Visits to the Archive of Obsolete Sounds by Anika Carpenter

Bangles banished to a desk drawer don’t sing like loose change. Nails painted High-Risk Orange are cut short so there’s no tap, tapping on keyboards. There was a rumour that the previous receptionist got himself fired because he let his wedding ring chime against the metal door handles.

I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I’d come after school while Mum was working, and at the weekends, because farm parks and adventure playgrounds were pointless. Every birthday I’d be here, cocooned in noise-cancelling headphones, listening to recordings of crisp packets rustling, balloons bursting, and the hiss of bottles of coke opening. Sometimes I’d ask friends to join me. For a while they’d bounce imaginary balloons with me, watch as I blew out invisible candles on a nonexistent cake. Mostly they came to escape the heat.

When I was fifteen I requested the tape of old ladies discussing the weather. I couldn’t bear to hear that now.

My daughter loved to listen to the electric fizz of trains approaching, babies cooing and the ‘twit twoo’ of Tawny Owls. Her hair fell into sleek LP grooves, capturing the sound of my anxious breathing. I caught her bones creaking, making the same lethargic complaints our floorboards do during the winter heatwaves.

If you know what to ask for you can hear me whispering ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’, with the soft smack of kisses in between. Or perhaps you’d rather experience me crying, or screaming ‘ambulance!, call an ambulance someone, please!’. These are old recordings.

Today I’m here for the ‘How to Capture and Preserve Your Personal Audio Environment’ workshop. When I’ve learnt how to use the equipment I’ll go home and record the sound of my husband making tea, clearing his throat, sweeping up dead leaves. When he’s gone I’ll combat the silence with the sound of our footsteps.

Anika Carpenter is an ammophilous writer, art tutor and sucrologist. She is the winner of TSS Flash 400 Winter 2018, runner-up BIFFY50 Microfiction Contest (autumn), longlisted in Reflex Fiction’s Autumn 2018 competition and long-listed Bath Flash Fiction Award October 2018. Website: | twitter: @stillsquirrel.