A Hollow Silence

Mako woke up to a strange, uncanny silence. Sometime during the night, the shutters on his windows had been ripped from two of their hinges and now tilted, just barely holding on by the remaining bolts, over the little window. Mako could see that where the shutters no longer covered the blurry glass, frost had founds its way onto the window and formed in a picture of dazzling shapes, reflecting the sunlight from outside. Mako squinted as he shuffled closer to the window. He wished he could open it and see for himself if it was his imagination playing tricks on his sleepy mind, or if really, truly the sun had come out today.


Everything outside was still quiet. Strangely, strangely quiet. Mako thought perhaps the whole village stood, mesmerised just like him, as they stared out of their doors and frost-covered windows, hoping through all disbelief that the end of the storms had come.


But as Mako made his way down to the kitchen, where Eliza would usually be making breakfast as she hummed – she had stopped humming in the past few weeks – the peculiar feeling of silence returned. Even the damp, heavy smell of it made Mako uneasy. It was as if this silence threatened to strangle him – a marked difference to the stillness of the outside that made him want to jump up in joy and run outside to build snowmen with his equally joyous friends.


A cough resounded in his mother’s room and Mako breathed out a sigh of relief. Everything was fine. As long as there was noise, everyone was alive. Marta may be weak, but at least she was still capable of making some sort of sound. She was still here. It was only when people went completely still did Mako fear; it was only when their bodies had no more sound left in their hollow forms that Mako knew death had come. He wouldn’t think on it. He had seen far too many people freeze in the last weeks; down by the lake, up in the higher slopes were the winds were even more severe. Mother had begged those farmers to come down to the village, to rest and recover and replenish their supplies from what the villagers had gathered in time for the mighty storms. But they’d been stubborn. They’d frozen to death.


It was warmer inside the house. Eliza had done a wonderful job of keeping the house going. Their family would be fine – Mako knew they would pull through. They had to.


But when the door to his mother’s room creaked and was slowly pushed open, Mako realised the grave, grave presumption he had made. Tear-stained, pale-faced, Eliza carefully made her way to the kitchen and began sifting grain, separating the good bits from the bad. A cough escaped her parched lips, and Mako knew at once. Marta was dead. It had been Eliza coughing. And his sister... She wouldn’t cough or cry or whimper anymore. But how Mako would cry and whimper for her.


As he made his way over to the warm bed Eliza had made for herself and her daughter in the coming of the cold storms, Mako touched the white hand of his darling sister, icy beneath the layers and layers of thick skins and fur Eliza had tucked her in. The girl was motionless, completely, frighteningly still. As a wet droplet found itself into Mako’s mouth, he tasted the bitter saltiness of his own tears and squeezed Marta’s hand tighter, willing the little girl to wake up so that he could pretend it was all just a terrible, terrible dream.


A terrible dream.


Mako heard the wind pick up again outside, as if the few sunny, still early morning hours had been enough for the northern storm to regain its strength and catapult its rage against the village once again. Why was it raging? What had Mako ever done to the world to bring forth such hatred? What had Marta or Eliza? The boy stood his silent vigil as the winds howled outside, ready to beat down the doors of Mako’s humble home if only someone would let them. Mako felt his jaw tighten as he gritted his chattering teeth.


It wouldn’t break into his home. Not any more it wouldn’t. It had taken Marta, but it wouldn’t take the rest of them. It simply couldn’t, because, then, why were they so intent on fighting it? Surely God had another fate in mind? Surely he wouldn’t destroy their whole family, what little was left of it? While there was still reason to fight, Mako would.


He let go of Marta’s little cold hand and pushed it under the fur covers. Her eyes were closed peacefully – she looked like she was asleep. Mako almost believed it. But she was no longer Marta. His sister was gone, gone to the heavens above, to peace and warmth and quiet.


Mako shuddered as an angry gust of wind hit against the bedroom window, making the shutters rattle uncontrollably. Soon, they would come off too, Mako feared. Slowly, the storm was taking them apart – bit by bit. But it would stop right there, Mako promised himself. He would see to it that no other innocent young girl, sister, daughter, niece left this world in the grasp of this chilling, cruel winter storm.


Next chapter


This is a well constructed story. You capture the scene and Mako's fear really well. The twist at the end when we discover Marta has gone, not Eliza is very clever. Your description of the silence is really good and ther contrasts between the silence outside and inside emphasises how silence can have many meanings, often ominous.

This si a very well written chapter, with its ironic title. We also see Mako chaning with these events and we know that as the story progresses he will be forever changed as he rises to the challenge of keeping everyone he loves alive. Keep the chapters coming. This is a story with a future.

Thank you very much, Suraya! Will do!

As the introduction to a story, this has all the ingredients required. There are glimpses of interesting characters, lots of location context and a few hooks that will (we assume) be developed as the story unfolds. I can see a few places where the pace could be picked up by avoiding repetition but overall this is a lovely piece of writing. It’s a different style to many of the serials (it reminds me of The Shipping News) and I like it and will be reading further.