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The Silence That Follows

Summer Solstice Challenge Entry

By Paul StewartPublished 17 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - July 2024

“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything . . . It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”― Gordon Hempton

I didn't care much for rituals, the things of the past. My mother and father, like the rest of the town, held onto various customs. They lived in the past. That was how I saw it. Don't get me wrong, I love watching the change from spring to summer: the longer days, warmer evenings, and the way everything feels more positive as the bees buzz, the birds chirp, and the world's aroma is heady with fresh blooms and garden fires. What I didn't understand was the need to celebrate it and give a measure of gratitude back to... whoever or whatever. Pointless ceremonies that made little to no difference to anything, aside from the piercing alcohol-induced headaches and morning-after nausea.

"It's tradition," my mum would say every year. I can still hear the dismissive tone in her voice. We had argued before the event when I made it clear my intention to avoid the annual bonfire-leaping merriment. Not that any of that matters now. Not since the morning after the night before.

I woke up from the most pleasant sleep to a quiet house. That wasn't a surprise really, as it was the same anytime the village got together. Mum and dad were always out of action after a bender of an evening, especially if the Davises had brought a few batches of their best scrumpy to the event. To my surprise, though, the house was not only silent when I came down the stairs, it was a different type of silence. One you don't often experience in our modern, busy, and noisy world. The deathly silence when there's not the gentle buzz of technology in a family home, the sound of floorboards creaking, footfall on floors and stairs; coughing, chatter, and just life in general. There was a stillness, an emptiness that I had never experienced before. Had circumstances been different, I might have relished the experience.

As I walked around the house and found no sign of my parents, admittedly, I did wonder if they had collapsed in a drunken stupor elsewhere after all the revelry. But something in the air told me this was different. People think silence is an absence of sound, when really silence has its own sound. As I stepped out of the house, the same deathly silence was everywhere. On the gentle breeze as the morning dew slowly dried from the lawns of the houses, as I made my way towards The Clearing. The Clearing was the central point for the town's celebrations, a special spot in the middle of a circle of Douglas firs. The silence followed me from our humble abode to The Clearing.

Ten in the morning and the town should have been coming to life—people milling about, discussing the events of the day before. From leaving the family house to The Clearing, I had seen nothing and no one. Walking closer to The Clearing, it was clear something was very wrong. The only remnant that anyone had been there was the black scorch marks in the centre of the Douglas firs circle.

I walked around the circle, worried for a moment, stopping, kneeling, and taking a pinch of the dust in my hands. It smelled of burnt grass, wood, and something else. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Part of me thought it may just be my mum and dad's idea of teaching me a "lesson" about the importance of rituals and customs.

Turning and heading from the circle, I found the little pathway that led in and out of it gone. Just trees circled. The trees also looked taller... more impressive. For a moment, I thought it was just my obliviousness. Perhaps they had always looked like that, and I just didn't notice.

But deep in my core, I knew something had changed. Something beyond my understanding, something profound. As the eerie, deathly silence seemed to increase to deafening volumes, I started to wonder if the ritual... the custom the town had placed so much importance and reverence on, had wielded an unexpected power. I had often dreamed of my mum and dad and their ridiculous celebrations just disappearing, and it seemed that dream had become a reality.

Mystery

About the Creator

Paul Stewart

Scottish-Italian poet/writer from Glasgow.

Overflowing in English language torture and word abuse.

"Every man has a sane spot somewhere" R.L Stevenson

The Accidental Poet - Poetry Collection is now available!

https://paulspoeticprints.etsy.com

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Comments (26)

  • Melissa Ingoldsby14 days ago

    You definitely understand the importance of silence and its impact, great work with great sensory description

  • Igwe Treasure14 days ago

    I felt the rush of emotions while reading this...very compelling indeed

  • Sheharyar Malik14 days ago

    this was an amazing story to read!

  • Shenalyn Abion15 days ago

    The story beautifully captures the essence of silence and tradition, portraying how silence can be a powerful force that nurtures our nature and deepens our understanding of ourselves. The protagonist's perspective on rituals and customs adds an intriguing layer to the narrative, showcasing a struggle between modern scepticism and ancestral practices. The contrast between the vibrant change of seasons and the quiet aftermath of the bonfire celebration creates a compelling atmosphere, highlighting the significance of silence in an increasingly noisy world.

  • Lamar Wiggins15 days ago

    I really love the concept you went with. Congrats, Paul. Best of luck with your entry!

  • Heather Zieffle 15 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story, Paul! This was well written and fun to read!

  • Sian N. Clutton15 days ago

    This was brilliantly described. I was right there with him, feeling nervous for the fella. Great story!

  • Alexander McEvoy15 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story Paul! This was a cracker of a tale Dark and foreboding, quiet and desperately lonely From the first line was I taken in by the sense of isolation from everything and yet the total awareness of what exists beyond the noise we fell. I've spent enough time in the woods to know exactly what that quote at the beginning was saying. And the line that silence has a sound of its own. Gripping gripping story!

  • Sam Avery15 days ago

    Good job

  • Cathy holmes16 days ago

    This is excellent. And yeah, silence can be deafening. I've been busy lately with vacation and out of town guest. But just yesterday, I was sitting on the couch reading, and it suddenly occurred to me how quiet it was. Freaked me out a little. I had to turn the TV on. Lol

  • Margaret Brennan16 days ago

    congrats on TS ... this is fantastic. Love this.

  • Well done, excellent Solstice story

  • Ameer Bibi16 days ago

    very beginning line is really catchy really like whole of the story congrats for your win

  • angela hepworth16 days ago

    Another great piece, Paul!

  • Lana V Lynx16 days ago

    The number of AI bots landing on this story is a great indicator of how popular and good it is. Congratulations, Paul!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • vokeda16 days ago

    ko

  • vokeda16 days ago

    Google pays $300 on a regular basis. My latest salary check was $8600 for working 10 hours a week on the internet. My younger sibling has been averaging $19k for the last few months, and he constantly works approximately 24 hours. I’m not sure how simple it was once I checked it out. This is my main concern………. mub.me/YKK3

  • Liam Storm16 days ago

    Loved it! It's so true about silence having it's own sound! Great story, well deserved top story congrats!

  • Gina C.16 days ago

    Awesome soltice tale, my friend! Mysterious and eerie. I could have kept reading :) Enjoyed the intuitive element your pieces always seem to offer :)

  • Donna Fox (HKB)16 days ago

    Oooo! Paul I love the eeriness of this tale, you'v given me just enough of a taste that I'm wanting more!! Great work, I love the switch of pace in you doing a story!! Congrats on Top Story!!

  • Now that's such a wonderful dream to come true, at least for me hehehehe. Loved your story, King Paul Poe Shakespeare! 🍩🥐

  • Hannah Moore17 days ago

    Like home alone with Douglas firs. I like that the traces persist. I also thought the way that silence just feels different got us instantly braced for something...

  • John Cox17 days ago

    DK’s comments as per usual are spot on. This is a powerful story with multiple possible meanings. I loved it, Paul!

  • D.K. Shepard17 days ago

    Loved the emphasis on the sound of silence! The use of the quote was a great opening and then such a bizarre and suspenseful narrative to follow! Great entry, Paul!

Paul StewartWritten by Paul Stewart

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