Fog creeps in the small hours of morning among the old grey buildings of Providence’s business district. It halos streetlights, and the headlights of the occasional wandering car or city bus. The salty tang of Narragansett Bay has drifted in with the fog. I can taste it when I go to the door for a breath of outside air to escape the mustiness of the building lobby. I’m halfway through the Third Shift on Tuesday morning, deciding if I have the balls to leave the security desk for another trip in the freight elevator down to the basement men’s room. I don’t want to, not after what I heard earlier tonight, but I washed down a small pepperoni pizza with three Diet Cokes and a Ginger Ale just after midnight, and there’s really no question I need to answer the call of nature.
The freight elevator door slides open at basement level, and I walk along a corridor lined with trash bins and maintenance doors to the men’s room. The bathroom door is ajar and the lights are on just as I left them. If anything’s waiting in there, I want to see it from the outside corridor. Not that I saw anything the first time, you understand, it’s only what I heard. But that doesn’t prevent me from imagining the possible owner of the mouth that hellish noise came from. I cross the tile floor to the urinal and unzip. Waiting for my bladder to agree that it needs to piss more than it wants to get out of here takes a minute or two.
I transferred to the Kurd’s Head Building from the apartment complex three weeks ago and up until now everything has been peaceful. Even the water cooled, century old boilers have not overheated, and the water pit that supplies them with water has not overflowed. The shriek I heard, that turned my spine to water just after I came on duty at eleven, does not reoccur by the time I finish my business.
It’s been two months since that night, and the shriek, enraged and nearly ultrasonic in its fury, has not been repeated. The most disturbing thing in that men’s room is the stained tile from a leaking urinal. Which explains, I suppose, why weird events become stories around campfiresand at Halloween parties and not documented phenomena. They don’t operate according to schedule. People who claim to collect solid evidence like detectives of the paranormal find their cases shot full of holes in the ordered scientific laboratory. This pleases me. Not everything in this world should be correlatable like an accountant’s business figures.
I’ve found myself in the neighborhood of life’s strange and unverifiable incidents several times. Sometimes it’s disturbing, sometimes amusing, a few times downright terrifying. I blog about some of them, use others in my short stories, or as material for my Haunted Cabaret internet radio show. Sometimes I decide it’s best to keep quiet and not tell at all. I do this not because these things are unspeakable, because nothing is unspeakable in our present day culture. Political correctness deals only with social indiscretions, not atrocities. Atrocities are reported with glee, by the media and in private conversation, with an affection that used to be reserved for adolescent love affairs.
Most of what you’ll see on the news that’s described as shocking and tragic: ISIS, the shooters killing children are media created. A small factual item is taken a terrorist attack, the murder of a kidnapped or abused child and amplified and glorified until it spawns a string of sequels. We love sequels, whether it’s Star Wars, Freddy Krueger the pedophile and cultural icon, or ISIS finding new and painful ways to kill people (The people we are fascinated to watch being tortured and killed lately are Christians, gays and women in general so much for America’s progressive agenda).
It’s impossible to describe, in suitable words, the feeling of waking in the pitch dark from a nightmare, frozen with terror, and feeling the indentation that sinks down the mattress as something heavy sits down at the foot of your bed. I can tell you about it, but I can’t describe the experience to make you feel what I felt. Even though this has happened to me several times, and once, something much worse.
So maybe there is such a thing as unspeakable. Not in terms of social taboos, at least not in this country, but in terms of words being insufficient to convey the extent of terror, like the time I saw the thing in the kitchen that almost stopped my heart. I can’t tell you about that any better than I just did. Words fail me...a terrible failure for a writer to admit. But they failed H. P. Lovecraft, who often resorted to piled up adjectives attempting to describe the ultimate horror, and St John the Divine, reduced to describing Paradise in terms of white bathrobes and golden stairs, so at least I’m in good company.
(Host of The Haunted Cabaret)
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