Some people say you can hear stuff comin’ out of the pipes

Some people say you can hear stuff comin’ out of the pipes. It happens in older apartment buildings, and it’s not an issue with the plumbing (that is it’s own separate problem). Apartment dwellers swear by it, but lets face facts, apartment dwellers swear by a lot of things. Sinking floors, shifting walls, lights that turn themselves off, and crawl spaces that seemingly go nowhere. 

The older the building, the more peculiar stuff you got going on. Some would tell ya that its part of the charm of these venerable spots. Like buildings in this city grow old and build character. So these things that are going on, these odd things, like when people say they can hear stuff comin’ out of the pipes. Well that means you live in a building with one heck-of-a winning personality.

So what is the stuff that people can hear comin’ out of the pipes? Well most folks say it sounds like hissing steam. Or at least thats how it starts, like a hot pan in the sink showered with ice cold water. It’s all up front and all at once. Like an issue of steam, like a gust, like a cloud of the stuff and then the sound is gone. Folks look around their place for all the tell-tale signs, but they don’t find nuthin’. No white vapor, no cloudy mirrors, no slow gas leak. They check everything, but nothing ever gets found. So they do what anyone does, they shrug and go on with their day. Then they get used to it, that is until it starts changing. That hissing sound don’t sound like steam no more.

“Hey buddy”, says a voice all of the sudden, and you can’t believe what you think you’re hearing because it sounds like it’s coming from inside your apartment. “Hey buddy”, it says again in a distinct whisper. You start looking around, start glancing over your shoulder, you start checking behind the curtains, and underneath the sofa. There aint nobody around though and you laugh it off like your hearing things that clearly aint there. “Hey Buddy”, there it is again, that dry whisper.

So you follow that voice to see where it’s coming from. Cause if you don’t, it keeps on without you. There you are all bundled up in your sheets in the middle of the night. Eyes wide and pupils dancing back and forth from side to side with the living fright. Because theres a voice in your apartment and it’s started the conversation without you. 

“I gave you three chances, buddy.” It tells ya, “but no you didn’t have time for us, ya weren't one for making small talk.” Thats how it works, the voice begins to berate you, “Is this how you conduct yourself on the street? Puttin’ people off and ignoring them? How rude.” The voice is just a whisper, the slow spilling sentences of separating syllables. Like a slow, leaky deflating tire in your ear.

So you follow that voice to see where it’s coming from. You’ve had enough and you need some respite from being called out by a phantom whispering voice. You’re bending over that bathroom sink and you got your ear up to that faucets. Listening intently, hyper aware of every stray sound the bathroom might have to offer. The droplets of a leaky shower head puddling in the bathtub, the gentle jerking from the flusher chain in the toilet’s tank, the husky drawl of the ventilation fan in the ceiling. The focus is on the sink itself however, so you focus. Try as one may, you lean in real close, but the voice only comes a certain time of day and is preceded by the sound of hissing steam. So most of the time you’re sitting and waiting for the voice to start talking to you.

Most of these old buildings got bathroom sinks with two faucet heads and two valves, one for the mundane and one for the magic of mayhem. Usually you know these two options as “hot” and “cold” water. But if you find yourself waiting long enough for the voice to reappear then you will notice that these valves, when turned at that very moment, cease to produce water. I already said it wasn't the plumbing, so pay attention now… this is your chance to speak with another soul. 

Now dwellers are undecided on this next part, dwellers are mostly divided when it comes to these kinds of things regardless. Some dwellers will tell you that when you turn the dials and there’s no water coming out, that its the sweet spot for communication.  Others will tell you to forget the whole thing for your own damn good.

What if they could talk to their neighbors, these dwellers could, or listen to each others music? What if other tenants could use the pipes the same way back and forth. Thats what the valve (cold) would be for, the mundane. It’s just a matter of finding the right time of day, and turning that faucet till the water stops coming out. Then you lean in to hear what your’e neighbors are saying in another unit in the building. The whole lot are quite connected I assure you, though the process if far from science. Nobody knows how far the range of these old pipes truly goes. How many other apartment units could you listen upon. How many other neighbors could you reach out to.

Ah, but what about the other valve?

To the realm of the unknown thats where the other valve goes when it’s turned. At that perfect moment in time, should you decide to manipulate the dial for magic of mayhem (hot), the words you speak stretch out into the great void of possibility. The one who answers you back, well they may not be anyone you are familiar with. They could be a voice from another place and time altogether. They could be friendly or they could be for weal thats true. But nobody knows what lies beyond the realm of the unknown. There are more sinister voices that one could hear, that one could find themselves listening to. Filled to the brim with bad advice and suggestions of wrong doings…

How does any of this happen? Well thats simple really. The pipes hear everything that happens, and you would do well to remember that. The next time you are talking to yourself, the next time you’re playing your music too loud, the next tim you and your lover are fighting. The pipes hear it all and the noises travel fast and plentiful like a deluge of voices, a torrent of speaking and spoken to. All of it gets trapped and it races back and forth looking for a way to escape. A faucet that wasn’t completely turned off, a leaky faucet, a dial or valve thats come loose. 

So you’ve been warned on this. Remember the things I’ve told you in case you take up residence in one of the city’s many venerable estates. When you find yourself up late, perched over the bathroom sink with your ear to the faucet. When you’ve turned the valves and no water comes out. Instead all you hear is the sound of hissing steam before someone starts talking.

“Hey buddy.”

Tilby TinksMatt Herzberg