Silence (Story #12)



“A gift” is what people called them.  And they were—sort of.  The composer’s ears were more amazing than anyone else’s who’d ever lived.  They could hear notes that no one else could, except of course for the dogs that liked to follow the composer around on his morning walks.  It was because of those ears that the composer wrote the most amazing music anyone had ever heard.

For a while, before he became famous and was still living in the small town he grew up in, his neighbors would walk by his house just so they could listen to his music as he wrote it.  These neighbors, to the man, woman, and child, all came away feeling as if they were the luckiest people in the world.  They didn’t always agree what the music had done for them.  Some said that the things that had bothered them before they listened to the music seemed small and inconsequential afterwards.  So, they believed that the composer’s music made problems shrink.  Others argued that the music had not done a thing to their problems; rather, the music had somehow made them bigger inside.

This argument didn’t seem so important to the composer.  He was just glad to see that people were happier after they heard his music than they were before.  What the composer did not find out was that with time, his neighbors would all come to be sad.  That feeling that made everything else seem less important or made people feel larger inside, whichever it was, had a price.  Months later for some, years for others, they would wake up and find that they missed their worries and their problems.  The ones who felt that their problems had shrunk wished for them to grow again like a dead plant once loved but now dead, and the people who believed they’d grown, now wanted more than anything to be returned to a normal size.

As the composer became famous and he moved out of the small house in his hometown, more people got a chance to hear his music.  And just like with his neighbors, they were affected in the same way, though something seemed lost in the translation.  Listeners would come away from concerts feeling happy, though not ecstatic, and the sadness they all eventually felt, was also less.

The composer sensed the change, and he didn’t like it.  Why, he wondered, was his music less powerful than before?  There wasn’t much point, was there?  If people weren’t affected by his music—made truly happy by it—then why go to the trouble of composing?  He struggled and struggled at his piano to come up with the right sounds, and he kept trying different techniques: more notes, more rhythm, less silence.  As a result, his music became complex and his pieces became longer and longer to the point that they were starting to have the opposite effect of what the composer intended.  People became less interested in his music and less moved by it.

The composer decided he should stop writing music for a while, and that instead he should just listen to the world.  He went on walks, long walks, and then he started riding a bicycle so he could go on even longer trips.  It was never enough sound, though because his trips were never long enough.  At one point, he became convinced that his legs were against him, as if their exhaustion was nothing more than a plot against the happiness of his ears.  It was an odd belief, and if the composer would’ve reached out to a friend to tell him about it, that friend would’ve made him see how silly he was being.  But the composer, thinking he was too busy for friends, kept his theory to himself.

As it turned out, the composer was actually half-right about what was going on. Though his legs were like anyone else’s: just legs, dumb bone and muscle, his ears were not normal at all.  They not only heard things no one else on two legs could.  They were also self-conscious, like small greedy animals that at some point had attached themselves to the side of his substantial head.  To make things worse, they weren’t just hungry for sound.  They were miserly and secretive—so secretive that without the composer ever knowing it, as he passed through town after town on his tours, they were collecting all the sounds they heard:  children laughing and crying, and couples whispering and shouting, old women snickering, old men cursing, and of course, music–any and all kinds of music.

Eventually, the composer’s ears went beyond the sounds that people made to the sounds of doors creaking and cracking, and cars running and rumbling, and dogs barking and bellowing.  And when they were done with that, the composer’s ears moved on again to sounds that no one (not even dogs) could hear:  flowers yawning in front of the sun; statues bracing themselves for rain; dust forming on pictures in old people’s homes.

This went on for some time—a very long time, which was hard on the composer.  If the composer’s ears had had any love for the composer, they would’ve stopped.  More than anything, the composer wanted to sit down somewhere and write music that used all the sounds he was carrying around with him, but his ears, they pushed him forward, kept his legs moving until one day, his ears heard the most terrible sound they could imagine: a silence coming from the composer that they had never heard before.

The composer’s heart had collapsed, broken under the weight of all the sounds of the world.


Tags: , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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