Sarah had just taken the noodles off of boil, and was fanning thick steam out her kitchen window into a bleak January night when she heard the giggle.
Nothing much, just a whisper of laughter that had floated past the windowsill, and yet.
She heard it again. A giggle, one belonging to a mischievous child, by the sound of it.
Sarah had not much of a yard, mostly tangles of scrub brush, here in the neighborhood where houses leaned against each another like tired people in crowded elevators. The laughter was coming from out there.
She heard it again, a female coo, a child of five years perhaps, but this time it was cut short, into a cry of surprise. And silence. Sarah listened.
Then, just above a whisper this time:
"Miss, I know you're there. I need help. Please help me."
Sarah leaned back into her kitchen and clutched her breast. The noodles had stopped steaming.
Thoughts raced in her mind. Should she call the police? A neighbor? Sarah lived alone, a crazy cat lady-in-the-making, her co-workers joked, a crazy cat lady minus the cats. Ha-fucking-ha. Sarah, all by her self.
Perhaps it was just a prank, she thought. Yes, some kids from up the slopes running amok while their parents worked over time or drank themselves into selfish places. Kids will be kids. She was gripping the window to close it when the voice came at her from the night again, more urgent this time, and louder.
"Miss, please! This is serious! I need help, and I'm stuck!"
Sarah flung her head into the cold winter night, scanning the dark bramble patch and the misshapen trees beyond. She could see nothing else, no child stuck in a bear trap, no dark huddled figures hiding behind trash cans, silently shaking with the laughter of pranksters. Maybe someone was out there, hurt, alone, afraid.
And it was so very cold.
Sarah's voice broke the bleakness. "Hold on," she said, "I'm coming! I'll get help."
The voice answered immediately. "No, Miss, please! There's no time! I'm hurt, and I'm scared!"
Then another peal of giggling, full of mischief, and perhaps something else.
Sarah slammed the window and flew to the front door. Her face was hot and flushed, a mixture of irritation and concern flooding her. Little brats, she thought.
In a moment her slippers were on and she was rounding the corner of her home, the light of her phone guiding her down the cold cement alleyway. Sarah looked up; there were no stars.
Standing in her sliver of yard now, shivering, her breath forming cold clouds in a cold night. Somewhere a dog barked, harsh and manic. And Sarah was afraid now.
"Hello?" she called. "Who is out there? This isn't funny. I'll make sure your parents hear about this!"
Nothing answered her in a nothingness night. Even the dog had now fallen silent. She stood listening.
Then she heard the giggling, only this time the octave was much lower, much raspier, full more of malice than of mischief. She had made a mistake, she realized.
Sarah spun on her heels, her frozen fingertips frantically tapping the digits of her screen locked-phone, and so when the impossibly long arms reached out from under the scrub brush, and their impossibly long finger tips dug into her heels, she didn't see. And as she fell to the hard ground, the air was knocked from her lungs. All she could hear was the filthy, gravelly laughter, and her own voice inside her own skull, calling for help, help that would not come for her this night.
The dog began barking one more.
* * * * *
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Police are urging anyone who hears a strange recording in the South Side to call 911 immediately.
Pittsburgh Police say they’ve received multiple recent reports from people on the South Side who say they hear what sounds like a recording of a baby crying or a child asking for help.
On four separate occasions, officers have responded. However, they say in each case they were unable to hear the sound or figure out where it was coming from.
Anyone who hears anything suspicious is asked to call 911 and stay inside.
Two college sorority sisters who’ve lived on the South Side say they feel safe living here.
But not anymore.
“We’ve been staying together and not letting anyone be alone,” one sorority sister said.
This week, they say they heard what seemed like recordings of babies crying and someone shouting for help right outside their door.
“I just think they know a lot of young college girls live in South Side, and we just have really kind hearts. And obviously, if anything was happening, we would want to help as much as we can.”
Police are investigating.
(reprinted WP from CBSN Pittsburgh News web page, Janauary 24, 2020)