It is night. I know this because the sun is somewhere else. Because those who sleep at night are asleep. Because there is that special silence that comes only now while the earth has turned away to let the shadows disappear. Because of the screams.
What horrors have descended upon them, the screamers? Fear flaps with wings down the corridors, around the corners, through doors and windows opened or closed, riding on the current of the screams.
There seem to be three screamers. Possibly two, but certainly more than one. Definitely not four or more. They are not together, these screamers. They cannot be, for their screams echo with loneliness, but the screamers are not alone. Some one, some thing, elicits these screams.
I am becoming a connoisseur of these screams, which rise into shrieks, fall into a sobbing tremolo, break out anew sharp like a razor's blade and howl, actually howl, in animal panic. The screams are educating me. I listen and learn from the screams.
Night is the proper time for screaming. With light comes sight, comes hope, comes strength to resist the full effect of the screams. In the night, no number of electric lights can lessen the effect of the screams. I am almost persuaded that the electric lights, where they exist, magnify the effect of the screams on both screamer and screamant alike.
Is this, then, the madhouse? Am I in that place built especially to capture screams and recycle them? I think not, for I do not wish to scream. Not yet.
These are human screams, nonetheless, not because of words ? of speech there is none ? but because there is full knowledge built in to these screams. The screamers are aware. And I also am aware. It takes one to know one: a potential screamer.
I evaluate the screaming anew. Burning? Stabbing? Tearing? Physical torment? Or maybe visions, dreams, hallucinations of unimaginable terror? I do not know. My education is insufficient.
I cannot tell the time, cannot measure the length of the screaming or the sum total of minutes, days, weeks, months or years the screaming has continued.
But wait! Did I not already decide that screaming was a night-thing? Of course.............how foolish of me. Twelve hours or less allotted for screaming: night. This is, of course, unimportant to the screamers, but it allows me to understand that my education is still ongoing.
Am I a pupil? Am I being groomed as a screamer, or am I a happenstance auditory witness incidentally present where the screams end? Are there others further away also learning from the screams or am I at the limit of those who hear?
The screams, do they have gender? Is one noticeably soprano, one baritone? The harder I try to listen, the more I cannot decide. I am like a novice brought to hear an orchestra for the first time. The major melodic theme is obvious but the individual instruments remain a mystery.
Each scream is a thing unto itself, with a beginning, a crescendo and an ending, but because the screamers are two or three, the sound is almost continuous. This is why I believe in a trinity of screamers: the pauses are infinitesimal, too brief for two, yet each separate, too few for four. Is this the optimum for screaming ? a trio of screamers? I will have to think about this later, if I can remember to do so.
Try to think, to evaluate! The screaming-place is stationary, for the screams neither approach nor fade. What do I know? I remember children screaming. The scream of a baby, of a boy with a hose of cold water sprayed on his back, of a girl with a spider on her arm. I know these, and I know the screams of grief. These are not them, not the same. To qualify, to remember screams of the past while screams of the present are ongoing is impossible for me. And I will not think about screams of the future, it is too hard to imagine what I can already hear. I give it up.
Screamer, screamor, screamee, screamant, screamo, screama, screamat. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
Scream (skrĕm) vi. ? 1. to utter a shrill, loud, piercing cry in fright, pain, etc. n. ? 1. a sharp piercing cry; shriek
I fall back on the mundane, but to no avail. The screams intrude, dominate, obliterate all else.
I do not resist the screams, or perhaps more correctly (for they do not compel), I do nothing about them. They simply are and I simply am. We are simply linked. No. Wait, there cannot be a ?we' here; screams have no personality. But grammar is useless. There is no manual of style for screams.
Am I in Hell? Are these the screams of my victims? Are they aimed at my conscience, if I have one? Liar! Thief! Traitor! Murderer! Blasphemer! Adulterer! Miser! Waster! But these are not there in the screams. So far. They are screams. Period.
I have erred from the path like a lost sheep. I have done those things which I ought not to have done. I have left undone those things which I ought to have done. There is no health in me. But thou, O Lord have mercy upon me, miserable offender, spare thou me who confess my faults. Restore me to righteousness sake. Now I lay me down to sleep. Up the long ladder and down the short rope; to Hell with King Billy and God bless the Pope. I know that my redeemer liveth. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. Hail Mary, full o' grace. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
I stop hoping. I gather my wits amid the ongoing screams. I listen hard but I cannot detect any accent, either national or regional. Screams have no loyalty, they are a language unto themselves. Before Babel and the confusion of tongues were only screams heard? Are these the screams of victims? Jews in the ovens, Armenians in the desert, Cambodians in the killing fields? Are these screams involuntary or voluntary? I am beginning to get confused, but perhaps this is my lesson: do not analyze what you cannot ? accept, simply accept.
But the screams are there and I am here.
But where is here? I cannot just now call to mind where I was before the screams, not that it really matters. I am where I am.
A new theory: are the screams supposed to terrify me? Am I supposed to grow immune to them?
Just before I can answer, or try to answer, the screams stop!
They do not subside, trail off, fade away, get cut off in mid-scream. I am simply now aware that I can no longer hear them. Am I deaf, while the screams continue?
I wait. I hear nothing, so I wait. Silence has a sound: it is the sound you cannot hear when the screaming has stopped. Hard as I try I can no longer hear the screams.
After a time, an infinity of time, I imagine I can hear footfalls far off and echoing around many corners and along hallways. They are not hurried, these footsteps. Neither are they slow, as in a march or through some deliberate measured tread. Heel-toe, heel-toe they come, never getting louder nor receding. They are a great distance away, these footfalls.
How are they connected to the screams, I wonder? Is it the screamers on the move, or are these the footsteps of those who bring screams from others? I wet myself, almost without knowing, as the footfalls continue. Will they approach me? Pass me by? Veer off at some last moment in another direction?
There! I am certain now. They approach, grow louder, more deliberate. I can hear all the tiny collateral sounds, the scratches, creaks, swishings and rustlings that accompany the footfalls as they draw nearer with agonizing slowness.
My genitals grow numb. My ears fill with pressure. My mouth goes dry as a desert wind. I soil myself.
Because I do not know how loud the footfalls will be when they eventually reach me, I cannot estimate how much time and space remains between us. This terrifies me. I vomit.
The footfalls continue..........closer, ever closer and louder until to my poor bursting eardrums they seem like the tread of some huge and weighty ancient god approaching to grind me underfoot.
Will it be my time to scream? Is that why I am here, wherever here is, to become a screamer in my turn? What do I know? What can I offer? How can I escape? My heart pounds wildly within my chest.
The footsteps cease. There is no relief in this. I wish the screaming back, but to no avail. I am fresh out of promises, prayers and plans. I ejaculate repeatedly, not with pleasure, but like a tree releasing its seeds before an oncoming fire in the vain chance that somehow one seed will survive to carry on the line. But I am to be made extinct ? I am sure of this.
I cannot remember whether I have written all this down ? there is no time now if I have not. Or if I have just thought though this, perhaps someone, some thing will someday sense that I was here. I! Me! Do not forget me ? for I heard the screaming and almost learned from it.
I topple, but from standing or sitting I do not know. There is a short falling sensation and I am lying on the floor or ground or whatever was below me. My eyes roll up, I swallow my own tongue. My body begins a series of wild convulsions. Foam and spittle and mucus issue from my nose and mouth.
I am dying, Egypt, dying......Washington's farewell to his troops.... hamlet's soliloquy..... Auld Lang Syne...... the-the-the-that's all, folks!
My moment has come, they have come for my moment, everything is backwards and upside-down. Before the screams begin, before they or he or she or it takes me to the screaming-place for my own punishment or torture or mental castration, a single word, my last farewell is ripped from my body.
(the door opened, and the Interrogator took him away to the screaming-place, which was all that could be imagined and more)