Not the kind of silence that fills every corner and crevice of the house, nor the kind that envelopes the soul as it lays its head on a pillow made of down after a long hard day. Nor even the kind that welcomes a person like a sibling or a beloved friend – hanging about their head like a halo of peace, or lingering over an enticing book that they glance longingly at whilst in the clutches of, well, life.
This silence was deafening. A roar in her ears, a soundless scream from an open mouth and eyes rolling in horror. Everything around her carried on as normal. People passed money over counters, up-beat music floated over the gleaming tiles and pristine wares; bottles of jelly beans and polished coffee makers, colourful pencils and slushy machines – the whirr of the elevator and the cheery murmur of retail therapy.
She was like an island of dreary gloom amid this artificial joy, this pleasure derived from loud music and bright lights and perfect things. Sterilised people with immaculate manicures and glossy hair meandered past the displays, scarves woven delicately about scented necks and hats tipped to the side. She thought, in a short burst through her turmoil, that if the lights were removed and the music switched off, that this place would be as empty and cold as an abandoned ballroom. Just an echo of all the vibrant lives glimmering past, a mere stop in a full and enriched life journey. All its meaning derived from the here and now, the personalities and characters, the conversations and thoughts that flitted under the soaring arcs and marbles pillars.
But the silence filled her ears despite the humdrum world. Her ankle boots, that she had so carefully chosen that morning because the heel was comfortable enough for miles of walking, dug painfully into the soft skin just above her protruding ankle bone. Her feet felt welded to the ground. A loud hissing noise, drowning everything else out, and somehow spreading from her ears like an army of marching ants, all over her body. Like a hot lava flow, prickling under her clammy skin.
Presently her vision began to cloud over. A thick mass of grey, stormy foam bubbling around the corners of her periphery. A sick, nauseating feeling swelling up from somewhere in her chest, and a sudden deep fatigue overwhelming her despite her feeble efforts to fight it, and all sounds vanished into the hissing, the loud static that took over the noise of the shopping mall and dragged her consciousness on a rollercoaster ride through time and space. Zipping through her memories, distorting her life’s interactions, bringing characters from the past close to the lens of her eye before yanking them back again. Here she was, sitting in a car, sailing down a highway down to what looked like a hell of chaos and bright light. Cheering in the background, and she was bowing? No, sleeping. Deep, deep sleep. Now somebody was pulling her out of a lake and shouting her name. Over and over again and her eyes were opening slowly.
The hissing was now like waves crashing against her eardrums, the world too bright for her sore eyes, and George was calling her name urgently. His arm was under her head, and the flying arches were directly above her. She was lying on the floor, with something soft under her back.
”Good grief, she’s awake! She’s awake!” and her face was pressed to the front of George’s chest, smelling thickly of his spice and leather cologne. Her body was heavy, and gradually the deafening silence of her ears was ebbing away, giving way to the loud clatter of sounds around her, the music, still as cheery as ever, the murmur of a thousand shoppers, and the cautious, worried whispers emanating from all the faces grouped over her body.