Grim story today. This one is somewhat graphic, and contains violent images, so use your best judgement.
NOT A SOUND
The girl screamed. I saw her mouth twisted in fear; I saw the horror in her eyes. I knew she was screaming, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I shook my head, hoping to clear my ears, but the world was like a television with the sound turned off. I pressed my back tight against the wall, paralyzed by fear. I wanted to help, do something, anything, but my knees trembled so badly I was sure my legs wouldn’t hold me. I felt like I was drowning, unable to catch my breath.
The screaming stopped. The girl’s body motionless on the ground, face down, her little arms jutted at an awkward angle from her body, her naked flesh gleamed in the sunlight. The men above her, in a circle, laughing, I could see them laughing, I could see them, but I couldn’t hear a sound. They laughed, their heads thrown back, roared with delight at the sight of the poor broken little body. Was she still alive? I started to creep from the wall, hoping to crawl over and help her, but one of the men swung in my direction, a fierce scowl punctuating the gun he thrust my direction. I stopped, pressed back against the wall, and waited for the world to stop spinning.
One of the men – or was he a man? He looked like a teenager, only a boy, really – whipped out his phone and snapped pictures of the body, the tiny body lifeless on the pavement. At a signal, his friends flipped the body, exposed the girl’s tiny breast nubs and smooth, hairless vagina to the cruel eye of the camera. I shouted stop, screamed for the police, cried out a prayer, anything, but my words were as silent as the rest of the world. Not a sound except in my own head. The world passed by, the little drama in the side street unnoticed and unmarked by a busy, teeming society that had better places to be.
I tried again to move. Perhaps if I could run into the street and flag down a passerby, I could at least get help for the girl if she was still alive. My muscles twitched but my feet didn’t move. I was glued in place, silent, motionless, as the men turned their attention back to me. My legs gave way and I slid down the wall, the bricks scratching my naked back as I collapsed in a heap, my head lying on the huge boot of the one that appeared to be the leader. My blood ran red over the black boot. He yanked me to my feet and I saw the laughter, saw his lips move as he said something, but the words were only silence. He jerked my arm, anger flashed across his face like a summer storm, and he said – maybe shouted – something. What was it he wanted of me? My humiliation, my fear, was so complete, I would gladly have done whatever he asked, if only I could hear what he was saying. He yanked me across the yard and threw me in a heap beside the tiny, still warm body motionless on the pavement.
I didn’t move. I sensed the presence of the men, but I was face down and couldn’t see whether they were angry or amused. Were they snapping pictures of me? Were they laughing? I tried to get to my knees, crawl toward the big street, the street where lights and sounds and people would engulf me, remove me from this horror, but I sank back, not willing to give them the satisfaction of seeing me crawl. I remained still, held my breath, hoped they would think I was dead and leave us in peace, the two of us, to pick up the pieces as best we could.
Rough hands grabbed me by the shoulder, another hand with fingers in my vagina, my poor bruised vagina. I was flipped onto my back; I stared up at the circle of men, a circle that had expanded to five. I closed my eyes, not willing to watch as they shot photo after photo of my naked, bleeding body. The world disappeared, mercifully leaving me in a dark silence that sheltered me from the pain and humiliation, numbed the fear, and engulfed me in its black arms.
The sun awakened me. I was in bed. Was it all a dream? A nightmare. My eyes adjusted to the light and I realized I wasn’t at home. I was in a strange room, perhaps a hotel room, with pale beige walls and soft comforting prints framed in fake bronze. I tried to get out of bed, explore, find the bathroom, but I was slammed back against the covers by fierce pain. I fumbled with the covers and nearly unhooked the IV tube dangling from my arm, dripping some unknown substance into my blood through the tiny hole created for the purpose. I stared at the tube, trying to bring it into focus, but it swam before my eyes, blurred and soft but unmistakable, a clear plastic snake that had its fangs in me and wouldn’t let me go.
I must have touched the nurse call button because a strange woman appeared, soft and blurry like the IV, unfamiliar but familiar at the same time. This was a nurse. I know what a nurse is, right? She spoke but I heard nothing. Her lips moved, she bent over my bed, took my pulse, arranged my covers. I opened my mouth, tried to explain that I needed to go to the bathroom, but she heard nothing. She watched me with a mixture of pity and kindness, plumped the pillows under my head, but she made no effort to get me out of bed to go to the bathroom.
My bladder swelled; it felt ready to burst and still she didn’t take me to the bathroom. She patted my hand and left me in my anguish, unable to tell her I needed to pee, unable to ask her if the little girl was all right, or even alive. Damn, why did that little girl have to run over and try to help me? I cried for her but the tears were silent. The world was silent. I strained my ears. Nothing. Not the normal sounds of a busy hospital; not the normal sounds of a busy city going about its business outside the windows. Nothing. I heard nothing.
The nurse spoke again; I didn’t hear what she was saying but I took a chance and nodded. She began preparations to get me out of bed, adjusting the IV on the mobile hanger, and I was finally on my way to the bathroom. I reached the stool seconds before I lost control and the dam burst. At least I was spared the humiliation of soiling my bed. I didn’t hear the sound of the toilet as I flushed, or the running water in the sink as I washed my hands. I didn’t hear the rolling of the wheels as I shuffled back to bed, the nurse trailing behind in case I needed help. I didn’t hear the creak of the bedsprings as I climbed back into the bed or the sound of the TV when the nurse flipped the switch, flooding the room with light and motion as strange, silent figures talked and laughed and moved through the mindless routines of a standard situation comedy. I yearned to hear the canned laughter, the corny jokes, the awful dialogue, but there was nothing. I was alone in silence.
Days passed. A little girl haunted my dreams, a little girl with plump rosy cheeks and laughing eyes, laughter that gave way to fear as her cheeks paled and her body withered, going limp in my arms, not moving, not speaking, lying there motionless in my arms as demons circled us, laughing silently, snapping pictures, pointing and laughing as the little girl died. I woke up screaming but no one heard. Finally I just stopped sleeping. It seemed the easiest thing to do. Nurses moved around me, taking my temperature, giving me shots, speaking silently with cheerful faces, saying words I couldn’t hear, asking me questions I couldn’t answer. I moved when they tugged at my arm; I moved the other way when they tugged the other arm. I stumbled to the bathroom and back, unable to hear the comforting flush or the familiar rushing water, unable to comprehend the world. And I still didn’t know about the little girl.
The world slows down when you can’t interact with it. Things just drift by, passing you over and leaving you alone, taking no interest in your well being. I was able to think, perhaps for the first time in my life, and I realized why we surround ourselves with noise, light, and people. Being alone with yourself is excruciating. It can’t be borne. I needed a break, any vacation from my own thoughts. The nurses brought me books. They were silly, mostly romance, because the nurses didn’t know what kind of books I liked. I devoured them, eager to lose myself in a world that wasn’t real, a world that didn’t include me. I read several a day, until the day I had read all they had. Then they brought me a laptop.
I surfed the net, catching up on the news, trying to see what happened while I was away. The world hadn’t changed much without me; it was still the same politics, still the same crime, still the same troubled world. I decided since I wasn’t needed, I would just stay away. I lost myself in the internet world, a world where nothing is real and everything is real, where you can be anyone you want to be, and you can speak and hear without sound. Everything was as it should be in the internet world. Nobody got hurt, because no one really existed. Nobody got scared, because there was nothing to be scared of. I dissolved into the cyberworld and started to feel alive again at last.
Perhaps the internet could tell me what happened to the little girl. Perhaps the news? But I didn’t know her name. But I knew my name, didn’t I? Surely her story would be linked with mine. I typed in the letters of my name, clicked on the first link that came up related to the crime, and jumped back in horror. It was pictures! Pictures of me…pictures of the little girl…lying there, naked, exposed to the world, bleeding and bruised, while a group of men stood around us, laughing and having fun. The pictures were popular. They had millions of likes. I wanted to cry, but there was no use. Even crying couldn’t humiliate me any longer.
I added an account, I wanted to comment. All I typed was my name…my name, with the single word, Deceased.