Encased in Silence
In a small town that no one had ever heard of there was a police station. In that police station, stashed away in a back room that the public never sawwas a file cabinet, well-used and sturdy. In the file cabinet there were stories, some with an ending and some without. Some files sat in the front of the cabinet, relevant and prominent.
But in the back of those metal drawers were other files, patiently waiting, idle and still, covered with the dust of memories and age, crushed under the weight of time. They were forgotten and full of unanswered questions, unsolved days and hours and moments.
Here is where one such file sits, a file where the ending is not yet known, will never be known, they assume. There are ripped corners and creases and fading ink in those many collected pages. Yellowed spots and cobwebs adorn the sentences and words. Those words whisper of a night long ago, when the file cabinet was only half full, when the metal that coated it was new and shining, when young officers still naïve to the world they had entered laughed and joked and smiled, a night when a young girl disappeared.
Yet the whispers of those words aren’t loud enough to find an ending. So there isn’t one. Not then. Not now.
The rooms harbored a coat of dust that had long since settled. No child’s fingerprints could be seen on the wood. No footprints were visible. Just the dust. The air was still, untainted by breaths or swirled with movement. A lone bookshelf sat in the corner, encased in the shadows, hiding the journal of a girl whose words full of dreams and wishes had been interrupted.
But the house was not vacant, hadn’t been for a long time. Someone wafted in the walls like a cool breeze, lurked behind the silence of a secret, patiently sat mixing with the still air, listening to the sounds of a clock that lived on only in a memory. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time passed as the minutes melted into each other. The minutes seeped into hours and the hours into days. Soon, all too soon, time ceased all together as the days morphed into years. And with those years came the fading of memories that always follows the forgotten. Her name became lost among a sea of other names, became just a name with no history. She became simply a memory that only the bookshelf remembered.
Footsteps echoed in the empty rooms, voices floated through the walls as the air began to pulsate with the life that had entered. Children’s excited screams pierced the awakened air. The dust that hadn’t been disturbed finally was as little fingerprints appeared here and there. More voices, deep and gruff, louder footsteps and thuds could be heard throughout. Furniture and color and fabric could be seen by the walls whose eyes had only known shadows. Light and fast footsteps, squealing laughter, contented sighs filled that once quiet air, filled the ears of a not-so-vacant house.
She stayed silent, still waiting and still lurking, but no sound left her lips. She treaded lightly on the newly laid floors and through the freshly decorated walls, swiftly moving through the now circulated air full of life and love and hope. She witnessed their lives unfolding, changing, learning. She listened as the little footsteps became louder and the small squeals became full laughter. And she watched the breakdown of a marriage in quiet sadness, listened to the arguments relentless in what they destroyed.Eventually time began to slow again, dissolve into one continuous entity and with it so did the marriage. The air became stagnant with memories as half of the things disappeared, moved away just like the spouse, and dust once again settled in the now empty spaces. The quiet also settled in those spaces as it hadn’t been able to do for so long. And with the quiet she settled behind the bookshelf, letting those aged words from her childhood flow into darker words.
Little by little she let the secret that had been completely caged for so long breathe. Just tiny breaths that no one but her saw, but with each word she wrote, she gave the secret more life, stronger breath. But it still wasn’t time yet, not ready to be sent out into the world. So, there it stayed, behind the bookshelf, in the mind of a life that had long been lost.
To pass the time she paced the hallways and moved through the air as if she were a part of it, unseen and unheard just like it had been for years. She watched as the young girl grew into a woman, watched as she moved her own things into the house, laughed with her own husband, found her own children’s footsteps echoing through the walls. She watched the life she could’ve had, unfolding, growing before her eyes.
She watched the bookshelf, too, as it was filled with books of all colors and sizes, merely forcing what was behind those wooden walls into even more concealment. Sometimes a book would disappear, but it would always find its way back, would always return.
Things didn’t always work that way, she knew. When her secret that had been wrapped in silence for so long was brought into the open air, it wouldn’t find its way back behind the bookshelf, nestled by the wall and floor, couldn’t be returned to the world of secrets. But it was a secret that needed to be told. Soon. But not yet, not when the girl was surrounded by children’s laughter and sweet morning kisses from a loving husband. So, like she had done for so many years, she waited, watched and listened, patient against the melting time.
It was a sunny morning; the light shrouded the house in a soft glow, highlighting the features of an old, abandoned bookshelf. The girl was reading, lost in a world of words as she often was at this time of day. Divorce had turned out to be contagious, but it was quiet this time, softer, just the story of two people who had grown apart. The girl was alone in the house, with her children now grown and off to college, but she never seemed lonely. Instead, she seemed to enjoy the quiet days where she could soak in the peaceful warmth and breathe in the simplistic air.
But that simplistic air held something not so simplistic. It held confidence and expectation, impatience and eagerness. It held hope. Today was the day. In once fluid motion, she reached behind the bookcase and cradled the journal that revealed so much. She held it a few seconds, letting her hope seep within its pages then slid it between two well-read books. As she backed away, her confidence followed. Anytime now. The journal would be noticed and opened. The secret would live beyond the confinements of the page, would be brought to life fully and completely just like it was meant to be.
But today was not the day, neither was the day after, or the day after that. She waited, like she had always done, like she had always had to do, but each day passed with her secret still tucked between those two books, still secure within those unknown words. Each setting sun would disappear in the wake of quiet disappointment.
And with each of those passing days, anticipation swelled as that hope, so strong in the beginning, started to quiver with uncertainty. When the girl would walk toward the bookshelf those feelings of hope would peak and then fall again as nothing happened. When her thin fingers would gently brush their spines, searching for the perfect story, someone was always waiting behind that bookshelf, hoping that maybe, just maybe, her story was the one worth finding.
But it never was. Day after day, week after week it sat, untouched and unmoved, unopened and unread. The dust that had begun to settle once more was undisturbed much like the words waiting inside, poised in their eloquent script.
With one hasty motion that appeared to have no cause, but in fact had many impatient days worth of causes, the dust that had been so still was suddenly floating in the air, mixing with the sound waves as the book hit the ground, pushed by an invisible, desperate force.
She knew now that the girl would notice, would have to. She would come across the book that now sat in the center of the room. She would see the tattered pages open and exposed, see how they were worn with time. When she picked up those exposed words and read them she would find importance hidden within every paragraph, seeping through every letter. She would read. And she would know. She would know that this story had an ending.
The sound waves dispersed through the room, became merely a ghost as she waited for the girl to realize, to recognize the noise, to turn around and to untangle the secrets of her past. But the girl, it seemed, was simply too lost in her own world trickling with words, to notice anyone else's because she didn’t even flinch.
After those moments that would surely change everything didn’t, she let her own fingers curl around those pages, clutch that olden cover harboring a secret and remembered the words in her mind, determined to set them free, once and for all.
She crossed the girl’s path, as visible as a breath, turning the warm air cool and chilling, raising goose bumps and questions.
The girl shivered with that unknown cold, wrapping her arms around herself.
It was time. Finally. She was sure the girl would put it together, fit the pieces into place when no one else had.
She knew the words inside, could recall them instantly and perfectly. They were dreams of a girl, wishes of a young heart. She imagined her words, looked at them in her mind and knew they were wonderful, and true. She reveled in her words. Her words. For so long they had been hers and no one else’s, but that was about to change.
Each cursive letter looked perfect, sounded perfect, was perfect. And at the same time they weren’t. They were raw and lonely words. Words that showed her innermost self, that knocked down the thick walls of insecurity and revealed who she really was, told of a life being lived.
But they were words that left a bitter taste in her mouth, a musty feeling on her tongue, because they cut off suddenly, abruptly, whispering at a disturbance, a reason beyond the normal. They whispered at what had happened, what had never been resolved.
They spoke of a walk home from the store never completed, spoke of a simple bag of groceries pointing toward the signs of a struggle. They spoke of unidentified tire marks etched into the dry, revealing dirt. They spoke of a girl, unaware that her paths had been memorized, her routines learned, who found herself at the end of a gun, a plan of violence with its own mysteries, fearful and chilling. They spoke of the kidnapping turned murder that use to haunt the news but now just haunted the rooms of a not-so-vacant house, haunted the walls that stood witness to that end. But mostly, they spoke the simple desolation of a life not lived.
They were beautiful words, yet ugly and confusing all at the same time. Beautiful because of the truth they sang, ugly because of what they told, and confusing when they mixed with the lies. She didn’t care. She didn’t care what they were or what they became. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were there. And that they told a story. Her story. Her story void of desperate denial and lavish lies.
She hugged the journal to her chest, afraid that if she didn’t those wonderfully ugly words would disappear. She had read the words in her head, memorized them in her thoughts, branded them there permanently. They were important. And secret. And dark, she knew.
She looked at the girl who had truly become her friend, her first in a long time,who had no idea what was in this journal, this journal written by a life lost, dusty with memories and age. She looked at the journal, still clutched to her chest. She closed her eyes, and let the words free. For the first time she spoke, listened to the way her voice rang through the walls like bells, rhythmic like the ticking of a clock. She watched the girl’s face vacant with shock as she listened to the voice that didn’t seem to belong, but that belonged more than she did.
The words overflowed willingly, without even the hint of protest even though this was her first time speaking since that fateful night she told of now. They had reverence and power. They had weight, heavy weight that lifted with each passing word. Her voice filled the air, caressed each word as spoke, spoke the very thing she had thought she wouldn’t be able to. But the words, the story consumed her. And suddenly, it wasn’t a secret anymore. This dark secret that had been concealed behind a bookshelf was being told, being set free. And she couldn’t stop it, didn’t want to. She sat there. Letting it happen. Clutching the journal. Listening to the way her mind formed each word. She told her friend of that night, of the story clutched to her chest. She imagined each word in her mind as she spoke, she imagined each word on the page, beautiful in her own handwriting, in the very pen she had softly held as it glided and danced.
And when the words stopped, when there was no more to be said,when even the ghosts of words disappeared, she opened her eyes to her friend’s face. Her round eyes portraying even more words beneath the surface, words she could have picked out had she wanted to. But for once she let them be, let them lay peacefully in their place, alone and undisturbed.
She searched the girl’s eyes for realization, but found none. They were merely empty shells shimmering with acceptance at the waft of cool air, not vacant with shock after all, but just vacant. Nothing more. The girl lowered her head, continuing to read as if she had never been interrupted, hadn’t heard any of it, seen any of it.
She had waited for this moment, and the moment never came.
In a small town there is a police station with a file cabinet packed with files. One of them forgotten but well-read sits in the back, waiting for answers. In the middle of that file there is a journal, tattered and worn that spent its life protected by a bookshelf. It was put there by its author, and only the author knows. To everyone else, the journal does not exist.
But exist it does. The journal is only visible to the invisible, only seen by those who can’t be. And the answers are only known by the girl who experienced them, the same girl who brought the journal here to live, tucked it away between the pages of unknown moments and forgotten clues where it belonged.
She use to think that when you forced secrets out into the open, they never returned, that they floated into the open air never to be secrets again. But she was wrong. The secret she had told remained transparent, invisible to the living world. The secret returned to wherever secrets live, encased in silence between yellowed papers and fading ink, telling a story without an ending.