In my bedroom, at the back of my wardrobe, is what I call the Box of Silence.
When my parents argue downstairs, I climb in and shut the lid and then I can’t hear them. But I don’t mean the box just muffles the sound of fighting and yelling. I mean, in the box, sound doesn’t exist. I’ve tried singing, speaking and shouting to myself in there and while my mouth opens and closes, there’s nothing to hear. You can’t make noise, or hear it, in the box. It must be magic. Then, as soon as I open the lid, I can hear again. Sometimes the row has finished. Often, it hasn’t.
The box was there when we moved in four years ago, when I was eight. I remember finding it on our first day, and wondered why the people who’d moved to Australia had left this huge empty box behind. I thought about getting dad to throw it out, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I didn’t know what it did then. No-one else knows about it, not even my parents. It’s hidden now behind all my clothes and the boxes of toys I’ve got too old for.
I’d hoped moving house might stop all the arguing I’d grown up hearing, but after we’d been there for about three months, it began again. It was loud, one of those dad might call a ‘doozy’. I closed my bedroom door, but I could still hear it. And I could hear it when I hid in the wardrobe, even if I put my fingers in my ears. And that’s when I looked at the box. I climbed inside and shut the lid, hoping it would block out the yelling. And it really did. As I said, it must be magic. I sit in it whenever mum and dad row about money or work or my school or ‘that bitch’ from my dad’s office or any of the thousands of other things they find to shout at each other about. I love my box.
Listen. They’re starting up again now. It sounds like a bad one. I can hear glasses smashing again. That only happens when they’ve both had a drink. Time to get in the box again.
Silence. Perfect. I can just wait it out. Wait until they’ve finished whatever this latest stupid row is about. Later they’ll be all apologetic around me, and maybe tomorrow they’ll take me out for ice cream, and they’ll talk to each other about telly or the weather and be really, really careful how they speak but they’ll hardly look at each other and they certainly won’t admit that they wish they were almost anywhere else. Instead we’ll sit there eating sundaes and looking like a picture of a perfect family, except that if you peer closely enough you’ll see that we’re all dead behind the eyes.
They might have finished now. I’ll chance getting out… Wait. The lid won’t open. It’s stuck. I think maybe something fell onto it as I got in. It won’t budge! I’m pushing and pushing and nothing’s happening and it feels like the walls are closing in on me. Now I’m panicking. I can’t get out! I want to get out!
I scream and scream for help, but no-one can hear and no-one comes.
David Cook lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife, daughter, cats and guinea pig, and writes in order to fill in the time while waiting for the rain to stop. He has been published in Short Fiction Break, Flash Fiction Magazine, Sick Lit Magazine and Spelk Fiction, and also featured in A Box Of Stars Beneath The Bed: The 2016 National Flash Fiction Anthology. He also publishes work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com, and you can find him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidcook100.