Summer came along with changes to virtually every aspect of life. Things, welcomed or not, got into ridiculous flourish indifferently. There was the temperature rising into a comfortably warm zone then rocketing beyond, and was the swarm of mosquitoes as well as a thousand other kinds of bugs. Maddening humidity seemed to crawl all the way from coasts into this inland city. Even sound, the shapeless messenger, took a weird change as summer got to its peak time.

It was as if sound travels faster in such boiling, dripping air. Identifying the source and distance of a sound became harder and harder in my compound. This was further aided by the fact that the compound itself was built into a silo-like fashion, which sent any communication within the central garden bouncing and booming among the buildings. With bedroom window kept open all the time, nightlife in my home temporarily became mildly frustrating to seriously annoying. Sometimes I would hear couples furiously fighting which sounded like right beneath my window. It was not until I get up and shout back “Will you fucking people please keep your fucking problem to your-fucking-selves thank-fucking-s!” did I realize the fight was actually happening several buildings away.

That was the time when I began to hear the calling for “hopper”.

Can’t remember exactly which day it was. What I could say for sure is that the calling always came on the turning of evening and night. When the shade of darkness began to descend, there would always came someone’s repeating voice hollering “Hopper!”. The voice felt like that of a woman not far into her old age, with a somehow disturbing accent. It was hard to imagine a granny getting so excited upon seeing some grasshoppers, thus in my mind I secretly pictured a kind old woman calling her grandson, young Mr. Hopper, home for dinner. The idea resonated with me in a wave of nostalgia since in my childhood, grandpa used to summon me from the crude playground in the same way.

Sadly the fun got old after about three days of repeating. Endless “Hopper!” attacks went this way at an interval of roughly 15 minutes, starting from nightfall, sometimes lasting all the way into midnight. Initially I thought someone equally annoyed will do something about it, but a long week of waiting for rescue completely failed me. Then, on a Saturday night when me and wife were trying to enjoy some reading, I decided rescue, if there was going to be any, must come from within. It was already hard enough lying there and holding a book from my sweaty body, and the routinely “Hopper!” only made it impossible to concentrate on anything. I got up and uncomfortably dressed, going downstairs to find this Master Hopper and teach the little bastard a good lesson about always coming home on time for dinner. Wife told me to “be easy on this Hopper kid”, but I found a trace of encouragement beneath her kind words nonetheless.

Beneath our balcony, as the calling seemed to come from, was nothing but some bushes and several stray cats. I stood there in full alert waiting for the next holler. My logic was that if I manage to find the granny, and wait by her door, eventually I would catch the brat on his much anticipated returning. After 2 tries, a.k.a. 30 minutes or hundreds of mosquito bites, I was led to a far corner on a piece of lawn. There wasn’t any door opening to this direction on the adjacent building, and its windows were mostly unlighted. But still, I was pretty sure that was the spot where the endless callings originated. While waiting for the next clue my flashlight picked up a patch of baldness on the lawn, in the center of which was what seemed to be a human mouth planted in the exposed dark earth. The sight sent a wave of chillness up my spine despite the steaming weather. Believing somebody buried a corpse here, I fumbled for my phone to call the police. Just before I push the “talk” button, the thing moved.

A tongue protruded between the lips, licked them as if adding some moisture. Then, with disturbing accent, the mouth said, loudly, “Hopper!”

That’s when I came home and kept the finding to myself. Every day, upon nightfall, the persistent calling for “Hopper!” floated through the window, and I was reluctant to even think about the origin of the sound. The horrible voice went on for another week before mercifully ceasing, for whatever reason. That is one thing I will never want to find out.

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