Songs in the Silence [Sci-Fantasy Story pt. 1 of 5]
Sometimes, all it takes is a song. Olovia, having lost her voice, is the last person she'd have thought would be able to save the ship and return everyone to the Earth.
I'm back with another serial short story. Sci-fantasy this time. Work is being done to continue Almost Everyone, but it will take some time, rest assured. So in the meantime, I need to appease with other gripping tales.
This story was an idea that had been with me for a while, the idea of wanting to scream, but only silence reigned. That was cool and all, but it needed something more. So I added something real. -ish.
I frequently get auditory hallucinations, where I would hear a voice that doesn't exist, or when a song is in my head then I hear it all as though it were actually playing. My ears actually strain to hear it better because it's never loud enough to listen to properly (at least not the decibels metal is meant to be played at).
So auditory hallucinations meets screaming silence. And in space, because science fiction! But fantasy also because there's no way I can explain it. No amount of "quantum" is going make this a sci-fi thing.
The Silence was coming. The thought always kept Olovia from sleep, leaving her to toss and turn until it passed. She rolled onto her back and crossed her hands over her chest, staring at the faded pink sheets resting over her body. The large, furnished room she had been assigned to last month still felt alien, unlived in. Hover-globes hung in the air, hugging the ceiling like the helium balloons of children’s parties, giving just enough light to see the shadows. They hummed for now.
Carbon blinds rattled and rasped against the plexiglass panes as a light breeze breathed in and out through the open window opposite her bed. The recycled air flowed across the room, over her face, and out with the wind into the vast belly of the ship she and the rest of humanity called home. She sat up and cradled her knees to her chest. The blinds pushed inward with the new draft and revealed school grounds below the apartment building before crashing back against the window.
The blue symbols of the virtual clock popped up: 3:30a.m. Olovia listened as the buzzing of the light from inside the device started to fade away. She lifted her head and tilted her ear in the window’s direction. The Silence had started. No dogs barking, no cats fighting, nor the humming of taxi carts racing up and down the street. No footsteps on the pavement. The room held its breath and the blinds ceased their rattling. Even the wind obeyed the Silence.
Olovia’s stomach felt like it upturned inside her chest, a quiet motion to mimic her whimper. Her muscles refused her commands, clutching to energy that her primal brain said might be needed soon. Iced prickles ran under her skin, down her arms and thighs despite the stuffy warmth of circulated air.
Minutes ticked by unheard and she listened as the echoes of howls and barks began to sift into the room again. She held her breath, afraid the Silence wouldn’t end this time, a fear of possibility that gripped her every night. The faint noise continued, growing louder. She watched the clock shrug off the seconds.
She exhaled and panted, concentrating on her breaths in hopes of succumbing to sleep, when her nostrils flared and caught a sweet burning scent that raced up her nerves and into her brain. Her stomach rose and flipped, threatening to revolt. It burned. She glared at the window, scanning the city outside. No smoke. Not a flame in sight.
She untangled her arms from around her legs and slid off the bed. Her feet squirmed at the chill of the tiled floor then settled to brave the cold. She shuffled to open up the window more. A rain of soot fell from the sky, covering the streets below in black snow. But still no evidence of a fire. She leaned over the sill, looking toward the arching dome high above.
The screens mounted against the inner hull broadcast unmoving stars and the moon, forever waning, slowly creeping to the west. The same visual every night. In between two of the panels was a stretch of yellow, wiggling to break free and spreading claws over the screens. The hover-globes in her room flickered. Another power surge. Solar flares were a routine inconvenience, not that it took much to disrupt a centuries old generation ship orbiting between a planet and its moon. Olovia counted the seconds until the drones arrived and sprayed foam over the fire worm.
Drones didn’t do repairs so it would be her first order of business come the morning. She had a knack for tinkering with tech which the governors had noticed and took full advantage of, assigning her to maintenance once she completed schooling. Not that she complained, not really. She enjoyed the melodies the machines and electronics created, like tuning an instrument into key. At least partially. So much had been forgotten and the Overseers of the ship wouldn’t let her, or anyone, explore the systems.
She watched the worm of fire die, leaving black tendrils over the screens where it touched, and the drones zipped off back to the large tower in the center of the city. Giving up on sleep, she went for a walk down the empty, quiet corridors, toward the viewing deck. The doors slid open to reveal the slowly rotating Earth below through ceiling-tall plexiglass panels.
Olovia slinked onto one of the many benches, watching a typhoon rage over what used to be Japan. She noticed then someone a few benches away. He looked up at her and smiled.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked then returned to fiddling on his tablet. Olovia got up and moved to sit beside him. On his screen was a near-complete motion painting of the storm below.
“Yeah, I can’t either,” he said without looking up. “it’s too noisy during the day so I paint at night.”
Olovia stared at the painting and the man’s fingers gliding over the screen in intricate patterns, skillfully making the motion image look like it was breathing as it followed the real storm’s life-cycle.
“You know, storms are never silent. Just to us they are. I’ve heard clips, but they’re missing something: the power of the wind and rain.” He met her eyes and handed her the tablet. “Here, a gift. I left it unfinished so that the typhoon never actually dies, just loops and grows again when it reaches the end.”
Olovia shook her head, holding the tablet carefully, terrified she’d let it fall.
“I insist. We just met, but I can tell you’re not the kind of person who likes the Silence. Besides, art is meant to be shared. I just wish more people could see it.”
Her cheeks grew warm and she looked away.
“I’m Silis, by the way. Nice to meet you, uh...?”
Olovia placed the painting on the bench and pulled out her own tablet from her gown pocket and typed into the text processor, holding it up for Silis to read.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. Olovia, huh? Good name, harmonic.” His smile was gentle, but his eyes carried a pity that made her uneasy. It was the same look on everyone when they found out she'd lost her speech.
“Seriously, I want you to have this.” He pointed to the tablet where the storm raged at its peak. “Maybe one of us can get some sleep, then.” Silis stood and bent to kiss her forehead, the usual farewell gesture, before walking off into the opposite corridor.
Olovia returned to her room, clutching the tablet to her chest so it wouldn’t slip and she wouldn’t lose the sound of the storm she heard in her head. In bed, the sheet covering her, she watched as the cyclone swelled and swirled then thinned and calmed in an endless life, imagining the sounds of thunder and harsh wind she swore she could almost actually hear.