This story was published in Allnighter (Pulp Faction), an anthology of underground fiction.
I wrote it after reading that a high proportion of noise complaints turned out to be caused by the complainant’s clothing. This is a true fact.
Only little birds tweeting up here, whirr of pumps and fans inside aeroplane engines. A lump of blue ice teetering ready to fall through the roof above, aerosol can hissing in the flat below ready to blast up through the ceiling.
She folds herself into her bed with the sheets. She used to hear the TV from next door – “Did he, is he… dead?” Sometimes small, flat rows – “You always say this, and every time it’s the same thing…” Up here there are thick carpets, thick curtains and puffy soft furnishings which suck up outside interference.
Even when the pub next door was quiet, that was worse, as if they were all sitting in the dark with their fingers to their lips, holding back a mass giggle. Still it’s a pillow over the head, to drown out the crackle of the water in the pipes. Every time she thinks she’s going off, they give an intestinal gurgle, as someone else stands scratching by the sink filling a glass.
Down near the bottom of the bed, under sheets and blankets and pillows, it’s definitely a haven. Except for the scratching under the bed, sounds like perhaps a huge cockroach rubbing its mandibles together, gleefully eating her dead skin.
It starts with listening to the industrial hum of the world turning on its axis and the rumble of lorries on the motorways, and then you’re hearing the zoom of vehicles left and right on the A roads, and motorbikes turning the corners on the B roads, and pushbikes coming to a halt in cul-de-sacs, and then you can hear gears changing and clutches brought clumsily up, and the pulleys in the lift shaft screaming with the strain, and the pigeons in the roof clattering their feet, and the creak of joists above and the window resettling in its groove, and the click of key wards in bolts and little latches and the rattle of your bed with the echo of others’ settling down, and the stillness of your bed but the rattle of something which is your kidneys washings out some waste and the slither of saliva running down your throat and the oiling of your eyeballs and the crackle of the lashes and the chatter of bacteria, and then you know there is never going to be enough peace to sleep.