1-555-789-3λ69 had obviously been meant as a secret check-in for someone called 2476, related to some kind of experiment on GesteCo’s part. My incessant curiosity had led me to ferret that out easily enough, and people in down did whisper about the company’s supposedly bizarre and unethical practices. I had never engaged in such whispering because I entertained thoughts of getting a job with them, and unethical pays very, very well.

As I stood there in the lot of the FossilCo Fuels (a division of GesteCo, naturally) on the corner of 3rd and East, with a dead (and disgusting) payphone handset squeezed lamely in one mitt, I felt a shiver at the ominousness of the synthesized voice’s pronouncement. The experiment will now begin.

Moments later, that and all other thoughts were blasted out of my head by an incredibly loud noise. It started as a low whine, almost like a jet engine, before ascending in several terrifying irregular crescendos, like some sort of a steam whistle magnified to a terrifying volume and timbre. I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from; all I could do was double over and clap my hands to my ears in a helpless attempt to keep the sound out. A different but equally painful tone issued through the handset, now swinging freely, but I all but ignored it–what other choice did I have?

Eventually, I was able to bring myself to stand up. I instinctively staggered over to the FossilCo convenience store, not really sure what I hoped to accomplish. What I saw inside shocked me to my very core.

Audio courtesy of NOAA.

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