The Universe Hums in B Flat
Your neighbors must've called. All the pounding and slamming. There wasn't anything you could do, and it might as well have been jail or Jupiter they took you to. It wouldn't have
mattered. That low humming, that sub-bass droning in your bones, kept on resonating through your head and gut as they put you in the crazy home.
You thrashed and railed. The doctors knew about the buzzing and the pressure. They ran tests. Your ears were fine. Your brain was good. Tubes kept you vital.
It wasn't always like this. Once, you were a healthy, productive citizen. Taxes on time. Trash and recycling out the night before. Then Audrey floated away. Pulled out and into the sky.
When she was taken from you everything buzzed low. A sound vibrated deep in parts you've never felt move before. It rattled the core of your pickup, tires dancing tight circles on the gravel as she floated farther away. You yelled to her, but no sound came. The vibrations grew more intense and your throat was raw and Audrey was gone.
At the home, the drugs helped, but when a town's people on the other side of the world fell to genocide, not even your long white sleeves and padded walls could keep the chainsaw out of your gut and head.
"How are you today?" a nurse asked, his voice a mumbled sonar.
You sat. You rocked. You took your meds.
In the beginning, the sound was only during disasters. A plane went down in the North Atlantic and a chorus broke into a reprise, falling through your body like stars dropped from the Leonids.
A kid was shot by the police and a bell rung from your belly to your toes—your head a static rhythm fuzzed a whip crack fire pop.
Slowly the buzzing became constant. Distant at first, an aircraft overhead. Over the weeks it came on more violently, crescendoing at intervals. That sound, so low, so tight — it sat wide in your gut, your ribs and chest. It swelled up into your neck and you had to scream but your voice was impotent. Cancelled out. You were a mute banshee raging against cupped hands, a pillow, bathroom stalls.
You stayed home. Windows tight and curtains drawn. The buzzing and buzzing, and humming and humming, it rumbled and shook and you hadn't slept and with your mouth around the barrel, your thumb and fingers danced on the end of it all. Then the phone rang and Audrey was found.
Three thousand miles away.
Her body on the ground.
Still, no one believed you. The police held you for hours, days. Your clothes stank. You remembered the sky, lit up with light and the roar of a thousand stadiums. And then nothing. Nothing but sound and the heavens.
A pianist from a conservatory was performing in the common room. The drugs were given and the vibrations were diminished to the purr of an 18-wheeler that morning.
You were wheeled to a nearby room where you could hear.
Beethoven. Sonata no. 29.
For brief moments the humming was gone. Your head was clear. Illuminated for quick, elusory flashes.
A doctor who had once studied physics and specialized in auditory hallucinations was brought in. You managed to tell him about Beethoven. He studied you for weeks while the torrents came, wave after wave. He wanted to try something and told you about destructive interference.
"Two opposing frequencies cancel each other out," he said.
You nodded, rocked.
"Like polar opposites, but with sound."
He slipped headphones over your ears. Adjusted frequencies.
At 466 you were clear.
You emerged from under an ocean of pulsating lead.
Thoughts of Audrey flooded back. How she was taken away from you and you were helpless. How you were helpless in all of the murder and disaster. Chaos and chance. The grandmother who put arsenic in the kid's hot chocolate. The man whose brakes failed. These images flashed and passed through, but there was no pulsing. No more pressure. Longing and anguish settled in a different tone, but you didn't have to scream. For the first time in over a year you knew what it was to live without a sonorous demon pushing from the inside.
You eventually left the jacket and soft cell, but never the headphones sending a constant frequency to keep you clear. You went outside for a walk and tripped while looking at the sky. The headphones slipped and an anvil got you right between the eyes. All the pain and suffering. All the brutality and nothingness. You slid them back on, but barely, just before a nurse could catch up to you. And everything was fine, and everything was crumbling around you. And there was nothing you could do about it.
lives in Philadelphia. He graduated from Arcadia University with an MFA in Creative Writing. His words can be found in Smokelong Quarterly, LitroNY
and others. Full list of pubs and miscellany can be found at danieldifranco.net, and @danieldifranco.