Her sound

Face upwards, she lets go a lightning scream that rips into the deep, velvet night.

Across the road, waking with a start, he knows it’s not a dream. His semi-conscious mind panics through a random catalogue of memories – car brakes, falling bombs, a chainsaw – until it finds a match for the sound (someone screaming), that allows him to think about it in a hazy detached way, then dismiss it and go back to selfish sleep.

The old couple who live downstairs wake cautiously, they don’t know why. Their still sleeping bodies incorrectly remind them what they've just heard. She hears laughter and remembers a party somewhere down the street. He hears anger and wishes he was still asleep enough to cry out himself; free from excuse.

Sleeping dogs open their eyes enough to determine no danger; fighting cats freeze and unfreeze in one fluid act, then yowl their own baby-like screams.

The boy in the next room gets up, goes to the window and watches as an aeroplane unzips the sky and the sky slowly zips itself back up again. Here, in the middle of the night, is a world free from the interference of those adult thoughts held in during the day by the weight of the sky and the clouds, sustaining the waking world with familiar images. But adult dreams are not contained by the night world. There is no blue sky ceiling to prevent them from escaping the pull of the ordinary; that is why the night is quiet and without clamour. The stars pierce his eyelids until they prickle, and when he turns away from the window, the bed looks comfortably empty.

The scream is swallowed up and the velvet night closes noiselessly over again, allowing no echoes to escape. She turns, satisfied – really satisfied – and sleeps. The animals howl and the moon’s face screams silently back.