Writing Prompt: The whole world goes deaf when a catastrophic noise is heard. Music becomes obsolete, world language is unified under sign language. One scientist finally develops the technology to regain hearing… but what they hear chills them to the bone.
It would be humanity’s unification, the destruction of sound.
Decades ago there was a broadcast, a signal sent from the farthest reaches of the Universe, a message. Humanity heard but a snippet of what was meant, the frequency transmitted too immense for the fragile ears of man. It affected not only those already living, but those that would come, with birthing a far more complex process now that the immediate deafening of newborns required treating.
Yes, there were flaws to the new world, there were inconveniences, but these paled in comparison to the good that was wrought across the Earth. We lost music, an art form desecrated by the lack of a single sense. But in its place the visual arts did flourish, for what one hand takes another may provide.
Language died a gradual death, differences of dialect no longer necessary. The one barrier between world wide communication shattered, an obstacle that needed not be overcome. Speech was consolidated in sign language, and it was only natural (in the eyes of those powers that be) that the written word reflected this. Braille became the means by which pen was put to paper, and all devices of technology were adapted to suit.
Before long, within the first decade of the deaf to be precise, the world had systematically unified its governments. There became no need of borders, nationality was simply a geographical issue, all people were one, under the global species of humanity.
Unification was a path forged with great difficulty, but it is not the forging of that path that bares this stories telling. It is what came after, once the world had been united, of which you will now read. Of the message, the creator of the world-wide deaf, of those sounds sent from space that we were never capable of hearing.
The frequency was miscalculated, too high and just too devastating for our ears. That was until a woman by the name of Carla De La Rosa developed an aid. An aid that dampened the frequencies, calmed the sounds, and allowed her to hear what had been sent so many years ago…
Rosa was doubled over her desk, the impossibly small components of her break out hearing aid spread before a set of magnifiers. She was holding in one hand tweezers wrapped around a circuit board, and in the other a soldering iron with a minuscule tip.
She felt a tap on her shoulder, and so gently set down her tools.
It was Grass, her associate on the project, an elderly man without the hair to age him. He wore spectacles perfectly balanced on the tip of his nose, his frail hands tucked neatly into the pockets of his lab coat. He smiled, nodded, and then he left. He was done for the day, and had intended only to let Rosa know as much.
What time is it?
Rosa cast her gaze over the clock not-ticking above the central work station, a station littered with blue prints, designs tacked to the walls. It was coming up midnight.
Should I stay?
She breathed a heavy sigh and straightening herself, causing her back to pop along the spine.
But I’m so close. Just another hour and then I’ll…
A red light started flashing from beside her worktop, it indicated that someone had entered the lab’s vicinity.
That’s odd, I thought Grass was leaving.
There were computers, positioned by the door coming into the lab, and cameras that monitored the outer halls. Rosa’s lab was just one of several dozen housed inside the scientific hive that was the GDC (Global Discovery Centre). She may not have been the only one working towards the recovery of sound, but she was perhaps the closest to achieving it.
Over by the monitors, each one surveying a different stretch of corridor beyond the vaulted lab door, Rosa searched the screens, but found nothing. No disturbance. No late night guest. No sign of Grass.
Very odd, very odd indeed.
Rosa decided it was likely a perimeter breach, a technician moving to or fro another lab. Not that the sensors had ever picked up such movements before, mind you.
She took another look at the clock, and for a moment considered going home, setting aside her work in favour of food and a good night’s rest. But her work was too God damn important.
Just one more hour. She told herself. That’s all I need.
That hour came and passed, whilst Rosa tinkered with a design so near to perfection. It wasn’t until late that next morning that Rosa had her breakthrough;
I think it’s done. She carefully took the aid from under the well-worn magnifiers. All preliminary tests show the design should work, that it’s capable of warping the otherworldly frequencies, capable of protecting our ears… of reviving them! She spoke only in thought, and only to herself, yet her excitement was overwhelming.
All she needed no was a test subject, some way of confirming her results.
She settled on herself.
The risks? If the aid could revive her hearing, but failed to dampen the alien message, then one of two things would likely follow. Either she would collapse in a fit, and with no one to around to offer her help she would most likely swallow her tongue and choke. Or, her head would quite literally explode. Blood would seep first from the ears, and then from out the eyes and out the nose, the sounds waves causing the muscles of the mind to spasm, constantly contracting and expanding until… pop. Rosa had witnessed both ends when the sounds from space first came.
Still, she couldn’t wait, she had convinced herself her design would work.
So she set about implanting the aid within her ear, dialing back the feed to minimum volume. She would know, if it had worked, even if the faintest pin prick of sound filtered through, she would know.
With a deep breath and a steady hand, she activated the device.
Nothing. Not even a hum.
She dialed up the volume, one click.
Two clicks, and…
Wait, was that?
Her hand hovered over the dial, reluctant to turn it again. It could have been sleep deprivation, some madness of the mind, but there was static, the faintest whirring in her head.
Beside the work bench the red light started flashing, but this time Rosa chose to ignore it.
More important matters to attend to.
She drove the dial up another click, and another, and another. The static started clearing, no deathly frequency, but in its place some sort of monotone voice, perhaps an automated message?
Her face cast in red light, her hand fixed to the side of her head, her eyes closed, she focused only on the sound. This newly rediscovered precious thing. Sound.
She heard the briefest mention of a language that she recognised, and then several more she didn’t. This message, this communication, was meant for all to hear. How ironic no one had.
Still, Rosa found herself rejoiced at simple words, whether they held meaning to her mind or not.
Words! Sounds! Such sweet relief.
When the voice did circle back to a dialect Rosa could still understand, the gift of sound soon soured. She felt a sudden chill run through her spine at just the mere implications of these words;
We are coming.
Rosa tore the aid from out her ear, basking in the silence. Her head was spinning, a steady sweat beading on her brow. She reached for her desk to stop herself from swaying, her stomach turning, she started feeling faint.
The she saw a shadow, rising up behind her, thrown from the red and flashing light recessed within the wall. There was a spark, a gentle blue among the red, and Rosa fainted, falling to the floor.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019