It was the part of town with the tallest buildings. They were made out of steel and concrete and glass, but not wood. You couldn’t make a tall building out of wood because it wouldn't be strong enough for the wear and tear of the city. If all the other buildings were made of wood, then it might work. But they didn't make 'em like that anymore.
The buildings were tall because they had a lot of rooms in them; they were tall to fit all the stairs and elevators they housed; they were tall because someone with a lot of money wanted their name on the front of the tallest building in town. Looking up, one might say that there were too many tall building tops and not enough sky.
Hardly anyone was looking up. Those who were had only done so to determine whether or not it might rain. Most everyone else was looking at the sidewalk, their watches, or nothing at all as they walked briskly up and down Brockton Street. The sound of leather shoes and dirty sneakers hitting the concrete ground blended with the hubbub of hurried voices and grunts to create a flat, boring hubbub.
Rolling an unlit cigarette around with his tongue as he leaned against a pockmarked gray wall, Scott tried unsuccessfully to block the noise out of his mind. He always wondered how all those different noises sounded so dull when put together. If he closed his eyes, he could be in a fancy ballroom party in London chatting with the upper crust or in the auditorium of the Calderwood Pavilion waiting for a show to begin, and the sound of all the conversations taking place around you would add up to be pretty much the same uninteresting buzz. It was only when you approached someone to talk that their voice would be singled out from the many, only to return to it once your attention had been caught by something else.
Scott bit into one end of the cigarette, letting the ugly taste bring him back to focus. Now was not the time for reflection, he thought. That comes later. You need this first.
His left hand crept into the pocket of his neatly creased khakis, his fingers tapping against the familiar cold surface of his library card. He idly traced out the ‘Y’ in his True Name, thinking back to the first day he found the Way in the alley to his left. He had found a note in his mother's hope chest that told of a strange door located in the city that appeared only when those who sought it whistled a certain tune…
A loud cough from in front of him once again jarred Scott back to the city street. Along with the cough returned all of the incessant noises of the city. With every minute, his ears seemed to pick up another layer of sound: phones beeping, horns honking, the wind whistling through a stop sign perforated with holes. Cursing under his breath, Scott tried in vain to block it out, but eventually gave up and returned to his previous endeavor. He would be bathed in silence soon enough.
Moving his library card aside, he searched his pocket until he found a small, plastic case. Pulling it out slowly so as to not upset the contents, Scott reached his free hand up to the right side of his face and carefully raised his weathered eyepatch. Below it lay a jumbled mess of burnt, purpled skin where an eye would-but not should-have been. Scott winced as the wind picked up, causing the skin to quiver uncomfortably.
Ignoring the dull ache and the continuing din of the city, he popped open the latch on the case. Slowly, the lid opened to reveal a small, round object lying within a groove in the container’s base. It was a small, round, transparent sphere, about the size of a large marble. It was so perfectly colorless, it almost seemed invisible against the bottom of the solid-green plastic lid. A slight fog forming on the surface was the only clue to its existence.
As Scott gingerly picked it up with his thumb and index finger, he heard a slight gasp among the cloud of noise around him. Looking up on instinct, he saw a small boy standing about a yard in front of him. The boy wore a brightly colored yellow-and-orange sweater, making him stand out among the gray-black-brown-beige crowd facing the other direction. He had been staring at Scott’s face, but quickly aimed his gaze at the ground when Scott saw him. A lock of the boy’s long, brown hair fell in front of his face he averted his gaze, like the arm of a mother shielding her child’s eyes from something horrible. Scott gave a slight grimace out of offense. This only served to make his teeth further puncture the cigarette in his mouth, assaulting his tongue with the taste of unlit tobacco. Frustrated, Scott turned away from the yellow-and-orange boy, only to have his mood softened somewhat upon seeing the orb between his fingers. Only a few seconds, he thought. And then you’re alone.
He began to breathe more slowly as he raised the precious clear ball to his face. With more care than he had given any step of his little process, Scott touched the the surface of the sphere to the rumpled folds of skin below his upward-folded eyepatch. A cool, instantaneous sensation rippled through Scott as the sphere was sucked past his skin and into his sore, well-hidden eye socket. He gritted his teeth as he held the side of his head with left hand, trying not to cry out in discomfort as the ball wildly rotated inside his head, worming its way past his burnt skin to get a glimpse at the air.
Things began to flicker for Scott. People flashed in and out of focus; noises became impossibly quiet before they returned in a cacophony; the tall, tall buildings faded from view as the clouds behind them began moving erratically. And the noise. God damn it, the noise. The chatter would fade for an instant only to return ten times louder. The sound of footsteps seemed to swing back and forth in his head like a pendulum. Focus, Scott, focus. That was the mantra he always repeated to himself. If he didn’t focus, this wasn’t going to work at all. Biting back painful yelps as his eye socket grew white-hot, he maneuvered his eyepatch from above his right temple to over his left, real eye.
He flipped the patch down over it, and then Scott was suddenly nothing as silence finally reigned.
The people. The streets. The buildings. The boy. The cigarette. The case. Scott. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. All that remained from before was the bright blue sky, unblemished by smog and concrete spires.
The sky stretched in all directions, covering everything like a soft dome. All that held claim to it were wide gray mountaintops in the distance, capped with snow that blanketed everything else in sight. The frosted ground below glistened in the sunlight, with a perfect, polished gleam that rivaled porcelain.
To the west stood a glade of evergreens, their dark eternal needles clothed in innocent white. They were miles away, but the lack of anything in the air but sky made them just as distinct as if they lay mere inches westward.
To the east, closer than the trees, was a dark frozen pond. It almost looked as if a small sliver of the night sky had peeled off and fallen to earth.
Black water ebbed beneath the clear window in the snow, giving a glimpse of the deep abyss that lay beneath.
It absorbed the sunlight shining onto it save for a few sparkles, befitting it even more to a night sky, complete with stars.
This was all there was.
Everything was as it had always been,
was entirely new.
No living thing
Scott, once again, was. He was leaning against the same wall in the same city as before. The cigarette had fallen from his mouth. He breathed in and out for a few precious moments, seeing nothing but the fog that had accumulated on his eye. He was focused. His head contained a small hint of blissful silence, a flash of wonder he would touch upon in greater detail later, perhaps with a good book. Keeping his squishier eye closed, he moved the eyepatch back to the right side of his face, covering the foggy eye in darkness. He would return it to its case later, in a quieter place. He kept his other eye closed for a short while, trying to hold out as long as possible from this foreign world he had returned to, and retain a piece of that world of silence.
The noise of the city around him, for a brief second, was the most alien and grating noise he had ever heard. Almost instantly, though, it returned to the buzz it previously embodied, having changed only to him. Scott opened his other eye. Everything was strange, and yet it was the same. The tall buildings loomed, the people shuffled. Yet Scott’s mind was clearer now. He was more transparent. He was a part of something else.
He took out his library card and ducked into an alley. He waited for the secret tune to return to him, and began to whistle. He had a book in mind he wanted to re-read, to see if he could catch anything new to him, but that had always been in the book. He marveled at the hidden beauty a library held; all pages that ever were pressed against each other, waiting to be seen.
Waiting in beautiful silence.