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Sound

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Supermarkets are the loudest places. All the food and advertisements screaming at you, the lights blaring like trumpets, and the claustrophobia of the aisles screeching so loud it gives you a chill down your back. The gas station isn't much better. Cringing, I press my hands against the leather of my seat in the car. My mother stares at me through the open door. I shake my head.

- No, Mom-

She doesn't seem to notice though; she cannot hear my Sound. She tries to unbuckle me. Before she can, I do it myself. She pulls me out of my car by my wrist, and I trip. Pulling myself back up, I sprint forward. Since she walks fast, I have to run to keep up with my mother.

I grimace as we walk through the automatic doors. It feels like a trap, but I can't stop.
If it is a trap, it is a good one, because as soon as I walk in, I stop stone dead, the Sound washing over me like salt water, leaving gritty sand in its stead. I gape.
I don’t have much time to adjust though, because my mom is bustling towards the cash register. - Ten dollars on three, please?- She gives a cute little smile and licks her toothpaste-commercial white teeth. The mousy brown hair that is the same as my own is swept off to one side. She hands the man the money, and struts away.
I always thought my mother would be a good actress. Like one of the blond chicks on Shirley Temple. Except she would always be the villain, the Cruella Deville. That’s the part she plays best.

The scene outside the window is shouting my name, but Mom is steering us toward the bathroom. She holds out her hands to me, like I was a dog. -Stay- She goes through the door and the lock clicks shut.

Closing my eyes, I lean against the wall, my mind reeling for something, something to divert it. I bite my lip.

Today is the day before school starts. I’ve been to a different school for my past years of elementary school, and now I’m going to another one for fifth grade. It will be the same as the other schools, though. It won’t change my huge clumsy feet, freckles, or chewed fingernails.

It won’t change the fact that I can hear the Sound.

Mom gets out of the bathroom and we walk outside to the car again. She fills up the tank while I wait inside. Shivering, I cross my arms and hug the winter coat tighter to me. The weather has been strange all year, so it isn’t as much a surprise as you’d think that it is forty degrees in August.

We start driving, and it seems as if we are about to be swallowed by an enormous tsunami. In reality, we are driving towards a sudden blue-grey patch of clouds, tinted by the sun setting, but I can imagine it is a tidal wave, the end of the world like everyone says. The longer I hold a thought inside of me, no matter how ridiculous it is, it becomes more and more real, until I find myself screaming to get to higher ground. Instead, I express my sentiments to the open air, which by silent assent agrees with me.

Driving is a daily pleasant torment for me. I sit back and watch the trees rise and stretch. The birds swerve and loop to a tune in the air, and the tall grass on the side of the highway sways. Nature doesn’t make Sound. It makes music. But it is all to come to an end as soon as we stop.

Mom turns and looks at me with a twinkle in her eyes. -I got you something- I smile. She knows I love surprises. The icy feeling that runs through me is far better than the sluggish sweetness of anticipation.

-What?- I raise my eyebrows questioningly.

She tilts her head to indicate the back seat. I unbuckle my seat belt and reach back for it. There's a market basket bag. It's the white kind, so opaque that it's see through. When I see my prize, I grin.

-A Rubik’s cube!- I almost sing. I start to grab at it, and suddenly I am thrown back against the seat. I press the toy against my chest, and shut my eyes. The impact is as loud as a loud Sound, and it is unbearable, sweeping and turning and finally an impact of light and noise.

Outside, the orchestra halts, and the conductor pauses expectantly. But, having no audience, the players move off and go back to doing and making their own loud Sound.

Greg Bell had been the groundskeeper of Long street cemetery for twenty years, and he couldn't get to sleep. It was cool for September, and wonderful sleeping weather, but a stray breeze kept drifting through the back of his mind. He gave up, and got dressed, as he began work in an hour.

He happened to live right next to his place of work, and it was part of his routine to take a walk through the graveyard each morning. He stepped out of his house. He stopped at his wife's memorial, who died of pneumonia only seven months ago. It still pained him every time he walked by her grave. They had planned to move to Florida to retire before... Now, he couldn’t seem to leave.

After a moment of stillness, he moved on. For the first time, he looked ahead, and squinted his eyes when he saw a figure laying on a smaller grave. He walked quickly over to it, wondering what person came so early to a graveyard that it wasn’t even light out. As he came closer, he noticed with a sour taste in his throat that the boy wasn’t even fully grown, and looked maybe ten years old. He seemed to be clinging to something.

He was just laying there, pale and defeated, sleeping. There was something slightly familiar about the boy’s face, the distinctive beak nose. Greg couldn’t place it, but he was sure he had seen the child before.

No matter now, he had to be awoken and warmed as soon as possible. “Kid,” he said, but his eyes didn’t open. Concern growing, he called out louder, and when that didn’t work, he crouched down, and shook him. He groaned and raised his head slightly, and Greg sighed out in relief.

“What’s your name, kid?” He asked. The boy didn’t answer, nor showed any acknowledgment that he had heard the question. He tried to sit up but cried out in pain. Greg shook his head and pulled him into his arms. He was surprisingly, and disconcertingly, light and frail. The boy closed his eyes, and didn’t struggle.

Greg brought him into the house and laid him on his couch, putting a homemade quilt over him. He picked up the phone and called the police.The voice that answered was female, slow and sleep-ridden.

“Queenstown police department.”

“Er, yes. I would like to report the finding of a boy. He’s about nine, ten. Brown hair, and he looks like he’s been living outside for a while.”

“Where are you?” The woman on the other end sounded like she had gone from 0-60 in time it took for him to say all of this. Either that, or her coffee had just kicked in. Greg told her his address, and she said, “I’ll be right there.”

He turned around to find that the boy had faced him, and was now staring. “Your sound is strange,” said the child. “It’s like static.” There was something about his voice that felt weird to Greg, not just the way he put emphasis on “sound” like it was a proper noun. It was... separated, somehow.

Confused, but relieved that the boy finally spoke, he replied, “The police will be here any time now. Would you like something to drink? Or eat? You look like you haven’t eaten in days.” But the kid just frowned and buried his head into a pillow.

“Huh,” Greg grunted, but began to boil water for tea. If the boy wanted any, it would be easy to make.

After about five minutes, the doorbell rang. The woman came rushing in and up to the boy. Two men followed, and carried him outside, though one would have done just as well. “Wait! What are you doing with him?” Greg asked anxiously.

“This child you have found, Evan Treyn, has been missing for two weeks after he escaped a car crash that caused the death of his mother.”

Greg paled. “He was lying on a grave site when I found him...” The significance made the breath catch in his throat.

The woman nodded. “There’s something else, too. Another reason we have been on such high alert for him.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “Evan is deaf.”

The boy laid there, clutching his Rubik's cube, while people in white tended to him.They stuck him with needles and tubes, plugging him into strange devices. He was a frog on a lab bench waiting to be dissected, an old gangly middle schooler's science project. The people talked around him, not realizing that he could understand every word. Of course they wouldn't, not being able to hear the Sound.




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