The Noise

Scrawled across Eddie’s page read a simple sentence: “Find the confirmation that you exist.” He was exhausting himself in contemplated thoughts that developed when he read aloud these words. Exist in what way? He knew the days seemed to be coming and going, that his skin was aging, that his body was moving along. But what could possibly be a confirmation? What, Eddie thought, would give him a vision of clarity to really demonstrate that he was alive?

It was at this precise moment, as the wisps of water vapour pulled themselves out of the coffee mug and the chattering in his favourite coffee shop drowned itself into a continual harmonious blur, that The Noise made itself present.

Rather than a voice, instead of an omniscient presence in his mind, and contrary to any previously head beliefs about physics, The Noise filled Eddie’s head until he could hear nothing more than the buzzing tune of solid sound.

Eddie gasped. The intensity of The Noise’s presence was thick and its unwelcome character commiserated with his doubts about existence extremely well. He looked around with fleeting, frightened eyes to see if any of the other coffee shop patrons were ajar in their looks. Strangely, they were not. The faces around Eddie were buried into books, or were stealing glances from love interests, or were mired in their caffeine addictions so deeply that The Noise may not have made a difference to them anyway. Was it an electric hum from the coffee shop’s cooler? No, The Noise was much more still and unwavering than an output of an electric device. Franticly, he pushed himself back from the table and reclined ever so slightly in his wooden chair. The Noise was still there. It wasn’t just the exact location he was sitting – Eddie thought for a moment it might have been a vent, a broken electrical outlet, something! – but rather it permeated his entire mind with an intensity of unbroken loudness he had never experienced before. Quickly to his feet, Eddie jumped out of the chair and walked over to the counter where an employee of the shop leaned against the edge by the till with a pen half chewed in her mouth.

Eddie pleaded. “Uh, excuse me, but do you hear that loud sound?” he said.

“What sound?” the woman replied, without looking up from her dazed expression, her eyes fixated on the people walking by the window outside on an otherwise bright sunny day.

“I hear a really loud buzz, a hum, or something, and I think it might be coming from your stereo, perhaps?” Eddie said, slowly realizing his thoughts were becoming convoluted in the mess of the The Noise filling his mind. He knew it wasn’t a stereo buzz but he hoped he was wrong.

“Nope, I don’t hear anything,” the employee answered, and looked purposefully away. “Maybe get your hearing checked or something.” She busied herself away from Eddie to avoid any further questions.

Eddie would normally have said thanks, even without being thankful, but instead returned to his chair. He grabbed his shoulder bag, shoved the writing book he had laid out with a few scribbles on the pages into the bag, and downed the last few remaining drops of the americano cooling in his mug. He scurried to the door to flee. Perhaps, he thought, he just needed a moment of fresh air. Perhaps the sounds of the street would shake his head clear of the presence.

After all, his inner voice echoed, he hadn’t been sleeping well. His head had been in the clouds of late, not only because of this assignment for his class – an assortment of selected topics on moral and social philosophy – but because life, even outside of university, had become a frequent sea of drowning expectations. He restlessly remained awake late into the night, scurrying between bed and his couch, trying to find sleep. His friction with life was complex: the previous week had delivered a series of disappointments, including a failed blind date, a miserably unhappy phone call from his parents to relay that they had put down the family dog because she had become a burden on their social lives, and a general sense of life peeling away from him. Yes, it must be these restless thoughts, Eddie thought, that has tensed me up. It must.

The outdoor cool air brought no justice to Eddie, however. The Noise emanated in him. He felt it transcending his mind and entering his mouth, his nose, his ears and his face. Eddie grabbed the sides of his head and pulled his hair at his temples – a visceral reaction to a headache, perhaps, but not to this sound. He looked at the sky: the sun, setting slowly above the buildings ahead, seemed to glow with an otherwise normal illumination; nothing funny there. He looked at the street: cars with one or two passengers sailed on the road beside him with a lackadaisical care. He looked down the sidewalk: puppies out-walking their owners, children in baby carriages pointing at colourful street vendors, lines of hungry tourists forming around a new hot dog vendor’s corner. Nothing in Eddie’s world was out of place. Nothing but an all-encompassing, tyrannical and and ruthless sound that filled all the spaces in his body he thought sound could not. The outside world, it now seemed, cared little for Eddie’s condition. It functioned whether he imploded under this pressuring sound or thrived under it.

Eddie rushed down the sidewalk, unfocused, lost and confused. The Noise deepened within him. He could describe it back to himself, now: rather than painful, it was simply overpowering. It took his full concentration to merely see which streets he was crossing. The maze of the city seemed to close in around him, reducing the clarity of his everyday movements into a hazy and disconcerting mess of urban clutter. What were familiar streets on any other regular day were now the barriers to a simple goal of getting home. Home. That was the most logical thing Eddie could imagine. Get home, lie down, relax. Drink water. Take an aspirin. Go to a clinic, maybe, if this sound persists. Just get home.

The street corners were bustling, which was strange for this late in the day. Normally by now the mobs of office workers had all but descended into their humble abodes and stayed there for later into the night. The city’s buzz of people, however, complicated the navigation home even more than ever. This was no rush hour of pedestrian traffic: these were blockages in the single artery of getting to home. Rudely Eddie pushed his way past the crowds, shoving many a side or a shoulder as he tried to make a space to charge forward. His apartment was only blocks from where he had started, but The Noise had hastened his movement to a much faster pace than he normally moved. Someone yelled at him, “Hey, watch where the fuck you’re going!” as he careened a passerby’s shopping bags into an oncoming suit. Eddie didn’t stop to apologize. He focused solely on himself. Must. get. home.

Finally, he arrived at his gate. He flustered with his pockets to dig in deep to find his key. Fumbling, Eddie opened his door and cringed his eyes. The Noise was so intense now he had little focus. The gate remained swinging open behind him; rather than wiping his feet at his mat, he trampled in to the kitchen, boots on carpet throughout the entrance way. He searched for a clean glass – should have done these dishes last night! he sighed to himself – and finally settled on one with about an inch of stale-looking water remaining at the edge of the sink. He rinsed it carelessly and filled it up with the lukewarm tap water. Eddie pushed open the the cupboards, a heightened panic in his pursuits, probing the clutter for a sign of an aspirin bottle. Finally, after littering the counter with the spices and candles that were in the way, Eddie grabbed ahold of a generic bottle and twisted the cap to get at its contents. He shook the pills into his hand, tossing two back into his mouth and stuffed the remaining ones back into the container. He dropped his head back and swallowed quickly, trying hard to prevent the pills from dissolving too quickly and leaving his mouth with too much of a bitter aftertaste. Eddie drained the water into his throat and rinsed the remnants of the pills out. Immediately, he dashed back to the living area by the entrance and dropped his body onto the couch. It was still littered with yesterday’s newspaper and unfolded laundry left there since the weekend. Breathing deeply, Eddie closed his eyes and focused intensely on The Noise. He pleaded with his mind. Just stop it!

Of course, it was no use. The aspirin had a chilling effect on his muscles, releasing a small amount of the tension he had built up in the previous moments. But no matter his resolve and focus, The Noise remained. By now, it filled all that was Eddie. It engulfed his heart, dripped out of his lungs, permeated his liver and intestines, saturated his thighs. It was now within every cell. Rather than simply hearing it, Eddie embodied it.

And it was here that Eddie had a true glimmer of truth. While laying anxiously with his eyes sealed to the world, arms crossed and lips quivering, Eddie understood it all. It was a realization, his entire lifetime in planning, that this was it. This was his confirmation. This Noise was his purpose, his existence, his life. Rather than fight it, Eddie needed to appreciate The Noise meant he *was* alive. He existed! Rather than pleading with the universe to make The Noise stop, Eddie needed to plead to have it continue! Every moment The Noise filled him was another moment of confirmation! Rather than tuning out that which agitated him, he must use this newfound sound as the drive to make something of himself. Rather than forcing out The Noise from his body, Eddie needed to bring it in even closer to his core: every atom must contain The Noise! Every breath must exhale with The Noise embodied in it, shared with the world as the most authentic proof that he existed that could be found! It was a realization that carried such intensity Eddie grinned and laughed copiously.

His phone rang. Eddie popped open his eyes and grabbed for the receiver.

“Hello?” he shouted into the phone.

“Uh, hi Eddie,” said the voice, timidly. “It’s Rach. Why are you shouting?”

“Rachel! I figured it out!” he yelled back.

And as suddenly as The Noise had permeated his body, it left. Before he had a chance to explain to his friend’s lingering question of “Figure what out?” The Noise left Eddie’s body and took with it his life. Pulling out from his body, The Noise carried with it the essence that was this young man. It abandoned his corpse on the couch, a hand drooping over the edge with a phone receiver dangling from its fingers.

Rachel’s voice echoed out into the empty apartment. “Eddie! Eddie! Hello? Hello?” There would be no answer. Just as swiftly as The Noise had taken his sanity, it relinquished Eddie in an abrupt ending.

And when they found his body that evening, the ambulance attendants encountered a man at home in his otherwise vapid home with a smile blazoned across his face.