Silence.
rating: +8+x

James gestures at the urn sitting on top of a wooden desk, one among many. It was small, with a few carvings etched onto its surface. The employees offer sympathetic smiles and words, and as they turn away, James wonders if they would remember him if he was gone, or dismiss him just like another face among the masses.

As he leaves, he wonders why urns are so damn expensive.

The cleaning had begun on Sunday after the death; it was five in the morning when James unlocked the door leading to the office, carrying a stack of foldable boxes. The office was small and neat, with a battered mahogany desk and a metal filing cabinet.

As the hours pass, more people join him to clean. After some time, the Site-Director himself came to pick up a stack of papers that read: LEVEL 5 CLEARANCE ONLY. As he digs through the desk drawers, he finds something.

It's a photograph, a Polaroid, of him and Carter, standing in the rain with red raincoats and bright wide smiles etched onto their faces. The street was dark behind them and the streetlights glowed a soft yellow in the mist.

Surrounded by his friends and colleagues, offering assistance and condolences, he has never felt so alone.

He slips the photograph into his pocket and moves on.


The coffee shop hadn’t changed. It was a nondescript brick building that was weathered and old.

His coffee hadn’t changed either. As he handed over his credit card he eyed the plastic cup. White, with brown lettering on the surface. Resting on a granite counter-top. It hadn’t changed.

As the barista turns away, James wonders if he knows that James’ life was upended, as though a child had thrown a game board away. He wonders if he knows that yesterday passes in a blink of an eye, but today feels as though it's been going on for decades.

The coffee is bitter and sharp; it scalds his tongue.

James walks on.


They never tell you about the silence.

It threatens to consume James. He resents Carter for dying, for sacrificing himself, for being an honorable man who was determined to keep families from breaking up and yet, he broke his own family.

He’s in his apartment, lying on his bed, looking at the ceiling. It’s a soft beige color. He looks at the tiny bumps on it, tries to discern a pattern, tries to distract himself from grief.

It doesn’t work.

He’s crawling out of bed now and putting on headphones. He presses the play button on his iPod, hoping that the noise would drown the silence out. James repeatedly presses the button to increase the volume, continuing to do it until it reaches one-hundred, and he sits there for what feels like minutes, but when he glances at the clock it's almost two hours later.

When he takes them off, the silence is louder than ever.


His daily routine hadn’t changed. Get up. Dress in a suit and tie. Get a coffee. Get on a train to the Site- or more accurately, the train to the outer edges of the city, then ride a bus for ten miles to the Site. Work for eight hours as someone who types up reports.

He's halfway through a post-death report from a lab incident two days prior when he feels the bile rising up in his throat, and he stumbles to the bathroom.

It burns his throat as he heaves. He doubles up, his throat and stomach screaming in agony. But there is no sound except for the soft, ragged breaths coming from himself and the loud droning noise of the bathroom fan.

He flushes the toilet, washes his hands, and walks out as though nothing happened.

When he leaves at six o' clock and gets aboard the bus, and then the train, all he could think about was how the swirling patterns of his vomit matched the ones in his coffee.

It's disgusting, sure, but it's better than the silence.


His father asks him one day, "How are you doing?"

He doesn't deign to respond for a few minutes, and simply stares at the white blank wall in front of him. A long cold cup of tea are clasped in his fingers, and he breathes into the phone receiver. "Fine."

When his father asks him, "When's the funeral?" He hears a tiny, almost imperceptible voice crack and he realizes his father is hurting, maybe just as badly as himself.

He doesn't respond, though, talking to others had never been his strong suit; that was always Carter's job.

"Well- I'll, uh, talk to you later. Tomorrow?" And he says it with such hope, as though James would say no to his own father, it almost breaks him.

But he says, "Yeah, I can talk tomorrow."

They don't talk tomorrow, nor the day after. They end up exchanging emails after two weeks, when the sun begins to fall from its apex and he's typing out a response to his fathers message asking him where he was and why he didn't pick up the phone. But, he doesn't know why he's intentionally pushing away the one man who could know how he feels.

He types out a one sentence message, hits send, and feels more hollow than ever.


He's digging through his work bag, looking for his wallet. He had placed it there a few minutes ago, and now it seemed to have sunk to the depths of it. He pushes past candy wrappers and pens and stray bits of paper when he feels something hard.

He pulls it out and sees a battered leather watch, with a scratched face and old leather. It was a gift from Carter, from two years ago. He flips it on its back and sees an engraving: FOR JAMES ELKOAN. James wonders how it had ended up in the midst of trash.

James takes out the phone and snaps a photo of it, and he's typing a message to Carter saying, Remember this?, and for a infinitesimal second, less than a heartbeat, before the error message pops up, the silence is gone and is replaced by nostalgia and curiosity.

Oh, he thinks.

And he keeps walking.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License