Brandy Snaps stared at the glowing screen of her phone. It cast the only light in her neatly decorated apartment, the glow harsh and blue. Every now and then, she tapped a painted fingernail against the plastic screen and either accepted or rejected one of the many requests that she received every day.
As her name implied, Brandy was a woman of the night. With her long bleached hair and narrow waist, she was the plaything that many desired. Yet those who wanted her never got her. Instead, they paid by the month to leer at her through their own electronic devices, sending her lewd comments whenever she dared to bare herself on their screens.
The lights in her apartment were out for a very good reason for even ladies of the night had their fears. Everything from losing their looks to their lives ran through their heads and Brandy was no exception.
She'd been a good girl. Raised by a God-fearing family in Iowa, like many other young women, she'd been lured to Hollywood by the promise of fame and fortune. She'd tried to keep her morals, scared that the slightest violation would send her to Hell. The fear of disappointing her parents had also snapped at her heels, their gentle judgement and her mother's soft words forever burned in to her psyche.
But the casting couch had called even for the tiniest of parts. Did she want to be Background Girl Number Three? Then she'd best pay her dues on her knees or back. She'd shamefully lost her virginity to a sleazoid director in a dirty motel room somewhere in the valley in return for a walk on part in pilot that had never aired. From there it had been a slippery slope until she had realised that there was more money in taking her clothes off for a global audience.
The time on her phone flicked closer to 1am and Brandy felt her body tighten. She sat with her back to the lounge window. The blinds were drawn against the sight of the street below. But it was still there, lingering like an old memory.
On the street outside her building sat an old air raid siren. Left over from the days of World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War, the mustard coloured cake shaped device peered in to her window from the top of a tall pole. The sirens had long since been decommissioned, modern technology having given the authorities an easier, and quicker, way to contact people if an emergency were to sweep the area.
Brandy remembered the night with the same clarity as one remembers every significant event in their lives. She had been sitting on the same, grey couch and staring at the screen of her phone. Every few hours another request had come in, begging her to take her clothes off and bare her body, and her soul, to the anonymous user at the other end. The numbers in her account had confirmed the lack of popularity in her life; she had just a handful of users watching her and making the rent was a struggle. Other bills were rapidly begin to form a snow drift on her otherwise spotless dining table.
“I'll do anything,” she'd murmured. “Anything to get out of this fuckin' hell hole.”
The voice had entered her brain like a lightening bolt. She had looked around herself as she'd tried to determine where the voice had come from.
Finally, she'd replied, “Anything.”
In that case, go to bed and I shall take care of the rest.
She had done as the voice had instructed. The following morning, Brandy had woken to find that her account had several hundred more followers and that the money her videos had earned was enough to pay the rent and the bills.
That had been a month previously and, since then, her popularity had only grown. Her bank account was comfortably in the black and there was money for luxuries as well as the essentials. A few days after the voice's appearance, she'd received the first call from a casting agent in many months. They'd offered a speaking role in an established TV drama and, no, she didn't have to spread her legs to get it.
It had started the night after the voice had spoken to her. The road she lived on was, thankfully, fairly quiet. Her neighbours rarely made noise and parties were events that happened in other neighbourhoods. So her interest had been piqued when she had heard a click and a whirr.
The sound had been low at first, rasping and asthmatic before it wound up in to a high pitched whine. Brandy had slid to the floor, cowering in a corner as the noise had risen and fallen. The windows of her apartment had rattled and her hearing had dulled as the sound screamed around the neighbourhood.
As the noise had finally died away, Brandy had struggled to her feet and made for the window. Opening the blind, she had scanned the darkened street for anything that could have caused the spine-tingling whine. Yet there had been nothing.
Unable to settle and with the high-pitched sound still ringing in her ears, Brandy had gone to bed. Sleep hadn't come easily and Brandy had found herself playing over the previous days. She questioned where the voice had come from and who it belonged to. Where had her new subscribers come from? It had been months since she had contacted her agency so who was bringing in the offers of film and television work? And what had caused the sound that echoed around her skull?
Her phone didn't stop ringing or beeping with offers of work or new people signing up to her site. Each day had been the miracle she'd asked for. Yet every night brought the haunting whine that sent Brandy cowering for the corner farthest from the window.
She'd asked the neighbours about the sound yet none of them had heard. In the end, she had resorted to the internet and a post on social media had informed Brandy that she was hearing the sound of a long dead air raid siren. Sirens that had been disconnected from the power supply many, many years before.
Desperate to find answers, Brandy had called everyone she could think of; the police, the fire department, and the local government. All of them had said the same thing. That the ageing air raid siren outside of her apartment was no longer capable of sounding. She had begged them to remove it but they had citied budget cuts as the reason for it remaining in place.
And every night, at 1am, the siren began to toll its painful, mournful sound, a warning that something unpleasant was going to happen.
Brandy's phone changed to 1am and she closed her eyes. Sliding down the couch, she pressed her hands over her ears as the now familiar click and whirr started. Slowly the sound began to grow, aching through her gut as it reached its pitch before it fell and began the cycle again.
You can't escape, Brandy.
“I can,” she hissed. “I can escape. I've got the money. I'm getting the fuck outta here and somewhere better. I don't care where. Anywhere but here!”
You can't. You can never escape.
She dropped her hands from her ears and bawled, “Who the fuck are you?!”
Why don't you take a look?
Brandy tossed the phone to one side and scrambled onto the couch. Yanking the blind up, she peered in to the dark street. The siren screamed from across the road, its shadow seeming longer and darker than on previous nights. Beside the pole was another shadow, one that appeared to be cut from the black skies above the city. Brandy could make out slender arms and legs that were attached to an equally skinny body. Mist or smoke, Brandy couldn't tell, seemed to radiate from the shadow and seep out in to the street. When it lifted its head, she found herself looking into a pair of blazing red eyes.
She screamed and pushed herself away from the window. Landing heavily on the floor, Brandy scrambled across the room. Her mind was whirling as she pulled herself to her feet and grabbed for her purse. She reached the door that would give her the freedom she craved only to watch it melt into the wall and become nothing.
You can't escape, Brandy. You're mine now.
For more information on LA's current air raid sirens, please visit: