The Hum

            Chase sat up in bed. It was going to be another sleepless night. He shook his head back and forth and lightly rapped it. Something had to stop the humming, but what? No sense in telling his parents; they couldn’t hear it. He knew he wasn’t the only one who could. A few of the kids at school mentioned it and he suspected there were more.  Only some could hear the hum, but who knew why? Or what it was?

            He remembered hearing of the phenomena going back several years. His grandfather mentioned when he was a boy there was a hum in the woods and it was considered supernatural, but all that talk was hogwash, he said. A kid did go into the woods one night long ago at dusk, and he never returned. He was never found, just totally disappeared. Of course it was assumed he was abducted and probably killed. But Chase thought otherwise, and that was what stopped him from going into the woods to investigate the hum himself.

            One year his father said it was the cicadas. They come and do the hum every seven years. That wasn’t it, though, Chase tried to tell him. Wrong year. But he gave up telling his parents. They were exasperated about his talk of the hum and told him, “For gosh sakes, Chase! Just ignore it!” More useless advice.

            He looked out the window at pure darkness, the only light being the sliver of moon over the abandoned factory building in the distance. He often wondered if it came from there; was something in the building making the noise? But no, it was clearly in the woods and not near the old buildings.

            He put on earphones to see if he could muffle the sound. Nope. He tried music and that worked a little, but not entirely. He couldn’t concentrate. Sometimes the hum got louder and woke him up like it did tonight. He needed to call a friend, but who do you call at 2:15 am? The Samaritans, maybe, he thought. They have signs that say “Need to talk to someone?” But he was sure they didn’t mean something like this. So he didn’t pick up the phone.

            The alarm clock sounded. Bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk! Chase sat up from the slump he had ended up in by the window. It was daylight and promised to be a clear day. He couldn’t’ hear the hum. It came mostly at night in the darkness, but it could happen anytime. He never knew and it often surprised him, though he wondered why. It was worsening.

            Two of his classmates were talking and laughing outside the cafeteria. Chase approached one and said “Hummmmm”. Ted “hummmmed” back, and both laughed.

            “You hear it too?” the third kid said. Chase didn’t know this kid.

            Ted confirmed all three could hear the hum, though not at this moment. They assumed the third boy, Julian, heard it the same time they did. Everyone who could hear it experienced it at the same time for some reason. More evidence that it meant something and was directed at them.

            So the decision was made. Tonight, they go in the woods. None of the three would admit how afraid he was, but Chase knew he was and suspected they were, too. Of course, he’d say, “No, I’m not afraid,” if asked. 

            “Maybe we’re just crazy” Ted commented.

            “Yeah, my mother wanted me to go to the head doctor,” said Julian.

            “No way!!” laughed Ted.

            The three parted ways and planned to meet in the evening to proceed with their investigation, if they still dared. All three hoped the other would back out so he wouldn’t have to be the coward or admit defeat. That is probably what kept them going.

            Darkness fell and at about 7:00 pm, Chase heard a knock at his front door. It sounded like a slapping noise, not an actual knock, which gave him the shivers. His parents didn’t hear it, and that had been the plan from the beginning. No one could know what the boys were doing. He knew his parents would try to stop them. Ted’s probably wouldn’t, but he still had to deal with his own who were always over him, hovering. They meant well but were suffocating him out of love.

            Heading to the woods they all felt the hum louder and heavier. They looked around and at the sky. Nothing seemed amiss.

            What the hell?!” Ted yelped. He felt a sudden pinch like a bug had bitten him, but no itch or sting. At that moment the humming stopped – for him. He slapped at his legs, his arms, his torso, then his head. The other two looked at him unsure what to think.

            “Something bit me,” he explained.

            Relieved, Chase and Julian mustered their courage and the three entered the dirt trail that wound a footpath through the trees. They felt someone – or something – was watching them, but no one and nothing out of the ordinary was in sight. Not even an animal of any sort. Ted thought he heard an owl; the others didn’t. It was silent except for a faint buzzing in their heads.

            “It’s stopping,” Julian announced, looking uneasy. “It never does that.”

            Ted agreed, but added that his own sound had stopped entirely. He just didn’t mention he was certain that there had been no insect – but what was it then?

            Julian jumped.

            “Cut it out!” he yelled, glaring at Chase and Ted.

            “What?!” they yelled back at him.

            “Messing with my hair, you know what!” Julian hissed. He hated for anyone to touch his thick head of hair and always combed it just right. He’d often been teased about using hairspray, but he did not even use gel. No additives, he said.

            Suddenly all three felt disoriented. Ted’s hum was back and louder than ever. They did not know which way to turn or walk. It seemed the trail went in all directions, like a wagon wheel one minute and two steps later it was mostly gone entirely. The trees were thick, filling in the whole forest with little room to move ahead.

            Chase leaned against a tree, breathing heavily. He was afraid, but of course would not admit that.

            “Want to go back?” Julian sneered. But how could they? They could barely see.

            There was a sudden thump and a muffled yelp. Julian and Ted turned fast and felt as if they were falling. Julian felt faint and neither boy could run. Their legs felt sluggish and cemented in the ground, though their bodies felt ready to detach and disintegrate. A loud siren noise was coming at them, but both knew it was within them, not anything in the air itself.

            Both realized at once that Chase was gone.

            The thump, the hum, what? They spun around trying to make sense and find sight of Chase. They could hear the thump louder now, thump, thump like feet on a paved walkway. But there was no pavement here. Julian thought he heard a burp.

            “A bird or squirrel?” Ted squeaked, trying to convince his self it was so.

            Not another soul was in sight, animal or otherwise.

            Ted and Julian ran as fast as they could, bumping into one tree and then another. They were too afraid to even call out to Chase. The only goal was to get out of the forest as they hoped Chase had done. 

            Neither boy knew how he got out. It was a sudden blackness, all thought and consciousness gone. They recalled being in the woods, but not how they got out or how long it took. Chase was gone. His mom called their parents who then said they had not seen him. Ted’s parents asked him if he had, but Ted did not recall if Chase had been with them or not. Julian looked like he’d seen a ghost. Or worse.

            Neither ever saw or heard from their childhood friend again. The police and others looked, but nothing was ever found. No leads, no evidence, no sign of anything.

            The hum was gone, too.

Submitted by Jeanne McCarthy

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