The Voice of Silence
A Brief Apocalypse
I awake with a start to the slamming of a door. A quick glance around the room reminds me that I had left the window open as I slept. The cat looks at me with an expression that clearly means to say: "I'm awake from my nap and it’s your fault, I know it."
It is dark still, could be any time of night. Early morning perhaps. I glance to my left for a time check, and am at first confused by the definite lack of digits illuminated on the clock I keep there. Great, power's out. It is just then that I become aware of the sound of the wind whistling through the mesh that acts as a divide between the serenity of the indoors and the chaos that is Mother Nature on the other side. That explains the slamming door. I dig for my phone beneath the cacophony of traditional and decorative pillows still on the bed, and find it not under the pillow where I expect it to be, but on the floor having fallen, I assume, through the crack between the bed and the wall. Time check. One oh seven p.m. Still earl- wait, what?! P.M? Like, afternoon?!
My sleeping pills have been known to knock me out, but that can't be right... I can't have slept so late. And it's pitch black! In a state of mild panic, I get out of bed and throw on a sweater. I lumber to the dining room, where my laptop sits on the table. Here's to hoping I left it with some charge. I push the little blue circle repeatedly and with great determination until reluctantly and in no great hurry it agrees to wake up and give me my desktop. It confirms, one oh seven p.m. No, one oh eight now.
"What the fuck?!"
I shuffle to the window and stare blankly into the night in an attempt to spot something that might set my mind at ease. A clouded-over moon, a familiar constellation, anything. I see instead an unending and unsettling expanse of darkness. At a loss, I step outside, wrapping my poor excuse of a sweater even tighter around myself. The frigid cold of the patio beneath the soles of my feet is grounding in an odd and rather unexpected way, not solely in the connection between my body and the planks of wood that hold me where I stand, but more so in the almost electric way it reminds me exactly where I am in time and space; the precise number of goosebumps traversing my legs, the damp, musky smell hanging in the air, and the rustling of new growth on nearby plants as they welcome the arrival of the springtime gale. I’m here. Right here on my own porch. If there were light to see by, I could look down and see the rose bushes. I might crane my head to the left to find the small fountain that the cat likes to drink out of, or across the street to see the dog run where Sydney likes to bring doggy treats for Bear, the resident St. Bernard. Or I could look up to see-… The harsh wind blows unforgivingly, my hair savagely tousled by it left, right, over my eyes, up, to the left again. I manage to overcome the madness just long enough to scout for it.
There! There it is. Gazing up and just beyond the northern end of the trellis, I locate it easily: the geostationary satellite that I've come to enjoy watching on clear nights. The satellite shines on, not hidden in the otherwise murky sky like the other cosmological wonders of the night, and something about its solitude leaves me with a queasy feeling. I resign myself indoors and sit once again in front of the too-bright-for-a-dark-room screen, pulling up the Internet browser. (One ten p.m., it now reads) Why? What am I looking for? My fingers play over the keyboard without actually touching any of the keys. Nervous habit. I have a brief moment of clarity from the fog that currently occupies my mind, and I hammer out "weather forecast" in the search bar. ENTER. Sure, let’s start there. (One eleven.)
"MONDAY, APRIL 7- STAND BY.
TUESDAY, APRIL 8- STAND BY.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9- STAND BY. "
Yeah, yeah, I get it, there's a pattern. I don't much care for this pattern, and the pit in my stomach takes this opportunity to remind me of its presence. My phone buzzes on the table, startling me to the point of jumping in my seat. I think a stiff drink is in order. A photo of my brother is illuminated on the screen, alerting me to who is on the other end of the line.
"B, what the fu-...” I begin to ask.
"Where are you?" he asks, not bothering to feign interest in my half-question.
"At home, where else would I be?! I woke up to-"
"Who else is there with you?"
"Dan and Sydney.” I paused. “Who else?!”
"Are you SURE?" He asks, and the obvious concern in the question gets me quickly to my feet.
I follow them back down the hall, talking as I go:
"I mean, I guess I didn't really think to make SURE, I just assumed he would still be... Yeah..." I drop my voice to a whisper so as not to wake my blanket-clad burrito of a husband.
"Yeah, Dan's still sleeping."
"What about Sydney?"
"Of course she is, she's four! What else would she be doing, going out for happy hour?"
"Did you CHECK?" he asks with a ferocity that compels me to pull the phone away from my ear.
That such a question needed asked sends my heart fluttering. I waste no time in traversing the suddenly all-too-long distance to her bedroom just an arm’s length away, pushing open the door left slightly ajar to confirm that yes, Sydney indeed remained in her bed. In the same position as when I had tucked her in, none the less.
"Yes," I reply.
"Good," Blake says.
Had the slight static on the line not continued then, I might have been concerned by the silence left hanging between us.
"Blake?" I say with a slight tremor in my voice.
"What the fuck is going on?! What time is it?"
"It's... Ah... 1:16. Or something. I don't know. I don't have a damn clue what's going on, really. I was awake watching some shit documentary, couldn't sleep. It was something like 6 am. The sun was about to rise; you could see it just barely on the horizon. Anyway, it was like it receded or something. Got really dark. I thought maybe a storm was coming in. I decided I ought to get in bed to try a power nap at the very least, given the time. It got windy. I could tell because the tree branches were scraping at the window like they do every time the wind picks up."
He pauses, and I wait.
"Then the scraping stopped. But not because the wind stopped, I could still hear it howling. When I looked, the tree was gone. I tried to turn on the lights, but the power had gone out. I looked at my phone, and I watched the time jump from 6:18 am to 1:07 pm right in front of my eyes. I went to Dad’s room to wake him up. He wasn't there..."
Hearing this cues a primeval response within me; a deep-seeded and unshakeable dread and inexplicable malaise. I glance out of the nearest window for my satellite. It still shines there in its home just beyond the trellis, giving the feeling that one might reach out and touch it should your arms be just a little bit longer. The cold glow of the thing once more grounds me to the here and now, restoring impulse control and emphasizing whatever sense of solace a giant hunk of space metal can manage to impart upon a person. I find the nearest chair, seat myself with a very audible thud, and turn it so that I may continue to watch my satellite while I listen.
"... He wasn't there, but his phone, wallet, and car keys were," Blake continues. "Went for his morning run, I guess. Couldn't tell you when, I never heard him leave."
Soon, I find that instead of minding the words and their meaning as Blake drudged on, my undivided attention had reverted some time ago to the satellite. Some indeterminate characteristic of the thing is evolving as I watch, puzzled by the peculiarity of the whole night. Its glow began to brighten, and the colors danced. Such a small thing in the infinite black sky. As I watch it morph, the comfort of it all is abruptly ripped away from me. The dull glow of it becomes venomous, a great and fiery show set upon the backdrop of the lifeless heavens. I turn my head intuitively for relief from the intensity of the singular light, but even in doing so I manage to catch in my periphery the loss of my one comfort in the night. The explosive burst of light continues to assault my eyes, which I find that I can’t tear away but now regret have only recently become accustomed to the dark blanket settled upon the earth.
It is with no small amount of apprehension that I watch my satellite come ablaze, and am not terribly surprised to find that it is no longer able to remain in the spot it has inhabited for the past several months, but is now falling- flaming- towards who knows where on this Godforsaken planet.
"Blake..." I say rather calmly. "This is it. This is how w-..."
And were Blake on the other end of the line to hear it, he'd have been the first of us to hear the sound of true and absolute silence; a chilling, grappling-to-breathe kind of sound that eats at your soul. The kind of sound you instantly know you’ll regret hearing. The kind of sound that can mean only one thing. The kind of sound that means de-...