The district I live in is an old fashioned clock; the houses have been crafted with skill and grace, the cramped quarters engineered for efficiency, and each turn of its gears is clearly audible. Any given day I am audience to a symphony of sound and vibration: the low bellow of the tugboats passing between the raised gates of the drawbridge on their way to deposit their cargo a half-mile downriver; the whistle of the freight train lumbering through town along its rusted tracks; the throaty rumble of the Medevac helicopter and the high-pitched whine of the Sheriff’s chopper as they circle not-so-high above; the trumpet of the fireman’s summon (a shrill beast with no concept of time or depth of slumber); and the fire and police stations that burst with sudden life, spewing out urgent shrieks in multiples.
This morning belonged to the emergency department. For over eight minutes the air filled with growing numbers of sirens. As I listened, I became certain the creator of that particular sound knew exactly what he was doing. In hearing that shrieking for such a prolonged period, I came to believe the inventor not only understood the noise that would most likely gain a semi-alert driver’s attention, but sensed its source. Because as I stood listening to that manufactured conveyance of urgency, I, too, heard its origination.
My mother’s not breathing! I can’t get her breathing!
Oh God, he’s really going to kill me this time!
They’re trapped! The car is flipped over and they’re trapped!
The Blood! It’s everywhere!
Within that electronic wail, I heard those who summoned it–heard their anxiety, their pain, their horror. I heard their screams. Even the little old lady who wanted a free ride and someone to alleviate her crushing loneliness for just an hour—I heard her, too.