The Committee on Silence
One morning when the sun erased all the night’s undoings, the villagers finally forgot how to close their eyes. They had grown tired of not seeing what all happened while they slept. They had grown tired of losing those fragile moments blinked away during each day’s dazzlement. That morning, no matter how hard the villagers tried, their eyelids would not budge. Even the softest fingers could not pinch closed any neighbor’s sight. They rejoiced. They would never miss the wolf approaching from the forest. They would never ignore the thief leaving the church with a sackful of eggs. They would never look past the child sticking chewed gum on a statue’s eye. They rejoiced and named the day Apollo Day. The Festival Committee was appointed. The Committee employed workers to saw down trees to be fashioned into spiral staircases leading far into the sky. The Committee hired labor to weave the surplus of exotic textiles into a quilt great enough to be cloaked around the entire village’s circumference. The Committee asked all the children to make with their hands a number of drawings to be nailed into each stair and stitched into every square of the fabric wall. When the moon next brightened its whole being, the festival was held. Music fled from mouths and instruments. Fire turned animals into food. Some people climbed into the night sky so far even eyes that could not close could not see them. Some people watched the wind move the wall like a single, continuous sheet of hymns. Some children hid and some children sought, but the children who were seeking always won. It was all anyone could speak of for the entire next year. The Committee decided on many agains. Festival after festival came and then went. After some time, the particulars gradually changed. Staircases were repaired, or replicas were made. The worn fabric was switched with nylon weave. Yet the children’s drawings remained largely the same. The elders saw in these sketches what they remembered seeing when they would blink. Instead of stories, each year’s festival ended with a sigh. The villagers continued their lives of light, speaking only of what they saw. The wolf approaching from the forest. The thief leaving the church with a sackful of eggs. The child sticking chewed gum on a statue’s eye. Sometimes what they saw they no longer wanted to see. A test was run, and village experts concluded everyone’s hearing had weakened. All signs pointed to it worsening. When someone spoke of a lake they once saw, the listener only heard a handful of silt. The experts decided there was nothing to be done. Year after year, the Committee continued to plan. One morning after the festival, when the sun lit the conquered dark, the villagers forgot how to open their ears. They had not planned for this. They named the day Harpocrates Day. No festival was to take place. They established the Committee on Silence. This brings us to the present day.
From Autoblivion (Conduit Books, 2023) by Trey Moody. Copyright © 2023 by Trey Moody. Used with the permission of the author.