Bad News

by Sophie Campbell

Last night, I woke up to the sound of a woman crying. I clambered out of bed and opened my window. The black sky pressed down over the cascading houses down the hill; winter stars and clouds sifted over telephone cables. And the screaming grew and heaved, ripping through the air. A dog started howling. 

I could see my neighbour quietly stepping out into her garden. She tightened her dressing gown against the cold and looked up like she was stargazing but, like me, she was drawn out by the sound of this woman. This unknown woman who was nearby in another garden but out of sight, hidden behind fences and hedges. It sounded like her sobs were folding her over, like someone was cradling her just above the ground. It was bad news crying. 

My neighbour looked up to my window and we made eye contact, looking at each other knowingly when we knew nothing. Somehow calm and still as if, by hearing this woman, we were with her, comforting her.

When I was little, I used to speak into empty glass jars and rush to seal the lid tight, hoping one day I’d open them and hear my voice echoing back out into the world. This memory came to me in the brief moments of silence that hung in the air between the screams, and I thought that the houses surrounding this woman, the trees in the gardens, even the ground itself, would hold her cries.

I shivered against the chill seeping into my bedroom and felt my breath quiver and rise in time with the woman’s straining voice. Eventually, I could hear her getting tired and the crying waned to a small whimper. It grew quieter still and a door softly clicked closed. She was safe. Someone was taking care of her.

My neighbour held up her hand to me, saying good night as she went back inside. I got back into bed, leaving the window open and listening to the dog still howling in the distance.

Sophie Campbell is a fiction writer and holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Strathclyde. She has had short stories published with Speculative Books and in Razur Cuts, The Instant Noodle Literary Review and Aloe Magazine, among others. Currently at work on a novel, Sophie enjoys writing stories about ordinary people and, occasionally, the supernatural. She is also interested in counter culture, witchcraft and Scottish folk tales.