He didn’t feel safe. It was night and he was in his bed, in the room that he’s been assigned. He was huddled into a ball and he’d wrapped himself in his blankets so tightly that he was practically swaddled. It was deafeningly quiet. The smallest, tiniest movement echoed like a gun shot off the cinder block walls.
He didn’t want to breathe too loudly because he was terrified of what would happen to him if he was identified as a “noisemaker.” The others around him were likely feeling the exact same way. No one moved more than the smallest fraction and even the beginnings of squeaking sounds were quickly covered.
The guards were just outside the doors and all of the windows were barred. Every ten minutes the shadow of a night-watchman passed over the walls and occasionally a guard dog barked in the darkness. It was a night without wind or moon. The snow that had fallen yesterday muffled any sounds.
He was usually comforted by the night. He could sleep and dream of all those things that were missing from his life. Night was the only time that he felt truly safe. However, tonight was an entirely different story.
It was all Tim’s fault. He knew that he wasn’t allowed to play with the blocks. He had been told that several times. He had been banned from playing with all solid toys because he tended to throw them at the nurses. Tim knew that; they all knew that.
Yet for some reason, today Tim had picked up one of the blocks and stacked it neatly on top of another block. They had all frozen; they knew better than to make even the smallest gasp of surprise. Playtime was during quiet hours. No talking, no singing, no noise of any kind was acceptable. So they had all simply stopped moving and stared in horrified fascination as a nurse walked over to Tim and taking him by the hand had lead him silently from the room. He wouldn’t be seen for the next week. By that time, Tim would be long gone anyway. No one ever really came back.
He tried to remember a time when he was happy. It had been years. The institute did not aim for happiness, but rather contentment. They wanted quiet; they wanted peace. No one ever mentioned happiness. Of course, no one ever mentioned living in a constant state of fear either. Communication of any kind was highly frowned upon. This wasn’t living; at its best it was existing and even that was not likely.
So far this month, six others had met the same fate as Tim. They were adjusted. They were reacclimatized. It was all about harmony they said. Equality was everything. No one was superior and no one was inferior. Everyone was the same. All creativity was erased. Conflict was crushed, anger was annihilated and placidity prevailed. This was the new world order.
Shivering in his bed, he silently begged for sleep to come. His greatest wish was to reach perfect oblivion; to have it all end. He was sick of the fear and self-loathing that he woke up to every morning. Silence no longer comforted him, but now it scared him because he was forever afraid that that silence would be broken and that yet another person would disappear somewhere into the inner nucleus of the institute.
Suddenly he had thought; the people who came back always had a little smile on their faces. They looked like they were forever lost in happy dreams. Maybe if he was taken away for awhile he would never return from his wonderful dreams. No longer would he be afraid to wake up because he never would again.
Reaching out from under his thin blanket, he decided to take control of the quiet. He rapped his knuckles loudly against his bed post and seized control of his life for the first time in years. A small smile stretched across his mouth as the night-watchman turned around and walked towards his room.
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