May 10


Woman at window

Woman at window

I hear it, faintly, while I’m rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. I can’t believe the sound of the shower doesn’t drown it out completely. Once again, I wonder why my neighbor can’t shut that kid up.

I finish showering and dress, then peer out my window at the house next door. There’s no car in the driveway, and the curtains are pulled shut. She’s in there alone with the baby, and its shrieks are getting louder.

I wonder if I should do anything. Go over there, offer some advice. I had a colicky baby once, too. I know how hard it can be, how the sound of it pierces your brain and shakes you to the bone.

I turn away from the window. I don’t even know her. We’re not that kind of neighborhood. We barely nod in passing, let alone wave and say hi. We’ve never exchanged pleasantries. I don’t even know her name.

I’m sure she has this under control.

I sit down at the computer, hoping to get some work done. I block out the sound the best I can. An hour passes, then two, then three. Yet, the baby keeps crying, it’s screaming now.

Surely it should have stopped, at least long enough to eat. Babies can’t cry and eat at the same time.

This isn’t right, this isn’t natural. Something must be wrong. Suddenly, I hear a blood-curdling scream, I hear the sounds of excruciating pain and terror. With shaking hands, I call 911 and tell them that something terrible is happening next door.

Fifteen minutes pass, fifteen creeping minutes, and then I hear my doorbell ring. I open the door to see a police officer and an orderly in white scrubs. An ambulance pulls up to the curb.

Just like that night.

I remember the paramedics pushing past me, racing upstairs to the bathroom. The cop taking me by the arm, leading me to the couch, asking me to please explain again exactly what happened.

I lied, of course. I told him I had only left for a minute, that I thought the baby would be OK, he knew how to sit up, I don’t know how he fell over. I didn’t tell him how I had held him under water, until his angry red face finally turned blue.

They ruled the cause of death accidental.

“Mrs. Aimes?” The police officer is speaking to me.

“Mrs. Aimes, we’ve warned you about making false reports. It’s going to be more than a ticket this time.”

I nodded. He led me to the car, told me to watch my head as I got in.

I thought I could stop the screaming, you see. I thought I could stop the screaming.

* * *

by Shelli Proffitt Howells

copyright 2013

The prompt is one of the five senses, Sound. If you enjoyed this story, please consider sharing it with the share buttons below.


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  1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    Thank you so much, Natalie! I appreciate the share!!!

  2. JP West

    This gave me chills. Well done, Shelli. I'll pass it along.

  3. Richard Bon

    This really made me cringe. I just cannot imagine someone doing such a thing to a helpless little baby. As the story built, with the title in mind, I kept hoping what happened wouldn’t happen. Freaky how she projected her story onto the neighbor.

    1. Thank you, Richard, and I wish things like this only happened in my imagination.

  4. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    Thank you so much, JP!

  5. Chuck Allen

    What a great twist! That would be a horrible secret to try to live with.

  6. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    Yes, it would. Thank you, Chuck!

  7. Icypop Sedgwick

    I'm wondering if she was hearing real screams at all…

  8. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    In my mind, she didn't hear real crying, but it is possible that the baby next door triggered something.

  9. A Modern Scheherzade

    Wow this was really good. Brilliant how you used the neighbors aspect to throw us off and revealed her lack of balance in the end. As a mom, all too familiar with that haunting sense of, is the baby crying or is everything ok?

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    […] Silenced by Shelly Proffitt Howells I hear it, faintly, while I’m rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. […]

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