When I was still living with my parents, I spent most of my time in an upstairs room that we called the “play room.” It was a large room with a slanted ceiling, it had its own bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom attached to it, and I pretty much lived up there. It was like an apartment on top of our house, and it was pretty sweet. We didn’t really have much of an attic from what I know, just a bit of a space above my actual bedroom, which was just a room where I slept, but along the walls of the play room there was a tunnel of sorts, a crawlspace blocked off to the eyes by white, square doors. I suppose it was protection, and I wish I would have just accepted that we stored stuff in there and never ventured into those catacombs.
I was a curious child, and I have always been kind of nosy, so I guess it was just a matter of time until I found out what was inside of those walls on my own. After we had lived in the house for a couple of years, since we had moved to the West Coast from the East Coast (my father had been offered a good job over there), I sometimes heard little thumps in the walls. My parents just told me it was the “house settling,” or that one of our cats had got into the crawlspace, and so I just shrugged off the noises as those peculiar occurrences.
I didn’t think much of it until I was in my early teens, I think I was fourteen at the time, and finally the noise began to become more constant, like the cats were just entering and leaving the space willy-nilly and for hours at a time. I would sit at my computer playing Fallout 2 for hours and the whole time I could hear scuttling and thumping, seemingly in the distance, but I knew where it was coming from. I never really wanted to think about it. I just put it out of my mind. Besides, if I couldn’t see it, it couldn’t see me.
I approached this phenomenon with such a disregard that I think I must have been deaf when I was a child. The racket was driving me crazy. Every waking moment of my time spent at home, I could hear them thumping and running along the wood. I could hear them tapping and snickering to themselves, hear them moving things about and trying to bother me. They knew I could hear them, and they reveled in the notion that I was going crazy over the noise. Somehow, they made it into the attic one stormy night, and I remember hearing those shifting boxes above me, since the entrance to the attic was in my closet and the attic itself was directly above my room. I could hear them, whispering cackles and scraping at the floor, trying to keep me awake. I spent most of my day gone from home. I couldn’t stand it, these things were taking over my sanity, taking over my life. I couldn’t do work at home, I had to bike to the library and then bike home after dark, it was getting too much.
Somehow, I knew I had to stop it. Somehow I knew that they were small and frail, and that, given the right circumstances, I could take them out of my life forever. I still don’t know how my parents and brother just ignored the constant ruckus. The dull uproar and tumult these little demons produced was unbearable, how come they couldn’t hear it? What was so special about me that I was forced to endure the incessant rumble of these creatures? Why had they singled me out? I didn’t know, and I still don’t know today. I never actually spoke with one, but I think they can speak; I just never took the time out of my bewildered and stressed teenage-hood to inquire about their vocal chords.
One day it simply became too much. I was fed up, I was angry, and in my distraught and careless rage I grabbed a baseball bat, and as the creatures were making their usual noise during one particularly rainy afternoon, I crept up, slowly unlatching one of the doors, and with a fury I ran in and began smashing and trashing about, trying to hit them and kill them. I never got to see them, but I heard them, and I felt them. They were cold and clammy, their skin felt like leather, and its rugged coat scraped against my clothes and my arms as I swung violently about. I hit one of them, and as it collided with the wall opposite, it flopped onto the ground, motionless, its white eyes glowing in the black, light from the play room casting over its disfigured and horrible face, making its devilish features visible. I couldn’t look at it. I just kept swinging my bat until they all stopped screaming and cursing.
I got a trashcan and scooped whatever I could find up, horrified and sick to my stomach. Their smell was atrocious and their skin was oozing some kind of black sludge. I carried the trash can downstairs and into the backyard, went back inside and grabbed some paper and a lighter, and returned. I threw the paper in, lit the lighter, and dropped it into the can. Before me a blaze erupted from the cylinder, a fwoosh of embers and smoke bellowing upwards to the sky, the roar of the fire crashing in my eardrums, and their screams. Oh how they screamed. It was reminiscent of squealing tires, and it sounded for an hour, at least. I watched them, I watched them burn and shrivel, until nothing but ash was left at the bottom of the trash can. I vomited, closed the lid, and trumped into the house, collapsing on the living room couch and passing out. I was awoken by my parents, who asked why I was asleep so early. I told them that I just felt tired, and that they shouldn't worry about it. Besides, I felt great now. The sound was gone. It was quiet, finally.
I slowly made my way upstairs, internally glowing with pride and glee. The sounds were gone, all I could hear was the rain. As I slowly fell asleep, I couldn’t help but wonder where those beasts came from. What they were, who they were. And now, I know that what I did was wrong. I still hear them, their brethren thumping and chuckling in the darkness. Inside the walls of my apartment, inside the vents of my workplace, I hear them every day.
But it’s comforting; it’s something I can rely on. I’ve gotten used to the thumps. Even as I write this I can hear them, darting about in the nooks and crannies of buildings, doing whatever dance they do with smirks on their leather countenances. I just look forward to the day that I die. For then, I will finally be greeted with eternal silence. It’s all I ask for, honestly. I just. Want. Silence.