Sound of Silence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Years ago, after the historic 9-11 tragedy occurred, terrorism grew to an all-time level of horror in our country. This left us vulnerable to further plots and waves of crime and destruction. Like cancer cells, these terror groups wormed their way into our society. Nothing was sacred any longer, nothing was safe. Thousands of innocent people were killed. The church bombings, the explosions at our amusement parks, mass murder in our nightclubs and malls across America, grew in numbers until these acts sickened the heart of good citizens. Finally, it led to one man’s fight to try to put a stop to the terror once and for all.

 

 

 

The Sound of Silence

 

 

Years ago, after the historic 9-11 tragedy occurred, terrorism grew to an all-time level of horror in our country. This left us vulnerable to further plots and waves of crime and destruction. Like cancer cells, these terror groups wormed their way into our society. Nothing was sacred any longer, nothing was safe. Thousands of innocent people were killed. The church bombings, the explosions at our amusement parks, mass murder in our nightclubs and malls across America, grew in numbers until these acts sickened the heart of good citizens. Finally, it led to one man’s fight to try to put a stop to the terror once and for all.

Senator Frank Tomlinson, already renowned as the brilliant humanitarian nephew of President Carter Tomlinson, came up with a plan. Only the electronic or texted word could be monitored, he proposed. Speech and all audible forms of communication became dangerous, and truly useless in a society obsessed with electronics. He urged that communication devices linked to control rooms in government buildings and thousands of monitored computer systems were easy to view. Homes, places of work, vehicles and all stores would all be fitted with trackers. Any terrorists or rebels would be found and dealt with instantly.

“The government wants to protect you, fellow citizens. This is the only way to detect threats before they become a reality,” Senator Tomlinson assured the nation.

“You will soon see news blasts on your smart phones, computers, televisions and all electronics. The spoken word will cease. We urge you to heed and aid us with the new law as it is put into place. We are implementing this for your protection. No longer will we have to fear tyranny from other countries. No longer will we be slaves to radical terrorism.

 "My highly trained Stewards of Order will keep the peace and help uphold the law. Cold-hearted warriors with years of training, they are battle ready with virtually impenetrable body armor. Under my orders, these soldiers completely submit to my authority, punishing anyone who does not obey.

"The Rumors of what goes on behind the cold walls of the prison holding areas are true: torture, public scarring, even execution for the most serious offenses. Secret societies and those who oppose government bureaucrats will be hunted. Do not dare to challenge this law.

"The use of my Stewards of Order is for the protection of the nation. Everyone must comply with the decree or suffer the consequences. A trial period of five years will begin effective immediately."

 

#

 

I would love to hear my wife’s voice and especially my daughter’s. But this is something that will never be. They say that silencing every person and monitoring every household is for our protection. They say terror cells are being stopped and mass shootings are being prevented by the constant surveillance. They say this is for the common good.

If this is good, then I don’t want any part of it. I would rather sing a song to my child; tell my wife how much I love her with passion and raw emotion in my voice. Typing on an IC 3000 communication device isn’t the same as hearing the timbre and melody of the spoken word or the hushed whisper of passionate love. Our country has become sterile and electronic.

I wish society were different. Paranoia and mistrust have become the norm. One man is responsible.

His name is Tomlinson. Charismatic and brilliant, he is one of the most powerful dictators any country has ever seen. The Sound of Silence order is his. The crude cell phones of our ancestors gave him the idea. People already had not been speaking or engaging with one another, he had said. There is no longer a need for stupid banter. But hardly anyone suspects the other reasons for the senator’s control of the spoken word; the dark secrets he supposedly keeps.

I read about rumors of trafficking in a secret document. It revealed how the wealth in his family was due to their “business.” The publication I stumbled upon was highly forbidden. I paid a huge price to obtain it in a surreptitious dealing.

The alleged wealth in his family is more than a college professor like me could wrap my head around. Fame and the almighty dollar put him where he is. That’s another thing: money. Why is the ability to pay for one’s life when you are old even an issue?

The aged are a problem, according to the government, you see. They are the last to use common speech since the mandate to eliminate speaking blasted out on social media, televisions, and computers in all our homes. Many of them will not comply with the law. Many of them have become rebels.

The elderly aren’t a commodity to be taken for granted or discarded. They’re people to be loved and honored. They can’t comprehend these stupid, new laws or why they must leave the homes they love for government mandated “elder care.”  

Only a few extremely wealthy among the old ones survive now. Their money keeps them alive, but at a substantial cost: they clutch the pen in desperate hands, and sign away their freedom to speak. Greedy government officials grant them safety and the assurance they will not be “hunted.” Middle class and poor elderly are gone, exterminated under the guise of government anti-terrorist actions.

 The Stewards see to that. Yeah, Stewards of Order. What a name for these murderers. There’s nothing orderly about them. I wonder if any of them have consciences.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to write this all down because I know I only have a few hours before they drag me out of my home. You see, I did something foolish. My grandmother always told me I would be someone special. A few hours ago, there was nothing special about what I did. I helped an old woman. Any decent human being would have done it, wouldn’t they?

 

#

 The splintery wooden bench dug into the back of Raymond Warren’s legs. It had been hours since he’d seen anyone. Ray’s throat burned and he licked his cracked lips, as a wave of nausea rose in him, and with it, utter despair. Ray was finished, all because he’d spoken out loud in an era overrun by communication devices; where the spoken word hadn’t been permitted in at least thirteen years.

Ray wondered what they would do to him, but the fear he felt was nothing compared to the raw anger. How could that horrible man so easily cast aside his own grandmother when it was obvious they had meant something to each other at one point in their lives?

 He thought about the old woman he encountered yesterday. Fragile, crooked, bent body, gnarled hands resting on the wooden cane she held onto like a most precious possession. She was one of the select, one of few elderly who were left. She’d fallen yesterday in the transportation portal, the underground subway system used mostly by those who held prestigious job titles.

Why had she been there?

The old woman’s wooden cane had gone flying and she sprawled onto the cold concrete. Though people had milled about waiting for the afternoon commute, not one of them had lifted a finger to help her. Nobody respected the old ones. With so few of them left, it was easy to pretend they weren’t a part of society any longer.

Ray, who’d been scanning his interactive software pad in the holding area, jumped up and the discs he’d been working on clattered to the ground. He’d run to the woman, lifting her, cradling her gently as she wept.

That’s when it happened. The crowd gasped as one when the woman spoke. “Thank you, son,” she’d said, clearly not remembering the government rule. And Ray, knowing but not thinking at that moment, had uttered what now condemned him: “You’re welcome.” With two words, Ray had doomed himself.

Realizing he’d spoken aloud, Ray grabbed the woman’s cane. Silently, he handed it to her. He glanced around frantically whisking discs into his metal binder, but it had been too late. Several people pointed him out as the Stewards of Order came rushing forward, their weapons and communication devices drawn, lines and lines of text accusing Ray plastered on every reader board; the piercing klaxon horn rhythmically blaring.

STOP! DO NOT MAKE A MOVE. YOU’VE BROKEN THE LAW.

He had run. Ray ran as never before. Not caring if he’d left important documents behind, he’d sprinted the twelve blocks to his home where he’d never been happier that his family wasn’t there yet.

By morning Ray knew what he had to do. He would turn himself in. He would save his wife and daughter. Whatever might happen to him, they had nothing to do with it.

He’d gone into his daughter Veronica’s room. She was sitting at her desk, his little girl, pretty in her soft pink pajamas; a plush toy horse clutched underneath one arm. His heart broke that she was born into the world during a time such as this. She’d never know what it would be like to speak. She’d never sing a song, or say the words, I love you. Ray sat on the edge of his daughter’s bed and his eyes traveled to the tiny scar on her delicate throat. He shuddered. Every child born in the years of silence had the implanted surgical chip on their vocal chords, rendering them incapable of any speech.

Ray hadn’t waited for the Stewards to find him. As he neared the Justice Premiere Office, the towering government building loomed in the distance; darkened windows reflected no sunlight and its sterile, metal façade turned Ray’s legs to jelly.

Maybe I should have run.

Ray had approached the parking garage where he’d leave his vehicle, maybe forever, and knew he was doing the right thing.

His communication device blasted out another accusatory text: SURRENDER YOURSELF NOW. SAVE YOUR FAMILY.

Ray got out of his car, locking the door as if it would matter. The sound echoed loudly in the stillness of the garage. He uttered a silent prayer, and then took the elevator to the tenth floor: The Chief Justice office.

The doors opened with a hiss. Ray felt the deepening tension that threatened to turn him into a blubbering fool. He refused to let that happen. He knew exactly what he was going to do.

A huge computer stood sentinel in an all-white lobby. Words popped up instantly asking him the reason for his visit. Ray typed a few words onto the pad and a door opened off to his left. A huge Steward of Order emerged, glaring at him; his cold, lifeless eyes boring into Ray as he ushered him into the judge’s chamber.

In front of Ray sat an ornate marble desk. The man behind the desk looked bored, and the lines on his face gave his age away. He was one of the old ones, the wealthy ones. A placard which read The Honorable Judge Seth Harrington was set off to the side. At the front of the desk, another computer screen flashed. Words popped up instantly.

RAYMOND WARREN, YOU ARE ACCUSED OF THE CRIME OF SPEECH. SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS AND SEVERAL WITNESSES POINTED YOU OUT YESTERDAY FOR TALKING TO ONE OF THE ELDERLY. HOW DO YOU PLEAD?

Ray closed his eyes. He thought about Julie and Veronica, his wife and daughter. He thought about his mother and father. He thought about the old woman from the transportation portal. Mostly, he thought about his beloved grandmother, plump, and compassionate. This is for you.

He walked to the computer pad, fingers poised above the keys. His typing skills were excellent. Words flew easily from his hands. Looking straight at The Honorable Judge Harrington, Ray paused. The few people inside the room gasped as his voice, halting, and at first barely audible, broke the silence.

“Citizens of America, this is w-wrong,” he stuttered. “I stand here a condemned m-man, for what you deem a crime.” Beads of perspiration trickled down his face and he didn’t wipe them away.

Resolve rose up in him and his voice bellowed forth, passionate and loud. Even though his throat ached from the strain he screamed, “Why does it have to be that anything the government can’t control becomes a crime? That any speech not monitored can be construed as dangerous thus putting all positive and caring acts of speech in the same category as evildoers?

“There is nothing wrong with the spoken word. It is a gift, a blessing! Why else would we have voices?”

 The judge banged his gavel. The computer screen flashed: STOP HIM! SOMEONE TAKE THIS MAN AWAY!

Stewards moved forward on either side of Ray. He felt no fear and continued.

“We once told stories. We once spoke words of love. We listened to tales from beloved family members and learned from them. We sang songs from our hearts. Our voices must be heard again!”

The Stewards dragged Ray from the room, trying to silence him. The sounds of his words were heard throughout the tenth floor. People in hallways turned to look and doors flew open as he was pulled along, the faces of office workers incredulous at what they heard.

“Listen to me, all of you! Learn from this! Nothing is as important as family! Nothing is as important as talking with loved ones sharing precious words with one another. Look up the facts! Our ancestor’s texting on their crude, old-fashioned cell phones gave Tomlinson the idea. People who could sit for hours not conversing with one another until gradually there was nothing to speak about any longer. We must stop this now if we are to survive!”

The butt of cold metal hit Ray in the stomach and he doubled over, his breath and words taken from him. He fell to the carpet and the huge officer kicked him with the pointy toe of a metal boot. Ray rolled over, clutching his midsection. After a moment he was pulled to his feet and dragged down the remainder of the hallway.

Ray had been thrown into a holding room. There, he’d been surprised to see the same old woman from the station seated at a crude folding table. Her head was down and her hands were clasped together in her lap as her lips moved silently. The door slammed behind him and the lock was thrown. Ray limped over to the woman, a stabbing pain in his side, and wiped his hand across his mouth. Blood came away on it.

He’d touched her shoulder and at first the woman hadn’t looked up. Ray had shaken her shoulder gently and the woman stopped. She looked at Ray, eyes filmy with the beginnings of cataracts. Recognition dawned on her face and she reached for him, a tear finding its way out of the corner of one eye.

They had looked at one another, neither speaking, when Ray realized he must say something first. Glancing around the room, he saw there was no government monitor. The place they were in was perhaps an old classroom. What does it really matter at this point? Ray had thought.

“Are you okay?” his voice, hoarse and cracking, croaked out. “Have they hurt you?”

The old woman shook her head and motioned for Ray to bend down. She kissed his cheek, her skin like the feel of sandpaper and whispered in his ear. “Listen to me, and do exactly as I say. My name is Rosa. Rosa Tomlinson. I think I can buy our freedom.”

Ray straightened up; a small jolt of hope had coursed through him. Perhaps she’s lying, though, or worse, crazy. Nothing can save them. The name, however, bothered him. Rosa Tomlinson, the name so familiar. Then recognition dawned on his face: Tomlinson.

“Are you a relative of the senator?” he asked. Ray pulled a chair close to her and winced. It felt as if glass was grinding around the left side of his body. He spat blood, and wiped his mouth with the tail of his shirt.

“There isn’t much time,” Rosa spoke quietly. “Senator Tomlinson is my grandson. He’s on his way here. Let me do the talking, son. Let me see what I can do.”

For a brief moment, Ray thought she had better do something. After all, if it wasn’t for Rosa, he wouldn’t be in any predicament. As quickly as he thought that, a feeling of shame washed over him.

“You’re hurt,” Rosa said, and her fingers probed over Ray’s side and he flinched. “Your ribs are broken. What happened?”

Ray nodded his head. He heard footsteps outside their door, raised his finger to his lips and pointed. They both watched as the latch turned and the door was thrown open. Two Stewards of Order stood on either side of the impeccably-dressed senator. Ray never saw him in person, only on telecommunication monitors. Even though the man was handsome with smooth tanned skin, salt and pepper hair, and the most piercing blue eyes, Ray’s impression was one of immediate disgust.

Senator Frank Tomlinson strolled into the room, smiling like a poisonous snake when he saw his grandmother. He flipped a switch at his belt, and the telecommunication set at the front of the room powered on. His fingers played at his communication device and words popped up on the screen.

Grandma, very nice to see you but I hear you’ve been a very bad girl lately. A slight smirk touched his lips.

Rosa shook her head. She had no communication device.

More words popped onto the screen: Mr. Warren. Thank you for turning yourself in. It would have been no use trying to run.

Ray left his IC-3000 communication device at home. He knew he wouldn’t need it.

“You can dispense with the formality, senator,” Ray said. “I have no other way to communicate with you.”

Rosa’s eyes widened with fear. The senator seemed taken aback. He motioned to the Stewards who rushed over to Ray, pulling him up from the chair. Ray’s legs threatened to fold underneath him, but the patrolmen pushed him toward the senator.

Such a brave, bold man. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Senator Tomlinson typed. He reached out to shake Ray’s hand. Ray stared at the senator’s hand and took a step backward. He’d read the rumors about this evil man, rumors of trafficking and coercion; rumors of those hands which had done despicable things to young children. Ray thought about his own beautiful little girl. It was all he could do not to take hold of the senator and throttle him senseless.

Ray spat on the floor missing the senator’s highly polished leather shoes. He was met with a backhanded slap to his face, as the senator’s garnet ring grazed his cheek.

Bitter tears stung Ray’s eyes. He glared at the senator. You’ll pay. Somehow or another, you’ll pay.

The senator’s jaw was clenched tightly, and his blue eyes pierced Ray, daring him, willing him to make a move. A minute ticked by. Taking control of himself he began typing again.

Grandma, I’m not sure what to do about this situation. After all, it’s my own law that you’ve broken. The senator appeared deep in thought.

“Leave her alone!” Ray screamed, and was immediately met with a blow to his already wounded side. The room spun, and tiny pinpricks of light danced in his vision. From far away he heard Rosa’s voice.

“Stop it, Frankie. Please don’t hurt the boy. It was my fault.” Rosa stood and hobbled over to her grandson.

Ray began to regain consciousness. His arms felt as though they were being pulled from the sockets as the Stewards of Order grasped him on either side.

Don’t speak. You’ll only make it worse for yourself, the senator typed.

“Nonsense,” Rosa said, and walked very near her grandson. “Do you forget so easily how close we were, Frankie? Do you forget how I took care of you after your father died?”

The senator’s eyes widened. Never call me that stupid name. He tried to back out of the room, but Rosa reached out and grabbed his lapel with her arthritic hand.

“I have money. I can pay you. What would it take to forget all about this little misunderstanding?”

I can’t be bought, not even by you. The senator pounded the keys and held up his device for his grandmother to read.

“Oh, come now. Everyone has a price.”

Take him away! He goes to the holding area immediately!

“Frankie, please. . .”

Take her with him. Goodbye, Grandmother.

 

#

 

Ray had no idea where he was, only that it was somewhere underneath the building he walked into earlier in the morning. No sounds or light were present in the cold holding cell. Ray shivered. His cotton boxer shorts the only protection from the bitter dampness. His broken ribs from the beating he’d endured earlier throbbed to the pounding of his heart. The faces of his wife and daughter swam before his eyes.

Ray clenched his fists. The tight, metal binding cuffs around his wrists rattled. His personal effects were gone; his wallet with the special letter from a good teacher, Mr. Clark--the letter that carried him through the toughest moments of his life. He didn’t need the piece of paper to remember what it said: Ray, never forget you’re a leader, not a follower. Never forget you were born to become someone great. Now go and do what you are meant to do. Ray would become no such thing. In a short while he’d be dead.

#

Ray tossed and turned, unable to rest, his mind reeling with the events of the past couple hours. Sleep finally overtook him and fragments of nightmares jarred him awake. The sound of the door woke him, and a pinprick of light shone into Ray’s eyes. He scrambled to his feet and shrunk back against the wall as a Steward of Order walked through with the senator behind him.

The senator motioned for the Steward to go. He closed the cell door throwing the lock into place. He strolled over to Ray and reached for the chain of the binding cuff attached to Ray’s wrist. He jerked it hard against Ray’s flesh, and Ray sank to the floor.

Ray’s eyes widened when the senator spoke in a voice almost so low he could barely hear it.

“I want you to beg me,” Tomlinson hissed with another tug at the binding cuff. “I want you to scream for mercy and hear your almighty voice now.” His fist flew through the air and connected with Ray’s face.

Ray gasped for air; blood seeped from fresh wounds in his wrists and trickled from his nose. The room had gone silent. The Senator had broken his own law.

 “Crawl,” the senator spat, punctuating each word by tugging against Ray’s chain. “Crawl and maybe I’ll let your family go.”

Ray looked up, a pained expression on his face. Everything in him screamed, all the aches, and wounds, but now the vile man had opened a fresh gash.

“No matter what you do to me, you’ll never be the winner,” Ray managed to choke out.  “I can see you coming to ruin and destruction. In time you’ll be judged. And I’ll live to celebrate your demise, you and others like you who thought they could change history.”

“Why, Warren?” the senator whispered, bending down and looking directly into Ray’s face. “Why do you want to die? Do you think it will save my little old grandmother? She’s going to be executed right before you. I’m going to make you watch.”

The senator dropped the chain holding Ray’s cuffs and reached a hand out. He stroked the side of Ray’s face almost tenderly. He’d appeared to be struggling with something—emotions crossed his face in rapid succession.

Ray flinched. That touch, so unnerving. It had felt like poison.

It appeared that Tomlinson had wanted to say something else. But he stood, unlocked the door and left the cell, slamming the door behind him.

#

Ray hunched over on the cold, hard bench. He hadn’t been able to sleep. It had to be nearly morning by now. Gloom and despair hung over him and the knowledge that he would never see his wife and child again. Though his face, ribs, and wrists hurt badly, nothing felt as vile as the touch of the senator’s soft hand against his face. It had felt like acid.

He shivered and the door to his cell swung open slowly. A Steward of Order walked through the door, hulking and sullen.

Light spilled in from the hallway and Ray braced himself for another beating. The soldier, Santiago on his name badge, completely took Ray off guard and stood beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. What is this? Ray had time to think. The patrolman unlocked the binding cuffs and handed Ray his clothing. Ray’s wallet was clutched in Santiago’s other hand. He put a finger to his lips.

Ray stood on legs that threatened to betray him, wincing at the pain in his battered body. He dressed slowly as the Steward watched, towering over him. He pointed to Ray’s wallet, then to Ray.

Ray didn’t understand. Santiago repeated the gesture and then shrugged his shoulders. He pulled the letter from Ray’s wallet, the precious letter from Mr. Clark. The Steward pointed to the words, then at Ray. You’re a leader. . .

Glancing behind him and then walking back out into the hallway and checking to the left and the right, Santiago ducked back into the cell once again. His unnerving gaze bored into Ray and he whispered. “You’re a leader. Don’t you see? We don’t have much time. Come now.” He pulled Ray out of the room, supporting him as he hurried him toward a large steel door at the end of the hall. Ray could barely walk, weakened from hunger and pain.

The door opened and his wife Julie stood before him.

I must be dreaming or dead. Ray fell into the arms of his wife while the Steward of Order guided them both to his vehicle.

“Contact me as soon as you get him there,” he whispered to Julie, and then turned to Ray.

“Thank you. It only took one good man to stand up to the tyranny and injustice. Go with God, Ray Warren, and never look back.”

As Ray sat in the passenger seat of the patrolman’s vehicle, Julie took a moment to touch him, his face, and his hair. She started the engine and pulled out of the space, blending into the oblivion of the traffic flow.

“What’s going on?” Ray asked, his voice gravelly, when Julie handed him a bottle of cold spring water. Ray spilled most of it down his bloody shirt but managed to sip several precious gulps before recapping it.

Ray stared at Julie. He couldn’t believe she was there, beside him. He watched as she kept her eyes on the road before them, occasionally glancing in the rearview mirror and sides.

“I- I never thought I’d see you again. I don’t understand.” Ray placed the side of the water bottle against his wounded cheek and winced. “Where’s Veronica?”

Julie pointed to the back seat. Veronica was curled up, sleeping, her beloved pony clutched in one arm.

Ray lay back against his seat, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. The motion of the truck began to soothe him.

“Where are we going?” Ray closed his eyes. Feeling as if it’s a dream and he’ll awaken at any minute, he jumped when Julie spoke.

“The monitoring device is removed from this vehicle. We have no fear of speaking. I got the message from Patrolman Santiago late last night. Apparently, he’s been waiting for someone like you, Ray, someone who would challenge the system. I’m not going to say too much else right now.”

Ray reached out and caressed his wife’s cheek as Julie stared straight ahead in concentration.

Julie sighed and a ghost of a smile touched her lips. “Rest, Ray. Know that you did something worthwhile, something powerful.”

Ray never heard his wife’s voice before. He always wondered what she’d sound like, and it was beautiful.

#

Gil Santiago stood braced against the door of the former holding cell of Raymond Warren. Knowing he couldn’t stop what had begun, he whispered a prayer and a promise. Gathering his courage, Gil walked from the room, down the length of hallway to the elevators. In a short time, it would all be over. Someone would be dead, and Gil hoped it wouldn’t be

 him . . .

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: January 09, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Karen L Malena. All rights reserved.

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hullabaloo22

You came up with an interesting idea for this story. I liked the way you split it into parts.

Thu, January 9th, 2020 8:37pm

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