For the past 10 days, I’ve been living out of a tent in New Zealand. Tonight, I’ve decided to splash some cash and stay in a lodge. Radiators, electric blankets, hot showers, windows and walls. Ah, windows and walls. How I have missed you.
Before bed, I look out of the window of my room with a warm hot chocolate in hand. Outside the wind is blowing a gale, the wooden walls of the lodge creak from the strain. Rain pelts the window pane creating a musical composition of peacefulness. I get into bed, my comfort increased simply by knowing it’s so cold outside. The patter of rain drops pulls me immediately into a deep sleep.
In that deep sleep I stay until 4am. The wind has died down, the world is completely silent and black. I dream of climbing trees, passing through clouds. A thick duvet is wrapped around me and a small smile lies on my face. I may not be conscious, but I’m enjoying this sleep, this is the best sleep of my-
I jump from my bed onto my feet, instantly awake. The walls shake as the loud sound hits the building.
The sound is unmistakable. It’s the first time I’ve heard it in real life. But I’ve heard it in movies and TV shows. It’s a sound that has somehow passed into the vocabulary of my mind despite it being of no use to me.
It’s the sound of an air-raid.
I run to the window and look out. I see nothing. No movement, no activity. The windows of nearby cabins and houses remain dark. I scan the sky for the outline of planes but see nothing, just thousands of stars.
My heart is beating fast. This is it, I think, the war has started. Life will never be the same after this moment. This is the moment when a new way of life begins, this is the sound that starts it all.
Opening the door to my room, I peer out along the dark corridor. No movement, not even a hint of it. Does nobody else hear the noise?!
Wait. They can’t hear it because it’s not happening. I’ve finally gone mad. I knew this moment would come. I’ll probably hear this air-raid siren for the rest of my life. It will follow me wherever I go, a constant reminder that I’m crazy. I’ll have to pretend I can’t hear it going off day after day, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing.
Suddenly a shadow appears at the end of the corridor. My eyes squint in an attempt to make out the shape. Is the shadow real? Maybe it’s another figment of my imagination. Maybe it’s a monster. It moves towards me.
It gains on me quickly, growing. It’s outline getting larger.
When it comes to fight or flight, I do neither. I close my eyes, hoping for a quick death.
Goodbye cruel world.
“Wat the hell ya doin?!” The unmistakable voice of a Kiwi. I open my eyes to be confronted with the large, bearded owner of the lodge.
Should I come clean about the noise, reveal the extent of my insanity. Shall I reveal my torment? I decide to play it safe and ask a subtle question to gauge if I really am crazy.
Instead I scream loudly, my voice filled with terror. “THE NOISE! THE NOISE! WHAT’S THAT NOISE!?”
The noise immediately stops. The world is again silent. Uncomfortably silent. This is how the noise gets you, I realise. It forces you into embarrassing situations then leaves you to deal with them. Damn you noise.
I suddenly realise I’m standing in the hallway in nothing but my boxer shorts.
The lodge owner stares at me amused, tilting his head, staring at the skinny English man in front of him. He glances down at my boxer shorts – blue with dozens of grey eiffel towers. He shakes his head.
“That’s the noise for the volunteer fire brigade. It lets them know there’s an incident in town somewhere.”
Ah. I open my mouth to say something, but there’s nothing to say. I return to my room. Get into my bed. Stare at the ceiling.
Adrenaline pumps through my body, my heart beating fast. I focus on the sound trying to get it to slow down. The new noise is soothing. The beat of a drum.
BEAT-BEAT BEAT-BEAT BEAT-BEAT
As the beats get further apart they get quieter, pulling me deeper towards sleep.
My body feels heavier, like it’s falling.
When I open my eyes, I’m high in the sky, lying on clouds.
Although I don’t know it, I’m asleep.
Photo is Clouds in the Sky by leolintang