Shrieks in the Night
“I’ve lost Dolly!” my three-year-old daughter moaned the other night, a moan that wouldn’t stop until I went into her room to seek out her beloved Dolly the Sheep. An hour or so later, our 20-month-old daughter yelled out in her sleep. Her cry was more of the Captain Caveman variety and was so loud that I swore she could’ve woken up a dead cat.
But her screaming pales in comparison to the blood curdling shrieks I heard on and off last year. They would come late at night, echoing up the chimney in our bedroom, sounding like they belonged to a woman being ripped apart. There were no desperate pleas for help, just gut wrenching screams which would send shivers down my spine. The screaming wouldn’t last long: maybe fifteen minutes, maybe five, followed by silence for the rest of the night. Frustratingly, it seemed I was the only one who heard them.
“I’m worried about you,” he replied. “Maybe you should consider returning to work.”
“So you haven’t heard anything?” I said.
He gave me The Look.
“Next time I hear it, I’ll wake you up.”
It was just my luck that I didn’t hear any screaming the next night, nor the week after for that matter. The only excitement came on the occasion my three-year-old daughter exclaimed at the top of her voice,
“Look! They’re doing schnussi-bussi, Mama!” We were coming out of our building and there, next door, was a man with a much younger girl with pneumatic boobs, putting on a public display of affection. “Why are they doing schnussi-bussi?” my daughter asked.
“Because he probably has a lot of money,” I said, forgetting it was a child I was talking to.
“Why? she asked.
“I mean he loves her very much.”
My daughter pointed at the girl. “And that one with the boobies loves him very much?” Thankfully, the couple remained lost in their world, oblivious to my daughter’s vocal observations.
“Oh I’m sure,” I said, turning my daughter away.
She scrunched up her nose. “Then why is she crying?” I couldn’t help but take a look. My daughter was right. The girl, young enough to be the man’s granddaughter, was wiping away her tears.
“Maybe he’s going away on a trip,” I said, spotting a holdall on the pavement.
“Like Elsa and Anna’s mummy and daddy in Frozen?”
“Something like that,” I said, immediately regretting my glib response because I knew what would come next.
“Will he died as well? And why did Elsa and Anna’s mummy and daddy died?” I tugged my little girl out of earshot and swiftly changed the subject, unwilling to have a philosophical debate with a three-year-old on matters of life and death. Although I did relay the episode to my Better Half as One-of-Those-Funny-Things-Children-Do/Say/See. We laughed about it, as we always do, and soon the episode drifted into the ether, together with the memory of the phantom shrieks.
Until a few days later, when, one night, low and behold, I heard the ear-piercing screams. I prodded my Better Half.
“Do you hear that?”
“What?” he croaked.
“That.” I switched on the bedside lamp and as I did, the shrieks started off again. My Better Half cocked his head to one side, then laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Come on, HC.”
I looked at him, then at the fireplace from where the screams seemed to emanate.
“No!” I said.
“Oh, I think so,” he said. “Remember the couple in the street?”
“Which couple?” Then it dawned on me. “That couple.” I said, picturing the older man with the younger model … Actually, I didn’t want to picture it. “But they don’t live in our building.”
“You said you saw them outside the building next door,” my Better Half replied, wearing a wry smile. “And somehow I don’t think it’s old Mrs. K downstairs.”
The screaming persisted. “Don’t you think the girl sounds like she’s in pain?” I whispered.
‘Well,” he said, “maybe she likes that sort of thing. I thought you read Fifty Shades of Grey? ”
With that, I gave him my version of The Look, turned off the light and pulled the duvet over my head, wishing that it was a lunatic poltergeist rather than Wrinkly Ken and Buxom Barbie stirring up a storm.
Until next time!
P.S. The Silent Children will be coming out. Soon. I promise. I’m working with the most incredible editor, Averill Buchanan, to help with the final polish.