Week 2 of the Senseless Challenge: sound.
Stephanie’s entry is excerpted from another of my WIPs that some of you may have read pieces of before, an immensely huge sci-fi/drama called Lakeside Heights that is going to take me forever to finish. This piece actually comes from about book 3 or 4, but I don’t think it should be very spoilery. Or at least shouldn’t spoil anything you didn’t figure would happen eventually anyway, lol!
There were other voices in the background, calls home, canned laughter. Her husband’s voice was wrapped in echoes over the satellite relay connection, like he was standing in a small tin room. Then she realized, he may in fact be standing in a small tin room. From what he’d told her, that was what most of the rooms were like on base. “Have you heard them?” she asked. “You can’t hear them there, can you?”
“No,” Jeremiah said. “No, we can see them, but we can’t hear anything here. Not from outside, I mean.”
“Did anyone ever tell you about them? Did they send video? It’s probably not the same over video.”
“What do they do?”
“They don’t do anything, really. They just fly.” She could hear them now outside, streaking across the sky with their song, almost melodious. “They make this sound,” she told him. “It’s like voices, thousands of voices. But sad, like they’re weeping. And the noise goes on and on since they’ve been here. I think it’s the sound of them cutting through the air, or maybe it’s how they power the things – I don’t know. Do you know how they power the things?”
“No, we don’t know that yet,” he said. “I don’t like you being down there. They’re going to send some more guys back down. They’re worried we took too many, left you all vulnerable. They said it was the Mars unit that they finally breached. Nobody ever thought they’d get that close. Nobody ever knew– Are you scared? Is Willow scared?”
“That’s the thing,” she said. “It’s not scary, exactly. Not unpleasant. Loud, yes, but almost pretty.” She didn’t know how to explain it, the longing drone of them, like a long cry after so many years of quiet tension, waiting. It sounded like release. It spoke to her somehow. “It’s just… constant. It’s been weeks now, I think, since they started, doing whatever it is they do up there.” She moved to the window to look out at them. “Can you hear this?” She held up the phone to the sky, one, two, three zoomed past, high, where the airplanes used to fly, but faster and louder. The airplanes didn’t dare fly anymore. “Did you hear that?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Just wind, it sounded like. Is it windy there? I miss the wind.”
She inhaled for him, a sort of game. When he missed the sunshine, she stuck her hand out the window to feel the rays on her skin; when he missed the rain, she went outside to drench herself in it. There was a little wind–smelling of fresh cut grass and some car exhaust–but she couldn’t hear it over all that sound, the endless voices, the sad, white noise. It had become the background of their whole world.
“The other day, somebody in Detroit took a rocket launcher and shot at one. You know they told us not to. They told us to leave them alone. And he didn’t hit them or anything, but he shot at one, and for maybe five minutes, they stopped. Even here, everywhere maybe. For real, they just stopped dead in the sky where they were, floating, and the sound was all gone. You should have seen everyone watching them, listening. We didn’t know what they were going to do, but when we realized they weren’t going to do anything, everyone noticed all at once that the sound was gone. We all grabbed our ears to make sure they were still working. And they were. Everything was just as it should be again. When they stopped, it was just rain and wind and the waves and the leaves crunching on the ground. It was all so quiet by comparison, and we never knew it would be like that. Even the birds stopped chirping. I’m telling you, I could hear my own heartbeat it was so quiet.”
She could barely hear her husband breathing over the sound. She pressed her ear harder to the phone and plugged the other ear with her finger, and there was his soft, rhythmic breath. “Wow,” was all he whispered, almost inaudibly. His breathing, hers, her heartbeat pulsing in her ears. It was just like this, she thought, when they stopped for five minutes. Like the quiet pause after a symphony of so much sound.