The Invention of Charades

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Set your story at a silent retreat.... view prompt


Fiction Historical Fiction Funny

Bonjour! I am Colette, a lively lass from the heart of France, born in the year 1620. My hair, as pale as the winter snow, carries a hint of red, like the last rays of the setting sun. My eyes, a curious blend of green and gold, are always sparkling with mischief and a thirst for knowledge. And my mouth, oh, it's always in a pout, especially when I'm deep in thought or when I've just asked one of my countless "Why?" questions. I'm a bit of a chatterbox, you see, and some might even call me silly. But I just can't help it! The world is full of so many wonders, and I want to know about them all. Why is the sky blue? Why does the sun rise and set? Why, why, why? That's me, always asking, always wondering. My story happened when I was five, and my papa, a strong and kind man, was taken from me by the pox. His laughter, his wisdom, his comforting presence, all gone in the blink of an eye. My mother, oh, my sweet mother, she was a beacon of love and warmth. But she too was taken from us, during the birth of my baby brother. The joy of a new life quickly turned into a double tragedy. My brother, who I never got to meet, joined my mother in the heavens. And so, I found myself alone in this world, an orphan. But I carry their memory with me, in my heart, in my thoughts, in my endless questions. They may not be with me in person, but they are always with me in spirit.

Twelve years have passed since then, and much has happened to me. I've found true love, married, and have a child of my own. But I remember the day that a group of silent men found me, alone and starving, hovering over my papa's decaying body. They were monks, four of them, clad in humble robes. Not a word did they utter, their lips sealed as if by some divine command. Their language was their eyes, their nods, their head shakes.

I, being the inquisitive chatterbox, couldn't resist the urge to engage them in conversation. "Are you lost?" I asked. A collective nod. "Are you on a pilgrimage?" Another nod. "Are you...uh...married?" A round of wide-eyed stares and vigorous head shakes. "Do you...uh...bathe regularly?" The frowns that followed could have curdled milk.

In the midst of our silent conversation, one of them reached out to me. I screamed, turned on my heels, and bolted. The chase that ensued was nothing short of a spectacle. I darted around trees, leaped over bushes, and slid under low branches, with the four monks hot on my heels. Their robes billowed out behind them, their sandals slapped against the ground, and their faces...oh, their faces were a sight to behold! A mix of determination, confusion, and a hint of amusement.

The chase ended as abruptly as it had begun. The tallest of the monks, a towering figure with a stern face, finally caught up with me. With a swift move, he scooped me up and tucked me under his arm. I kicked and screamed, my protests echoing through the silent forest, but to no avail. He was as immovable as a mountain, his grip as firm as iron.

As we neared their dwelling, my struggles ceased, replaced by awe. Nestled in the heart of the forest was a silent retreat, a monastery that seemed to have sprung from the earth itself. It was a sprawling structure, its stone walls weathered by time, its wooden doors polished by countless hands. The setting sun bathed it in a warm glow, casting long shadows that danced on the cobblestone path.

The monastery was a haven of tranquility, its silence only broken by the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds. It was a stark contrast to the chaos of the chase, a peaceful sanctuary that seemed untouched by the outside world. As I took in my first sight of this silent retreat, I couldn't help but feel a sense of calm wash over me, even as I continued to squirm under the monk's arm.

Once inside the silent retreat, the monks led me to a long wooden table laden with simple yet hearty fare. Bread, cheese, fruits, and a pot of what smelled like vegetable stew. I was famished, and the food was a welcome sight. As I ate, the monks watched me with a mix of amusement and curiosity, their eyes twinkling with silent laughter.

After the meal, one of the monks led me to a small room. It was modest, with a bed, a table, and a small window that overlooked the forest. "Is this my room?" I asked. A nod. "Do you all sleep in rooms like this?" Another nod. "Do you ever talk?" A shake of the head. "Why not?" I asked, genuinely curious. The monk simply shrugged, his eyes wide with a look that said, 'I don't know how to answer that without words.'

I continued with my barrage of questions. "Do you ever get bored?" A collective shrug. "Do you have any pets?" A shake of the head. "Why not?" I asked again, hoping for an answer. But all I got was another shrug and a look that said, 'You're asking questions we can't answer with nods or shakes.'

The situation was absurd, and I couldn't help but laugh. The monks joined in, their silent laughter filling the room. It was a strange, funny moment that led to my actions of the next week.

It became a game to me, a challenge of wits and patience. I was determined to trip up the monks, to get them to answer a question that couldn't be handled with nods or headshakes. I would ask them about the weather, about the food, about the chores. I would ask them about their past, about their dreams, about their fears. But they were masters of their vow of silence, their faces a mask of calm as they responded with their silent language.

I became more creative with my questions, more cunning in my attempts. I would wait for the perfect moment, for the perfect question. I would watch their faces, their eyes, their gestures, looking for a hint of hesitation, a sign of uncertainty. But they were steadfast, their silence unbroken.

One day, during dinner, I tried a different approach. As one of the monks passed the salt, I said, "Thank you." I held my breath, waiting for a response, hoping for a "you're welcome." But the monk simply nodded, a small smile playing on his lips. They were too good, too disciplined.

Despite my failed attempts, I found joy in the game. It was a welcome distraction, a source of laughter and camaraderie. The monks, in their own silent way, seemed to enjoy it too. Their eyes sparkled with amusement, their nods and shakes more animated. It was a strange, silent dance, a game of questions and answers that transcended words.

One day, one of the monks approached me with a ball. He held it out to me, his face a question. I shook my head, a grin spreading across my face. He seemed surprised but quickly recovered, disappearing for a moment before returning with a skipping rope. Again, he held it out to me, his face hopeful. Again, I shook my head, my grin widening.

The monk looked at me, his face a picture of confusion. His eyes seemed to ask, "What do you want?" I responded by cradling my arms and rocking them gently, as if holding a baby or a doll. The monk's eyes widened, and then he burst into silent laughter, his shoulders shaking with mirth.

The other monks, drawn by the commotion, joined in the laughter. It was a silly, absurd moment, a break from the usual tranquility of the silent retreat. But it was also a breakthrough, the first time I had used hand gestures to communicate with the monks. 

The silent retreat took on a new rhythm as I introduced a new game. I began to communicate solely through hand gestures, stubbornly refusing to nod, shake my head, smile, frown, or use my eyes to speak. It was a challenge, a test of their observational skills and their ability to understand non-verbal cues.

The monks took to the game with enthusiasm, their eyes keen as they tried to decipher my gestures. I would make a gesture, and they would guess its meaning. Sometimes they were right, and I would reward them with a clap of my hands. Other times they were wrong, and I would repeat the gesture, adding a hint or two until they got it right.

It was a fun, engaging game, a break from the silence and the routine. The monks seemed to enjoy it, their faces lighting up with amusement and anticipation each time I made a new gesture. It was a silent conversation, a dance of hands and eyes that transcended words.

One day, I wandered into the gardens to find the monks using my hand gesture game to communicate with each other. I stood there, watching in disbelief as they gestured animatedly, their faces lit up with amusement. A laugh bubbled up from my chest, a sound so foreign in the silent retreat that it startled a nearby bird into flight. The monks turned to look at me, their faces a mix of surprise and guilt, like children caught stealing cookies. I couldn't help but laugh harder, my body shaking with mirth. Wiping tears from my eyes, I walked over to them, my arms wide open. One by one, they stepped into my embrace, their bodies warm against mine. It was a moment of pure joy, a moment of connection that transcended words and gestures. It was a moment I would cherish forever.

One day, a young couple arrived at the retreat. They were my aunt and uncle, came to take me home. As they entered the garden, they found me in the midst of a hand-talking session with the monks. They stood there, watching in bemusement as I gestured animatedly, the monks responding in kind.

My aunt's eyes sparkled with amusement, her lips curving into a smile. My uncle, on the other hand, looked utterly baffled, his brows furrowed in confusion. I broke away from the monks to greet them, my hands still moving as I explained the game.

My aunt laughed, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "You know, mon cherie," she said to my uncle, her voice filled with warmth and amusement, "this would be a most excellent game at Christmastime. We can call it " My uncle nodded, a slow smile spreading across his face as he began to understand the appeal of the game. And just like that, our silent retreat game found its way into our family's Christmas tradition.

February 21, 2024 00:42

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