He began to hear the sound after the incident in the woods. After that, it became the focus of his life, the thing around which everything else revolved.
The thing in the woods . . . That had puzzled him. He didn't know what had happened, only that it was something unnatural. He had walked the winding path down by the brook thousands of times over the years and nothing unexceptional had ever happened before. The silence there was broken only by the cry of larks, the gentle bubbling of the stream and sometime the sound of wind in the trees. There on the knoll above the meandering stream, amidst a profusion of wildflowers that sprang from the earth where the shadow of the huge pin oaks couldn't reach, he had encountered something he could not explain.
Whatever it was, it came without warning. Simply put, a sudden bright flash of light and the distant bongbongbong of a huge spring vibrating. It was the sound he noticed more than the light. He believed the light was simply the vehicle for the sound. He didn't know why he thought that. It just seemed that the sound was important and the light was not.
Immediately after it happened he began to look for answers. He wondered if he had been struck by lightning. That didn't seem likely. The sky was clear and blue. There were no marks or burns on his body or clothing. The ground around where he had been sitting appeared unchanged.
And then he wondered if he had suffered a stroke, if a tiny vessel in his brain had popped or clotted and starved some critical region of perception momentarily.
No, that didn't seem possible. He still had all his faculties. His motor skills were keen as ever. He could still rub his belly and pat his head simultaneously.
Nothing happened for several days after that. That troubled him, because he wanted to hear the sound again. He thought that perhaps if he could hear it again, he might be able to distinguish what it was. Or where it came from. Or, even, what it meant. He became obsessed with hearing the sound again and listened for it constantly, afraid it would happen suddenly and he would miss the essence of it.
Three weeks later, he heard it again. Not in the woods, but in his bedroom at 3:00 a.m. He had woken suddenly from a deep sleep and was lying there deciding whether to go back to sleep or get up when it came. Bongbongbong!
There was no light accompaniment this time and the sound was deeper, more powerful. It seemed to resonate inside him, like standing too close to an amplified bass. Something shook in his guts, in his bones. He smiled in the darkness. He felt peaceful and happy.
He told no one about the sound. He feared that they would not understand; indeed, he didn't understand himself. If someone told him about what he had experienced he would question his or her sanity. And yet he knew his sanity was secure. I feel saner than I have ever felt, he thought.
He began to notice other sounds more. He had never noticed that squeak in the bathroom door hinge before, but now it spoke to him in a special voice. The sound of the can opener going around the rim of a metal can was unique. The thud of his coffee cup on the desktop spoke volumes. The interwoven voices of children on the playground past which he walked became strange music.
But he still waited to hear that special sound again. He waited and waited, but it did not come. He lay awake in the dark searching the silence for it. Nothing. He began to feel panic after a while, began to feel that he would be lost without that special noise. It was like a drug that he needed deep in his bones.
He tried to recreate it in his workshop. He removed the big spring from his garage door and put it in a vice. He bent and released it, struck it with various objects. It gave forth a tinny little bong that was far less than satisfying. Finally, in desperation, he struck it with a sledgehammer. It merely broke in half.
It was too much. He sat down on the concrete floor and wept. He heard the sound of his sobs and it sickened him. He cupped his hands over his ears but still he could hear them. He screamed to cover up the sound of his sobs and the scream sounded worse. He couldn't take it anymore. It was too much. He'd had it all there for a few weeks but now everything was gone. It was all just noise, racket.
Fuck sound! he screamed. He ran into to street screaming. People came to their windows and front doors and looked out. There was a madman in the street yelling and waving his arms about. Someone called E-911 and soon the police came, several cars of them. They seemed fearful of approaching the wild man, who spun and leaped and screamed gibberish at the top of his lungs. Be care, he must be on angel dust, said one cop to his partner.
Suddenly, he heard the sound again. It overpowered his screaming voice. Bongbongbong. He stopped stock-still in the middle of the street. He heard it again: bongbongbong. He smiled then and nodded his head.
"It's come back," he told the cop who was approaching him warily. "I heard the sound again, everything is fine."
"Yeah, buddy, I know you did," the cop said. "Hey, you need to come on with us, O.K.?" He had his can of chemical weapon in one hand and the other on the butt of his pistol. Never could tell about these dopers, they might go hinkey at any moment.
"You don't understand, the sound is back," he smiled at the cop. "It's everywhere, but I just noticed it a while back. There it goes again!"
The cop rushed him suddenly, spraying him in the face with the mace and taking him off his feet. He wondered why the cop was behaving so badly instead of enjoying the sound. He didn't even resist as the man rolled him over in the street and put handcuffs on him. None of that mattered, he had the sound back.
They took him somewhere and placed him in a room. He didn't know where and he didn't care. It didn't matter. All that mattered was the sound. It came every few minutes now.
"I love this," he said to himself, sitting back in the corner, smiling.
He waited for the next one. And it came, just as he knew it would.