Silent Water, by Rory Milhench
Kyle peels back the west-facing curtain in his room and sees the privates at their normal positions in the square below. The army here is underwhelming—they make constant mistakes in their marching and slouch against their command posts in badly-fitting uniforms, handed down from bigger recruits.
He moves into the living room, which still smells of the previous tenants. He has not lived there long enough to replace it with his own odour. He sits down on the corner chair and lays his forearms flat on its arms.
Kyle suffers from the burden of being “too present”, too violently “of himself” and the weight of each heavy moment he lives through.
He is unable to foresee how he might feel at a future point, away from that particular occasion. He scoffs rich food and black coffee, which gives him chronic indigestion. He spends money excessively, which leaves him short for his rent.
He leaves the house wearing clothes that suit only the current weather, without thought of the inevitable drop in temperature later in the day. He lounges in the open sun for hours on end; his skin burns terribly and it is agony for him to put a vest on for days after.
Kyle closes his eyes and embarks upon a series of intentional breaths. He is preparing to meditate. He makes them deep, slow and purposeful; they are to relax him. He imagines the sight of a luscious white cloud that he can return his attention to over and over if it errs and latches onto a thought.
The absurd military outside his window skip back into his thoughts. People protest the army by heading down to the barracks to burn the currencies of countries they have recently invaded. The soldiers watch the paper burn down to ashes and are relieved when the wind blows the cinders away, saving them a job.
Back goes his attention to the white cloud, which pushes this memory out of view.
There has to be an element within the depths of silence, he thinks, that we have never tried to capture. A stark frequency pitched along a soundless wave. He waits. And waits. Deeper he goes into the silence, and gradually he listens to:
—The creaking of an undiscovered planet as it turns on its axis, cooled by a rubber moon.
—The mating call of a new species, its breath tainted by the sinking oxygen. It treads through the forest mud on sickened paws.
He steadies himself to open his eyes, content that he has conjured up some new noise. He believes he has just experienced his first moment of self-transcendence, a powerful sensation of lightness.
Then a new thought roars into his head and discharges:
“Someone about to be crushed; that’s the only hero I could have.”
Kyle stands up and looks out the window again. The marching privates have disappeared.
Rory Milhench grew up in Belfast but moved to Dublin to pursue his Ph.D in History at Trinity College. He graduated in 2015 and has spent much of the intervening period travelling through South America, Asia and Europe. His fiction has been published in A New Ulster and is forthcoming in the Books Beyond Boundaries NI Anthology. He is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.