She pressed her hands against her ears hard. Still, the sound persisted. It was children screaming, like an echo or muffled memory. She had been hearing it for a week now. Wherever she went, there it was. She had been badly startled at the grocery store when the noise had come back. It was as if it came right behind her. Instead of finding screaming children, there had been a poor unsuspecting customer who had gotten her face full of terror. Now, she stood there on the shaking bus, trying to get home before the screaming got too loud and before she had to lie the rest of the day in the bed, lights off, hiding from the looming headache.
Without having to look around, she knew the other passengers stared at her. She ignored them and kept pressing her ears. Even when the screams were the same, the act itself made her feel better. She was doing something instead of accepting it. The proper way would be to go to a doctor, but she was too afraid. What if this was an early sign of schizophrenia? Then what? She would lose herself. Forever be looked at by others and then quickly averting their gazes as they were doing now. Then she would lose her job because no one wanted someone who was crazy around. Her coworkers barely talked to her now. They were too busy hating everyone and their boss to have a pleasant conversation.
The noise stopped as the bus opened its doors. She let her hands drop next to her. She looked around, and yes, she had been right. People stared at her. She took one of the newly emptied seats, sitting next to a woman who stiffened. She wanted to apologize and change places, but the empty rows got full as more people got onto the bus. So she sat there clutching to her knees, hoping the last five stops would go fast. Every part of her wanted to rock back and forth to shoot her senses. She didn’t. Things were bad enough.
The woman hurried off the bus at the next stop, not waiting for her even to swing her knees to the left to give enough room. Again, she wanted to be the one to apologize. She had meant none of this. She looked up at the incoming people. No one sat next to her, despite the bus getting fuller by every stop. She was sure they could sense the sound inside her, to know that she had a defective mind. No one sane would welcome screaming children inside their head. She shifted her gaze around the bus and saw the other passengers accused her. They knew she had put the children there, made them suffer. It was too much. How could they be this cruel to her? If she could, she would free them. This wasn’t her fault. She began rocking on the seat, letting the motion calm her. She did it all the way to her stop, and when the door opened, she dashed out. The passengers cheered and laughed as she ran out. She wanted to cry. She kept running to her apartment, fumbling with her keys, not having to stop too long at the front door to the building. When inside, she kept her eyes on her shoes and walked past her neighbors. The lock to her home shifted all around the door as she tried to push the key in. But she managed to hunt it down and as she pushed the door open, she well in, collapsing on the floor. She left the door open and ignored that her purse had flown from her hand along with her phone and keys. She crawled onward, leaving it all behind. When she was finally on the living room carpet, she stopped moving and laid there, hearing the screams and laughter combined to one. How could they be so cruel? She swore to phone the helpline number she had found yesterday as soon as she got her strength back. Instead, she pressed her fingers on the wool carpet and let them swim along the yarns sticking out, getting lost there.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a good day!
© K.A. Ashcomb