This story is one of the August Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
It’s lonely because of the people, not because of the silence. There’s never any silence, and, in fact, the existing silence isn’t the type you’d expect.
There are houses on these hills—big, large houses—and people living in the towns situated among the green grass that grows and wilts from the sun. But it’s not the utter isolation that makes the place lonely, as one would expect growing up on a hill above the ocean, trapped away from civilization by waves and waves of water.
It’s the people.
It’s in the way they pretend that everything’s alright when everything is, in fact, not alright. It’s in the way they sit in parlors in their houses and count rose quartz and jade and gold hanging from their wrists, and the way they’ll sip tea from porcelain cups and revel for a moment because they’re rich, and happy, and free , even though the porcelain is crack, crack, cracking away.
It’s lonely because of their conformity and cheerful smiles in late sunshiney mid-mornings. It’s the fakeness, so sugar-sweet and saccharine, as they greet their children and foster them to be great, successful, and rich (always those three) and to follow in their footsteps and stay on this hill—this lonely, lonely hill. The reasons are always the same: because it’s beautiful, and it’s lucky, and it’s good to be here.
No questions. No nothing.
And oh, this lonely hill with the people that come and stay. No one explores, and no one discovers, and people stay fragmented in this bubble of distorted reality because no one’s experienced anything, and no one learns anything, and no one thinks about what it’s like to be someone without the riches and someone living with the rags.
It’s lonely because of the obsession of their own inner lives and meticulously planned-out futures. Children grow up with stunted dreams and muted logic because now shadows ripple at the urge to explore and inspire and change, all in order to ensure that the next generation will stay and conform and come back to live on this lonely, lonely hill.
There’s the external beauty of the hill and the town, but it’s not until you dive underneath the isolating waters, swallow sea salt, and bury hands underneath the sand, that you find the ooze that sludges deep and dark. And it’s so hidden and so unknown that it’s left to its own devices to consume and corrupt and dry out from the inside until it’s too late, too late.
The porcelain shatters. Tea splatters and stains white carpet, color seeping through microfibers and spreading. Like blood. The carpet gets replaced, porcelain shards quickly swept underneath the sofa with large, polite smiles.
No one does anything. Why?
Because the silence isn’t just silence. It’s ignorance.
So it isn’t, really, the silence that makes it lonely.
It’s the people.