Can Nothing Become a Something?

Written in response to: Write about somebody who likes to work in silence.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Speculative

      The Ott Building, the one on the James and Clyde intersection, that is where he went to work. I told him after he got back from the desert war that he needn’t work. He’d earned his keep. He’d given up friends, some family had given up on him, and he could no longer hear. Something to do with an explosion near him, blew out his hearing drums. I ain’t much good at that sign language, been trying though. I think it’s like learning a different language. You get too old, your mind got enough problems keeping track of the words you know, let alone ones you don’t.

    I suppose I shouldn’t have said nothing about the job, but he was needing to do something. I got that much out of his walking around with no place to go.

    They couldn’t find anyone wanted the work in that place. It was at night, too quiet for lots of people, but if you can’t hear, you’re I guess, used to that so it don’t bother you none. I took him there thinking they wouldn’t want him cause he can’t hear, but they says he was what they were looking for. Someone who could fix a few things that needed fixin and push the emergency button if it was something more than fixin. He would be kind of a night janitor watchman type. 

    I tried to explain to him that people who I knowed told me that the place was haunted, that’s why they couldn’t get no one to work there at night. They said there was all kinds of weird noises and lights goin on down there. I tried writing it down what they said, but he just shrugged like he’d seen it much worse and didn’t really care much anymore. You can’t unconvince someone that don’t need unconvincing, so I give it up and showed him around down in the basement and tunnels. 

    I used to work there before I got to where I couldn’t see so good, and they told me I needed to take a well-deserved rest. I knowed what they was up to, but I guess I got tired of banging my head on things that didn’t need being banged into. I myself didn’t see any of that weird light stuff people was talkin about seein, or hearing any weird noises, but then I liked to plug my ears so I can't hear anything when I’m walkin, quiet relaxes me, and I forget my feet hurt. So unless I got hit by a train, I wouldn’t have noticed anything out of my ordinary.

    He’d only worked there a week or so when he comes over and starts with the hands. I shake my head and hand him a tablet I keep for when he comes. I can still see good enough to read a bit, and he can write pretty good for someone who can’t hear, so we manage. He takes the paper book and starts writing. The pen, I got to tell you was flyin across the paper. I was afraid it might catch fire, but then he was the one holding the paper.

    After a time he hands me the paper. I needs to focus when I ain’t expectin to be reading, so I blink a few times to get the juices flowing, and he just sits staring at me like he’d seen a ghost. I figured I best get reading before he has a mental issue of some kind. I’d heard all kinds of stories about people when they come back from the deserts, and all of them ain’t good. I starts to reading, surprised his spelling is better than mine, that’s for sure.

   I’m walking around like I was told to do, keep a look out for leaks or problems that might lead to something worse, like they showed me. I’m in the tunnel and I see down past the elevator a flash, like a bomb going off or a gunshot. I know plenty about bombs and gunshots, so I go to see. It weren’t any of the things I was thinking about. Turns out the elevator door was jammed and the light in the ceiling was having a fit, trying to figure out what to do. The panel on the wall was all blue lights blinking too like they were having a nightmare. And this voice that kept telling people who weren’t there, to please stand away from the door. 

     I take out my flashlight and look around. Don’t see nothing right off, but then I see something sparkle in the track the door takes. I get out my needle pliers and fish out a metal looking thing. It doesn’t have any stones or nothin on it, just a silver band like a man’s wedding ring. When I pulled it out I begin to hear the chimes I remembered from before, like when the elevator door opens to warn people the door is opening; like they can’t see that without the chimes. 

     Then as I’m looking at the ring I realize I can hear. Not the muffled sounds I’m used to, like hearing under water. No they was clear as a sunny day in space. It didn’t dawn on me right away that I couldn’t hear before, now I could. Kind of like the chimes you hear even when you don’t need to. I got so scared I dropped the ring. I don’t know where it went, but I couldn’t find it. Looked everywhere in the elevator box and on the floor, nothing. 

     I still couldn’t get over the fact I could hear like I used to. Thought I’d better go upstairs and see if everything was alright. You never know. When things start going funny, they can get going funny everywhere, and me being new on the job, didn’t want to have something go bad that first night. I also wanted to see if I could still hear when I got upstairs, or if I could only hear when I was in the basement. One of the guys I was with in the sand, told me he saw a guy once get so scared his hair turned white before his very eyes. I didn’t care nothing bout my hair, but hearing, well that was nice again.

    I should have taken the elevator, but something told me, rather suggested, I take the stairs. I get to the end of the hall where the stairwell is and as I open the fire door, I hear this pop sound and a flash blinds me. Don’t remember much after that until I find myself outside that chapel they got on the first floor for people having a hard time with having to identify people in the basement for the police and all. 

    So I go into the chapel for some reason. Don’t usually go in places like that, they kind of give my conscience a going over, but something suggested I go in. 

    There is this guy, long hair, wearing a long dress, hands in the air like he’s going to catch something, and then I see it. He’s wearing the ring I saw in the basement when I could hear. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew I had to say something. They told me I’d never hear again, and then I could, and then I couldn’t. I figured the ring might have had something to do with it. I needed to know. Didn’t realize how much I missed hearing until I couldn’t. That make sense to you?

     Then this guy he just disappears like smoke. I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to the basement, the elevator box. I needed to find that ring, if there was a ring. I began to wonder if maybe there wasn’t something, like you told me, funny going on down there.

    I started hoping if there wasn’t a ring, maybe just being in the basement next to the elevator would be enough, it wasn’t. Any ideas?

    I didn’t have but one idea, but then I figured him coming from the deserts he’d probably be up for just about anything. I took the paper pad and the smoking pencil from him and began to jot down a suggestion to see if he might want to try it. I had to write it out being my hand signals hadn’t improved.

    We go down to the pawnshop, get a ring like the one you said you believed you found in the door that gave you back your hearing. You take it down to the basement, put it in the elevator track, and stand back and see what happens. What do you think?

    He takes the paper pad and pencil back, and writes:

    I’d rather look for the longhaired guy wearing the long dress. Don’t believe much in miracles, especially miracles that take place in elevators.

    No matter what you try and do to help some people they just can’t be helped. I’m going to the pawnshop myself and get me a ring and give it a try. Who knows, might get my sight back, or maybe lose my hearing. Don’t make a lot of difference to me. They told me I should take a well-deserved rest. Even if I know what they’re up to, I believe I will. Keep an eye out for the guy in the long dress, can’t hurt none. I got nothing against miracles, elevators or not.

    If it works and I get my sight back, maybe I can find his hearing for him. Having lived through the desert sands he deserves it.

April 15, 2022 20:22

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