Safe and sound
The mystery of recent media reports describing a weird trumpeting noise coming from the skies over the West Island still hasn't been fully explained and though the online audio-clip – to my ears, at least – sounds like freight trains in a rail yard, its origin and duration defy logical explanation.
I was reminded of this while walking the dog recently late at night in a darkened field while, slightly on edge, I kept hearing a faint, high-pitched noise that could’ve been anything from electronic beeping to a prolonged cricket chirp. Neither one made sense and every time I stopped moving to try and identify its source, it would stop. The fact that the dog kept stopping and staring off at unidentified shadows didn’t help my mindset.
We're surrounded by so much noise that we're hardwired to tune most of it out purely as a self-preservation mechanism. The human brain can quickly discern between what's normal background noise in our lives – like the fridge running or a family member snoring – and what is essentially a bump in the middle of the night making us sit up and take notice. Especially if it threatens our sense of security or, even worse, impedes a good night's sleep.
I once had a friend who lived in Montreal near Atwater who was haunted for months by a low-frequency hum that was keeping him awake at night, a noise he described as torturous, sounding akin to a diesel truck idling for hours outside your window. When he finally traced it to the air-exchange system mounted on the roof of the Children’s Hospital, it took a protracted battle with building administrators to finally correct the issue.
Residents in Windsor, Ontario are facing a similar skirmish on a larger scale with Zug Island, a manufacturing facility across the river in Michigan that has been the source of a mysterious hum and reported ‘cyclical vibrations’ that have been disrupting their lives for the past five years. Though the steel companies at the mysterious locale have been identified as the likely culprit, a lack of funding, combined with political red-taped intricacies, prevent its resolution and the residents continue to suffer in the hum’s wake.
Some noises are distinctly designed to attract our attention, like the extraterrestrial-esque beepings that precede weather warnings and Amber alerts. The fact that the latter is often accompanied by an unintelligible automated voice synthesizer unfortunately negates the efficiency of the alert… “ifyooaveanyinformashunpleezecallninehundredandeleven…” but I digress.
The warning noise itself was distinct enough to scare my two youngest, home alone watching TV, into double locking all the doors and arming themselves with baseball bats and an axe so, in retrospect, it served some security purpose.
While the dog and I headed back home that uncharacteristically warm evening and as I began to remove my scarf before making it back into my yard, the unexplained high-pitched noise revealed itself in the delicate, silver Tibetan charm worn on the very chain around my neck.
They say in space, no one can hear you scream.
To that I’d like to add that in a dark cornfield late at night when you realize your own absurdity, don’t worry - no one can see you blush.