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The Silence

It was silent, in the grave.

Will remembered having once heard that there was a time when the dead were accompanied by worms. Now, thanks to modern embalming methods and sealed burial vaults, he was utterly alone. It was dark. Cool. Silent.

He remembered wind chimes. Not like the ones you buy in a souvenir shop. This wind chime was formed of twine, bolts from his tool shed, and a wire clothes hanger. He remembered his daughter, Crystal, smiling as she presented the gift, wrapped in the comic section of the Sunday paper. He remembered that his wife, Tori, had laughed, though here in the grave he could not remember the sound of her laughter.

He remembered the seconds, minutes, hours, of Crystal squealing, wind chimes clinking, Tori talking. He remembered not being able to hear the game, though here in the grave he could no longer remember what game it had been. He only remembered wishing all the squealing clinking talking would stop.

Time twisted dizzily, and faces rushed through days, weeks, years. Mouths formed words that Will could not hear over the deafening silence of the grave.

Days, weeks, years.

Will remembered in pictures, like lightning flashes in a storm: Tori’s face growing tired and angry, Crystal’s eyes becoming distant. He remembered the open mouths, that there were words, that there was noise.

Days, weeks, years.

Will remembered leaving his house full of people whom he did not like and had not invited there. He remembered the sadness and hurt lurking behind the anger in his wife’s eyes when she watched him leave. He remembered her face: tired, lined, and angry. But here in the grave, he could not remember her name.

Seconds, minutes, hours.

Will remembered a bar. Dark, air heavy with dank odors of alcohol in glasses and on breath. He remembered the smell of onion rings and cologne. No cigarettes. Even though he’d quit, he remembered missing the heady blanket of smoke that once hung in bars. He would have smoked that night, if he could.

He remembered a woman’s face and thought he should remember a voice because she was talking to him. Her hand lay across his arm and her eyes never left his except to find her drink. He remembered that she had been sitting very close, and remembered that she smelled better than the bar, better than cigarettes.

He remembered a touch on his shoulder, and a stranger pointing to a girl in the doorway.

Crystal, a young woman now.

Will remembered her eyes, a riptide of disappointment and fear pulling him down and away from the woman on his arm. Crystal spoke, but he could not hear her. He remembered telling the other woman to shut up. Be quiet. How about a little quiet in here? How about some silence? From here in the grave, he struggled after her name. Maybe he’d never known it.

He remembered turning back, and the girl in the doorway – his daughter – what was her name? – was gone. He dropped money on the bar. It made no sound.

He went after the girl.

Snow fell, silent.

He found his keys and opened the car door. He slammed the door so that the car shook, though here in the grave he couldn’t remember the sound of it. It should have made a racket, like the woman at the door of the bar who waved her arms and kicked snow. She would have been making a racket too. Here in the grave, he could see but not hear her fury.

He remembered that the windshield wipers pulled haltingly across the windshield in a vain attempt at clearing the snow. He remembered steering, over-steering, then sliding. He remembered lights piercing the snow, then darkness.

Seconds, minutes, hours.

Will remembered light, even though his eyes were closed, then as now. He remembered that he had heard a beeping sound, but from here in the grave he couldn’t remember the sound itself.

He remembered the feeling of someone grasping his fingers. He had opened his eyes, and the girl from the bar was there – not the one who was chasing him, but the one he had been chasing. Now he couldn’t remember who she was or why he had been chasing her.

The girl’s face – not just her eyes, but her whole face – was full of tears. Makeup streaked her cheeks and left black marks on her white sleeves. Her mouth opened and closed, but he couldn’t hear the words. He remembered wishing that the beeping would stop so he could hear the girl.

When the beeping stopped the girl’s face turned from sadness to horror, and his vision drifted from ashes to darkness.

Days, weeks, months, forever.

In dark, cool silence, Will wanted to remember every sight, every touch, every smell, every sound. Relentless, they slipped into the twisting confusion of time, faces, touches, words, noises, laughter, and tinkling bolts suspended from a wire clothes hanger.

It was silent, in the grave.


Jess Harris’ publishing credits include, Short Story America, and Toad’s Corner, among others.


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