by Meghna Chatterjee, Age 15, India
Sound. It shapes us. Makes us. It is us. We speak it. Hear it. Love it. But we hide. We fear a scream. A cry. Silence. Most of all we fear silence. Pause now, just for a moment. Listen. What is it you hear? A bird? A person walking by the room? Keep your eyes closed. What is it you see? Do you see the bird? Do you see the person walking by the room? Do you see the beauty? Crowd around, close your eyes, listen as I speak, watch as you hear.
There’s a girl now, see her. She has brown hair, straight, as is the norm now, to keep away the straggly ends. Stark blue eyes, not like the ocean though, but like a flower, soft, tender like the weeping violet softened with age. She’s eighteen. She likes to walk along the path, past the brick homes and fenced-off sites. New things are always being built; she likes to watch this creation. She prefers these places, where artificial sounds grab her ears and natural flourishes can be lost.
She’s stopped by a building, a big grey one that reaches up to the sky. This is where she lives now. She walks in through the doors, her footsteps barely audible, and waits for the elevator. She likes traveling in this compact metal box, her mind occupied by nothing but the click of machines.
No one’s home when she slips through the door; she didn’t expect anyone. Her greeting hangs empty in the air. She takes it back quickly, breathes in to return the sound to her lungs. It’s stuffy in there. The window looks refreshing, and she pushes it open, and the birds scatter. The birds are gone now. Someone down below might see the small head pop out and breathe. She wants to sing in that moment, to let her voice ring out. But how could she join that which she hates?
Her hate for these noises, it was a difficult time for her. The blithe symphonies puncturing the air around her; it was hateful.
She wants to sing now, to let her voice ring out. With the birds? She does not know. No one would hear her up here. But she would. To take herself into that world that she so despises. Quickly, she pulls herself in. She slithers back into the elevator, silent as a mouse. The door has closed behind her. More artificial clicks of the elevator; she’s thankful they don’t play music.
The top floor, crumpled footsteps over the stairs. She’s on the roof now. A plane flying above would not notice her, nor would someone down below see. She’s hidden in this wide open space. Her foot has touched the edge, the small edge. She hasn’t looked down yet. She opens her mouth.Will she sing? A noise comes; was it from her? She doesn’t know. But it was. The birds don’t shout, the wind doesn’t flow. She’s singing. It’s beautiful.
Silence. A bird flies through and interrupts her choral, then trails off elsewhere. It didn’t hurt. Silence in her singing. Beautiful silence. Mouth open wide, throat clenching, a song coming out. She has never sung like this before, never in such a beautiful way. She can hear nothing, but see everything. It makes her wonder why people hate silence so.
And so she asks herself for the thousandth time, what the choir of birds sound like at the break of every morning. How the jazz in the elevator escalates with her every breath; for her fictitious thoughts did little to console this ache within her to feel the unfamiliar noises whispered into her ear. To hear her the leaves scratch against her wooden window frames, or hear the water run through the faucets. She wonders if she can sing well, if she can sing at all.
For her life so far had been but this: a silent monotonous narration, a darkened pantomime. And she asks her question again, to the world, albeit inaudible:
Do you hear the sound of silence?
Oh, there’s just one thing first.
You can open your eyes now.
Meghna says: “I’ve been writing fiction ever since I was six or seven, and this is the first time I’ve written anything biographical. On a school trip, we were taken to an institute for the deaf and blind, and observing the students inspired me to write this piece as a tribute.”