Sunday, February 26, 2012

Art Feature: When The Walls Stop Screaming

For anyone else, the stairs would have creaked with every step, but for me, all I could hear was the pounding of my heart as I challenged every last riser to do its worst. Nary a squeak or a groan.

I could hear voices above me, but no sound of movement, and I hadn't expected any. I continued climbing, my very un-special self in very un-special shoes, silently but casually.

This was a test, but not unlike every other test I put myself through, every day of the invisible life that I lived. I was a man that blended into the backdrop, and had been through trials and watched other go through trials that made me ever the more grateful for my innate ability to make people forget that I was there.

This set of stairs, however, was very different. This set of stairs was designed to announce every visitor, except those that knew the sweet spots to step. I did not know them, but climbed them anyway. I didn't touch the handrail, which would have been too obvious of a trick: it was clearly not fastened well and probably would fall if I put any weight at all on it. Neither did I touch the banister. Instead, with one hand in my pocket holding my keys still and the other stroking the wall very gently, if for no other reason than reassurance, I climbed up the stairwell and into the landing at the top.

I kept a straight face, and didn't even let myself cheer inside that I had done it. At the top of the stairs, I stopped, leaned lightly against the wall, and watched the meeting pass in the room before me. No-one noticed me.

The heaviest portion of my presence was my gaze, and eventually, someone looked up and saw me. Their double-take was all the compliment I needed, and all the invitation. I took a step forward and the rest of the room caught my movement in the corner of their eyes, turned, and followed my movement toward their meeting table with only their eyes, should their necks or chairs creak with any movement.

The gentleman who had spotted me gestured to an empty chair at the end of the table, but I politely and wordlessly declined. Instead, I pulled up a piece of floor and lowered myself down carefully.

He nodded, pleased with my choice, and the meeting resumed before me.
"When The Walls Stop Screaming," 14 July 2011
Available on deviantArt

This is an idea I've been working on for a long time. It came first to me as a dream, and the rest manifested out of my quiet habits.

In "quiet habits," I mean exactly what the first-person character does: he walks quietly, listens closely, and refrains from making unnecessary sounds. I by no means, claim the degree of ability this character displays, but I certainly am working on it.

More recently than ever, I have found myself drawn to sign language as a means of communication, as my living situation (as in living alone with few social interactions) has given me more opportunity to keep silent. It certainly helps that my apartment is not only on the ground floor, but rests right above the foundation, meaning there is no raised platform to creak as I move; and even if it were, I would be doing all that I could to keep my steps quiet--not that I have anybody to disturb, sneak up on, or listening in. I still go days without talking, when work does not interfere, especially since I can converse with myself just as well in my head as aloud.

Listening to my surrounds so intently, however, seems to have backfired on me for once. Where formerly I lived in a house where I knew all the inhabitants, now I have upstairs neighbors who are complete strangers. I don't mind so much when they turn up the television or the radio, but when they wander about their living spaces, they are hardly as cautious as I would be. Some days I wonder if they're training elephants.

And that thing they do on television about banging on the ceiling to get them to shut up... it doesn't work, at least with these folks. They just bang back and dance around all the louder. That said, I almost always have peace and quiet from 11pm to 4am.

I want to continue this story, but I have no-where to take it. I'd ask for ideas, but either I wouldn't use them, or I'd feel like I was infringing on the suggestor's rights by borrowing something of it.