A short story about fear, karma and an ominous melodic whistle.
The bang stirred Frank Conway out of a deep, dreamless sleep. His eyes took a moment to focus in the gloom of the night before allowing him to see the unlatched window of his bedroom tap gently against its frame. Fumbling for his wristwatch that lay on the locker by his bed, he cursed the disturbance as he read it was just past 3am, another two hours before his shift at the local plant. It was as he lay there summoning the will to rise and close the window that he heard it, a soft, melodic whistle playing a tune he recognised but could not place coming from just outside his bedroom door. Having lived alone for so long now he was sure it was his tired mind playing tricks with his senses and rubbed his ears assuming it would stop. The whistle however continued even seeming to get louder in the stillness of the night. A brace of fear now gripped him as he flicked the switch on the bedside light. Nothing happened as the room remained in shadow, the recent storms his rationing behind the lack of power which was a common occurrence this time of year. Sitting up Conway grabbed a torch from a nearby drawer tapping it twice on his knee to get it working. The beam illuminated the bedroom as the whistle continued outside the door. The light diminished Conway’s fear slightly as he crossed the room and closed out the tapping window. “Is someone there”, he called out feebly his fear returning as he prayed no one would answer. When silence answered his question, he edged slowly toward the door. A creaking floor board under his foot causing his heart to pound with more ferocity than it already was and as his torchlight fingers gripped the handle, he pulled and swung the door open.
The torch’s light revealed nothing on the landing directly outside Frank Conway’s bedroom and a wave of blissful relief overcame him as he noticed the whistling had stopped. He redundantly attempted to flick the lifeless light switch on wall adjacent which only confirmed the power was down throughout the building. Standing in the darkness he pointed the light twice more either side of himself before he felt secure in the fact that he must be hearing things and turned to re-enter his room to try and recoup some rest before his shift. As he crossed the threshold of the room the silence of the night was once again filled with the melodic whistle, this time drifting up from the bottom floor of the house. A greater panic now gripped every inch of Conway’s being as he swung around in the direction of the sound. Once more he called out and once more only the soft, melodic tune replied as it danced its way into his ear. Before he knew what he was doing his feet began to move him toward the stairs, the light of the torch guiding his way.
The stairs creaked under his weight, the noise amplified by the night’s stillness. Beams of torchlight now crisscrossed the blackness as he moved down them. The whistle now seemed to be coming from the back of the house and as he reached halfway down the staircase a dark shadow seemed to follow it. Conway stood there momentarily fear now overriding everything but for some reason his body kept moving him toward the source of the tune he recognised but could not place as if ignoring all else. Downstairs the whistle continued and while he knew he should just open the front door which was now a matter of feet away his body kept pushing him toward it.
The kitchen door was wide open and he directed the light into the room which revealed nothing except for what he knew was already there. Silence once again filled the night as Conway glanced out the kitchen window into the nothingness that was his back garden. He turned the tap and spayed his face with water in the hope this would bring him back to his senses but just as the crispness of the cool water hit his face he heard the front door scrape, slowly open.
Running out of the kitchen, Frank Conway was greeted by a balmy summer breeze billowing gently in from the open door. As he moved to close it, the whistle played again this time coming from somewhere outside on his freshly cut lawn. “Just close the door Frank and go back to bed”, his mind screamed out but his body ignored and before he knew it he was outside beaming light onto different sections of the grass. The whistle now played at its loudest and a rustle in the shrubs to his right distracted Conway’s attention. As he moved toward the point of the distraction his whole being now entranced by the melodic tune he recognised but could not place, Frank Conway did not notice the overturned car now hurtling toward him over his freshly cut lawn.
The din of the club faded as Bob Williams stepped out into the cool summer air. He looked up and down the empty street for his friend who had promised to bring him home, the same friend that he had last seen talking to some slip of a girl in a mini skirt and tight top about a half hour before. Making his way toward the nearest alley in the hope he might find his ride home in the clench of passion with this slip of a girl, he was greeted with the same emptiness that he had found on the street outside the club. Knowing he would not be able to walk to his apartment on the outskirts of the city, he rationally decided that he was okay to drive himself home and that he had only a few drinks and didn’t feel too drunk. Checking his pockets he found his keys and set off to the nearby car park to find his vehicle.
The car park was all but deserted when he got there and found that his was the only car still left. Sitting in, Williams found a half empty bottle of soda and greedily finished it believing the sugar would sober him up for the journey home. He rolled down all the windows and let the fresh air battle the stale cigarette smoke that lingered throughout. Reaching for a cigarette from a pack on the passenger seat, he lit it and inhaled the menthol fumes with gusto before deciding that he now definitely felt fine to drive. The Honda started on the first turn which he found strange as the piece of shit usually needed two or three goes to get running. Checking his mirrors he slowly made his way out of the car park and onto the street, knowing he would be soon home in his bed and would deal with his friend in the morning.
The city was eerily quiet that time of night as Bob Williams drove past the plethora of shops and bars that lined the streets. He thought about maybe finding somewhere to get something to eat but knew that everywhere would be shut by now. Lighting another cigarette, he could feel himself being to fade after his night out so as he turned onto a residential street he turned on the radio hoping the company it would provide would keep him alert. Switching between stations that offered nothing but easy listening or news the radio began to fade in and out, a loud crackle now taking over. “Fucking heap of shit”, Williams cursed before the crackle faded and a melodic whistle of a tune he recognised but could not place began to transmit and fill the air of the vehicle. Turning the dial, the tune would not change and he began to hit the radio in a vain attempt to change the channel. Swearing under his breath he attempted to turn off the radio but to no avail, the melodic whistle continued to play. It was then Bob Williams redirected his eyes to the road just in time to see the black dog run out in front of his car. He swerved hard to avoid it and clipping the footpath the car flipped as he lost control.
Frank Conway’s lifeless body lay under the car, his spine and skull crushed as Bob Williams crawled out of the overturned wreck. Blood ran from a gash on his forehead and his arm panged in agony as he rang for an ambulance already knowing that the stranger under his car was gone. Thirty minutes later these thoughts were confirmed as the emergency services zipped the bag over Frank Conway’s mangled body and the police pushed Bob Williams into the back seat of their cruiser after charging him with driving under the influence.
Bob Williams served three of the seven years he was sentenced to for vehicular manslaughter and being three times over the legal limit. When he was released he had lost everything, his job, friends and family. He moved into a run-down apartment in the centre of the city and hoped to get his life back on track while visiting the grave of Frank Conway once a week to apologise for taking that mans life. Williams got a job washing dishes to pay his bills and worked long hours in the heat of the busy kitchen. One night some time later as he fell into his bed after a long shift, the smell of his sweat still fresh on his body, he did as he always had and thought about what kind of man Frank Conway was before drifting into slumber. Shortly after 3am he was woken by a tapping of an open window banging against its frame and just as he stirred himself to get up and close it a soft, melodic whistle playing a tune he recognised but could not place started coming from just outside his bedroom door.