by Eleanor Taylor
Darkness was familiar, at least. Warm and thick with the smell
of rain that hadn't fallen yet. Moving gently with the breeze that
pushed moist air through the window. Crocheted by her grandmother
during some long forgotten winter, the yellowing lace curtains swayed,
and a single flying bug bobbed into the room. A lightning bug. It
flashed soft yellow light, blinking a message back to its fellows. She
imagined it was confused by the enclosed space, and wasn't sure how to
get back out. The room was so vast in comparison to the tiny bug. How
could it possibly know what to look for? How could it know that the
dark square in the wall was a way back out to its own world?
The silence, though… that was new. It was new and complete
and terrifying. She turned her head to watch the bug flit up toward the
ceiling, then land on the chest of drawers near the door. There was no
rustle of fabric as she moved, no slithery hiss of long, heavy hair
dragging across the covers as she turned over. There was nothing to
tell her that the world around her was still making noise at all. What
if it was the world that had gone silent, not just her ears?
She remembered too clearly the heat of the fever, the
too-vivid dreams, the face of her mother fading in and out of the
shadows over her bed. Her mother wasn't there now.
The lightning bug lifted off from the chest of drawers and
bobbed up toward the ceiling again. Hunching her shoulders, she pulled
her light cotton cover up to her chin and rolled onto her side, closing
her eyes and trying to ignore the world. What if someone screamed? What
if something tried to climb through her window? What if the house
caught fire? Her eyes popped open again. The lightning bug was on the
cover near her hand. It crawled this way, then that, blinking its
message into the emptiness, waiting for someone to blink back.
The shape of her mother's mouth as she said her name. Bronwyn.
She had said it so often, the shape was one she would never forget.
She moved her hand and the startled bug lifted its wings in a
blur of motion, floating away from the bed on silent air currents. She
watched as it bumped into the wall, then the window, then bobbed out
into the night, leaving her alone. The soft yellow light winked back at
her, then blended with the others that danced on the breeze outside.
Maybe there was a way for humans to talk without sounds. Maybe if the
bug could escape… but the silence wasn't a box she could open and
climb out of.
The girl closed her eyes again. Sleep was necessary. Sleep was
good for her. But the silence was scary, and full of 'what-ifs' she
At last, she got cautiously out of bed, trying to remember
which floorboards were safe to step on, and which would wake her
parents. The door resisted slightly when she went to pull it open, the
hinges sending silent shudders through the wood. That meant it was
squeaking. Clutching her blanket around her shoulders, she shoved the
door open quickly and felt the shuddering stop. Then she held the door
still, scanning the hallway in case her parents' door opened. It
didn't. After a handful of heartbeats, she snuck out into the hall and
slid against the wall, feeling the blanket catch a little on the rough
wood. Her sister's bedroom was right next door. One step. Two steps.
Three steps. There. Her sister's door didn't shudder or squeak. She
thought about the bug, floating through the window into the night, and
tried to imitate it, gliding across the room on silent feet that could
feel every squeak of the floorboards.
At last, she reached the sturdy wooden frame and curled up at
the foot of her sister's bed. If anything happened, her sister would
wake her. Her sister would keep her safe. She felt her sister's feet
press against her back and lifted her head, looking up toward the
pillow. If Fiona was awake, she couldn't tell.
Bronwyn began to relax. Sleep would come. And maybe in her
dreams, she would hear her mother's favorite lullaby one more time.
© 2017 Eleanor Taylor
Eleanor is a two-legged, literature-based life-form
of the female inclination, who ran away from home to attend university
and nearly failed. Having survived university, Eleanor is now trying to
establish herself as an "adult." Wish her luck.
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