Outside the Silence

Diane Lynn McGyverJulianne lay still, fearful any noise she’d make while adjusting her weight would be heard by others in the building. A single movement of her hand or foot sounded as if a band of bagpipers passed through on their way to battle. Each breath remained even, each inhale and exhale controlled so as not to arouse suspicion that she did not yet sleep.

She supposed as a child, sleeping in a soft, pillowed bed felt normal. Although the sounds of her childhood room went unremembered, she imagined they had comforted her on her way to dreamland. But those sounds had not touched Julianne’s ears for more than a decade.

The hums of her pre-teen years had been replaced by the distant toot of a train making its way through the night to some unknown destination, exchanged for the occasional passing vehicle on the highway on the other side of the bank from where she had established a home beneath a large ash. Those sounds from long ago had been traded for the song of the peepers in the nearby swamp. The owl that lived nearby hooted on its way to and from its hollow in the tree, its rush of wings at first startling young Julianne, then bringing comfort that if the owl was about, all creatures living within its realm were safe.

The chatter of the squirrels and chipmunks as they scurried to and fro, hiding and searching for nuts, meant no creature larger than they crept nearby. Whistles of wind carried voices of the evergreens, leaves and wildflowers and surrounded her in a blanket of grace. Rain, when it fell, beat upon the forest floor, its pitter-patter on the leaves adding rhythm to the chorus of the night. It brought deep, satisfying sleep, rocking Julianne in the arms of Mother Nature as she lay in a bed made of boughs and tattered blankets. It was her heaven, her sanctuary, where the familiar sounds delivered peace to her spirit.

But tonight, resting upon a soft mattress and stuffed pillow beneath clean, thick sheets, ignited a fear she had never felt before. The feeling of emptiness as if living in an enclosed box made of wood and plaster that hardly permitted air let alone sound to enter.

The silence hummed in her ear; it was deafening. The tomb of the living made of structures that lined streets and satisfied the humans within…all but one human who wished to escape its enclosure and to once again hear the sound of living that had once surrounded her in the forest.

Diane Lynn McGyver

…After sleeping in a pop-up tent trailer for more than two months, I found myself lying awake for nights on end, listening for the sounds that had filled my ‘drift off to dreams’ world: the trains, vehicles, peepers, horse’s neigh, quacking ducks, footfalls of the equines, the banging of the goats horns on the wall inside the stall…sleeping inside an insulated, wooden structure blocks out all those sounds, making one feel as if they are in a vacuum. For once, I had an idea of how a person who lived for lengths at a time outside in a tent, in a secret hideaway or in a makeshift home might feel if they were to spend a night inside.


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