People rushing here and there.
Electric cars scurrying about like little creatures.
People sitting in cafes and drinking coffee.
Everyone looking at their smartphones. Everyone constantly reading, typing.
But despite all this bustle, the city is ever so quiet. There is no chatter, there is no laughter, there is no song. The city is silent.
I know all this because I am everywhere. I am the city and I can feel and see all.
I remember being in this city, as a person, trillions of years ago and a universe away. The city with the beautiful bridge. But this city seems even further removed from that city than all that. I remember a bright vibrant city full of colour and sound and life. This is devoid of all those things. Life is here but it is not being lived.
It won’t surprise you to know that I’m unsure of how I became suffused within this place. A bit of holographic fading can do wondrous things, it seems. I’ve watched this city, been this city, for a decade now. When I first woke up here, the city wasn’t so different from that other one, but there was anger, rage, simmering beneath the surface at all times. And it was loud. The joyous sounds of humanity and nature were drowned out by the trains, the cars, the loudspeakers. Being drowned out like this over time killed the joyous sounds of humanity, leaving only the worst sounds of humanity.
And so, the Currently Ruling Secular Power outlawed sound.
Over the course of four years, all internal combustion engines were replaced by electric; trains were converted to MagLev; warning lights and chimes were replaced with lights and signs. Everyone was issued a CRSP-approved smartphone with near-field capabilities. No more was speaking necessary — just a wave and a bump and a text and chat could occur on the devices.
Music, too, was outlawed. Anything capable of reproducing music was destroyed. No one bothered to destroy the media which held the music — seize the means of reproduction and the media becomes useless. Here and there, one can still see posters for concert tours or newly released singles that never got off the ground because of the ban. In back alleys, I can see posters bearing the image of She-as-popstar, but they are slowly fading and falling apart in the weather.
In that other city, long ago, such harsh measures as these would not have flown. The people would have risen up and overthrown the regime, but only after having a good laugh, because you can’t outlaw sound don’t be daft hahaha. But here, they welcomed it. The silence made them calmer, happier. Arguments and harsh words don’t carry the same weight in a textual medium as they do spoken aloud, face-to-face. Society’s ills seemed to go away.
But the people felt, inside, that something important was missing. But few were willing to give up near-perfection in the pursuit of a missing piece. Those who did would often stand in public places, turn off their smartphone, and then begin to sing aloud. They were quickly tackled and carted off to a processing center where their vocal cords would be removed. But such protests never ended. They were few, they were rare, but the rate of protest remained the same always.
It was particularly difficult for children in the early days. Their parents would shush them and then text them to tell them the police would come if they weren’t careful. Children born after the ban, of course, grew up never hearing music or spoken word, so even if they heard a protester, it would be nothing more than painful blaring. But the children born before the ban, it was difficult for them. They could remember their parents’ voices, the songs, the laughter. They could remember.
I am drawn to a boy near the Tower. He has stopped and is looking around with a puzzled expression. His parents walk on. He calls to them to wait. Everyone whips around and glares at him, fingers pressed to their lips. His parents rush back, grab him, and with sheepish apologetic looks, drag him away. I follow them though.
He types to them that he heard music. They tell him that’s ridiculous. I can’t help but agree, I am all-seeing, all-hearing in this city, and there was nothing to be heard but his shout. But he insists that he heard it, emanating from the top of the Tower. They tell him he must be tired, and take him home.
I follow him over the next few days, and he keeps insisting to his parents that he heard something, but they don’t believe him. They begin to wonder if they should take him to a doctor. In his room, when he’s alone, he very quietly hums a melody.
A few days later, while out with his parents, they pass the Tower again and again he stops. His parents look at him sternly, and they exchange a worried glance. With no warning, he bolts away through the crowd toward the Tower. His parents, caught off guard, give chase but cannot reach him before he crosses the barrier at the base. They watch helplessly as he starts to climb. He hums the tune now, and for the first time, I, too, can hear it. It’s a song that is everywhere, permeating everything like I am. It can only be sung by one person.
The boy climbs and climbs. A crowd gathers at the bottom of the tower, watching. Police are there, but they can do nothing. They also just watch.
As the boy gains the platform in the middle of the Tower, half way up and so, so far above the crowd below, he encounters an old Jesuit who only gestures upwards. The boy nods and continues climbing. The Jesuit holds his hands to his ears, waiting, listening.
The boy climbs and climbs. He loses his footing, and far below, his mother screams. The assembled crowd glare at her, and she sheepishly bows her head.
The music is loud now, throbbing. The people below, too, though they cannot hear it yet, they can feel it. Something is changing. Something is awakening.
The boy gains the top of the Tower at long last and there waiting for him is himself. A twin he never knew he had. There is no need for conversation now, as the music builds and everyone can hear the song that has been dormant and waiting here for so long. They hear as the boy and his twin sing it. I hear it as She sings it with them, as She is everywhere. She is the city as much as I am.
For example, She sings, even if you are alone and cannot see anything, even if despite all that you can still move forward, come here and take my hand.
Even if you only lose one wing, even if I only have one wing left, She sings, take my hand.
For example, She sings, even if there is nothing left that you can believe in, even if the only thing remaining is despair, come and take my hand.
Somehow, She sings, I hope you hear this prayer.
This is an age full of wingless angels, She sings, so nothing is so bad in the end. Just believe, and take my hand.
Even if you only lose one wing, even if I only have one wing left, She sings, take my hand. Take my hand and together, together, we can fly.
The crowd at the base of the tower is weeping now and singing along. The song has moved throughout the country, everyone singing in unison, an entire people freed of what has hitherto been a prison they thought they wanted. The boy hugs his twin.
Somewhere in this city, somehow, I feel the touch of She. All is well. I relax and everything fades.