Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Buzz Buzz Buzz!

After an extended leave of five months from narrative fiction, I decided to do a short story. It turns out that I’ve been away for far too long. Instead of reasonably pleasant and varied sentences, they now come as terse, monotonous and one dimensional fragments that resemble my works 2 years ago. While these simple sentences work wonderfully in explaining technical material (I’ve been working exclusively on automotive engines for 3 months during my holidays), they absolutely suck when applied to narration.

After half a day of overly challenging lectures, I finally arrived at the front of my apartment building. Interrupting an invisible beam of infra-red light, I prompted an automated glass pane to slide aside, allowing me entry into the apartment’s tiny front area.

Here in this restricted space, an array of 32 aluminium faced mail boxes completely covered one side wall. On the opposing wall were a magnetic card reader and an intercom device. Another sliding glass door allowed restricted access into the apartments. Without a magnetic card or an explicit ‘open’ command from an occupant, the door will not budge.

I fumbled in my wallet for my magnetic card. Drat! Where was it? After searching through the various card pockets of my wallet, I finally concluded that it was not here. Using the intercom device, I rang a friend’s apartment unit. Fortunately, he was home to remotely open the second set of doors.

The rest of the day progressed without incident, being a normal day of web surfing, blog writing, online chatting and little real work. My day ended at 1.00am when I decided it was time to sleep.

Like a tiny but persistent itch, a buzzing sound penetrated the dark mist of my sleep to pierce into my consciousness. Initially, it was not a significant disturbance, only barely noticeable and easily ignored. Gradually, this violation began to make itself felt by breaching more of my hazy cloak of sleep.

As a reflex action, I tried to ignore it, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. By now, I was conscious enough to realise that it was my intercom buzzing rudely. Not thinking quite rationally, I continued to lie, hoping the person might go away. Two more impertinent buzzes later it became apparent that the early-morning ringer was not intent on leaving.

Finally rousing to answer the call, I realised that it was barely 4.30 in the morning. The caller better had a good reason to wake me up!

Picking up the intercom receiver, I listened without making a sound. The other side would not be aware that I was tuning in unless I made a sound that would be transmitted. I heard a man’s voice, slurred and mumbling. He appeared to be begging for entry.

“Drunk idiot,” I concluded.

He had stopped buzzing my intercom. Either he had given up, or realised that he had been pushing at the wrong key.

I went back to sleep.

At a more proper 10am, I left my apartment unit to head for the university. Descending in the lift, I contemplated the events earlier in the morning. I was particularly miffed at being roused for no real reason, at 4.30 too.

With a slight shudder and a few creaks from the aged Otis mechanism, the lift came to a halt. After a short pause, the doors slid open, revealing a busy scene.

Outside the apartment, several police cars were perked with their blue lights still flashing. A few officers were crowded about the apartment entry area, pointing and taking notes. A police photographer was snapping images of the intercom, the glass panes and the floor tiles.

As I went through the area, I noticed there were numerous bloodstains splattered on various surfaces. There was a substantial puddle of dried blood on the floor just below the mailboxes, and various smaller but nonetheless disturbing smears and marks on the glass doors and walls.

On the intercom’s panel, I saw several bloodstained fingerprints. In particular, my apartment unit’s button was smeared in many overlapping layers of bloodied prints. “Oh shit…what have I done?”

“Excuse me sir. Which apartment are you from?” a youngish police officer stepped up to me. Without a word, I pointed at the bloodiest intercom button. “What happened?” “Someone died here. We would like you to help with ongoing investigations.”

The above narration (up to the lift descend) is based on my personal experiences. Someone actually rang at 4.30am. Fortunately, there was no blood the subsequent morning.