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The girl watched as the grey swirls of people skittered through the square like so many frightened shadows, each wrapped in their own absorbed silence. Since the day when words became rationed, silence had gradually settled over the city like a smothering blanket of dust, suffocating art, culture, even society. The fear of running out of words and finding themselves speechless pervaded the people. To be left speechless would be to be left helpless. At first, people had communicated through signs and gestures, not wanting to waste words since no one knew how many they had, but eventually people stopped caring. Gestures lacked the ease and expression of words, but words were too valuable to use. Communication gradually fell into disuse. With communication, the bonds that held nation to nation, family to family, even mother to child had deteriorated as well. The girl could remember shortly after the Rationing when her mother had found her chattering to the neighbor’s cat. Gripping her daughter with shaking hands, she had spared six of her valuable words to tell her daughter, “Words are precious. Never waste words.” Since then, the girl had lapsed into the silence that permeated her world. Only once had she ever wasted a word.

She had been prowling through the attic of her home, the forbidden storage room of pre-Rationing treasures, when a dusty photo frame caught her eye. Smudging away the grime covering the glass, she gasped. The image of a girl with mischievous eyes and curling hair looked back at her. Most intriguingly, her mouth was poised to speak. Seized with curiosity to know what the photo-girl was going to say, the girl had carefully peeled the frail paper from its frame and turned it over. Jotted in fading ink across the back was a single word. The girl assumed it must be a name, a novel concept to her. Since the Rationing, no one had bothered with names; after all, no one could speak them. Sounding out the word in a halting voice, she had read “So-phie.” Shock filled her as she realized she had spoken aloud. As the shudder faded, however, she had been aware of a tingling satisfaction, like something inside of her had been set free. Since that day, the girl’s thoughts had often returned to the attic, full of forgotten secrets. It took several years before her growing desire to learn more about the girl in the photograph overcame her fear of being caught meddling in the forbidden room and she returned to the attic.

Heart pounding and feet raising small poofs of dust from the musty carpet, she ascended the stairs and pushed open the trapdoor. Everything was as she left it, her footprints were lighter marks among the heavier virgin dust, and the photograph lay atop the dirty green trunk. This time, her curiosity surpassed her fear, so removing the photograph, the girl opened the chest to reveal a dress. Folded carefully, the bright yellow fabric still fresh and new, the dress looked strangely familiar. Yes, the dress in the trunk was the same as that worn by the photo-girl. The girl stared at the yellow dress, transfixed. She had never seen a fabric so bright. When the post-Rationing world retreated into their isolated sheaths of silence, they had left bright colors behind, choosing drab greys and browns instead. Staring at the dress, the girl had murmured, “Sophie’s dress.” Immediately, she had felt the same thrill as before, but this time came an idea as well. As she looked at the photograph and at the dress, she had known what she had to do.

So here she stands, clad in the yellow dress on the edge of the square filled with silent people. Squaring her shoulders and drawing a shaky breath, she whispers, “Hello?” That single word shatters to the earth like the first drop of a rainstorm. Bodies turn to gawk at the girl in vibrant yellow, their mouths open, and packages tumbling to the ground. Proceeding in a thin, faltering voice, the girl continues. “It’s a beautiful day out. I’m so glad the sun is shining.” Her audience remains frozen somewhere between horror and disbelief. “I’m…I’m sorry to shock you…I guess—I just thought, felt like words should be free…I—I’m sorry…” Flushing with shame she turns to flee, returning to her silent world when she feels a tug on her hand. A little boy has run out of the crowd. “Hello,” he whispers. Suddenly, another voice splits the air. Turning to his frail little wife, a wizened old man proclaims, “I love you,” in a voice cracking from disuse and emotion. The effect is contagious. One by one, people turn to each other, their words falling like raindrops, first uncertain and thin then ringing out as they shout their love and joy to the sky, no longer caring about how many words they have left but only about the words they say. Extravagant words unfurl like banners from the fear that has captured them to proclaim defiance of that which would limit the expression of humanity. In the midst of the ecstatic chaos, the girl pulls a notebook and pen from her dress and begins to record the events, these events, so that even when she can no longer speak, others will be able to read her words, the words of the girl in the yellow dress—Sophie’s words.



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AvengedJasonFold said...
Dec. 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

SIMON COWELL FEEDBACK—YOU ASKED FOR IT!!

silence had gradually settled over the city like a smothering blanket of dust, suffocating art, culture, even society.

(Take out “art” at the very least because that has to do with culture. )

Communication gradually fell into disuse.

No no no “disuse” is not the right word. Your diction is incredible in this piece—don’t let not knowing how to use a word properly mess you up. Most wor... (more »)

 
Phoenix97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm
AvengedJasonFold: Thank you a million times over! Your feedback has been incredibly helpful and I am eternally thankful. :) Thank you especially for the stylistic feedback, such as the comment on the potential for alliteration. You were spot on everything but one: the analogy at the end. The raindrop doesn't shatter the earth, it shatters *to* the earth. ;) However, it is still an excellent point and I'm thinking two analogies are better than one. Thanks a million! :D
 
AvengedJasonFold replied...
Dec. 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

woops well if it's "shatters to the earth" then that really does work

I misread things like that a lot actually lol

but hey I'm glad this stuff helped, especially since you're a published teeninker aren't you? (lucky duck)haha makes me feel better about my un-published self.

Glad I could help!

 
elfen_girl said...
Oct. 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

wow

i loved it, its inspiring and simple at the same time. its totally original and descriptive and pervaies real problems of ex-communication. i loved your main character the most though her personality was just what was needed in your story, her fearlessness is amazing, i hope you plan to write more stories like this, if u do please let me know

 
Healing_Angel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 10, 2010 at 5:51 pm
This is amazingly original and well written. I'm confused about how everyone could speak so quickly. Why? What made them suddenly realize they could talk?
 
Phoenix97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm
When Sophie began speaking, she reminded them of the communication they had lost, I guess. People never really lose the desire to communicate; we can only suppress it, so to hear Sophie's words would inspire them to let loose and live in the moment, or to use their words while they could.
 
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