28 Apr Static
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Estimated reading time — 17 minutes
I despise the sound of static. The vast emptiness of its white noise is heavily unsettling to me. Ever since I was a child, hearing it is synonymous with hearing the toll of death’s bell. This is because every time I’ve heard it, something horrific has happened in its stead.
When I was seven or eight, my boombox suddenly stopped playing music and began emitting that scratchy hiss. I had to hold my hands over my ears before shutting it off. An hour later, we got the call that my uncle had been in a terrible car accident. He didn’t survive. A flatbed that had been driving in front of him, transporting large sheets of glass, had swerved and one of the sheets flew through my uncle’s windshield. He’d been decapitated, dying instantly.
Six months later, I was perusing around the market with my mother. While she occupied herself in the produce aisle, I strayed toward the large television at the front of the store. At the time, it was playing Barney and Friends. I hadn’t seen it in a while, and having still been a child at the time, it was one of my favorite shows. A couple of other children joined me and all of us happily stared at that giant purple dinosaur for what seemed like hours. Out of nowhere, the show suddenly stopped and all it left was a peppery blanket of static. The other children merely slinked away, disappointed that the television seemed to have broken. I, however, clamped my hands over my ears and rushed around the store trying to find my mother.
I thrust my hand into hers when I found her at the checkout. She looked down and smiled, but her smile faltered into concern when she saw my look of discontent. I did not want to go home. I had a sudden fear of the answering machine. What would it say? The incident with my uncle left an impact. In a child’s mind, association is common. From that day I’d associated the sound of white noise with the coming of doom. I knew it was going to happen again. I was right.
When we entered the house, my mother dropped her keys into the bowl beside the door and pressed the blinking red button on the answering machine.
The voice that came through still sends a chill down my spine when I think about it. I hear it so clearly still.
“Mrs. Adams, this is Officer Steinbeck with the Kiowa County Police Department. I’m sorry to tell you…there’s been an accident.”
He went on to say that my father, who’d been working that day, fell from a cherry picker straight on to some power lines his crew had just started working on. He had been electrocuted and had perished. Watching those words sink into her, and seeing my mother crumple beneath them, was the most awful thing I’d ever witnessed.
These were only the first of countless experiences like this I had growing up. No matter how many times I tried to tell anyone about it, they never believed me. My mother refused to listen to it, especially after what had happened to Dad. The one person who ever truly listened, whether he believed me or not, was my older brother.
While Thomas wasn’t supportive of what I had to say, he believed that I believed it was happening. That was enough for me for a while. He was the one who helped me get rid of my boombox and the television in my bedroom. I didn’t want to be anywhere near them. I somehow believed that because I heard the sound, people I loved would die. That somehow my ears were the catalyst that snapped the wire and brought down death’s guillotine.
No matter how many times I tried to escape that sound, however, it always found me.
When I was fifteen, I was at school having lunch in the courtyard in front of the gym. My friends and I were trading cards, talking about class, and reminiscing about elementary school. All of us in that courtyard hushed when suddenly the principle came over the loud-speaker to tell us about the upcoming Homecoming Dance. Yet, in the middle of her announcement, the speakers suddenly bellowed with static. I dropped my food and felt my hands press into the side of my head. I’d never told my friends about my experiences, so all of them stared at me as though I’d gone mad.
I ran away from them and tried to find some place to escape the noise. I settled on cramming myself into my locker. I didn’t care if getting out from the inside would be impossible. I had to get away from it somehow. My arms and legs began to cramp from the lack of space after a while. My elbows crushed themselves into my chest as I kept my hands on my ears. Eventually, any outside noise suddenly became the static I tried to escape from.
I’m still not sure how long I stayed in there. It could have been hours, even days for all I knew. I spent a large amount of that time trying to quiet the fearful thoughts that began swimming their way through my brain. I couldn’t help but try to guess who it could be this time. In the years since the first event, after losing my uncle and father, I’d also lost my younger sister, two of my aunts, my grandparents, three pets, and a cousin. I was convinced that there was a paranormal force out to get me. I thought that somehow, whatever it was had begun slowly picking off my family one by one until I inevitably became the last remaining victim.
Eventually my best friend, Jeremy, found me in my locker. He asked me time and time again to tell him what was going on after that. For weeks he’d bring it up and I would just change the subject. When I finally told him, to my surprise, he believed me. He said that while there’s no evidence to suggest that static or white noise could be considered a death omen, he had read things to suggest that such things are linked to some kind of paranormal realm. I didn’t want to delve further into that notion, if anything it only made things worse.
When I got home that day, I found my mother crumpled on the couch, crying heavily into one of the decorative pillows. I didn’t even need to ask, I knew something had happened. I always knew. The only piece of the puzzle I wanted to find was who had gone this time and in what horrible way. That time, it was my infant cousin who had been born only a few short months before that day. Crib death, they called it. Whatever it was to the outside world, it tore my aunt and uncle to pieces. They were the only extended family left after that. At least until five months later, when I heard it again.
That time, it was so loud and so grating on my bones that I nearly passed out. Just an hour later, we got a call telling us that both my aunt and uncle had committed suicide. They were found in their bed, both of them had cut their wrists and held hands as they bled out on their white cotton sheets.
My mother couldn’t handle it. We were the only family we had left. Just me, my brother and herself. That was it. I remember my mother being practically catatonic for weeks after that phone call. She didn’t leave the house. Often, we’d find her sitting on the couch, mindlessly flipping through old family albums. Her hands would summon a mind of their own and casually toss each page aside every few seconds, she barely even glanced at them before moving forward.
Every day that went by, I tried desperately to avoid anything electronic. I even convinced Thomas to move the televisions from the living room and mother’s room to the garage. While he may not have fully believed me when I first told him, he seemed to give the idea some kind of credibility then. He unplugged the radio, his digital alarm clock, and any other object that could make that sound. For a while, it seemed to work. Six years passed without another incident.
I began to believe that whatever it was had been satiated with the blood of everyone it took from us and had moved on. At 21, I finally began to rest easy. Mom had eventually come back to herself and didn’t even seem to notice the absence of the electronics in the house. She took to reading again and even sewing. Thomas had moved out the year before I did into his own apartment across town. He’d promised to avoid getting a television or a radio and settled for a tablet for his entertainment. He promised to make sure to turn it off after every hour of use and leave it for a while, so it wouldn’t somehow suddenly break.
I refused to move out for some time. I became so protective of my mother that I felt my leaving would somehow prompt this thing to come back for us. We three were all we had left after so many years of decapitations, electrocutions, suicides, crib deaths, murders, maulings, car accidents, surgical accidents, accidental falls, impalements, heart attacks, accidental shootings, wild dog attacks, drownings, and work-related dismemberments. I became very aware of every object around us in those final months. While the static had been silenced for a long time, I still became convinced that death was simply quietly perched on the mantle of our home, waiting for its moment to strike. Like a venomous serpent coiled and poised before its prey, I imagined its eyes on us as we moved about our daily lives.
I never did tell my mom about any of it. I didn’t want to upset her more than she’d already been in the past 13 or 14 years. Losing my father had been hard enough on her, but to lose so many others after that and in the most gory, unsettling ways…To give her some hocus pocus story about a SOUND following us and killing the people we cared about would probably drive her to the breaking point. That is, if she even believed me. Or perhaps having that kind of explanation would have calmed her. I would never know.
I finally agreed to move out when she thrust college applications and apartment listings at me. She told me it made her sad to think that I was spending my life looking after her instead of living it. I couldn’t help it, I agreed with her. All I wanted was to do right by her, so I agreed and found my own place a week or so after that.
Jeremy and I decided to get it together. He agreed not to bring any electronics. He never stopped believing me after finding me in that locker so many years before. Living together was a breeze. We both had steady jobs, paid our bills on time, made compromises and bought our own food (but we still shared with one another). That year, things were perfect. We even fell in love with one another after a while. We became a couple, much to the happiness of our parents who had watched us grow up together. Mom was particularly enthused about the situation. She even began talking weddings after a while. While Jeremy and I were certainly happy at the time, it had only been seven months since we began dating. However, the notion didn’t seem to ward him off.
As the months went by, the memory of that horrible static seemed to slip away. Happiness made its roots in me, permanently it seemed. I was no longer paranoid. I still didn’t want to get a television or a radio, but I no longer felt like walking past the electronics section of the local Wal Mart would set off any booby traps. I slept easier, the nightmares I’d had since childhood seemed to waste away into nothing but surreal ones about talking animals and things of the like. I felt exquisitely normal.
A year and a half after Jeremy and I began dating, he proposed to me. I, overjoyed and ecstatic, accepted. My mother and Thomas were overjoyed as were Jeremy’s parents. After so long of having a three person family, we were expanding. Jeremy had three older siblings, two of whom had already married and had children. His parents were model in-laws. They adored me and welcomed me into the family long before then, when Jeremy and I met in kindergarten. His siblings were already like family to me too. In fact, his two older sisters were my bridesmaids. His brother and Thomas were his groomsmen.
The wedding was delightful. It was a quiet, intimate ceremony with only close friends and Jeremy’s family. Only 30 people were in attendance, but that’s what made it so wonderful. It felt safe, wholesome, and warm. A beautiful summer day, our alter was two willow trees that stood side by side in the park beside a small pond. We didn’t decorate much, we simply had some clean, white chairs for patrons and a few vases of colorful spring flowers.
While my fears had quelled somewhat, I still refused to have any kind of speaker system at the reception for music. Instead, I hired a string quartet. Everyone loved it. It was so ‘vintage’. I will never forget that day. It will always be the brightest light in the ebony void that was my life beforehand.
But all good things must come to an end.
We moved from our apartment not long after the wedding, deciding that in order to start a family, we would definitely need more space.
The most generous wedding gift we’d gotten was a $25,000 check from Jeremy’s uncle, who played the stock market. He told us a nest egg takes too long to grow, so he wanted to give us a fresh start. We took that check and put a down payment on a beautiful two story, colonial style house in the next town over. I loved every single thing about that house. From its sky-blue shutters, to the clean white pillars that held up the awning over the porch.
Moving day was almost like a big family gathering. Everyone seemed to be there helping us move all of our stuff in and unpack. We settled in so easily, it was as if we’d lived there all of our lives. At the end of the day, Jeremy’s sister, Lillian, sat with us on our porch while her two kids played in the front yard.
She told us that she’d gotten us a special house warming present earlier that week and that it would be arriving within the next few days. Both Jeremy and I were overwhelmed, we’d already been given the money to get our own home, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
When it came, I was alone, making sure that every surface in the house was clean and filled with our own clutter and knick knacks. I heard the door bell, answered, and signed for a very large box. I dragged it in and realized that the shape of the box resembled the kind that TVs are generally delivered in. I remember staring at it for a while, debating with myself about opening it. Those old twinges of anxiety played drums in my stomach and brain while I walked circles around the box, running my hand on the taped seams. I called Jeremy and told him what Lillian had sent us.
He was a little angry at first. He’d told Lillian that I was old fashioned and didn’t believe in having a TV (explaining away why we never had one). But, in my head, whatever had happened before had ceased and that maybe it was time to let it all go. I felt ready to set everything aside and grow up. I was 25 then, it seemed appropriate that I let all of the superstitions, fears, and paranoia slip from my hands and fall away. Before he got home, I unloaded the TV from its box, moved the coffee table against the wall in front of the couch, and carefully lifted the television onto it.
For a long time, I sat on the couch and stared at it, willing myself to plug it in and watch something. If anything, just to give myself that final push in to peace of mind. Jeremy came home while I was contemplating this. He watched me for a little while before plugging it in himself. I remember feeling my body jump a little off of the couch cushion when he turned it on. All that met us was a bright blue screen with the letters AUX in the top right-hand corner. Nothing was attached to it, we didn’t even have a disc player or a satellite service. Both of us chuckled at this. We finally had one and we couldn’t even use it.
For a few months, that’s how it remained. This giant black box merely sat in our living room, eerily catching our reflections when we walked past or sat down to read. We’d become so used to being unplugged that it was merely an ornament in our home for a long time. Eventually, I agreed that Jeremy could purchase a radio. I never even listened to the radio in our car. It had been years since I really listened to music on anything but an iPod. I never feared the static from one of those. I was never sure why. I felt that perhaps if we’d taken the step to get a TV, that a radio wouldn’t be so bad.
When he brought it home, I felt no sense of unease. This, to me, meant that I was really moving on. I remember listening to music with him on it that first night, dancing around our living room without a care in the world. We seemed to float away on it, losing ourselves in the plunky, up-tempo melody of some current top 40 hit.
Out of nowhere, there it was. That horrid, itchy, sporadic, menacing white noise. The endless void of millions of screams all rolled into one insane loop. I don’t know who got to it first, since both of us launched at it the moment it began to emit that gut twisting noise. Both of our hands laid on that off switch for a long time as we tried to catch our breath. I immediately went into a rant, telling Jeremy to take it back and never ask for one again. I told him to get rid of the TV too.
He calmed me for a moment, telling me that everything would be fine. That it was probably just a fluke.
Until we got the call.
This…thing…came back with a vengeance alright. It took not just one person, but five.
Jeremy dropped the phone and crumpled to the floor, consumed by an overwhelming grief. His brother, sisters, his brother in law, and sister in law, who had all been on a cruise together, had died. They were in the ship’s ball room, dancing and having a good time when the massive chandelier above them detached from its wires and crushed them. Because of this, his two nephews and three nieces were now orphans.
The funerals were all combined into one big one. There were so many people there…and as I looked into the saddened faces of each one I couldn’t help but blame myself. Perhaps if I had not allowed Jeremy to get that radio, their lives would be spared. They’d still be here. Their children…the looks on their faces still haunt me to this day.
Despite getting rid of the television and radio, it didn’t stop. It just kept coming in waves. No matter where we were, somehow it would find us. Our answering machine started it, taking Jeremy’s mother. She sank to the bottom of a river in a fishing boat while out with a friend. Her friend survived. Next, after having been off for years, the radio in my car suddenly howled at me one day, this time taking Jeremy’s father. He was a window washer, he’d become tangled in the ropes and part of one wrapped around his neck. Next, all of the televisions at the store suddenly went snow white while shopping one day. This time claiming his aunt and uncle in a skiing accident.
His other aunt and uncle went separately. One was shot in a robbery. The uncle who had given us the gift of our home, he shot himself on accident while cleaning his pistol.
The children…I don’t even want to reiterate what happened to them. They were under our care at that time. The investigations that came after that took four years of our lives away as well as them. In six years, Jeremy lost his entire family. He wasn’t able to handle it.
One day, I heard it from some guy’s boombox in the park. That was the day my Jeremy took his own life. Finding him was agony, I will never be able to get rid of the sight of his body lolling back and forth at the top of the stairs. I cannot erase cutting him down, desperately trying to resuscitate him, or watching the EMT zip up the body bag and roll him away from me.
Finally…it took the only two people I had left.
Seven months after Jeremy committed suicide, I moved back in with my mother. Even before then I’d been staying with her on and off, unable to walk into my own home without feeling the cold, withered hand of death grab me by the shoulders. I was nearly committed in that time. I became reclusive, increasingly paranoid, barely showered, and nearly refused to come out of my room unless I had to use the toilet. I didn’t eat either, I must have lost fifty pounds in that time frame.
After I moved back in, I didn’t change much. Thomas would come and visit every now and then, trying desperately to get me out of the house. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to be cornered by it. I didn’t want to go out for groceries and have the store’s speaker system suddenly become corrupt. I didn’t want my car to suddenly sprout a new radio (I’d had it removed.) and explode into a mass of pure sound. I avoided everything and everyone for the most part. I didn’t talk on the phone, in fact my mother would constantly ask me if I’d unplugged it, which I did. I slowly began to feel the last strands of my sanity float away on the breeze, piece by piece.
Until one day, I was alone in the house and went downstairs to go to the bathroom. The upstairs one had a window that faced the neighbors, mother always forgot to fix it as it was stuck open for years. The neighbors played their radio around that time of day. I didn’t want to be in that bathroom if it went off. The downstairs bathroom had no window, so it felt safer.
As I sat there, feeling the cold porcelain of the seat press into my legs, I heard it. I panicked, pants wrapped at my ankles, shimmying around on that damn thing trying to find the source. When I found it, I cursed. Mom had gotten a shower radio that stuck to the wall on those little rubber suction cups, and it was screeching at me, echoing off of the tiled walls like the sound of a banshee’s cry. I fell forward, my feet tangling in my jeans, as I tried to reach it. I scrambled up and ripped it from the wall, slamming it to the floor under my foot. It just kept going, I felt I was about to snap. I continued to stomp on it until, of its own fruition, it ceased.
I stood there staring at it, feeling my bones trembling beneath my flesh. I flew from the bathroom and found my cell phone. When I dialed my mother’s number, all I heard was that horrid static, same with Thomas. I began bawling, screaming through my sobs at it to stop and to leave us be. Amid my screaming, my phone began to ring. I stared at the number on my caller ID, knowing full well what it was. I thought that perhaps if I ignored it, it would go away. That they’d be alright. I tried to rationalize that maybe the answering of the call was what really killed them and not the white noise.
Against my better judgment, I answered.
While crossing the road from the market with the groceries they’d gone to get for dinner, the breaks of a semi-truck had failed. It’d hit them straight on, obliterating them. The only possible form of identification was to look at their licenses, after digging for them through blood and debris.
There was barely enough of both of them for a cremation. I had their ashes combined with my father’s and laid to rest in this grave. I had their names added alongside his on his tombstone. At this point, I was the only one left alive to attend the funeral. The pastor spewed his usual garbage about release from this life and ascension into heaven. How could there be such a place when all I knew then was a never-ending plane of hell. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that my many loved ones were in some fluffy, cloud laden paradise when all of them died in such horrific ways. The graveyard around me had become a family plot at this point. So many of those grave stones had the names of people I’d once laughed with.
People I’d once cried with, shared a home with, shared a bed with…
And I was left alone. I couldn’t understand why. Why did this thing want me to suffer? What had I ever done? What had little seven or eight-year-old me done to bring down such a merciless wrath from this unseen force of nature?
I never learned why. That’s what makes it so terrifying to me, what always scared me. The question of why or how went silently unanswered. Some nights I felt I could hear a snickering in the blackness, mocking me.
In the years to follow, I became invisible. I never left my mother’s house. After I’d taken over the deed and inherited the property and all she owned, I turned that house into my own personal sanctuary. I rid the place of anything that could make a sound. I secured all of the furniture to the floor. I used only plastic utensils and dishes. I removed the curtain rods and secured the curtains to the wall. I did everything possible to create a space that even the most paranoid person could live in and feel safe. Of course, at that point, that person is who I had become.
I ordered a delivery service for groceries, I applied for disability payments, I even ordered from a weekly book club I found in the paper. I found a way to live completely unplugged. I even had the wiring in the house removed for fear that somehow, they’d even find a way to create that god-awful sound.
It’s been thirty years to the day since mom and Thomas were taken. I often see young children standing in front of the house, pointing and leering. I imagine I’ve become some kind of urban legend. I still have the newspaper clippings that reported the death of my final two family members. “A freak accident” is what they called it. The report went on to mention that I was the last remaining member of my family.
They’d dug back through the years and found every single incident, every last death that took them all away from me.
I’m only happy I never told another soul about the static. If I had, those idiotic children that taunt me from the curb would probably hold up radios or their phones and play that sound over and over until I officially went mad.
Well…whether they do or not, I know it will come for me one day. I know that this will be my final resting place and I won’t be found until my next food delivery comes. I know that by then I’ll be rotting into the floor boards, content on remaining a part of this house even in the afterlife. I don’t want to know where it took them, what strange underworld that thing sent my family to. I don’t want to be with them there. I want to be the one who beat it. I want to be the one who merely died in my sleep. I want them to know that I conquered it at long last. But I know it will try.
Somehow, someday, it will try come for me. It will cry out in the stillness and grab ahold of my throat and drag me down into the scorching, dry air of hell. It doesn’t seem to know that I have a plan.
I’ve sat with this ice pick in my hand as I’ve written all of this down. I’ve looked at its rusted, sleek features every now and again between pages and paragraphs. I’ve known what I want to do with it for years. I’ve only now worked up the courage to do with it what I know I should’ve done long ago to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. If it doesn’t try to take me, perhaps it will decide to continue taking bystanders. I can’t let that happen. If this thing works the way I think it does, then this plan will work.
You can’t torture what cannot hear you, now can you?
CREDIT : Nykolliboo