The house was old; its hinges rusted; wooden frame warped; and shingles crooked. It seemed as if in only moments it would be washed away by the roiling sea it sat before. And yet it still stood, wearily– As if it had been carved from a weeping willow and though stripped of its roots and leaves, maintained the same sentimentality. The house sat before a tumultuous sea, and on either side a forest stretched for miles around. It had just turned to autumn and the leaves shone with fresh oranges, reds, and golds, illuminating the woods as the early morning sun shone through them.
It was silent inside the house. The interior, though old and some of it previously waterlogged, was neatly situated. Books lay in orderly rows, organized by author and genre, placed within a small wooden shelf. The kitchen–though small–gifted enough space to comfortably make a meal satisfying enough for one man. A wooden chair and table served as both a dining area and a place to enjoy a selected book from the shelf. One such book, with a faded green binding lay closed upon the table, marked with a small piece of paper on the page last visited.
He was a larger man in his mid fifties; broad shouldered and muscular. Large enough to make him bow his head to exit the bedroom doorway, and growing old enough that his beard was sprinkled with white. He shuffled through the upstairs of the house, dawning a shirt and pants and making his way downstairs. The boards creaked under his bare feet as he slowly descended. Heading to the kitchen, he was greeted by a small kettle which he filled with water and set to boil, retrieving a box of teas as he waited.
The steam of the boiling water filled the room and hissed as Sasha poured it into a small cup. Carefully placing the tea bag inside, he left it to steep, the water still swirling; turning red from the tea. After a few minutes he removed the tea bag and took a sip, breathing in the steam as it formed small dewdrops in his beard. Taking a seat in the chair, Sasha set down the cup and gently opened the book laying on the table to the marked page and began to read, ever so often licking his finger to turn the page.
Once the tea had reached the bottom of the cup where only granules of leaf remained, Sasha returned the book to its place and stood up. Exiting the house onto the shore he took a moment to listen to the birds cawing and the water seething, though all remained under an invisible blanket of silence. One not broken by the sounds of nature nor the footsteps of the man within it.
He took off running.
Tearing into the forest, the leaves brushed against his face and bare arms; the branches clinging to his clothes. He breathed hard, puffs of smoke coming from his mouth as the brisk air scratched at his lungs. He didn’t stop until he could no longer see the house in the distance; completely encapsulated inside the woods. Inhaling deeply, Sasha let the cold breeze and his need for air wake him up as his breathing slowed. Exhaling, he took off again.
As the sun fell past midday Sasha returned holding two rabbits by the feet. They dangled in the wind as he reached the door, kicking his shoes against the steps. Entering the house he placed the rabbits on the kitchen counter.
“You never go out, y’know”
Sasha turned to see a young man grinning, leaning against the bookshelf.
“You never go out” he repeated, smiling. He was a handsome man; his dark unruly hair framed an angular but kind face and his emerald green eyes were intense. His vest crinkled as he casually leaned against the shelf making him look slightly unkempt. “I go out. I was just out.” Sasha responded, pulling out a knife preparing to skin the rabbits. The man laughed. “No, I meant out of here. Out of this forest. Into the city.” “Why would I go there? It stinks in the city” “It would be good to talk to some people. You sit here in your silence all day.” “I’m talking to you aren’t I, Mishka? Plus, I enjoy the silence.”
Mishka laughed again, pulling himself off the bookshelf; sliding the knife out of Sasha’s hands and waving it around he retorted: “I’m the only person you ever talk to. You should really reconsider.” The cars sped by, their roar traveling from ear to ear as they shook the asphalt. Sasha couldn’t quite recall how he’d gotten there, but he stood in front of the giant city, its voice booming through the growls and screams of vehicles and the chatter and hubbub of the people, filling and vibrating every nook and cranny of the air. There was no silence to be found. It was a run on sentence that never ended; no breaks; no pauses; no quiet. Sasha glanced around for Mishka but there was no sign of the young man; he worried he’d lost him in the city; he worried he’d lost himself.
Turning back to the wild metropolis, Sasha was taken aback from the noise; like a thunderstrike it crashed. The dissonance filled his ears and took away his breath with its sheer enormity. Its overwhelming ensemble of unsynchronized rhythm and harmony hit like a truck, though with a twinge of nostalgia, like a memory of a time long past. He closed his eyes, trying to shut the sound out but the stench, like rotting meat and burning asphalt filled each breath. A violin played in the distance; a little boy shrieked; a bus skidded to a halt; a train screamed. Sasha awoke.
His eyes opening he took a breath. Clean air. The smell of salt wafted in through the window and the dying embers of last night's fire added the slight pleasant aroma of a crackling fireplace. He scratched his beard and rubbed the tiredness out of his eyes. Dawning clothes he made his way downstairs. Pouring water into the kettle he heard not a sound. The silence encroached. The kettle whined but quickly was swallowed in the quiet. All sound once there had become so monotonous as to fold into the silence; a part of it. And just as the sounds of nature dwindled, so did the sound of the man within the house. The sounds from his dream had hit hard but they paled in comparison to the silence.
Sasha sat in the chair. The creak that might’ve been heard was eaten by the quiet. A quiet that could not be scratched by any sound. It was the silence of people completely–entirely alone. It was suffocating–deafening even. Suddenly filled with a terrible fear, Sasha smashed the tea cup on the ground, shattering it into infinite pieces. Its sound was shattered too, gone the instant it arrived. Running out into the coast, Sasha threw the door open, not bothering to close it as it bounced frantically back and forth against the frame. It barely made a sound. Sasha climbed the metal steps that once had echoed up to the top of the lighthouse protruding out into the sea, and upon reaching the top yelled at the top of his lungs. It echoed once and was gone. Sasha sighed, sinking back against the doorway. He thought of the man from his dream. Mishka. He had known his name was Mishka, despite never being introduced.But that was him.
Strange. Sasha thought. It felt as though I knew him.