First some background: we have an abandoned alarm system in our house, one that was installed when the house was built some 20 odd years ago. Although the alarm system is no longer in use, it does have functions that suddenly appear, like mushrooms in your lawn.

We had been living in the house about two years when the alarm suddenly went off. It was the first time I had taken much interest in it, supposing it to be dormant, like a lawn waiting for mushrooms. It was a high pitched whine and even I, with poor hearing, was annoyed by it. But I couldn’t figure out how to get it stopped. Finally I called Mike, our son-in-law, who with his wife purchased the unit, and he gave me four numbers to punch into the alarm keypad. It worked—the alarm went quiet. There were, however, certain lights that indicated sensors for doors and windows and sometimes, to my horror, they blinked. I would quickly punch in the four digit solution to all whining and the lights would go out—for a while. There were clearly gremlins at work somewhere in the unit—or perhaps nearby—and eventually I would be introduced to them.

It happened almost three years later when our grandson Sam and his wife Lyndsey were visiting us from Australia. The alarm system began to whine at regular and irregular intervals. Sam, a wonderful nerd, would disarm the unit and try various voodoo procedures to keep the gremlins at bay.

I should mention that my hearing has deteriorated to the extent that I would think I heard the alarm’s wail, but wasn’t sure, so I didn’t pay attention to it. Anyone with normal hearing was bothered by it, especially Sam, who continued to work his sorcery and get it quiet—for a while.

The upshot of this mystic alarm box happened two nights ago. I awoke at 2 in the morning, intending to go to the toilet, which as my usual custom. I noticed light shining around the bedroom door and assumed that someone had forgotten to turn out the kitchen and hall light.

As I opened the door, I was confronted by a tall disheveled man that seemed to me—bleary eyed as I was—to represent an Einstein on steroids. He was holding a computer and had opened the innards of the alarm box. Wires were hanging from the box carcass like those of a butchered pig. There was a wild look in Einstein’s eyes and I could tell at once that there was a major “problem in Houston,” that is, Waco.

The alarm had awakened Sam from a sound sleep several times this night and now—at 2 in the morning—he was seeking revenge. He was intent on finding the source of all evil—the mysterious alarm control box. He had looked everywhere: in the garage, in the attic, but had not noticed it in the small office near the kitchen. In the meantime he had taped the speaker, trying to mute the sound and considered cutting the wires to the box. He had hesitated, fearing either electrocution or reactivating a dormant lion which would growl and awaken the whole neighborhood.

Einstein was relentless: he had gone online to find the unit and its secret wiring diagrams. But, alas, the unit was so old that even the internet would not reveal what cords to cut and what to leave in place. However, once Sam Einstein found the major (large) control box, he located a battery that was old and decrepit, but sending out signals for help and resuscitation. He dismantled the battery, then asked me for a Philips screwdriver. I was frightened—he had found the umbilical cord, the source of all the unit’s life and had quickly removed it from the mother board. The element emitted a sudden death groan, as if blood had sucked from it, and it was dead. We went back to bed.

Last night Sam had a dream about the alarm. He was attacking it with a hammer, destroying the brains and bowels of the gremlins and, from all I can tell, feeling good about it.

I feel pretty good about it too—of course the alarm never bothered me too much—but now our visitors will not keep asking, “Do you hear that high pitch noise?” And, like before, I can honestly say, “I didn’t hear anything unusual.”

Karl Franklin
December 2018