The noise came from the darkness outside. I’d heard it before, off in the night, in among the choir of the rivertrees. Small things live in the branches, and together they sing soft choruses.
The song was close.
It slipped in through the spare room’s window, the one we left open to aerate the paint fumes. My mother had been in there all day and she fell straight to sleep on the couch at sunset. She only woke for long enough to carry herself to bed.
The song flew close to the ground.
I pulled the old pink carpet from the tacks, the tacks from the wooden floor. Laid bare, we vacuumed it many times and sanded it down with a loud machine that screeched a terrible song. Neighbours came to visit. My father in an old orange shirt. He collapsed into the pillows and began to snore. The noise sang with him.
It danced in the hallway, sliding from low to high, as if peering into the bedrooms. It hovered and I listened. It crept closer. Zzzzz. One voice from the rivertrees. The birds sang during the day. At night, softer voices.
It faded into my brother’s bedroom, through the gap under the door once filled by carpet, and slipped through the ragged flaps of his screen door. I heard it on the balcony and I thought of it. A quiet song.
It must have watched me from outside, my face lit by the soft white of my phone. My eyes were heavy. I made no move to look at the noise. It lingered and I listened until the dog awoke.
I heard the bells on her collar as she crept from my parents’ room. She marched through my open door and headed to the balcony. In the darkness, the dog climbed into my bed and demanded my attention.
The song, the beating of small wings, faded away and the phone light went black.