Is this who we are, now? On Wednesday, a horse was found dead in Darndale Park. The horse had been tortured, disembowelled, its ears and anus gone. A reward has been offered for information.
Did no one hear anything? That horse would have screamed. There would have been panic, hooves drumming the ground for escape from the thing that held – him? her? – by the halter. It would have taken more than one person to subdue the frantic animal for the mutilation. Whatever else that cruel assault may have been, it would not have been silent.
A thing that struck me about the rescue of the kidnapped women in Ohio, earlier this month, was that it was lucky for Amanda Berry that the man who heard her scream and came to break his neighbour’s door down to get her out was the type to get involved. There are many who would have looked the other way, many who might have re-considered later, who might even have made an anonymous call to the police – but there’s no telling if such a delayed call would have led to the release of the women, or to more beatings, or even to murder. There was a moment for action, one single moment, to be seized or lost. Those moments pass quickly.
We live on a fold of rock at the city’s edge. We hear things, at night, especially in summer, when the dark is thin and sounds seep through. Night terrors. Small animals being taken. The eerie, stolen-baby cries of vixens, the screams of frogs. In summer, there are parties on the beaches and on the hills as well as in the gardens. There are cycles of destructiveness – to cars, to houses, to trees. There are rows. Accusation. Challenge. Weeping. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact place where these things are happening – did that glass break one street away? Two? But they spend themselves, the arguments. Friends intervene. The young people go home. Every time I wonder, is this about to turn? Should I do something (but what?). Am I missing something that may turn out, later, to be a clue?
In a local murder, many years ago, a neighbour heard a scream, and dismissed it. Later, the timing of that scream became a feature of the pleas for information. It was an anchor, of sorts, in the investigation, one known thing in a violent fog of confusion. The thing is, if that was you, how would you live with it, the doing nothing? Would you have been brave enough to admit to it, after?
There’s an instant when a scream leaps inside us, a creature calling to be saved. An echo marks the place where it was taken. Sometimes we’re powerless, sometimes we don’t recognize what we hear until too late. We might be indifferent, for reasons of our own. We’d do well to remember that, left unchallenged, whatever’s out there doing its lethal work – the thing we turn away from – sooner or later, that thing will come for us.