Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.
You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.
There’s No Such Thing As Silence
“You’re so pious,” says Alex. She takes a bite of her sandwich. “What?” I ask. “You’re so quiet,” says Alex, louder. “Sorry,” I say. “I was just thinking.” I sip my tea, then wipe the lipstick mark off the edge of the cup.
Jessie walked down a stone corridor. She tried to open a dark-stained wooden door. It wouldn’t budge. She tried another. No luck. She tried the next. It flung open. A classroom full of kids turned to her with emotionless eyes. Their teacher said, “Can I help you?”
Alyssa stepped into her studio, stopped at a support post that inexplicably stood just inside the room a couple of feet from the door, and gazed at the small framed painting of a bull that hung there. She kissed her fingers, pressed them to the bull’s head, and walked past the post.
A breeze blew in through the open upper doors of the red barn. A man in overalls and a woman in a floral dress and apron sat there, feet dangling, looking across the yard at a white wooden cottage on a stone foundation. A long porch hugged two sides of the structure, and like the rest of the house, it was weathered and peeling, but otherwise sound. The barn, on the other hand, looked as though it had just gotten a fresh coat of paint.
The woman walked in the dark, flashlight in hand, past burned out husks of buildings, traversing the rubble and debris on what were once sidewalks. She looked nearly as worn as her hoodie, cargo pants, and heavy boots. Her unkempt hair was uncovered, the hood resting between her and her hiking pack. The pack looked newer than everything surrounding it.