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Silence

one made of lacking things

By Alexander McEvoyPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Photo Credit: Gerard DiLeo

I don’t remember the day the world ended. But I do remember the day I noticed.

That photo was it, but I did not know what it meant until I sat in my darkened bathroom, staring at the newly developed film. The street was neither empty, nor abandoned. It was dead. The colours of the flowers wrapped in that red ribbon caught my eye, and as I crouched to take that photo, I could hear only the lonely silence of a graveyard after dark.

Looking down at those discarded blossoms, I thought of nothing. Noticed nothing except the artistic potential of the scene. Gazing at that art, however, brought rushing to my mind the total silence of absent things. Once upon a time, my city was a loud, vibrant place. Like most cities, it smelled awful, was overcrowded, and cars had taken over. We were an inconvenience getting in the way of our four wheeled overlords. Not so anymore.

Despite their lingering presence in the background, they were nothing more than ghosts. Banquo waiting at the corners of perception, reminding us of all that we lost.

Funny, isn’t it? The things we least enjoy are also least missed when gone. Least noticed in absence. I know how it felt, walking out my door and noticing the myriad things to be dissatisfied with. But as with the world’s slow decay, I did not notice it until that photo of the flowers. Until I looked again at something mundane made unique by my world’s slow entropic decay.

Suddenly, my mind filled with the missing, the holes left behind, the crushing silence of absent things. I read a book once, damned if I can remember the name of the thing, where the author described such a silence. It seemed magic, that silence, or so I remember. One made of things that should have been, and yet were absent.

Alone in that darkened room, alone in that hollow building, awareness grew. It had been festering, expanding, growing in the shadowed corners of my heart. The awareness of things that were missing.

Waiting for the photos to set, I’ve forgotten the term. The word to describe when exposure to light would no longer ruin them, I sat back on my heels and listened. Beyond the gentle hum of electricity, the thrum of life coursing through the building’s veins, there was nothing. A void as silent as space, a darkness as full of terrors as a child’s closet door on a stormy night.

How long had it been since I’d last spoken to a neighbour? A week? A month? A year?

My work has always been a solitary endeavour, my hobbies isolating. It was the life I wanted to live, trapped in the city by enjoyment of its amenities, revolted by the heaving mass of humanity. But where had that humanity gone? I knew, of course. I knew deep in my bones what had happened. Where they lingered.

Occasionally, I would wonder how they might feel to know that their lives were still there. Waiting in case they ever returned from their final journey. But they would never come home. Idly, I slid a cigarette between my lips and waited. Naturally, smoking in doors was strictly forbidden. But when was the last time I’d seen my building super? When was the last time I’d even paid rent?

My timer went off. Without really noticing, I touched the button, returning to the infinite silent nothing. If I turned off that little red light, the one that would never hurt my precious photos, and sat in the dark until I died, who would notice? My family was gone, and the pain of their going long since healed. Funny that I don’t count their leaving as the day the world died. But there had been so much going on, so many other facts onto which I could latch. There was no reason to consider the collapse of my life as the end of all things. As the end of time.

Days and nights had passed. Months, perhaps years. On auto-pilot my hand drew out the small, silver plated lighter and struck flint against the steel. Touching the flame against the end of the cigarette, I barely registered that I was even smoking it. Mind filled with glaring gaps and absent things.

Children had taken over the streets, I remember that. Not roving gangs intent on causing harm, only children playing their noisy games among themselves. I was happy for them, I think. I’m certainly happy for them now, despite their long absence. I thought with pleasure that the streets of the city had reverted to their original purpose, a place for human being to live their lives. Yet even their gleeful shouts and laughter was gone now.

Had it truly been gleeful? I don’t remember. There had been an edge to it. A slightly manic edge that sliced through their revelry, the same as it had done for me. A knowledge, somewhere deep down that something was wrong, missing. Dead.

Dead. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not the world that died but rather myself. The slow fossilization of myself, locking into routines that did not matter anymore. Living in a world without the warming knowledge that I was not alone.

It was on that day that I noticed. On that day that I realized the world had died.

The day I developed that film and saw the flowers in their red ribbon. Dropped or thrown, lost or abandoned, joy or misery. It was evidence of a human life in flux, evidence of something living and growing. Evidence of a humanity I might have shared had I been there but an hour, a minute before. Yet seeing them, lying discarded on the pavement that looked new despite its age thanks to the absence of rolling wheels, only made me aware in the end that I am alone.

My knees drew up to my chest, cigarette long burned out. Completely alone, living in the corpse of a place that had once been home and prison to millions.

For me, that was the day the world died. The day I noticed. The day I realized that I had become an island, the one thing no human should be. I barely noticed the tears as they fell, eyes locked on that one photo. Reminded of the life I had missed by mere inches. Sitting in the dead silence of a world that I had outlived.

Fin.

-0-

This story was written for the latest Ekphrastic Challenge by the always inspiring Mackenzie Davis! If you haven't read her entire body of work... why? Go get on that.

PsychologicalthrillerStream of ConsciousnessShort Story

About the Creator

Alexander McEvoy

Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)

"The man of many series" - Donna Fox

I hope you enjoy my madness

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Comments (25)

  • Mackenzie Davisa day ago

    Winners announced!! https://vocal.media/writers/winners-of-ekphrastic-two

  • Great story Alex! It is so interesting to see where each photo takes the author.I read another story today about withdrawing, completely different, both gripping. For some reason they each have reminded me of the short story « Silent Snow, Secret Snow » by Conrad Aiken. It is one of the few stories that has haunted me.

  • Mackenzie Davis10 days ago

    GAH! Why didn't I read this sooner!!! IMMACULATE. Alex!!! What the actual f? All I shall say on the easter egg is this: “The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts. "The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking..." --Seriously, are you trying to make yourself the default winner? 😤 And as to the rest of my thoughts, there's a part of my brain that feels this story shares a kinship with "Gentle Dew From Heaven," my flood story. The time passing into a void, the loneliness of the MC, the memories and realizations, etc. This is exactly the kind of story I love. God, the second story I've dipped into with the grading and I'm already terrified of tying everyone's entry, lol. I want your collection of short stories! Standalone, like this? I'd devour that collection. Holy fricking wow. This is ekphrasis!!!! SO GOOD.

  • Liam Storm21 days ago

    Quite remarkable, and very heartfelt! So well written, very well deserved top story! I can't imagine being this alone! It's actually quite terrifying 😅

  • Donna Fox (HKB)29 days ago

    Congrats on third place this week!! 🎉

  • Dr. Jason Benskinabout a month ago

    Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Fly Aloneabout a month ago

    This poignant piece captures the protagonist’s realization of the world’s end through a photograph of discarded flowers. The narrative contrasts past vibrancy with present desolation, evoking profound loneliness. The quiet decay of civilization mirrors the protagonist’s isolated life, highlighting the tragic beauty of human absence. This reflection on loss and unnoticed decline powerfully underscores existential solitude.

  • Silver Serpent Booksabout a month ago

    Congratulations on the Top Story. This was such a great read, I went back and read it again. It was easy and slow, like realizing the world had died. Beautifully done!

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    A TS inspired by MY photo--Sweet! You really crammed a whole novel into that photo, Alexander. I could never have gone that same route, so I'm glad you got this to write about. Congratulations, indeed!

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Congratulations on TS

  • Gabriela Trofin-Tatárabout a month ago

    Back to say congrats for Top Story!!! T🎉🎉🎉

  • Gabriela Trofin-Tatárabout a month ago

    wow this captures the profound emptiness and melancholy of a world slowly decaying into silence...

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Gosh this was so bleak and utterly brilliant. So well written.

  • Hope Martinabout a month ago

    Phew. That's really heavy and deep. And relatable. In a lot of metaphorical ways.

  • shanmuga priyaabout a month ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Yayyyyyyy, I'm sooooo happy you got a Top Story! Congratulations! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Souluminosityabout a month ago

    "The day I realized I had become an island" hit deep. I could visualize every scene you painted. Beautiful work 👏🏽

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    Now, that's evocative writing! I even resated to the little detour to forgetting the term, "fixed." I truly ejoyed this!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    Hey hey hey!!!! Look who got a Top Story for this great story!!! Congrats big Al!!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Oh man, this would be my dream come true! I hate humans, so yea. I only wanna be surrounded by animals. If they eat me, then that's a noble death hehehehehehe. I felt myself yearning for this to happen as I was reading your story. And if it indeed was me who died, and not the world, all the better for me hahahahahahhaahhaha. Also, in this sentence, "But when was the last time I’d seen my building super?", what did you mean by building super? I immensely enjoyed your story, Alex!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    Alex this was heart breaking for me!! That moment of "no return" that you captured and the emptiness that just swallowed the MC up was just masterfully captured, like the photos they develop!! Great work here!!' Pst!!! 3rd paragraph: I think you meant "carS had taken over." 8th paragraph: I think you meant "no longER ruin them"

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    This is a complete, collapsing world conjured from a seemingly innocuous image. Nice work!

  • Shaun Waltersabout a month ago

    Damn that was good

  • L.C. Schäferabout a month ago

    Oh ouch 🤕

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    exceptionally written. reminds me that I need to stop spending so much time at my computer and get back out to the life outside my little home office.

Alexander McEvoyWritten by Alexander McEvoy

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