Tick- tap- tick- tick- tap- tick
I remember the first time I heard the noise it was cold, very cold, one of those night when the freezing began right after sundown and there wasn’t any hope of warmer weather in sight. It had been cold, it was going to be cold, and winter in South Georgia was a reality for once. There was frost every morning and ice on the pond even in the afternoons. I was wrapped up in a blanket or two on the sofa when I first heard the sound.
My family has a history of audio hallucinations. My paternal grandmother heard noises at night and was certain there were people living in the attic. My father hears things at night now. He has to have 100% silence or he cannot sleep. Tiny noises are enough to wake him up and when there are no sounds around his mind invents them. Dogs barking and music are his two favorite nighttime villains. When a noise wakes me up from sleeping, I’m always terrified it has begun with me. I already have problems hearing normally. For years I’ve heard sounds in the wind no one else seems to hear. There is a song there, in the wind, and when I describe it to other people, they just look at me as if I hear people in the attic, or dogs playing music at night.
I closed my eyes and listened to the tapping, the ticking, and the tick tapping noise. It was too cold to be a click beetle this time. I could hear the dogs breathing in deep sleep. I can tell who is where by the sound they make when they’re sleeping. Bert sleeps quietly, soundly, while Sam snores more often, and dreams. Lucas hasn’t fell into a rhythm yet, so I know it’s him when it doesn’t sound like anyone else. The water heater makes a noise on occasion. The oven when it is cooling down makes a tapping noise. I sighed. I was going to have to get up and look.
The noise had camped out on the very periphery of my hearing. Had the television been on I would have never heard it. I eased towards the back door and the noise was fainter. Towards the front door and I could hear it a little better, but the dogs wanted out so I forgot about the noise for the time being, but heard it again a couple of nights later. I couldn’t hear it in the bedroom or my office, and I really don’t spend that much time on the sofa so I didn’t worry about it.
In daylight, and I remember now when I discovered the source I was watching a football game on television, and it was a Saturday, yes. A leaf had become trapped in what was left of a spider web and was glancing off the windowpane. Ah, I’ll have it down in a second, but the game got interesting, and the wind died down. I forgot about it again, until a few days later, and I actually took three steps towards it when the phone rang and I went back inside answer it.
The spider web is left over from the massive and incredibly beautiful spiders that spring up every autumn. The one who lives on that part of the porch anchors her web, and if it isn’t her every year it must be her offspring, on the window sill, up close to the middle. This is her last capture, her last bit of predation, even though she might be long dead. Amazing, isn’t it? This is an arachnid archeological site, where the past generation left a structure for us to interpret.
After that thought I couldn’t take it down, could I?
Some people have wind chimes but I’ve got the leaf in the spider’s web. It’s the ghost of the spider, typing away at just a few words a minute, trying to finish her autobiography before the next generation takes over the spot, or a human with some housecleaning skills shows up. It’s the ghost of the man who died in this house, using Morse code to speak to me, and I sleep through it. It’s the last evidence of a tree, and a spider, and both are gone now.
Tick- tap- tick- tick- tap- tick
This is not unlike the noise of a keyboard, you know. Somewhere out there is someone making these sounds, and what they have written, perhaps none of us will ever read. The leaf in the web in the wind reaches an audience of one, plays one song, one theme, and one day, either I will be gone, the leaf will be gone, or the web will break. How thin the line of existence is that holds this together. How fragile is this evidence of life, so fragile, for that only with breath can it be expressed.
Tick- tap- tick- tick- tap- tick,