, muffled and unintelligible. “Wait, can you hear that?”

“You destroyed our house--” I disregarded her claims and shushed her, pulling away to listen to the room. As I did, it seemed to grow more faint. For a moment, I struggled to hear it, but it quickly clicked. I leaned back in towards my wife’s face, and the sound of speaking grew slightly. I pulled away again, and the volume decreased. I knew what this meant, I knew what I had to do.

“I think I get why you can’t hear it, honey.” I smiled at her slightly as my fingers tightly gripped the flat-head screwdriver. “But we’re going to fix it, don’t worry.”