The Distant Sound of Hammers

I awoke in my dorm room to the distant sound of hammers….Pounding and pounding and pounding. “Do you hear that?” I asked.

My dormmate indicated that he did not. Gave me a strange look.

It continued throughout the day, maddeningly, as I walked down the sidewalk to class. The sound like a mallet driving home tent stakes off in the trees a hundred yards beyond. Pounding and pounding and pounding with the rhythm of a metronome.

Even as I tried desperately to ignore the thrum; my stifled sobs disguised as sneezes and coughs, it continued. This was much to the chagrin of Professor Somerset; trying to lead his discussion between irritated glances my direction. Still the thudding of the distant hammers continued. Throughout the lecture and thought the lab I had following. When people addressed me, I was terse and tense, barely hearing their words as they vied in competition with the drumming of the hammers as they talked, talked, talked at me.

“SHUT UP!” I finally shouted to the silent room, throwing off my protective gear. I shed the goggles and gloves and stormed out of the biology lab where we were dissecting the cadavers.

I walked quickly and away but the further I tried to get from the distant sounds, the closer those sounds drew.

I found myself in the middle of the college mall. A large, grassy area where people came for picnic lunches. For quiet study amongst the distant sound of hammers friendly chirping of birds.

Agony wrapped itself around my lungs and my throat as I released, finally, a guttural cry against the thudding of a timpani inside of my head; the pervasive percussions of perfectly rhythmic eardrum majors.


The sound of my cries punctuated in time to the metronome of the distant sound of hammers, I fell to my knees.

Then I saw the relief!

There to my left. She was sitting on a gingham blanket, checkered in white and red, expertly holding a California roll between two chopsticks. Mouth agape. Eyes agape. Locked with me, in shock. I didn’t need to hear her heart pound to know it would be in time to the pounding in my mind. I crawled toward her in agony and she, dropping my salvation, quickly crab walked away in fear.

The sushi roll, held aloft moments ago, rolled away in fear as well and those chopsticks sat there calling to me like the whispers of sirens on a lonely sea.

I clutched them shakily, finding the strength for what I was about to do amidst the droning beat of the distant sound of the hammers growing ever closer. A war drum beating bravery into me as I did my desperate act to make them stop.

I awoke in the hospital.

The video of me puncturing my eardrums with the girl’s chopsticks is on YouTube with over 300,000 views. The title is “Flakka Flipout at U.D.M.” the name is in reference to some new drug that makes its users act like those possessed. Other users in the related videos were eyes wide, screaming demonically, engaging in paranormal backbends and flailing with rubbery, broken limbs.

I don’t even know what this drug is that I’m being accused of using this anonymous poster online.

I will admit those videos are indeed related videos, if only due to the look that our faces share; but maybe they could hear what I could hear?

My eyes are wide. I fall; my back bending a bit too far backwards. I remember, here is when I let out the guttural scream. My neck is craning to the clouds, my mouth is wide. After, I crawl like some dark, starved creature, ravenously towards the young lady where she sits on her blanket. Hungry only for relief, I pick up her chopsticks as she looks on at me: her terror reflecting my own terror at what I am about to do. Then I force them, with determined mania, purposefully into my ears.

When I watch this, I remember.

My face looks screaming and wild like an animal trapped. My eyes go white as the sockets eat them now, lulling backwards a bit too wide and too far. The chopsticks spew rhythmic spurts of blood once the job is complete.

I perforated my eardrums. I can remember the sound of them popping. Like punching a hole into something. Into a void. The rushing muffled sound of diving underwater. Then nothing. The recollection is a thing I try to avoid.

I collapse, writhing in the bright green grass. Someone–the someone holding the phone that captured this all–mutters to himself “what the fuck,” and the phone rolls skyward in his hand. Here the video ends. A fade to white in the sun’s overexposure.

They tell me I’m expelled, but I can’t hear them. They tell me I will likely be deaf forever now, but I can’t hear them. They tell me this with the aid of chalkboard. I imagine the sound of them nailing their way quickly across the surface, pounding at the dotting of “I’s” and the rapid crossing of “T’s.”

But I can’t hear them.

All I can hear is the wooshing, endless sighs of nothing…

…and the persistent, droning agony of the distant sound and fury of the hammers.

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