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He Opens the Ears of Men

A Short Story

By AJ CoynePublished 27 days ago Updated 27 days ago 7 min read
He Opens the Ears of Men
Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

The raindrops skidded down the worn windowpane, collecting their fellows to join a race to the earth that pulled upon them. Occasionally, a gust of wind would spatter the glass with a barrage, resetting the field.

Why did gravity bring everything downward?

Thomas looked back to the classroom as the professor droned on about something he surely cared nothing about. He often wondered why the steel-eyed grey-headed man was here.

Why do something you don’t love, let alone teach it to others?

He felt sorrow for the man as he considered what he must feel like by the end of each day. Then a twinge of anger mixed with the sorrow, and sought to replace it altogether with a fire burning in his chest.

This is why we are cowards because our teachers lack the courage to do what they love.

Thomas turned back to the large old window frames while he considered the rush of heat in his chest.

Why did it matter, anyway?

The grey light that filled the tall arching windows balanced out the drone of the old man and the heat in his chest. Melancholy: out there it was genuine and truthful - the earth was grey and dull, the expansive clouds blocked the sun and soaked the land. It brought life. This classroom was another type of melancholy… something, abominable.

Melancholy is a great gift when it has integrity.

Thomas turned back to Professor Shelbach’s lecture. He felt a jab in his side and jerked in response. He turned over his shoulder to see Anna with a slight smile on her face as she withdrew her pencil eraser. She looked prodded with her large blue eyes asking for some unspoken answer to an unspoken question. He rolled his eyes in response. But when he returned his gaze into the dripping windowpane a slight smile on his face lingered before fading a few moments later.

“…the simple step of the courageous individual is simply not partaking in the lie…”

There was a pause in the room commanded by the orator - an uncomfortable silence. Thomas turned to look at the professor, only to meet the gaze of the old man looking into his - steel eyes, cold and hard, and Shelbach held him there, for five to ten seconds. Then the professor continued in his pacing and went back to droning on about social order and the importance of conformity to cultural norms.

Thomas glanced back at Anna, who was doodling one of her free-form drawings in her notebook - as usual.

That was… strange.

The class bell-clock rang out above the doorway, and the students quickly began shuffling about, picking up books, stuffing papers into their bags, dropping their pencils that would roll into the abyss of the floor vents, tripping over desk chairs – all eager to escape the monotony of Shelbach’s.

Thomas wasn’t in any rush; it wasn’t in his nature. That was one reason Anna had always liked him – methodical, controlled, easy going – he noticed things others seemed to care little for and he didn’t seem to care about the things everyone else noticed. He zipped up his bag and brushing his mid-length brown hair to the side, he shifted his pack to his shoulder. He looked at her, mostly expressionless, except for the slightest hint of a smile in his eyes only she would notice.

“So…” Anna began.

Thomas looked over to her, studying her, then raised an eyebrow. Waiting.

“Well… that was odd wasn’t it.”


“The one where the professor stared at you for a good 15 seconds.” She looked back at him incredulously as they made their way down the old brick and mortar school hall. The tiles under their feet were cracked and chipped. They passed under a large flag that displayed a sickle and hammer upon it in bright color.

“I didn’t think you were paying attention.” Responded Thomas.

She smiled and shrugged. Then leaned up to kiss him on the cheek as she turned off another hallway to one of her private music classes.

“See you after?” She spoke hurriedly as she made her way down the hall.

“I think I’m going to head home, actually.”

Anna did a turn halfway down and continued walking backward, with an inquisitive look on her face.

“I’m… feeling odd.” Said Thomas, hesitantly.

Anna gave an over-expressed frown.

“Ok, bye!”

Then she turned with a skip down around a corner and down another hallway.

Thomas looked after her disappeared form for a moment. Then headed down the branching hallway, through a pair of tall double doors, down a flight of stairs, and out onto the street.

The rain had let up, it was just a light sprinkle now, which he had always enjoyed, but the wind still came here and there in strong gusts. He drew up his wool coat, and pulled down knit and turned onto the street to begin the walk he took each day. BLOCK B7, and onto his small apartment 3 blocks away. He looked up at the side of the school as he rounded the side of it and caught Anna’s light hair in the window through the bars. She turned to gaze outside, and seeing him, waved with a goofy expression on her face, then made some awkward motion with one hand while she held up her cello, he didn’t understand, and she disappeared from the window.

He smiled.


He had a strange feeling as he walked up the steps to the school the next day. It was as though the concrete that made them up wasn’t as solid as it normally was… or maybe it seemed more uneven.

Thomas pushed through the double doors, a bustle of other students around him, clothed in earthtones and their heavy boots, walking methodically forward into another day.

Why is everyone so quiet today?

He saw Anna’s hair in the hallway ahead and felt a twinge in his chest – he felt lighter. For a girl with such a dark past, her demeanor rarely showed it. He couldn’t think of a day he had not looked forward to seeing her dimpled smile greet him.

He reached out to squeeze her without her knowing. She hated it, but he found (without fail) immensely comical to hear her scream in the midst of the school rush, drawing the attention of everyone around, and causing her to blush brightly. But as he drew near she moved forward out of his reach and briskly walked into the classroom.

He paused. His heart turning a bit in his chest. Uncomfortable.

She didn’t know I was there…

He sat down at his desk, near the same grand-arched windows. No rain today. Thomas looked up to see the grey-headed, steel eyed professor preparing to begin his monologue.

The classroom burned.

And Thomas stood there, rigid, and still. When did he start standing? Flames licked up the professor’s desk, the walls, the molding on the door.

What about the people?!

Terror. Tears washed lines in Thomas’ dusty face. They trickled down from his eyes that he could not close and washed into his mouth, choking him, and down to the floor.

Flowers bloomed there at his feet, fed by his tears. Their airy pointed petals rose like small flames, an aurora of violet, blue, and red-orange. Aromatic, of some memory that was forgotten, or so lost in his mind that only its could be felt as a feather of emotion.

Crimson red was dripping from his arm, and he gripped a hunting knife in his right hand. It burned as acid in an open wound.

Then it was dark. And Thomas wept, and water filled up around his knees and to his waste.

The flowers waved in the water, and their petals, caught in a gentle upward draft burned as small embers of fire, sparks, tinted by their respective colors.

He turned, horrendously slowly, (why couldn’t he move more quickly?) to see Anna. His heart rate quickened, and lurched in his chest. She sat curled up in her chair, grey and black, her large eyes filled with grief. She stared into his eyes, dull, and turned her face away from his, downcast, and she diminished into ash.

The fire raged.

Thomas screamed. Jerking violently. And he let out a choked, “PLEASE!... NO!” He lay in his bed, as tears soaked into his pillow. And he sobbed. Time passed, and he took long and slow breaths, then stood up.


Thomas sat down at his desk. His hand trembled as he fidgeted with a pencil. He fumbled and dropped it to the floor. He bent down to pick it up and he felt a gentle hand give a short firm sqeeze at his side. He sat back up and saw Anna there, looking at him with her large blue eyes, inquisitive, her concern reflecting on him. But she said nothing, she only made a small frown to ask him what was wrong.

Thomas sighed. She tilted her head, pressing more. He wanted to mention something he didn’t understand.

It was only a dream.

Only a dream he had for the 12th time this month. And it terrified him. Or more than that, it was grief, all he wanted to do when he awoke was weep.

Had it really been everyday?

For some reason he hadn’t been able to tell the dream to Anna yet. He wanted to on one plane of his heart, but on another he knew it would be wrong. She had asked him several times the last few weeks what was troubling him.


About the Creator

AJ Coyne

I like writing! So here I am.

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Reader insights

Good effort

You have potential. Keep practicing and don’t give up!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    AJ CoyneWritten by AJ Coyne

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