“If you came in this future world today you would cry. You would cry for all those who never get to hear I love you, you would cry for all those who want to yell, but they can’t for they are forced to be quiet. And you would sob for the human race, waiting in silence for a single word.”
Forgotten books, when the pages have not been turned for years. With forgotten books come forgotten times. Parts of history plucked away from our knowledge. We move on. “Things of the past” we call them. Kindles and ebooks have replaced the thousand-year-old paper. But even more so forgotten books take with them forgotten words. With no words means no stories, no simple thoughts to fill your once-empty mind. Words make the sentences that will change your life forever.
“Will you marry me?”
“It’s a girl!”
“I got the job!”
If there is one thing we take for granted, it’s words. We use them more and more, yet, we say less and less. We use them for mindless, selfish, and exaggerated things. The once beautiful words have collapsed. They have not lost power, no, the power is just lost.
But what if every single word was completely forgotten?
A girl with fiery red hair, and eyes that are like the color of a restless sea. But the thing that got the most attention was her skin so pale it looked almost white. She was pointing to the last slice of pizza, sitting there untouched on her frail kitchen table. Thankfully for humanity simple things like pointing were still known. A woman in her mid-forties nodded. With a slip of the hand the pizza was gone.
If you came in this future world today you would cry. You would cry for all those who never get to hear I love you, you would cry for all those who want to yell, but they can’t for they are forced to be quiet. And you would sob for the human race, waiting in silence for a single word.
In and out, in and out. The red-haired girl breathed hard against the cold night air. Every night she did this, walked along her old village, looking. Not looking for a lost cat, and not looking for herself, for what could she find without words?
She did not know what she was looking for. She was just hoping to find it. She was in her old green dress that was so worn out that it made the brass buttons look like gold amongst the faded silk. This was her favorite dress, not because of the way it looked when she turned around, nor the way it felt smooth against her skin. It was because of those buttons, buttons just big enough for a scribble on them. Everyday she looked at them, and everyday she set out looking, she did not know for what, and she did not know why, but she looked. If you came to this bright, pale girl, and you looked at her dress, you would see in the moonlight that her buttons, they each had a single word. A word as clear as day, but for this little girl it was no more than a scribble on a button: “Look.”
A small hand creaked the door open, letting in a breath of the still night air. She pointed out, waiting for the nod to step down into the quiet village.
As soon as her mother nodded she was out the door, letting the winds fill her soundless soul. She was just getting into the rhythm of breathing when a single rock saved humanity by tripping a 10-year-old girl.
As she stumbled down a deep hill, with pieces of glass from abandoned times, and paper from times before that. As she fell she felt an energy rush through her, liveness going through her veins, a feeling that she could say anything. She opened her mouth and she made noise, she grunted, she screamed, and she yelled gibberish. For the first times in hundreds of years, a world unexpressed, a world where crying is silent, and life is mute. But now they heard, they heard a noise that slowly walked away from them years before, now it came back with every grunt, squeal and wail coming from this petite 10-year-old girl.
When at last she rolled down into a weed-invaded meadow, for the first time in her life nothing forced her to be quiet, but she stayed quiet, and still unable to think. So because there was no word for safe, home, mother, or love, she kept walking.
She walked through the leaves, at last able to notice the satisfying sound of the crunch beneath the soles of her frail boots, and when she finally jerked her head up she noticed small furry animals scrambling around, for they were not used to a creature bigger than them walking amongst them. She ran toward them, forgetting the dirt path she left behind. This pale little girl at last laughed, she laughed with all her might, with all her power, with all of her voice.
Nearby, music played, a rhythm so soothing that she moved toward it with every step matching the beat. Music was one of the many things she had never heard before. It filled her, wanting her to know more. She stepped forward letting the bush prick her thin skin. She stood there, watching the bright colors dancing in front of her, laughing and smiling people dancing around one another. With their fans clapping along to the beat, each one pale and plump with wrinkles around their eyes. They were all in their mid-60s, there was not one child. Yet this undersized little girl fit in though the crowd, mesmerized by the music. She clapped her hands off-beat, and squealed loudly, wanting them to do it faster. Everything in this village was so loud and colourful it just made her scream with joy.
Even the houses were painted the colors of the fading rainbow, and lanterns hung over each doors changing colors every so often, but just enough so this place seemed as magical as it was for the little girl.
She ran up and down the street giggling with delight, it was not much of a surprise when she finally caught the eye of one of the dancers. This heavy, jolly, middle-aged little man was so surprised when he saw her that he did not yell, or go up to her like he usually would have. He went straight to the mayor yelling words that the older man seemed to respond to.
This caught the frail little girl by surprise, and she peered out through the crowd only to see a huge, curly-haired, 50-year-old man talking to a bald, thin, elderly man that looked like if the wind blew harder it would blow him into a pile of ash. They made noises that the little girl did not understand, they moved their hands, and made gruff complex sounds. But they understood each other with no pointing or nodding.
The two men walked along the cracks of the sidewalk speaking and speaking, but to this little girl it was no more than making gibberish with their mouths. When the dancing got so loud and colorful that the little girl could not focus on two old men speaking words she did not understand, suddenly a single word was spoken, a word she saw every day of her life. We do not know who spoke it or why, but this one word was spoken. The word “look” clicked inside her, and she started running up to the men. Curious how they did that, spoke and meant what they said. Not guessing what people meant and not pointing, she eagerly tugged on the thin man’s orange shirt. He turned around and kneeled down so his balding head sparkled in the moonlight.
“So you must be the little one who desires to speak,” he said in a such a soft voice it was no more than a whisper. She didn’t know what this meant but she nodded. She already trusted this man with all of her heart. He gently pushed her into a big, faded blue house and into a room. The room was the one thing in the village that was old, brown, and fading. He ushered her into the small room, speaking to her the whole way.
“I had a feeling that you would come soon,” he said as he opened the door for her. “Now where is it?” he asked himself. Following a satisfied sigh.
He pulled out a rusted key. She had seen it before when her Mother unlocked her box full of old jewels. For the first time ever this red-haired girl felt desire. She felt that she wanted to be home, home with her Mother, home with the woman she loved.
She knew that her mother felt the same way, for you didn’t need words to describe a Mother’s love. But nonetheless, she sat there, also feeling the desire to stay, feeling the need that she had to be here, wait with them, speak with them. So she sat there, watching the man’s every move. With his frail hands he locked the key into place, and turned it slowly. A click was heard throughout the quiet room, one of the only in the this small village. He plopped down a large rectangular obliged, two in fact, with the neatest wood carvings she had ever seen. She was staring at it, at those scribbles, those beautiful scribbles that were on her beloved buttons that laid across her chest at the very moment, moving up and down as she breathed.
“Ahh, young one, you like this, yes? For all we know this is the last book around. Now we know all letters, we ca…” The man was cut short.
As the girl slowly opened the book, she started speaking gibberish. Pointing and yelling as if saying I want to read, I want to speak, I want a voice. All the man could do was nod along. For this man knew how to express his path through life, the color, the laughter, the joy of words.
He could not understand how such a girl could not absorb such a simple thing, but he sighed and moved on, forgetting all of the men and women who had to live in silence, for him they were just people in a far away land not daring to come near. He could not realize, no matter how much he tried, the meaningless of being together, of being in the lifeless world without knowing the love of language. As the sun kissed the lush green hills leaving tints of orange in pale blue sky, the old man sat on the same chair, next to the same book. Annoyance took over soft voice.
“Why don’t you understand? You don’t know the treasure of language, you refuse to learn it!” He bellowed, but the girl did not flinch, she did not move, she just stared into the man’s eyes. The ticking clock gabbed away for the last few hours yet the girl stayed silent, only here and there copying a sound or a movement. The old man stayed as patient as he could but soon his smile changed, it became forced, and his eyes became watery.
“I-I thought you could learn,” his voice went soft again. “Never mind, but the hope in you, I will bring you home,” The man decided. “Let me fetch my cloak.”
He sighed as his frail body struggled to get up from the faded velvet chair. The girl sat there watching him struggle against his own thin body, a war between himself and his thoughts were displayed on his face. He hoped she realised, he hoped for her, he hoped that she could laugh and play, dance and speak amongst them. He hoped that she could do what they already know, he hoped that she could speak. As the silent room became nothing more but the ticking of the clock, the man kept struggling. He struggled watching the girl who in his eyes refused to learn anything, and she struggled watching the man try to get up.
There was nothing she knew how to do, how to help. So she stood up, the sound of her heels against the floorboard echoing along the room. The man watched in deep thought as the pale little girl put both hands on his shoulder and push him back down to the fading silk chair, and sit in her seat just as quickly.
“So you do want to learn,” the old man said breathlessly. “Well then, you need a name.
“My name just so happens to be Brouhaha,” the man went on, much more cheerfully now. Opening up the book he continued not even looking at the girl, “It means to bring an uproar, but we don’t know what uproar means,” he sighed. “That page got lost. Many pages in fact got lost,” he stated simply. He opened to the first page of the book, the girl stared at the first word. He pointed his long slim finger at a scribble. The girl’s frail voice grunted, pointing at the beautiful glass window, now showing only darkness.
“Yes, yes … I suppose you’re right.” Brouhaha settled. He stood up, fighting gravity, only to soon surrender.
“Wait,” Brouhaha called, not ready to admit failure, “You still need a name.” This caught the little girl by surprise, a “name” felt important, like it represented something. She nodded fast, she wanted a word.
“Yes, yes we got off subject didn’t we?” he joked. He expected no emotion, just blank stairs from the little red-haired girl. But instead the pail little girl erupted with laughter, her pale face uncertain no more. When she laughed she spoke, she stated that she was one of them. She could express herself.
“My, you found that funny. Laughter … laughter! How do like that name? You can bring laughter and joy to your people. Teach them how to laugh, to love, to speak!” Brouhaha exclaimed. He wanted to go on, tell the the girl all about laughter, about her name. But he was interrupted, interrupted by a small, squeaky voice that sounded like it never been used before.
“Laughter.” Then the girl stood up, and walked out the chipped door without another word.
The next day the girl was back, back in the dusty old room with the shades pulled up for some sort of light. She waited for the man, she waited for the man to come to teach her more words. More names, more colors, more ways of life. So the little girl sat on the old velvet chair.
“Laughter, laughter, laughter!” she giggled over and over again to herself. She kept doing this until her frail voice could not stand it, and her hoarse voice could not produce more than a whisper. So soon she just sat there, speechless, waiting for Brouhaha. He never came.
The next day Laughter was back, her smile not defeated. She sat at her old chair, not worried. So this went on day after day. Every night when the stars were at their brightest, she went to sleep under the same tree at the edge of the colorful village. When the sun came every morning she searched the streets for food, but she was not worried. To her it was normal, she had no deep understanding of what she did. One day after hours of sitting in her chair, she burst into tears. With each tear came something so fragile, so pure, yet so sad. With each little tear came an understanding of who she is, and who her people were. She understood that the people of the village she came from did not know her, they did not know anything. Not even themselves. She then understood, with tears trickling down her face like a cold wash of reality, the meaning of the timeless word, word.
“I knew it, I knew it!” A familiar voice called behind the dying bush. Brouhaha stood up with a great struggle. The girl kept crying, giving no sign that the Brouhaha was there.
“What is wrong?” the old man asked as he brushed dirt off his clothes. His only intention was to break the barrier of the feelings for Laughter to understand herself, he thought that she was crying for her. Nothing more, nothing less.
“You’re not hopeless, you cry, you have feelings. The people will love you, Laughter,” Brouhaha said soothingly, as if it fixed everything.
“People hopeless.” Laughter gasped between harsh breathing. She stared at Brouhaha with large, sad eyes. He realized that she said her first real words, words with meaning. It killed him to know that her first words came from the harshness of humanity.
“We will fix it. I promise,” he yelled out. He did not say it for the girl, he said it for himself.
One Year Later
“Are you sure you are ready to go?” Brouhaha asked holding back tears, as he helped Laughter get up on a horse.
“I have waited long enough, my people need me. Besides, you taught me well,” Laughter said confidently. With that she galloped out of the colorful village, and into the world waiting for life, without another word.
The world lost its beautiful voice gradually, like a dying mind, until it was nothing but a shadow of its past self. I am lucky enough to help it gain back its power.
You once asked me how I came to your village, but then I was incapable of words. I found it my duty to write the story to you.
The people of my village are doing very well, quite a few people are saying a few words. I miss talking to you though.
At night it is more silent than when I left it, for now I know the joy of noise.
I beg of you Brouhaha to never forget what words do in your life, and how they changed mine.
I miss you dearly,