An Unseen Enemy
(Scholastic Silver key)
My life has been a desperate game of cat and mouse with Silence, an unseen yet omnipresent foe. Some people, heathens in my eyes, willfully embrace her presence and form one-sided alliances with her. In their Stockholm syndrome stupor, they become addicted to her wares, turning up their noses up at any innocuous sound. I cannot fathom this gauche behavior. Since I could walk, where others have slept blissfully in stillness, I have tossed and turned endlessly to the binaural banshee-like wailing of Silence that comes from everywhere and nowhere at once. I was born an enemy of Silence, and like oil from water, I shy away from any place she might find pleasant. To me, she’s far more than a fact of nature. She’s a perpetual evil that relentlessly pursues me.
Silence loves the hopeless darkness that a falling sun brings, which is her sustenance and her partner in crime. Darkness gives her strength and muffles sounds like a cold blanket, shielding her from noises that stab and erode at her very being. On this dark horse, she effuses from every conceivable direction and waits for the perfect opportunity to strike, to render the whole house, the whole world around me, silent.
I can run. Believe me, I’ve done it. But she’s not something. She’s nothing. No matter where, no matter when, Silence is ready to pounce. She creeps about in the second bathroom stall at work, swims underwater at the slimy community pool, and rides shotgun in my rusty Volkswagen. I never know her presence until I feel her strong grip tightening around me, enveloping me with her acerbic sounds of nothingness. There’s no escape. I have to fight.
The battle is ceaseless, fought often in the very place I call home, but I have reinforcements here. An eternal, ticking clock stands guard on the mahogany mantlepiece, surveying the living room like a vigilant machine-gunner, seeking out Silence’s dark tentacles. She learned quickly to avoid it. Instead, she enjoys the bedroom, the only room where no heinous noise hinders her proliferation. Lurking in a dark corner, the dusty one under my dresser, she waits for an inevitable opportunity for an ambush.
Every night, she gets her chance, but I won’t make it easy. By now, she knows the bedroom as well as I do, and even things I don’t, like the two lonely pennies below the heat register. We are equals, but I’m on the defense. I can flick on a nightlight, driving away the darkness that she feeds on, but she can sever its delicate filament as soon as I drift off into a debilitating sleep. I can play music, but to her, that’s cliché. Nothing a little power outage couldn’t handle. Weariness overcoming fear, I sleep, naïve to what would become of me. I wake, hours later, wrapped tightly by impenetrable darkness and immobilized in Silence’s grips of nothingness.
Silence relentlessly roars in my ears and I’m cornered, but I’ve got a secret weapon—time. Before I know it, the early birds start chirping and a hungry dog starts barking, and I emerge victorious from battle. She shrinks away, backing into her corner. Every day, she waits for the opportunistic ambush, and every night, she strikes in my slumber. Her offensives are ceaseless, but in the end, I know that I will prevail. I can’t count on music or nightlights, but I can count on the cyclic coming of day, the ceaseless rotations of the earth. She can find dreary corridors and cold bedrooms, but she can’t defeat the light of day and the sounds of life that cuts her to infinitesimal pieces. So, she waits, patiently, for a night without a day.