Oliver Petal never noticed how it started, but one day it was there: the constant cacophony. The infliction wouldn’t have bothered him as much as it did if it had been about hearing everything people said and thought as was proper in all stories, but no, the sounds of all the little things made bombarded his consciousness. The creak of a stapler sent shivers down his spine at the office. The ATM scrunching was like a forgotten language spoken only to him. Oliver Petal was sure, if he only knew how to translate it, he would get the ATM to spill its treasures. But as much as he tried to decipher what all the sounds meant, from the flowerpots breathing to the tin roofs moaning, he couldn’t. So he ignored the world of insignificant things by using noise canceling headphones, earplugs, humming loudly, listening to music, and whatever he came up with at that moment. None of it helped. He heard them even in his sleep.
Something had to be done, especially as every day that passed by, Oliver Petal found it harder to concentrate on those around him. He missed half of what his colleagues said at work, a third of what his friends said, and almost all of what his girlfriend spoke. So he went to the doctors. They found nothing wrong with him. Not the general doctor. Not the ear specialist. Not the neurologist. He was an emblem of perfect health, except for the noises he heard. He finally succumbed to seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Neither of them found him to be insane, illogical, delusional, or any such thing by any of their standards. Without a diagnosis, there was no cure. It seemed like he was condemned to live his life with the cacophony inside his head.
The only logical conclusion Oliver Petal could think of was to start answering back. The absence of which had thus far kept him in the books of the sane. He reasoned he had no choice. Every morning he spoke to the teapot in the kitchen, asking how its day was. He himself never drank tea, but it was a polite thing to do as they occupied the same space, and as since everything started, the teapot had let out a low clicking sound every morning when he entered the kitchen. In three weeks, the teapot stopped clicking. Then the tin rooftops fell silent and the staplers and the rest. And Oliver Petal once again could hear the voices of the people around him. Oh, how he wished the days the ATM spoke its secret language. The chirps of the machines, the creaks of the inanimate, the groans of the pavements, and the sighs of the chairs sounded less like cacophony and nonsense than what humans spoke. Oliver Petal hadn’t noticed how good he had become at listening and how observant he had become, and how alienated he felt in the world, where to exist was to make a noise, and to be was to act.
Thank you for reading, and next time the lamp-post speaks to you, give it a wink. Have a great day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb
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