That shrill sound, a cross between an alarm and the essence of electricity, a type of crackling, woke Jane up for the first time on a Tuesday night, the same night she met Jeff. Her thoughts before she drifted off were flavored with anxiety, dread and yes, excitement. There was that too. A feeling she named “here we go” — the car inching towards the crest of the ride.
Not realizing she had fallen asleep, she woke and heard the beep. She screwed pillow cushions in her ears, which seemed to do the trick.
The next night, it was the same rhythm. Fitful sleep because Jeff still hadn’t texted or emailed or responded to her Snapchat. Then she was awake and a bit lost until she found her pillow cushions now coated in a fine glaze of lint.
On the third night, the pillow cushions were gone. She had meant to buy others but forgot. So she was stuck. The beep marked a violent pace, cycling between dread, worry and hard won calm.
She got up. Put on slippers and glasses and opened her front door a crack. The hallway was empty. She thought maybe the beep came from next door. Without consciously deciding to move forward, towards what she thought was the source of the sound, Jane stepped into the hallway.
The door slammed behind her with a decisive click. She had no keys. But her neighbor did. The neighbor with the failed fire alarm battery that beeped for three days now meaning he must be gone. Not home. Not there to fix the fire alarm or hand her the keys. Jane slid slowly down the north wall of the empty hallway as her situation became clearer. With no plan, no way to remedy her situation until morning, which was how many hours away, Jane stared at her phone. Who to call? No one.
Later, before dawn, her phone chimed. It was Jeff. The empty hallway, the irregular chirping of the broken fire alarm, the dark implications of simply being stuck assumed a new shape.
The shape of a story.