The Sound of Silence

I am a member of an amateur writers group and this flash prose was written in response to our April monthly challenge: Write 500 words inspired by Disturbed’s cover version of The Sound of Silence.  I recommend that you listen to the music,  watch the video – they are amongst the most powerful I’ve heard/seen in recent years – and amongst the most surprising.


The Sound of Silence… an oxymoron, surely.  Silence is the absence of sound, so how can we talk about the sound of silence?

I’m reminded of a documentary about vacuums.  A vacuum is the absence of matter, and a perfect vacuum only exists in theory.  Is silence just as elusive?

I decide to experience the sound of silence for myself.  I sit, having turned off the television, put my phone on silent, tucked the dogs in their beds, turned the heating off and listen …

Immediately, I hear the conversions chattering between my ears.  “Why are you just sitting here?  You have work that you need to do for tomorrow.  What’s sitting doing nothing got to do with the song, anyway?”  But it’s not just the voice of the critic that I hear.  “You set the challenge, follow your heart.  You don’t need to read it out.”  And “it’s almost time for dinner, you need to get a move on.”  My mind has its sound of silence.

I tune away, pushing my thoughts to the boundaries of my awareness.  Now, I hear the birds singing outside my window, chirping away in the early evening mist, soft and melodious.  I can’t distinguish a great tit from a sparrow, not by listening to them.  I’ve never paid them enough attention and I feel sadness.  As I listen, I become aware of layers within the birdsong – some close, some far; some initiating, others responding; some simple, others complex; but all beautiful.  Nature resonates with its sound of silence.

I listen beyond the birds and hear the constant rumble of traffic, interspersed by the varying pitch of a car approaching then moving away from my home.  A bike bell pings, a child sings and a dog barks nearby.  I hear my dogs shuffling in their beds, responding to the call of their cousin.   The passing day has its sound of silence.

I come back into myself, listening into the silence of my body at work.  The buzzing is immediate and loud, but, as I focus, this is replaced by the soothing pulse of blood passing through the narrow vessels near my ears.  I hear the rhythm of my breath as air moves into and out of my nose, and eventually the soft lub-dub, lub-dub of my heart emerges into my awareness.  My life-force has its reassuring sound of silence.

As I reflect, I find a form of silence that has no sound – the call of despair that no one stops to hear.  The child who is hungry, the bereaved and the lonely, the animal that is mistreated,   No matter how loud they call, the silence sits in the ears and heart of the absent listener and has no sound. 

Silence is not the absence of sound, it is the decision not to listen.