The human body has a natural response to fear. It’s built into us, it helps us survive. It’s a part of who we are. If you are, say, lying in your bed one night and hear an unfamiliar sound, adrenaline begins to pump. And you are given two options: fight or flight. To fight would mean to stand against the fear, to face it head-on, to investigate and rail against it. The second option would be to flee, to move out as quickly as possible, away from any possible harm.
It’s not as if this should be a surprise to any of you. If you took any classes for Health education while in middle school you should be educated in this. In fact, Hollywood producers have known this for years. Build up the suspense, have the protagonist round the corner, and then have something leap out at them. And you yourself, perfectly safe in an air-conditioned room full of popcorn and candy and capitalism, jump in your seat. It’s the natural way of things.
However, humans are somewhat different than animals in this aspect, because we have created another response. We have domesticated ourselves, because often, we pick a third option—to remain docile. If we hear a noise, we turn over in our beds, we tell ourselves it was the house settling, the smoke detector is out of batteries, that it’s nothing to worry about.
In light of my newest research, allow me to suggest that you continue to do just that.
Alberta, Canada. Cold Lake. The name of the town matched its very environment. Each passing breath passed through me like I was sucking in cold itself, and the people only added to the town’s icy complexion. They were unwilling more than anything else, but I had not come to the town for the people.
I had come for a monster.
The entire town had begun to experience a strange phenomenon. In the middle of the night, a member of a household would hear a noise—a faucet dripping or some electronic beeping—and would get up to investigate. Fathers, mothers, children, getting out of their beds. Getting out of their beds and never returning.
Nobody had any more information than that. A noise was heard, someone got up, and then they simply disappeared. I began to question those who were involved in this, but none of them had any more to say. Some spoke as to how the noise had being going for several days beforehand, while others stated it was the first night they had ever heard it.
“But have you heard the noise since then?” I would ask them. And they would look at me, dumbfounded, trying to think back to such an insignificant detail before answering.
“I…I don’t know. I suppose not. But I don’t know.”
In my experience, though, it is the insignificant details that make all the difference.
An insignificant story only affirmed my suspicions. There was a man named Ryan who worked security for an apartment complex in town. The complex was not unlike many of those that pop up all over the place, cheap complexes with cheap locks and linoleum floors in the kitchen. It was separated into blocks, with each block having three stories, and four apartments on each floor. He had received several noise complaints from a block of apartments all in the same area. They all claimed to hear a sound going, repeating over and over, night after night.
“And have you ever investigated?” I asked. He shifted in his seat.
“Not really, not until last night anyway. I tend not to deal with issues unless they’re priority.”
A lazy security guard. How original.
“But last night it was made a priority. One of our residents called and was angry that she was still hearing it. She could sleep through it, she said, but she was getting up for work, and it was going to wake up her children. She demanded that I go over there right now and fix whatever it was.”
“My shift was about to be over, but I agreed, if for nothing else than to shut this lady up. I got to her apartment as she was walking out. She was a particularly large woman, and insisted that I fix it right away, in ways that were not so polite, before storming off to her car. When she pulled away I stood for a while to try to do just that.”
“There was definitely a sound, although she was exaggerating about the volume. It was slight, in the distance, I wasn’t sure where. So I tried following it, listening for it and walking towards it.” Ryan craned his neck, as if to demonstrate how it was he listened for the sound.
“What kind of noise was it?” I asked.
“It’s some sort of squeaking sound. It was electronic though, it had to be. It repeated in the same pattern, over and over again, like it was broken. My guess was on one of the fire alarms, probably out of batteries or something. But it was weird. I’ve worked in this building for years, and I’d never heard a sound like this one before.”
“I finally start climbing the stairs, because I figure that’s where it’s got to be. Our top apartments are usually less popular, and this one block just so happened to have four that were all empty. The sound is louder, definitely, but the fire alarm looks normal. So I listen in at the doors of the empty apartments. The first two were nothing, silence, maybe the hum of a refrigerator. But the third one was echoing, the sound of the squeaking muffled against my ear on the door. I step back and put my key in the lock.” He paused for a second, and he seemed vulnerable instead of apathetic, perhaps for the first time since I started the conversation. “Now, I’ve been doing this job a long time. Like I said, it’s a cushy job. There’s really not much to be afraid of in this town. But there was something…weird about this. I felt uneasy opening up the door. I don’t know how to describe it, and maybe that’s the best I can do. There was just something off. I took a breath, trying to calm myself down. But by the time I opened the door, the sound is gone. I look through the apartment, check the fire alarm, but there’s nothing, nothing out of the ordinary. I shut the door and leave. As I’m walking back down the stairs, I notice the sun is rising, meaning my shift is up.” He leaned back in his chair. That was the end of the story. He had nothing left to say.
“Could I perhaps follow you on your shift tonight?”
“You want to come with me? On the graveyard shift?”
“I assure you, it won’t be a problem for me.”
“Well,” he seemed uncomfortable again, but it soon melted into his regular state of indifference, although possibly feigned this time. “Well, I guess it won’t really matter either way. Besides, I’d like someone else to be there, at least to tell me I’m not crazy, if I have to check it out again.”
We did have to check it out again, and not too late into his shift this time either. It was around eleven when we got a phone call from one of the residents on the block, saying the noise was back and he couldn’t sleep. Ryan’s anxiety was palpable upon arriving, and the sound was in the distance, louder than he expressed it to be. His description of the sound, though, was almost perfect. I heard it, catching on and off in perfect rhythm.
Eet eet eet pause eet eet pause eet eet eet pause eet eet pause
Ryan started to move forward. I followed after him. He was muttering trying to reassure himself what it was he was hearing.
“It’s just a machine…just a machine…”
But he was wrong.
We got to the top floor, and the sound was louder. Much louder. You could tell it was right on top of us. Ryan led me to the correct door, and I placed my ear against it. He was right. There was something about it, something that made you uneasy. As I stood there in silence, my head pressed against the cold wood, wisps of my own breath rising from my nose and mouth, it all felt so out of place.
I stood, and looked at Ryan. He nodded at me, then put his key in the lock, turning it slowly. He opened the door just as slowly and noiselessly. It pushed open like a person breathes out. The sound, though, had only gotten louder. We both knew it was right past the door. When I peered through it, I finally found the source.
It was a man, if you could call it that. His skin was peeling and grey, his hair disheveled and black. His eyes matched his hair in color, but they were large, too large, and not humanlike. They were not made up of iris and pupil and cornea, but it was as if they were all pupil, unblinking and focused. Its entire being was focused, staring at the linoleum ground and its shoddy clothing and rubber shoes. Focused on kicking his foot in perfect rhythm, over and over again, against the floor, the resulting sound echoing against the walls.
Eet eet eet pause eet eet pause eet eet eet pause eet eet pause
This seemed to be his only purpose, his only deliberation. His body stood rigidly otherwise, his head bent and watching his feet. He repeated the sound, over and over again.
I took a step forward, and Ryan caught my arm. I looked over at his face of desperation, shaking his head violently. But I needed to know. I needed to see it closer. I gently pushed his arm off, turned back to the figure in the apartment, and took another step. My foot, caught on the shoddy flooring, made a squeaking sound of its own. Suddenly, the monster stopped.
It blinked, looking at its feet in confusion, unable to comprehend what could have disturbed him from his duty. Slowly his head moved up, pointing at me. Its face was even worse full on. It was not as if it was decaying, but it was…wrong. Its lips were split and chapped and grey, its nostrils flared on its flat nose, its expression almost dead. The monster stared at me, its black eyes focused sharply now. Its face slowly turned, first from confusion to anger, and then to hate. Darkness began to overtake the room, but it was not unsourced. It was extending from the monster’s eyes, battering out around it, filling up its surroundings. Filling up towards me.
Curiosity may have had me seized by the collar, but Ryan seized it harder and ripped me out of the room. He slammed the door behind us, locking it, and ran us down the steps, back the way we came.
Ryan would not return to the room with me. He refused to talk about what he had seen, and ignored any further calls about the noise. I would be lying myself, though, if I said that I did not return to the room. Well, outside the room, anyway. I recorded the times when the monster started and stopped, keeping account of its schedule for the next couple of nights. It started nearly at ten every night, and ended when the sun rose.
And then one night, it just stopped.
Ryan was relieved more than anything that it had gone away, but I didn’t understand. At first, I thought I had inadvertently killed the monster, starving it in some way. But then it became more clear to me.
One of the many messages Ryan had ignored on his phone was a series of angry calls from the original woman, demanding again that he do something about the noise. It got to the point where she threatened that if he would do nothing about it, then she would deal with it herself. When I came to the room that night, it was wide open, the door split where the lock should be. But it was completely empty.
No more noise complaints came from that apartment block.
The Noisemaker chooses places at random. It only knows its expressed purpose as making its noise, over and over again, night after night. If it is disturbed, it goes into a frenzy, taking anything in its path. But not only this, it moves on. This place had been soiled. It finds somewhere else to go, another home, another apartment.
Your home. Your apartment.
And so, I will repeat myself. When, in the middle of the night, you hear a sound, even one you may think you are familiar with, I urge you not to investigate. Instead, turn over in your bed, and let the Noisemaker continue its ritual.
I left Cold Lake soon thereafter, to see what new and terrible things I could find.