It started innocuously enough, as most of my projects did. A friend of mine crashed their drone into the lake, presumed dead. Just a small consumer model, all stock. Once we fished it out, water had run to the motherboard, shorted everything. He said it was done, and that I could have it.
It sat on my workshop table for a few days, while I looked up components for it in-between classes. The wonder of the internet is being able to buy the same parts direct from the factory. It was an easy fix. Swapped the brain for a faster one, the rotors for lighter ones, and the motors for stronger ones. All for a fraction of the cost he’d sunk into it before sinking it to the depths. I upgraded it, all said and done.
But what to do with it?
After a few trial runs, especially against the increasingly difficult weather, I felt secure enough to let it go to work on its own. It just needed a job. I gave it a nest, atop my apartment building, which I’d been slowly crafting into my hideaway for the past few years. I hid its roost behind a cluster of cables on the other side of some sort of exhaust vent. It had a wireless charger, while being protected enough from the wind to not blow over.
Once back in my apartment, I calibrated the GPS and launch height from a small app on my computer, always running, and let it get to work.
The program was simple. Each night, right at sundown, it would take flight. It patrolled a few blocks around my neighborhood, checking in on other projects I had running quietly in the city streets, taking some photos and videos, wind measurements, weather assessment etc., all while live-streaming back to a private feed online.
I didn’t have a plan for the data, not at first. I just liked looking. It made its rounds, took its notes, and came home. A good little worker bee. I’d check the feed occasionally, watching the city sleep. A flicker of lights, a gentle drift on the wind, and my ghost was away. A slow hum that sang out in the city night.
Nothing but the sound of its rotors. An apparition. It’s good to be invisible, but it’s best to be imperceptible.
Soon however, the data became less regular. A ghost in the recordings. I had to convince myself I was actually seeing something, not just imagining it. Something unusual, not ominous, just at the edge of my perception.
It started with a sound. A drone, not unlike the sound generated by the rotors. I must’ve taken the damn thing apart three times before convincing myself that wasn’t the source. No, the sound I heard went deeper. Never quite blending in with the ambient noise, not fully, always something a bit higher and a bit lower than what I heard. Like two voices calling out in perfect harmony.
Here’s a clip:
Can you hear it? No seriously, can you? Or am I just losing it?
Calling out for what?
Convinced there was nothing wrong with the drone, I put the bot back together and let it get back to work. It returned to its rounds, checking the same places it always did. I had it stop monitoring the wind, the weather, no more photos or videos; put all its processing power to use picking up sounds.
I’d taken the habit of obsessively listening to all the audio, often live as it came in. Just a girl on the train listening to the sounds of the city streaming from my earbuds. Or at my computer, simultaneously pouring over the waveform.
It took a few days of logging all the data from the audio gathered to find a pattern. There was a faint but distinct crescendo, detectable as the drone reached a certain spot in the city. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, the shift in frequency was different each day, but always located around the same spot.
I’ve since omitted the rough coordinates from this post, after receiving multiple reports of incidents at this location. Suffice to say whatever was there isn’t anymore. I pulled the microphone from the bot and biked over to about where the interference had been introduced. I wired the mic directly to my earbuds and started to walk.
Like a scientist trudging into an irradiated zone, I listened to my meter click away, the sounds of the city amplified into my ears, recording and playing, desperately concentrating on the rising hum in my head. I knew I was walking to the lion's den but I had to, if only to know. I had to.
I followed it best I could, losing it for a moment before doubling back only to find it once more, I scanned and searched, not sure what for. The only thing that was constant was the hum.
I found myself outside a church, a board across the door. The train rattled above me. I wasn't listening. The hum rang out in my ears. I started to walk the perimeter of the building, listening for any slight increase in intensity or frequency.
To the Southeast side of the building, the hum was at it's peak.
I looked around for an entrance, but I was at a brick wall. A fog had started to creep in at the edges of my view, and the Sun was about to set. Just past a dumpster, on the fire escape, I found it. Hidden under a discarded wooden crate.
I took it. It’s on my workshop table right now, in a small glossy black enclosure.
It feels cool to the touch, like a small piece of onyx, polished endlessly. Gives off no noise to my ears, but generates some kind of frequency that messes with electronics. I sort of hesitated to bring it here, given how many projects I’ve got laying around.
I haven’t been able to get at the internals of it yet, but that’ll come in time. I’ve returned the drone to its previous function, and it’s back out gathering new data as I write this log. I keep trying new test, applying new strategies on it, but the only thing it has offered me so far is an eerie feeling. Someone put it there. It was meant to be found.
It was meant to be found by me.