Hedda and I were woken from sleep by a woman screaming in the alley a bit before 2:30 in the morning. I heard her scream while I was still asleep, and the next one woke us both up. We’re used to strange noises coming from the alley - people laughing or talking, cars driving by, wind rattling the construction fence next door - so we looked at each other for a half a second, questioning what we had heard and whether we should be concerned. When we heard the scream a third time, Hedda got up and started getting clothes on , and I lunged for my phone on the nightstand and dialed 911.
The operator picked up before the first ring even finished. I don’t remember the operator’s number, but she immediately asked, “Do you need police, ambulance, or fire?”
“We need the police. There’s a woman screaming in the alley.” As I gave her our address, I walked into the front room to check on Hedda. She had the front door open, and informed me that the fire alarm was going off in the apartment building next door. There were a number of people mingling outside our building because of it. I added, “And the fire alarm is going off next door.” She informed me the police were on their way, and then hung up while I was in the middle of asking her whether or not she wanted my contact information.
I finally got some clothes on and Hedda and I went outside. There was nothing amiss at the end of the alley, and while we were down there, a police car arrived. The total response time was maybe about five minutes. When the car pulled up, we explained what we heard, and the officers took a drive around the alley looking for anything.
I wandered back up to the front of the building. The sidewalk was filled with residents of the building next door, the racious clanging of the fire alarm making it hard to hold a conversation. Two people approached me and asked if the police were here about the scream they had heard. I was surprised that they had heard it, and they told me that when they heard it they checked down the alley and saw two people holding hands.
Another car arrived about then, and we explained all that we knew to the officer in that vehicle. Hedda and I conferred, and agreed that if this had been more than just some people goofing around, there wasn’t anything happening now. We went looking through the crowd of residents for our friends Gabe and DeAnne and Lisa who live next door, but instead I found the first officer taking a look around on foot. I explained to him what I had heard from some of the displaced residents, and he postulated that perhaps it was just some couple being silly.
So it was time to go back inside. On the way back to our building, we found our friends. Since it was cold outside, we invited them into our place until the fire alarm stopped. We stayed up chatting until about 3:30, and it turned out they had also heard the screams.
It was hard to go back to sleep.