My Black Friday the 13th; or, Screech, Screech, Screech

My Black Friday the 13th; or, Screech, Screech, Screech

I’m not superstitious. But my recent Friday the 13th was like Friday the 13th.

The horror started soon after Thursday turned into Friday. I was burning the midnight oil, marking second-try essays of students who are not even my students. They are preys to Professor Womack, as much as me, who deals with those students whom the professor fails the first time. It is part of the package of my doctoral student duties – that means, I’m not paid for my trouble. It toughens one up though. Consider this conclusion from an attempted literary critical essay by a last year English Studies major. An authentic excerpt, mistakes not excised:

I found out that Mary and Blanche are different in terms of their origin because Mary is Irish and Blanche is French which gives both difference characteristics. [Professor Womack’s comment: A real discovery! Ha!] With their origin faith is connected, Mary is a believer and Blanche is not. [Enclosed is a bunch of grey hair, which the professor was apparently pulling out as he was reading. His verdict: There exists no grade adequate for this essay. F minus, twice underlined.]

The rewritten essay was a repetition of the same plague with minor variations. I concurred with Professor Womack’s desperate evaluation but did my best to communicate the result euphemistically. The essay falls short of the required academic level in all respects, I wrote carefully. I was wondering how to suggest, without risking that I’ll be sued, that the student might reconsider taking her last, third try, as this would only be a perpetuation of everyone’s misery – when something happened.

A loud high-pitched screech pierced the air, coming from direction of the flat’s corridor. I jerked, and my cat, sleeping on the window sill next to me, twitched her ears and tail and sat up. There was silence. The fridge was humming, the laptop was purring, but there was silence. The cat lifted her huge tragic eyes to me with a hurt look. Sh, shh, mommy doesn’t know what it was either, Ella, go back to sleep, I tried to appease the cat. Unimpressed, Ella curled up and placed her head on her paws so that she could go on staring at me accusingly.

friday-13 (4)
I’ll-murder-you stare

My cat totally hates me. Speaking about enemies who are plotting my demise while excluding my cat (she had an alibi), I thought that the heart-wrenching screech could be the ghost of failed students past. About half an hour later, when I was busy failing another failed essay writer, the next screech occurred. It must have been the ghost of failed students present. The screeching continued to appear regularly at irregular intervals. If it was the ghost of failed students future, I can expect quite a career in this field.

The cat and I went to explore and identify the source of the ghostly noise. It appeared to be the fuses located above the flat’s entrance door. I put on rubber-sole shoes to avoid the hazard of electrocuting my cat in case I electrocute myself, climbed a stool and opened the fuse box. As I was fiddling with the switches, finding nothing extraordinary, another ominous screech came and I nearly tumbled because it was incredibly loud and extremely close. It would be the fuses.

The screeching went on throughout the night and the next day. It seemed to orgasm occasionally, with the intervals between the individual screeches shortening to thirty seconds. Sleeping was impossible, anything was impossible. I occupied myself with running a live journal of the fuses and making a few sex tapes of the fornication with my phone. The cat, surely in order to spite me, soon adapted to the sound and the fury and slept soundly, moving neither limb nor tail.

I napped a few times, though neither a closed door nor a blanket over my head did much to muffle the noise. I woke up with a horrible headache, popped some painkillers for breakfast and called the landlord. He promised he would send over an electrician. Speaking about electricity, that morning I retrieved from the mailbox the first letter to arrive at my new address. It was an electricity bill for my first month. While I did expect it wouldn’t be easy on the wallet, as I don’t take it easy on the heating, I didn’t anticipate that the sum would be the whooping equivalent of my half a month’s wages.

friday-13 (2)
The sex life of the fuses

I performed a series of Google searches, whose quick succession reflected my increasing frustration:

  • how to cheat an electric meter
  • how to steal electricity from neighbour
  • how to get wifi without electricity
  • how to live without wifi
  • how to kill yourself fast and easy

Sleepless, exhausted and dejected, I was deciding between smashing the fuses (which would solve both the screeching and the electricity bill problem) and smashing the fuses while frying myself (which would solve pretty much everything). As the last resort of the hopeless, it occurred to me that I could stay over with my mother. A sleepover at my mother’s is always an act of utmost bravery and strength. She keeps her flat freezing cold (to avoid the above electricity bill problem), her radio volume loud and her chatter about the latest soap opera developments flowing. Which hell is worse: listening to my mother’s incessant lament over Esmeralda and Fernando’s fate or witnessing first-hand the sex life of the fuses?

[Play below to enjoy the screeching at 04s, 35s and 01.07min]

As I was slowly getting comfortable with the discomforting idea of taking a bus to my mother’s place, smashing her radio, sending her out to walk her dog and taking a nap on her couch, I received a text. It was from my mother. She informed me with regret that she was lying in bed with flu and that she couldn’t understand how she got it. I texted back that her flu might be related to her recent hike across half the town in rain and wind, which she performed for the sake of proving that she can. She accepted the news with disbelief. I accepted her disbelief with disbelief, wondering whether she was sixty or six.

Feeling suicidal but too tired to act on my feelings, I stretched out on my bed in clothes, waiting for Godot the electrician. Later, waking from a Guantanamo-like nap interrupted by each screech, I proceeded to sit in my chair with a death stare on my face and do nothing. Godot wasn’t coming. We’re all going to die here, I told my cat, who ignored me. I called the landlord again, who cheerfully announced that the electrician was coming on Monday. I thanked him with an uneasy mixture of gratefulness and fierce hatred. We’re dead, Ella, I intimated to the cat after I hung up.

friday-13 (3)
One kind of stool

I reached for the last draught of vintage before I die but knocked the glass over and spilled it on the laptop, the smartphone, the table, the floor and the cat. The latter was particularly upset and retired with a threatening meowww in the corridor. She was completely oblivious of the inhuman screeching resounding regularly right above her head – possibly because she is no human but cat. When I dried up the flood in the flat, the doorbell rang. Terrified as if she never heard the sound before, the cat swiftly escaped, climbed her favourite window sill and crouched there, ready to kill. I was tempted to call through the door that if it was Noah, he was late, but it was the landlord.

The landlord asked me about my stool. Sleep-deprived as I was, it took me a while to get that he probably didn’t inquire about my digestion but wanted me to bring something to stand on. I procured the stool. He stepped on it, listened, nodded, and then unscrew the smoke detector mounted next to the fuse box. He took the battery out of the device. The screeching stopped. Is that it?! Have I been subjected to torture for almost twenty-four hours because of a faulty smoke detector battery? I asked. Apparently, yes, the landlord observed drily. I thanked the cat and petted the landlord (maybe the other way round) and collapsed. Wake me up when the Black Friday ends.

52 thoughts on “My Black Friday the 13th; or, Screech, Screech, Screech

  1. What an incredible tale, well told. I imagine the Landlord left with a smile on his face 😉
    I can see the ‘Scream” movie franchise making way for Screech, Screech 2 etc….
    Be careful, the cat may already have spoken with her agent over the movie rights…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The landlord actually did leave with a smile on his face, how did you know? Maybe he was pleased that I’m so easily pleased. All I need for happiness is to have a smoke detector unscrewed…

      I’m thinking of Scream and Screech crossover though, what do you think 😉 ? The cat has home prison so that she couldn’t beat me to the movie rights! And despite the unexpected success of Screech 1, I do hope there won’t be Screech 2 any time soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My experience was funny to start with, but after several hours, it really stopped being funny. At the end of the day, I’m glad I had some blogging material though! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commiserating!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha, thank goodness you were relieved of the dead battery in the end!

    Listening to the audio (yea, I did) I thought that sounded like a dead smoke alarm battery… I learnt about this from watching Friends in an episode whereby Phoebe was pretty much in your shoe for the evening, so years later when I heard that same noise, I was so glad Friends knowledge saved the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience! You’re right and I was stupid not to realise it was the smoke detector causing the trouble. I never living in a place with a smoke detector before, so I didn’t even know there were batteries in it… Well, now I know. And I must start watching Friends!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Carol, for reading and commiserating! I was sorry too, but at the same time I knew it was a hysterical experience that I would blog about! Maybe I was perversely enjoying some parts of the torture… 😮 The things one does for blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Quite literally, this was a scream to read. I especially liked “waiting for Godot the electrician” and “we’re all going to die here”. Brilliant!! My sincerest apologies for your dire situation though, I have had a similar problem before but only lasted a few hours before I realized it was a smoke detector. Now, Gidget knows what the sound means and will stand under said detector barking until I change the battery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was also screaming along with the screeching at times, so don’t worry, you’re not the only. I know, I was a bit of a drama queen with the Godot thing and the dying, but I did feel very low with the sleep-deprivation. You’re of course smarter than me to know the problem as a smoke detector battery when you saw it! And so it Gidget 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess the good part is that the pain of the smoke detector overwhelmed the pain of the student papers. See? Look on the sunny side. Good thing I live too far away for you to kill me for that comment.

    A philosophy professor once told me about a student paper that began, “When we consider the obesity of the universe, we know there must be a god.”

    Where do you start???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha 🙂 Yes, thank you, that is encouraging in retrospect… I love the obese universe quote, I’ll need to write it down and stick it on the smoke detector. As to the essay marking, I’m starting to understand why some teachers turn to drinking. I may or may not mark the worst essays only when drunk to dull the pain and the horror, the horror.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder how a student will react after you write “the horror, the horror” on a paper. It’s an argument against lowering your inhibition levels while marking.


        1. I could use what you suggest as a test – if the student identifies the allusion in “the horror, the horror” to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, he or she can get another chance. And they should be able to get the reference, they are EngLit students for god’s sake… Alternately, I was thinking of getting a WTF stamp. Fast and easy essay marking.


  5. Very entertaining post.

    We have smoke detectors here inside the apartment, so I know how they act when the batteries get low. Ours, however, just produce a very short beep … but the most ear piercing you can imagine! At least, we know what it is and can act accordingly right away 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebekah, for commiserating! It makes the experience worth it 😉 You’re smart, you guys who know what smoke detectors are like, I had no idea and learned the hard way! But I will never ever forget it. Amen.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was yet again another hilarious story. I know it wasn’t for you though. Poor you!!
    What a creepy sound!
    Ella totally abandoned you. I keep warning you to not trust cats! You even admitted she hates you! Ok , I said.
    Coming back to your story.
    If you had watched soap opera with your mother, maybe you had been able to identify the source of the ghostly sound. I’m quite sure that just like Phoebe from Friends, Esmeralda and Fernando have once faced the same issue. Now you know that Samuel Beckett can just let you there waiting endless hours for Godot!
    I’m truly happy you didn’t need to wait till Monday to resolve this and hope the headache is gone.
    If that’s any consolation, I had my Friday 13th experience as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lucile, for commiserating – and for trying to warn me against my cat! Alas, I’m her slave and she’s my mistress, it’s too late to save me 😉 I’m glad you appreciated how skillfully I mixed Samuel Beckett with soap operas – it was both an absurd drama and a soap opera experience in that it was so unreal. I do hope your Friday the 13th experience wasn’t even worse than mine. Shall I hope you’ll blog about it and share your pain?


  7. I’m sure this was a horrifying day …. but you wrote about it in such an entertaining manner – ok, it was very funny 😀

    I love the look on your cat’s face …. it really does seem to say ‘I blame you and you will pay dearly’ 😀

    The worst part though was your electical bill. I’ve received those horrible shocks in the mail and it’s definitely NOT. FUNNY. For that you have my deepest condolensces.


    1. Thank you, Joanne, for commiserating with me, it’s much appreciated! I’m glad that my post resonated with you and was relatable.

      The electrical bill was probably really the worst part and it already made me lower the temperature in the room by two degrees… That and the fact that it’s warmer outside finally! It’s the first time I live in a place with electrical floor heating, so I had zero guess how much the cost would be. Now I’m wiser but not too happy about it. I’ll make do though 😉 And blog about it!


  8. Wow…just wow. So sorry you had to put up with all of the screeching and the bill. I hope it doesn’t happen again, and just as you were grading the students is just creepy. If I were you I’d turn on all the lights and music loud in the flat! Maybe it’s just one bad day 🙂


    1. You’re reading my thoughts, I turned on an extra light and turn the background music up but the screeching was too loud for the music to be of any help. Funnily, I wasn’t that scared as my blog post suggests as soon as I discovered it was just the fuses, as I believed they were… I rely on my cat to warn me about the approach of ghosts if any should dare to come here! Thank you for reading, as always, and for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. G’day Mara,
    What a hoot, once you see the funny side of it and have a restful night or two, give the cat a cuddle and send Mum some honey and lemon juice. love it 🙂


    1. Thank you for stopping by and reading! Yes, all done now, sleep deprivation caught up with, my cat seems to have forgiven me (I hope) and my mother is on the mend. Which is good, but then not so good because it’s too boring to blog about! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Terri, thanks for reading and commiserating! I’m happy to announce that the issues have been solved – I got rid of the essays for a while now as I marked them all already, and I just need to get a new battery for the smoke detector. I was actually oddly pleased by my ordeal, at least I had something to blog about 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Haha.That was fun to read! 🙂
    I like the way you write.

    The bills are one of the main disadvantages of living in a cold climate.For the time being,I’m a student living on campus,so it doesn’t really matter,but I once heard a girl complaining how her landlord wouldn’t let her and the others increase the temperature in the house,as the landlord will lose out given bills are included in the monthly rent!

    It seems in cold climates you either lose a big part of your wages in bills or accept to live in the cold in your own home with many clothes on.Well,if you’re rich,it’s a whole different matter.

    If you want to save some money,you can buy an electric duvet.You can heat it during the day and,at night,switch the heater off,as the duvet will keep you warm. 🙂
    It’s on my wishlist on Amazon,and it’s not even costly.


    1. Thank you so much for reading through my disheartening experience! I’m not sure what’s worse, to live on the campus (with a potentially disruptive roommate) or to live in a private home (with a landlord who won’t let you turn on the heating)… I consider myself fortunate to live on my own in a small flat so I can control everything – for now I’ve chosen to pay for the comfort of a well-heated flat, should I be unable to afford it, an electric duvet it is! Here’s to the coming of spring and warmer weather…


      1. Also,I’m sorry that you haven’t yet received your book. :/

        Normally it does take that long when I’m in Mauritius,but I didn’t think you would have to wait this much,given you’re in Europe…..

        I’ll wait for one more week to pass before I let the FS know about this.


  11. Absolutely hilarious–from the screeching to the Google search and the stool misunderstanding–it was all brilliant! I laughed out loud over and over again! I’m sorry you had such a terrible day, but I’m really glad you wrote the post. That which does not kill you–immediately–makes you even funnier (in the ha-ha way) 😀


    1. Thanks for reading and commiserating! The experience was indeed not pleasant but it was worth it as long as it could be turned into a funny blog post 🙂 I’m also glad I wasn’t killed – immediately – and lived to blog about it!

      Liked by 1 person

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