Lasciare Suonare

The world screams day and night as villages, towns, entire cities are wiped clear from its surface. The extinguished souls are, in death, condemned to a realm of anti-sound. They form an ever-present wail, a white noise the shriek of catastrophe, as if the Earth’s tectonic plates are scraping against one another like the vertebrae of a spine fusing into an incapacitating knot.

The world screams, and Xian listens.

Now, at this moment, it’s the sounds of industry she hears: artifice coloured the grey of a construction site, the shade of mathematical precision and cost analysis at the backbone of any population centre. It is the thrum and rattle of cars; wind; birds chirping and dogs barking and people squawking but not actually saying anything. Their voices are a muddled slew of vowels creating the illusion of life, like the background movements of people on a busy street—extras in a film. It feels unreal, just a soundstage reproduction, drafted and compiled from another place, another time.

She continues up the narrow dirt path, a filthy cloth sack in her left hand, and heads toward the cacophony: thunder and rolling seas, voices vibrant and piercing, like hard rain through the tops of waves.

The clamour intensifies. Xian reaches up and switches off the hearing aid behind her right ear. Doing so immediately lessens her discomfort, quieting the chaos somewhat, though it muddies what she now hears with her good ear.

She stops then. Despite only hearing out of one ear, the sound has reached its apex, becoming bedlam, a wall of noise. She shuts her eyes, envisions a rainbow shattered into shrapnel several thousand times over, like prismatic static. Opens them again to see it there, just a few feet away, off the side of the path and in front of the pieces of a “Welcome to . . .” sign, and half-sheltered by overgrowth: the marker. It stands five feet tall, a tapered rectangular spire like an elongated headstone. Forged from granite, it has a metal faceplate inscribed with the name of the village and those who’d lived there at the time of its destruction. Surrounding the base of the spire, angled upward, are eight circular speakers inset into its surface—two on each side.

The marker, she reads, is from ten years past. It was erected weeks, maybe a month, after the Altro came through, smearing every surface with the remains of the villagers. Painting the town red, so to speak.

The noise crackles loudly, unpleasantly, like glass crunching underfoot, amplified a hundredfold. Xian kneels at the marker’s base, and clears leaves and dirt off the lower speakers. The change is instantaneous—the sounds come through clearly again. To Xian, though, the effect remains unconvincing; the aural construction rings false. Too much a soundtrack, not enough of a score. The town is a corpse, its memorial insincere.

She pays her respects and hurries on her way.

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>>Augur Magazine, issue 1.1, 2017

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