If your soul could be a sound, what sound would it be?
“Leonard E. Night, age 27, lives alone in a basement, works in a corporate office downtown… been missing for, what, two weeks? No one had a clue. Odd, isn’t it?”
They reach the door of a small bungalow, hidden deep in slightly malnourished suburbia. Broken tricycles and cigarette stubs litter the street like a wasteland of forgotten dreams: families made of mistakes and last minute weddings. My muse.
They knock on the door three times. There is a patter of footsteps echoed by shrill pleas, and chants of my name. Silence.
The door finally bursts open to a reveal a wiry, ill-tempered mother with a rather unpleasant baby in her arms.
“Can I help you?” she asks with a false, toothy smile. A little girl appears behind the woman’s legs, her eyes brimming.
“I’m Officer Peach with the North York Regional Police; this is my partner, Officer Payne. You called about a missing person?”
“Oh yeah,” her curlers are threatening to fall out of her yellow hair, “come in – and mind your step!”
The little girl wonders if the officers’ guns are real. One little push from me and she could find out… but not for another ten years, I decide.
They say Silence is bliss. Silence is peace. That’s a lie. Silence is our curse. Silence haunts us.
“He lives down there, to your left. Weird man. Didn’t even notice he was missing until we smelled his garbage from up here.”
The officers both nod in silent agreement, before turning to investigate the basement that is pointed out to them. They climb down the narrow steps and find themselves in an unlit, L-shaped room. Officer Payne flips a switch. Ugly florescent lighting flickers on, unveiling a messy paradise of old books and yellow walls.
“Dear God,” Payne mutters.
“No friends? Not even acquaintances?” Peach ventures, sniffling. She’s allergic to cats.
“Apparently not. Not even his coworkers noticed he was missing.”
Silence is intimidating. There are some select people who do, in fact, embrace Silence. They don’t mind and, if anything, see Silence as an occasional dropper-by with whom they exchange shy glances across a busy street, before getting on with their business.
Peach steps over a stack of dusty books. They are all lying around to mimic the grunge aesthetic of a tortured philosopher… but the atmosphere is wrong. The room is teamed with confused creatures: thoughts, floating around listlessly like lazy snowflakes at the beginning of a frigid winter. The spines of the books are hard, uncracked. The shelves and sad furniture is covered in dust. The books had been collected obsessively, but none of them were ever opened.
Not just a recluse, thinks Peach. A pretentious one.
She looks around some more, debating whether finding such a man is worth the trouble. It wasn’t like anyone was going to miss him. Peach is so accustomed to tragedy. Life of an officer, I suppose. War is full of it, and I, the siren, set the soldiers free. Silence.
I can’t stand Silence, not anymore. Whether it’s a lull in conversation or the gentle hum of emptiness on weekends, I am intimidated. Why must I be? Silence won’t hurt me. Silence has nothing against me.
Silence doesn’t have an agenda. Does she?
Peach spots the Journal. It sits dutifully on top of a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, looking over the entire alcove from the highest shelf. She points at the Journal from across the crowded room. Payne looks around and reaches, retrieving it only on his tiptoes. Salinger falls to the ground with a defeated ‘thump!’ that echoes in the small space. I cringe.
Payne tosses the notebook over to Peach. He returns to his inspection of a broken picture frame, which encases a gritty picture of a family of four, huddled around a crisp white bed in a dazzlingly bright room. There is a loopy caption on the back in bright blue ink. November 1990 – It’s Ethan’s 4th birthday! Payne pockets it, careful not to cut himself on the fractured glass.
Peach flips through the pages of the Journal, expecting long phony entries contemplating the existence of humankind. Instead, she finds only seven short entries.
I can’t help scowling a bit as I look over her shoulder at the tiny scrawl. I stroke Peach’s hair. She breathes.
“You find any more notebooks?” she asks suddenly to break the unsettling quiet. I huff silently in indignation.
Peach flips to the first entry. Dear Ethan, it reads.
She remembers Leonard’s file: family medical history: […] Ethan Night (older brother) – died of leukemia during induced coma, age 7 . Peach shakes her head. Leonard would have been about five years old.
She pulls out a plastic bag labelled “evidence #something-or-other.” She’d read it later. She shudders. Silence in this basement feels too… insistent, she thinks to herself.
>Dear Ethan – I am a wreck. I couldn’t help but sympathize, once again, with Holden Caulfield’s thoughts on receiving gifts. Mom has sent me three cakes in the span of a week. Three. She makes cake for church, and sends the leftovers to my doorstep. She thinks she’s doing me a favor but really, it just means I’m a garbage can, full to the brim with stiff cake, inedible sugar cookies, and disappointment.
>Speaking of cookies, the nuisance of a family upstairs was making some. You’d think mother hen would have learned by now: the little beasts are not fond of sharing. So loud.
>I wondered if I was the same as a child. But then, I was thin, speckled, and weak. You weren’t though. You were always strong. And quiet. Until the very end.
>Socrates needs feeding. What a liability. I named the cat after a philosopher just to sound cultured. I regret it. It’s not the first time I regret something.
>Dear Ethan – Silence is selective. She doesn’t spend much time in my company and so I treasure what I can have. The nuisance upstairs makes it difficult for her to come by.
>Talked to Mom on the phone. She was the usual flamboyant mess, preaching about her church groupies. Although, I felt like something about her sounded forced. But then, what do I know? I haven’t seen her in person for nine years, and it’s not like ‘people’ are my area of expertise. I hate people. Truly. People depress me.
>I can only befriend Silence. I envy the endless darkness which envelops you. Or the brightness, I don’t know. I figured you’d hate white though, seeing as you passed in that god-awful hospital. You were sleeping.
>I hope you’re better, wherever you are.
>Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure… to quote a stranger.
>Our mother, Faith, was taken by a binge of sleeping pills. We think it was because she wanted to go the same way as you. Taken away in the night. Silent Night.
>Dad is off the rails, literally. Remember how he used to be the mediator in life? The level headed judge? Now he’s a complete nutter.
>I’m fine. I don’t know what to do with myself, except to just keep going to work and pretend like nothing is wrong. No one cares.
>Only one thing’s changed: I’ve come to resent Silence. I can’t bear the quiet anymore. It reminds me of an empty church hall. A white hospital room.
>Father is gone. I don’t know where. I don’t care where. I don’t care at all. About anything. All I can picture is that empty church hall. Dark. Musty. Spacious. Haunted. Then, blinding whiteness. I smell disinfectant. A hospital room.
>Voices haunt me. My inner dialogue is interrupted by whispers of your name. Mom’s name. The world has become silent. Dead. Even the nuisance upstairs has become still.
>I am alone. My only companion was Silence. She has turned on me.
>She converses so easily with my thoughts. They stand on the horizon as dark silhouettes, hand in hand, waiting for me to drop my guard long enough for them to pounce and devour. Rip my mind apart.
>Is it kinder, there?
>I’ve left my job. Told no one. No one needs to know. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. My thoughts they
>You died. Mom died. We all die. There’s no point to living. All ends the same way.
>I ride the subway to nowhere. I pretend Dad’s driving.
>I don’t want to turn into him. Can’t help it.
>I try to drive Silence away with music. I remain plugged into my cellphone like it’s my life support. Silence sits next to me. She squishes me against the window. All I can do is breathe. I hope time will pass by quickly.
>Dad’s been found, don’t worry, rest in peace. In a home. Alzheimer’s. Doesn’t remember anything. Not me, not you, not even Mom.
>Better this way. I wish I were him.
>Silence is terrifying, but oddly beautiful in its destruction. If Silence were a woman, I’d marry her. I’d have the pleasure of dying in her cold arms.
>I’m leaving. Socrates ran away. Smart thing. I’ll do it too. Maybe we’ll meet on the road there. Where? Nowhere. Stop asking.
>Not really running. I’ll take the train. Maybe New York? Visit a duck pond?
>My mind will continue like a spirit lingering in the void. It lingers. It is screaming. Screaming into the silence.
> At Silence.
> Beautiful, irresistible, unstoppable Silence. A siren in white, married to Death.
>Silence has come to visit, and I fear, Silence has come to stay.
Peach closes the Journal and sighs. She leans backwards into her chair, staring out her office window into the turquoise sky with a sort of wistful sleepiness. She wonders if Leonard ever made it to New York. A small part of her hopes that he didn’t end up throwing himself in front of the trains that he wrote about so ardently.
The building is isolated. It is after eight, and Peach’s sole companions are the under-appreciated janitors, and me.
It is a Silent Night. She breathes. The elusive officer can’t shake the unearthly feeling that she is being watched. I blink.
She hates the quiet. It makes her hair stand on end. It removes distraction from the dark mire of her thoughts. It makes her consider the unthinkable.
My veil is lifted.
If your soul could be a sound, what sound would it be?
Peach can’t help remembering her dead daughter when deprived of noisy distraction. Dancing Queen, dead at seventeen. Another Ophelia. Silence haunts us, just like Leonard had written. Peach agrees. What a pity.
I look to my right, and spot the toxic thoughts which begin to team in the corner, chattering amongst themselves. I cannot help but smile. The smile of a beaming bride, I, the Silent Siren.
My soul would be silent. It wouldn’t make a single sound.
I step forward as time slows, passing, moving on like a rushing train without destination. I take Peach in my arms. I embrace her round body as she trembles. Tears are streaming down her face. Her breathing slows. She grips her gun. She closes her eyes. Peaches bruise so easily.
My soul is conveyed in Silence. Silence is my friend. Silence is a bride in white. Silence is an empty church hall. Disinfectant. A hospital room.
I am Silence.
And I am here to stay.