Notes from the Silent Room: A short story (ca 2000 words) + foreword


Sounds are wonderful, aren’t they? I am fond of sounds, especially music. I think it’s incredible how tones can provoke feelings inside you you have no idea where come from. During the writing of this story I was in a silent room, for the most part, occasionally playing Julee Cruise’s song “Falling” which is more known as the Theme song from Twin Peaks. Usually songs that get turned into themes for something are impossible to later split away from whatever they accompanied. I still, all these years later, associate the song Bette Davis Eyes to 7Up. But not in the case of Falling. It provokes something that’s completely disassociated with the show, which I liked but I have never been any ultra fan. And so I can still listen to it and just feel … something.

Like the protagonist, or antagonist as the case may be, in the story I am not too fond of silence. 90% of the time I have sound on when I write. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s something else. When I go downstairs to make lunch I put on a podcast or an audiobook. I don’t know what it is about silence that makes me uneasy, I have an eerie suspicion that silence makes us think and that the sort of thinking you do in silence is the kind of thinking you do when you’re up at 4 am. It’s not always bad, but often anxious.

Sounds can do wonders. I remember a couple of years ago being in the midst of a rather hefty anxiety attack when I heard a dove cooing outside my window. It was the normal sound doves make, but for some reason the sound immediately took me to a camping site in France and do you know what? It lifted the edge of my anxiety. I won’t say it took it away, but it made it bearable. And that’s an incredible thing in my world.

The other aspect of this story I’d like to talk about (because I’m chatty today apparently) is the bad guy element. I’ve wanted to try to push myself into writing a bit more gruesome bad guys or girls. I always tend to have a soft spot for them and when I deliberately (I rarely do deliberate things in writing though) make someone “bad” I usually find myself feeling sorry for him/her. I empathise or I start to like the guy/girl and I turn them around, make them see the error of their ways or … you know. I screw it up. 😉 Now I don’t want to write characters that are evil for the sake of evil, that never made sense to me. The cartoonish trend of “ha ha ha I’m so evil just because…” is just silly to me, but I’d still like  to have depth in it.

This wasn’t exactly an exercise in that. This just came to me this morning as I was browsing through Instagram photos and listening to Sabaton’s cover of the Judas Priest song All Guns Blazing (It’s awesome). But it seems to be a step in a direction…

Notes from The Silent Room

I never allow myself the luxury of silence and I do realise that silence is a form of luxury. I just can’t handle it. Even when I sleep I have the radio on. In the evenings they play old pop songs and I can easily fall asleep to that on low volume. I even have an in case of emergency sound strategies. There are certain things that can make your surroundings go silent suddenly. When the electricity goes at home all the appliances are suddenly silent and my old radio will not work either, but now I have a cellphone to fix that problem. I’ll put on some music or one of my sound files and though I have to live through excruciating seconds of silence it’s better than it once was.

I have a lot of sound files on the phone. Recordings I’ve made at the subway station or inside the train, recordings from movie theatres or at school.

I work as a teacher and let me tell you there is never any risk of silence there, though I do like to be prepared just in case, but it’s never a matter of more than a second or two and then the kids are making noise again. During those two seconds I have my ways of making sure I never experience total silence.

These methods mainly consist of tapping the table rapidly, or “accidentally” making that awful sound with the chalkboard. Yes, I still use an old fashioned chalkboard when I teach, mainly because it has such potential when it comes to making sounds.

I have places I go for the sheer joy of sound, some are conventional like concert halls. I will sit and listen to any kind of concert, but though I do enjoy the symphony more than the regular rock concert I still attend more rock concerts because the sound there is so lascivious.

There is never a risk of a silent moment at a rock concert, even those seconds before the band comes on and everyone in the crowd has been standing there for hours anticipating, there is still noise. At the opera or the symphony, there is silence and though I can appreciate the astonishing aspect of having so many people being quiet in a room together, it’s still silence and I won’t have it.

I try never to resort to thumping with my legs or hands, but sometimes that’s the only way. I once found myself on a busy street in the middle of the day, but wondrously enough while I was walking past the laundry mat it suddenly became eerily quiet. I quickly started banging my hand on the metal sign beside the door, startling the poor woman who sat inside reading something on her phone. The sound was good though, lingered in the air until I was prepared to bang the thing again. And I couldn’t stop, not until there was life on the street again and I must have stood there for at least twenty seconds banging my hand on that metal sign to make a noise before it started buzzing with sound again.

Humming and singing is another thing one can do, but the sounds that come from my own head, or mouth as the case may be, somehow don’t count for much. It still feels like silence and so even if I can’t start singing, it does little or nothing to relief my anxiety.

There are other places in town I visit for the sheer joy of sound. Playgrounds are great, inside play lands for kids are even better, though I’ve been banned from one and so I need to be careful. They frown upon grownups roaming the premisses without being accompanied by a child. It’s creepy, apparently, and I realise what they suspect me of, and I tried to explain to the officer that actually came to arrest me that I wasn’t there to glare at the children I was there to listen to them. They make such wonderful, relentless noises. I think the poor woman thought I was hoping to have a child of my own, at least she let me go.

I haven’t been back to that place, of course, and I am careful when I enter such establishments nowadays. I only do so on special occasions and only when I know the play lands are completely cramped with people. That way it’s much harder for them to keep a track on who is who.

During the evenings I often go to pubs. The sound of chatter soothes me before sleep and though I usually have a beer, as not to look weird, I don’t need the drink at all. It’s the sound I’m after, but tell that to a bartender and he’s likely to throw you out. I’m not exactly the ideal costumer.

On Sundays I often head to the cemetery. It’s a bit tricky, but I have my music on and earbuds in my ears and I’ve managed to make sure that the next song begins immediately after the previous one ends, there is no delay like there otherwise would be and that helps. Mostly I listen to soft songs, with outdrawn tones, sometimes I listen to Beethoven and occasionally when I’m in a peculiar mood I listen to power metal, fast, lustful and often with topical lyrics.

I visit a certain grave. I spend at least an hour by her side, before I move on to quickly put flowers on my mother’s grave who happens to be buried in the same cemetery. I can’t tell you how delighted I was when I realised that she would be buried in the same cemetery as my mother. These two souls never met, but they had so many things in common.

When I’ve finished visiting my ladies I head home with the headphones still on.
I live in a building that does produce a lot of noise. It’s located in the cheap side of town, and though I could live somewhere else I like it there because there’s rarely a quiet moment. There are children screaming outside the apartment building while playing hide and seek or the next door neighbour is having a party. He likes listening to jazz when he is high and though the irregular rhythm of jazz irritates me I prefer it to silence, obviously.

The man who used to live opposite me was a better producer of sound. He did everything loudly, he sang in the shower, he spoke in a loud manner and he laughed so that the entire apartment building could hear him. I loved that guy, and when the word got out that he had been stabbed in the gut by a gang member I was a bit devastated. I didn’t know him very well, we greeted in the halls, but I loved listening to him going about his day. He made good sound.

It’s a lively building, but at four o’clock on a Wednesday morning it’s usually pretty quiet anyway and so the radio comes in handy. There are rarely any silences on the radio, especially not on the channels that play rock or popular music.

When I’m having a bad day I usually go to the cemetery. These are very often days of forced silence. I especially dread going to the doctors office or to the dentist. These places are usually so dreadfully quiet. In the waiting room I can sit with my earpiece noise on, but when it’s my turn I am usually forced to experience silence for a while. I remember a particular harrowing moment of silence when suddenly a child screamed from the top of their lungs, possibly because of a needle or something else, I don’t know, but that kid made my day.

Excruciating moments of quietness weigh on me and I get anxious, my heart starts beating and that almost soothes me because when it becomes too bad I can hear the heart thumping in my eardrums. Not ideal but better than complete silence. My doctor and my dentist think I am afraid of all things medical, but that’s not the case obviously, I just have a paralysing aversion to silence.

It was during one of those moments that it happened, you know? She was alive, making noise with me and she liked me. I would even go so far as to say that she may have loved me. She said she did often enough.

She made sounds, living breathing sounds. She slept loudly, when she didn’t snore she breathed heavily. I sometimes just lay in bed listening to her sleep, it was such a wonderful, living sound.

Then one day something happened to me and I couldn’t hear very well. Every sound around me was numbed, I was feverish and had a bad cold and it all convoluted into something tremendous.

She wasn’t making any sound, and I was lying there dying because of this suffocating sensation silence gives me and she couldn’t understand that I wanted her to be louder, that I didn’t want the quietness and the stillness. I wanted her to be louder. She didn’t understand, refused to comply when I told her to speak up, to turn on the TV and the radio. She refused and told me I needed to rest and let my body recover from my illness and I was too weak to do these things myself though apparently I wasn’t as useless as I thought.

I can’t really remember what lead up to the argument. I just remember being insane with anger and anxiety and then I remember hearing that unbelievably satisfying sound as I stuck the kitchen knife into her stomach.

I sometimes replay the audio file. I have it on my phone. I don’t know by what miracle I happened to be recording as I did that awful thing, but I was. And I replay it because it’s the most satisfying sound of all. Sometimes I imagine I could go through the excruciating hours of that illness that rendered me almost unable to hear, just to be able to relive that wonderful sound. The sound of life keeps me going, but while it was a living sound it was also as close to death as a sound can possibly be.

I’m afraid of the silence of death. I would be able to stand the darkness, but the silence? That terrifies me.

What also terrifies me is the silence I’d have to suffer through if they ever realised that it was I who did what I did.

They blamed the thing on a crazed neighbour who happened to run into the apartment at the time. I guess we were making noises and he was in a strange state, but still aware enough to come see what the ruckus was about. He pulled the knife away from me and when the police got here he was even bloodier than I was.

He got the blame, possibly the investigative team didn’t care much one way or the other. We do live in a bad neighbourhood and they probably didn’t want to spend more time here than they had to. And to give them credit, it did look like an open and shut case.
But if they ever did find out that it was me? And I got locked up? I can stand being locked up, that’s not a problem but the involuntary silence I’d have to suffer through?
I would never be able to survive that and that keeps me on the straight and narrow.

Still, the sound on the phone won’t last me a lifetime. I’ll have no choice in the matter and I’ve learned the hard way that trying to reproduce the sound in a different manner is useless.

I loved her, and I’m sad that she is no longer here, just like I’m sad about my mom, but I do not regret hearing that particular sound. It was the single most fulfilling thing of my life. When the time comes to face the silence I will be terrified. I will do anything I can not to prolong the agony and I do try to stay on the right side of the law.

But it’s hard and in the silence I am forced to suffer through from time to time I hear the promise of that sound playing with my eardrums again. It makes the moments durable, but only very short moments. Then the silence turns to anxious eternity, silence always threatens me with eternity and that thought is terrifying.

But before I face that eternity for good I will hear that sound again. That delightful sound that seems to be located between life and death.
It’s what I live for.


Copyright @ 2016 Eygló

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