The most terrifying sound that I know is that of slowly cracking glass. That long, drawn out crunch as the fissure propagates across the pane, which tells you something is about to go wrong and the worst thing about it is, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. I did not have this fear two weeks ago.
It was a lazy Saturday morning and I had taken our young son to the balcony to let him look at the cars on the street below so my wife could enjoy her breakfast in peace. Our balcony, with the glass fence that gives us a splendid view of the street and the row of trees on the opposite side. Me and my son standing together, leaning against the fence like so many mornings before, pointing out the cars and people blow. That’s when I heard that frightful sound. In an instant the wide pane of glass shattered and my sons “red car” turned into a frightened yelp as he lost balance and stumbled forward. Before I could react, his little body tumbled over the edge and disappeared.
I didn’t want to, yet somehow couldn’t stop myself from creeping forward and peaking over the edge. Far below, surrounded by thousands of shards, lay a crumpled little bundle in a growing puddle of blood, his cartoon pajamas slowly turning red. Mommy’s and daddy’s hugs, normally so powerful, were useless now. It was only then, as I stood looking down at my sons body, that my brain recognized the loud wailing sound that filled my ears. It took me a few moments to realize that it was my wife screaming – she must have seen it happen.
That moment, the image of my little boy’s broken body and my wife’s scream in my ears, will forever be etched in my memory. And yet, the sound that scares me more than anything, the sound I keep nervously listening for, is that of cracking glass. Because I know, the next time I hear it, something else I hold dear will be taken from me.
This is a short story, it is entirely fictional. My son is perfectly fine. I am always careful whenever he is out on the balcony to make sure something like what I’ve written here cannot happen. I wrote this as a way to deal with a strange feeling – not quite fear – that hovers at the edge of my consciousness anytime my son goes near a ledge, even if there is no real danger. It’s like my subconscious made up this story on its own in response to that feeling and I just had to get it down on paper.