The Hum

This is a short story that I had slapped out in a fit of inspiration several years ago. Looking at it now I can see it as it is – a poor attempt at Pahlaniuk-style, W.S.Burroughs freak-out mind game silliness… but I still think there is some value in it, and quite a few nicely turned phrases.

Tell me what you think.

The Hum





There has been an unusual hum just outside the reach of my senses. I can’t quite seem to locate it. It’s like an electric buzzsaw that’s grinding away behind my left eyeball. It makes me feel constantly on edge.


Maybe it’s coming from those God-awful lights? That white-hot fluorescent anger that’s always beaming down, irradiating me from every corner and crevasse of my cubicle, constantly firing at me like a billion microscopic nuclear blasts in my brain.


The Hum just keeps getting louder and louder. I think they must be doing some kind of renovation on the next floor. I find myself more and more tired when I’m here. Most of the time I don’t even feel like I’ve woken up and gotten out of bed. Maybe this is all a dream? Some boring and ridiculous repetitive dream? Days and weeks seem like they are just flying past me like minutes. I can almost watch the minutes dripping from the second hand of that chintzy plastic clock on my wall, everything seems like it’s moving really fast, blurry and unreal. Jesus, I’m tired.


Maybe it’s this fucking computer? The damn thing is on all the time, always blinking, winking at me like it has some absurd secret to zap into my ear. I just sit here dumbfounded, for 10 hours a day, waiting for this fucking computer to give me some kind of answer.


My voice is gone. I think I’m catching something. My throat is so dry and atrophied from neglect, I can barely swallow, let alone scratch out a measly little ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ to that blonde from down the hall. She’s the only one who still talks to me. Everyone else looks at me like I’m dying, like I have some kind of disease. Maybe I do. I was looking in the mirror today, and I think I’m becoming transparent. I’ve been reduced to communicating by half sentences typed out in the ‘hunt and peck’ technique and highlighted by false emoticons and delivered lightning fast with a lazy tap of my finger.


I must have disappeared entirely, because I was left behind on Friday. I noticed time streaming past me again, so fast that I was getting dizzy and had to throw up. I puked silver. The toilet bowl looked like a molten silver pool, it was beautiful and I couldn’t look away. When the lights went out, I called for help, but no one could hear me. I managed to drag myself into the kitchen and eat some old chicken marsala that someone left in the fridge. It had a fine green fur growing on it. I couldn’t find the light switch, so I spent the weekend in a corner office, hoping that the cleaning staff would let me out, but they never came. I spent most of the time talking with The Hum. It thinks I need to reevaluate my life. It says that I should have been a dancer. I was sleeping in my chair this morning when the lights came back on. No one noticed me slumped over my keyboard.


My face feels very hot. When I got out of the shower this morning, I could see the pulsating red glow from my forehead behind the thick fog on the mirror. My fingers have swollen up to the size of thick Vienna sausages, I’m afraid that they may explode and spray their juicy-wet innards on the keyboard, leaving me with dangling and empty meat-flaps on the ends of my hands. I’m going to stop typing now. I think I need some sleep.

The Hum just told me about the plot to assassinate Kennedy. The Hum says that it was all Captain Ahab’s idea, but that Liberace was the trigger-man. No one would suspect a gay piano player.


I’m having a lot of trouble breathing in here. I think they’ve done something to the air. It’s stale and bone dry, and it smells like the toe I found in my shoe this morning. It fell off last night, I didn’t notice. The Hum told me that it’s all just a part of their game. The Hum said that they start with the toes, because you never use them, and consequently don’t really miss them when they’re gone. The Hum says that in Vietnam, it was subjected to worse tortures by far.


The Hum is getting louder, it’s very angry about my toes. Two more were lying on my pillow next to my head when my alarm went off. I didn’t even fall asleep, I don’t know how I missed it. They are recirculating the air. The Hum says that they are trying to keep it away from me, because they know that it knows the truth. The truth about them. It also said that they have been trying to cut the oxygen budget for sometime, and that they have now cut it to ten percent of the oxygen found in outside air.


The Hum followed me home last night, it came in for some microwave popcorn, and then curled up inside my ear for the night. It woke up in the middle of the night and began spilling desperate tragedy and industrial secrets inside my ear. It performed a soliloquy from Hamlet while my brain mopped up. Later, The Hum performed selections from Faust, while my brain took a lunch break and ate a meatball sub with a ginger-ale.

This morning my ear was lying on the floor, victim of an apparent suicide, that’s what The Hum told me.


Now that The Hum knows where I live, it’s been coming over unannounced. I don’t think that it really has my best intentions in mind. I’m beginning to suspect that The Hum has ulterior motives. As we were sitting together on my couch, watching reruns of Hollywood Squares, I caught it looking at me, staring past the hole where my ear used to be. I’m beginning to wonder if my ear really did take a swan dive from the light fixture on my bedroom ceiling. It makes no sense, it had so much to live for.


I think The Hum must be bored with me. It left some time in the night. It was drinking beer and urinating on my houseplants when I decided to try and get some rest. I heard the door slam somewhere around 5 A.M.. I woke up this morning feeling fresh and renewed. I feel better than I have for a long time, except for this itch behind the hole where my ear used to be. I think it might be infected, maybe I’ll go to the Doctor after work tomorrow.


The Hum has found it’s way into my head. My brain caught it trying to sleep in my frontal lobe, with a used newspaper for a sheet. It’s making me very twitchy, nervous and worried. I was contemplating staying home, but then I would be alone with it, and I no longer trust The Hum. It’s starting to give me bad directions and it’s causing a clip in my speech. I’m having spasms in the lower right quadrant of my large intestine. The smell of coffee coming from the kitchen is making me nautious, earlier I shat three pounds of clotted blood. I seem to have lost a lot of weight, and I believe I’m having some kind of breakdown. The Hum says I should know my place and not make waves.


The Hum is making me scream. The people in the office are finally looking at me, but I don’t like it. They look disgusted and some of the secretaries look as though they might be sick. I can feel a thick mucus working it’s way down my chin, foaming and sliding down my throat. The Hum has lit a huge bonfire in the base of my skull. I don’t know where my brain has disappeared to, but I hope nothing has happened to it. The Hum has red hot pokers heating in the fire, and it uses them to spear the backs of my eyeballs like plump tropical fish. It is laughing hysterically as I claw at my face waiting to feel the hot steam and juice flow through my fingers when my eyes finally pop. Wait. It’s stopped, and I can feel something inside my skull, starting to move around. My brain is lumbering around like a caged bear, angry and rattling at the bars of it’s prison. The Hum has put out the fire and is contemplating retreat. The bars are bending now, I can feel my brain as it shakes off the cobwebs, furious and disorientated. The Hum is running, I can feel it’s tiny vibrations moving down through the nape of my neck and down my spine. It’s forcing it’s way through my colon as my brain finally breaks loose and begins to exercise it’s right to primal free speech. My brain is slapping against the inside of my skull, beating out a heated calypso beat on my boney pate like a bongo. It’s making my thumbs twitch. It wants me to pick up the letter opener that sits unused in the plain white coffee mug on my desk. It’s talking to me in morse code, beating out it’s demands on the walls of my head.

People are stepping away from me, someone has run off to call the proper authorities. I think it was the blonde from down the hall. Greg from accounting is moving slowly towards me, mumbling some kind of unintelligible verbal diarrhea. He’s trying to talk to me as if I were a baby, trying to soothe me and tell me everything is all right.

‘LET ME OUT!!’ My brain is still drumming on my skull.

‘LET ME OUT YOU, COCKSUCKER!!’ I can tell what it wants, and I have the letter opener right here in my hand.

The Hum is barely moving anymore, it thinks it can hide behind the tumor on my left testicle. The Hum knows that it can’t win now, it knows that it should never have tried to have it’s way with my brain. My brain did not appreciate being tied up, and drugged and having The Hum penetrate it’s softest inner caverns.

My skull is flaking away, I can feel the pieces floating around in the blood that is filling the cavern where my brain used to live. It wants to move out to the country now, it’s sick of the dirt and degradation and filth of the skull. It has bad memories of The Hum’s hot breath on its neck, as The Hum relieved its urges and spilled its hot load on my brains bruised and tender backside.

‘Attica!! Attica!! Attica!!’

How can I resist it? If I don’t do something it’s going to smash through and I’ll bleed to death on the office floor. I have to comply. The Hum is waiting in my rectum, standing by to make its stealthy escape when the shit hits the fan, so to speak. It’s trying to keep quiet, but it’s fear gives it away, my buttocks are clenching hard against the feeling that something in there wants to get out. They have been trained to guard that passage, and they won’t let me down.


I can’t hold back anymore, my brain means business, Greg has come close enough for me to smell his cheap aftershave. Jesus, he must bathe in it. I’m choking on the fumes, I can see them smoking quietly off of his clothes and his face. He’s still too far away to stop me from what I have to do.


I didn’t lift my hand, but I can feel the letter opener digging through the soft flesh at my temple… my brain must have gotten tired of waiting and just given the order itself.

Hmm… sounds just like peeling the lid off of a Tupperware container.

Greg just fell over. I guess he must have passed out. Weird.

That’s an awful lot of blood. My desk is floating in it. Who would have known that there was a sticky red ocean inside my head. I tried to wave goodbye to my brain, it just jumped on a passing manila envelope and set sail for the countryside. My arms aren’t working like they used to. The Hum has escaped from my buttocks, but I guess it couldn’t swim. It just floated by belly-up, lifeless and silent, still hanging on to my left nut.

It’s starting to get dark out. I can see everyone screaming as they splash and wade to their desks. Someone is dragging Greg in to shore. I can’t hear them. Just as well. I’m awfully tired all of a sudden.

I think I’ll take a nap.



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