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A Voice Lost
Writer: Lauren Hunt
Illustrator: Byerly Young
I never knew silence could be so loud. You don’t notice the little noises that fill the world until they’re gone. Like constant humidity, you don’t feel the thickness of the air until you’ve felt a dry heat. The crackle of leaves beneath your feet. The pattering of shoes on the pavement. The hum of crickets and the chattering of birds. The tapping of the rain. The whistle of a breeze. The thumping of your own pulse in your ears.
I did not speak. I did not dare make a sound. Startled, furious, devastated, elated, I made no noise. I kept my thoughts in my head when I thought them at all. I could just bear my own quietness in the silence all around me. For the only thing worse than the quiet would be the realization that I could not break it. The fear that if I tried to speak and my voice was not heard I could no longer pretend that my own muteness was a choice. Fear of a silence so loud I could not break it even when I tried.
I looked around me and nothing was still, yet I could only hear silence ringing loudly in my ears. Could I form the words to break the oppressive peace? Was I meant to? What if I couldn’t? What if I did? So long it had been since my ears had been offended by the clattering of the world. Could I ever return to the silence if I broke it?
But I knew at once that I would never wish to return to this false stillness, this isolation. It might break my spirit to learn my own voice was lost in the void, but that spirit would surely wither in this idle acceptance. The breath swelled in my chest and deep in my gut. A whisper, a whistle, a scream, a sob; I would make whatever sound I could, if I could. I could fail, but I would try. I might not be able to break the silence, but it would not break me. I would not surrender my will to its repression.
I let my lips fall and forced what should be a natural act. I felt the forgotten vibrations in my throat and let out a cry. It was not loud, but it was. It resounded in my ears and in my heart. To have done the thing I thought I could not do—was afraid to do—brought a lightness to my limbs and raised the hairs behind my neck. It was not loud, but it was. My heart raced with surprise and exultation, and brought a throbbing to my ears.
And suddenly I heard my cry come back to me, echoed through the trees. Again. Again. Again. It was not loud, but it was. And through the treetops I saw a flurry of wings and feathers, awakened to flight, incited by the forgotten startlement of sound. And they called back to me, in songs and screeches high and sharp. It was not loud, but it was. Their chatter filled my soul and I cried out again with a joy I’d never known. It was not loud, but it was, and it echoed back to me. Again. Again. It would never be the same—could never—even if all else remained. I had tested my voice against the world, and I had been heard. It was not loud, but it was. And I could be heard again. It was not loud, but it was, and it was enough.