The Sound and the Silence
Written by Rebekah Postupak
The cat meowed, and stretched, and that was when I first heard it. You’d think I’d have been used to that by now, hearing things late, but six months in, it drove me as crazy as it had at the beginning. The cat’s mouth opens, and two seconds later its meow hits my ears.
Same thing happens with people. They open their mouths, or slam the door, or snap their fingers, then—one Mississippi, two Mississippi—the sound wafts gently, taking its own sweet time before settling on my eardrums.
A year in, the problem had only gotten worse: the delay had lengthened to a full ten seconds. I’d taken to stuffing cotton in my ears. It was much easier trying to live deaf than it was hearing sounds well after things happened. Unfortunately, as you already know if you’ve tried it, cotton doesn’t keep out sound very well. And it tickles something fierce. But I tried.
I had to quit school, of course. Teachers didn’t have the time or patience to wait ten seconds for me to get around to hearing their questions, and I spent more time in the principal’s office that last month than I did the classroom. My boss fired me. Heck, I couldn’t even burgle without getting caught and scaring myself half to death. All this left me penniless and homeless.
So I spent my days sleeping on park benches, hoping people would drop money in my cup then leave me alone. They did, mostly, and I was grateful. They probably thought my brain was broken. Maybe it was.
But then came the day that gigantic silver spaceship burst through the clouds and hovered over the city (you sure you didn’t see it??). Horses and buggies careened into each other like marbles in a pail. And then suddenly everybody dropped flat to the ground. I stared up at the sky and heaved a sigh, waiting to hear what everybody else already knew.
By the time “HUMANS! LIE ON THE GROUND OR YOU WILL DIE!” reached my rebellious ears, I was already being sucked up into the air and flung straight toward the spaceship.
The alien who met me at the spaceship’s door smiled for long moment before saying clearly, “Welcome.”
His lips moved in perfect synchronicity with his voice. What?!
He smiled again. Ten beats. Then: “Sound delay, right?”
I nodded, torn between relief and terror, not daring to speak.
Satisfaction creased his face. “I thought so. Now—come with me, or die. I have a job for you.”
And that, Your Honor, is the true story of why it looks like I ripped off the fireworks plant before setting it ablaze, but actually it was the alien who bent light waves and needed the fireworks for his breakfast. I guess you could say I saved humanity from invasion.
I know what you’re going to say, but no thank you; saving lives is its own reward.
I’ll let your acquittal meet me at the door.
500 words exactly, inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought flash challenge and incorporating a variation of the mandatory starting sentence and optional Challenge words (place the story before 1900CE) within the 500 word count requirement.