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Silence (a short story)

It was a lonely Tuesday in February, one of those days when people all seem to be numb and robotic as they go about their daily activities. On such days, clouds always cover the sky like a dull gray woolen blanket, somewhere on which is a cream-colored stain - light from the sun seeping through. It may be raining, but usually it isn’t. Rain would be welcome, however, on these days, for it would break the dull monotony, the dreadful feeling that we get when we start thinking, even for a moment, that our lives will never be anything but this.

On such a Tuesday, Violet sat in the kitchen of her small residence, resting from an inexplicably tiring day. Intermittently, she glanced upward, to where the clock ticked away sluggishly, its face just barely visible in the kitchen’s dim light. Sitting there, a slave of time, Violet felt powerless. She wanted to jump up and yank the clock off the wall and forcibly move its hands to the desired configuration. She knew, though, what an exercise in futility that would be. Violet may have been the master of deception, but even she could not deceive herself to such an extent.

Finally, the clock’s hands had crawled to six o’clock. Violet recognized the straight line that they formed and was roused by it. She no longer needed to stand up and shuffle over to the phone, as it was now conveniently placed next to her seat.

Violet had a routine. Every evening at six, unfailingly, she picked up the phone and dialed the number she knew by heart, prepared to listen for the requisite four dial tones. She knew that no one could possibly answer, but she kept at this routine because it gave her a tiny measure of comfort. There was no harm in it. If, however, one day someone answered…

Nevertheless, she knew that she wasn’t trapped in this continuum. She could stop making the phone calls if she so desired. Seemingly.

Either way, at last it was six o’clock. Violet picked up the phone apprehensively, almost tenderly. In rapid succession of buttons, she dialed the cherished number and pressed the phone to her ear.

Dial tones.

But something wasn’t right.

Halfway through the third tone, the sound suddenly stopped. Violet’s numbness faded at once and she found that her surroundings were sharper, as if they had come back into focus. Now she was painfully aware of her nervousness as she clutched at the phone. Could it be…?

A woman’s voice, indistinct through the phone but clear in intonation. It was a kind voice, but a firm one. Although the age of the woman to whom the voice belonged could not be distinguished, she was undoubtedly older than Violet.

The voice said simply: “Hello?”

Violet, in her bleak and dreary kitchen, threw herself out of her seat with a frenzied jerk, grasping the phone yet tighter.

“Mom?!” she shrieked into the void.

Silence persisted for a few moments, after which there was a click.

Now confused, Violet sank back into her seat, exhausted. She kept holding the phone up for a few seconds, then lowered it. Mechanically, she dialed the number again, her consciousness barely registering what she was doing, and pressed the phone to her ear with renewed intensity.

She waited for the dial tones.

The clock ticked away, a barely audible whisper. Faint noises from outside seeped into the dwelling - the wail of a fire engine, the mournful hum of a distant freeway. And the ever-present, almost silent drone of machinery.

Violet didn’t notice such trivialities. She was living in the blackness that existed beyond the receiver of her phone, somewhere amid that wild tangle of wires and cables. The frightful no-man’s-land of machines. A limbo of sorts.

In this trap of a vacuity, Violet sat, listening, listening, listening.

Any more going?
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