The River

July 15, 2012
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No one knows why I can't talk. No one except me. The doctors have all sorts of theories. But none of them are right. They're all off. Way off.

It was so long ago now, years and years, but everything is still clear in my mind.

I was four. It was a sunny day, with the sun tanning my face and a light, cool breeze ruffling my hair. I was playing by the river with my best friend and idol, my older sister. I remember how big everything looked, how even a maple sapling was the tallest tree in the world.

It was our special place, the place that only we knew about. At least, so we pretended. Someone else must have known about it, because the grass was always neatly mown, and dead branches were cut off the trees as if by magic, or so I thought at the time. We used to spend all our time there, running about and giggling. Then it happened.

I don't know exactly what we were playing. It could have been tag. Or perhaps it was hide-and-seek. It doesn't really matter. I tripped on a twig that was lying in the grass and fell over. That in itself was an oddity, that something as out of place as a twig would be lying in the normally immaculate lawn. But, nevertheless, it was there, and I tripped. I can still smell the sweet scent of earth and freshly mown grass if I close my eyes. My sister didn't fall, she only tripped. I almost wish she had fallen. It would have been faster that way.

As it was, she stumbled and I saw her there, teetering on the edge of the river bank. I seemed to know exactly what was going to happen just before it did, and yet it was as if I was glued to the spot, unable to stop the unthinkable from happening. In that awful moment, time seemed to grind to a halt as I watched her arms pinwheeling around her and heard her little yelp of surprise. Then she fell. The water swallowed her and the swift current swept her away, thrashing and fighting to keep above the water.

At first I thought it was a game, that she would soon come back. Then the river took her around a corner and I started to get scared. She had never left me alone for long. Soon, I started to cry.

Everything suddenly seemed frightening. The sun that had felt so friendly and warm was now harsh and cold, like fluorescent lighting. The playful breeze became a ferocious gale, snatching at my clothes and whipping my hair around my face. The scattered trees were a jungle, frightening and unfamiliar. I began to call her name. Over and over, for what felt like hours, though perhaps it was just minutes. But she didn't come.

I was found eventually, huddled underneath the maple tree. People tried to get me to tell them what happened. But I couldn't talk. They thought that it would wear off, but it didn't. They said it was from yelling so much, I had damaged my voice beyond repair. But they were wrong. Something broke inside of me that day. And now I know, years later, that my sister had carried my voice away, around the river bend.





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