The silence is deafening. You’ve heard that before, I’m sure… regardless of who “you” might turn out to be, it’s a saying known the whole world around. People think it’s a cliche, a bit of melodrama that horror hacks and drama nerds go berserk over. That may even be the truth. For most people.
But most people have never been in the room, either.
You might have seen it; some Facebook post or mentioned on Creepypasta. A room built to be perfectly soundless. An anechoic chamber, they call it. Lots of math and geometric gobbledegook behind it, but the idea is that there’s no natural sounds in the construction. If nobody’s in there, a tomb seems like a rowdy Spring Break in comparison.
They built them for sound effects purposes. To test audio qualities. To see what different species were capable of perceiving, without benefit of technology and without being hampered by ambient noise. All fine and well. Sometimes they even let tourists or students go in there and chill for a bit. But nobody lasted more than thirty minutes; too much of it, you start losing your grip.
All fine and well, until the government got their hands on it. They wanted to see if it’d work as some kind of torture device. Long story short, it did… but there were side effects they hadn’t counted on. That “deafening silence” thing I mentioned first among them. The utter lack of sanity any of the subjects had after a day or two in there for another.
But there were compensations. They might have been crazy, but those subjects could hear a door opening a block and a half away. They could identify and transcribe a whisper heard two rooms over, if not further. Best part was, crazy as they were, they were controllable; a dog whistle would make them crumble, and all you had to do to keep them compliant was promise — in a whisper, of course; anything else and you’d rupture their eardrums — a half hour in the sensory deprivation tank. It was like heaven to them. It didn’t stop them from hearing… but it brought it down to a tolerable level, if the interviews are to be believed.
How do I know all this? I was one of the government agents running this show. I took people — sometimes criminals, rapists and pederasts combed from the prison system, but just as often illegal immigrants or the homeless — and locked them in the room. Watched them for 24 to 48 hours. Let them out and observed.
Observation. That was my job description. I know better, now. It was torture.
Then came Randolph. Randy was black ops, or so the story goes. He might have known who killed Kennedy, who was really behind 9/11, what Snowden is really in trouble for. Or might have known if they weren’t so busy keeping him doped up on a psychotropic cocktail and brainwashing him with a new identity and chain of memories every year or two. At least until he turned seventy, and the top brass decided they had a special place in mind for him.
Three years. That’s how long they wanted us to lock him in the room. They didn’t just want us to lock him down, though; they wanted the room altered. Normally, it’s well lit. Temperature controlled, a nice sixty-five degrees. Humidity regulated at five percent (except on the occasions we had an asthmatic in there. Then they got generous and let us push it to 10%) and no air flow to disturb the “guests” or alter the sound levels.
That wasn’t enough. The biggies wanted the lights killed. Zero light penetration. They wanted the temp cut back to fifty, wanted the humidity rolled back to only two percent. Wanted nerve-deadeners and muscle relaxants dropped in the rations.
They wanted to completely kill any sensation; they figured if dropping hearing for a few days was enough to turn people into dogs, dropping everything for an extended period would result in some kind of superhuman senses.
We did it. God help us, we did it. We went along when they started pumping white noise into the room at random intervals. Went along when they started hiding subliminal messages under that. We handed over every scrap of paper Randy scribbled on — nothing for the first few months, but he started getting pretty prolific for a while there; when he stopped writing six days ago, I probably should have noticed something was wrong — without looking at them.
Knowing what I do now, I don’t know how he held on so long. I don’t know how he managed to write those notes, day after day for over two years. I can’t begin to grasp how he survived the broadcasts; from my side of the glass, they were just faint hints of static, there and then gone. From his, it must have sounded like an avalanche.
How do I know? I’ll tell you, in a minute. But first I have to finish telling you about Randy. Then you’ll understand.
He went mad; of course he did. But he was quiet. He screamed for the first two days straight. By the third, his voice had given out. By the fourth, he’d started to adjust, and was making every attempt to make as little noise as possible. All expected reactions. Then we turned out the lights. When we’d let him out, to take him to sens-dep or quiz him, we had to open the door a crack and throw him a pair of sunglasses. Otherwise his eyes would start bleeding, prompting screaming, which would rupture his eardrums.
We learned quick. Too quick.
His eyes lost all coloration; they were nothing but pupils the last time I saw them, and I still bet he didn’t see much. At least not the way we understand it. That was part of it, too; the government was getting their perfect little pet psychic, all right… but we didn’t know it until it was too late. And there’s always the matter of cost. The cost is just too high. All of us are going to Hell for what we’ve done, what we’ve allowed to be done.
Three days ago, we came for him; he hadn’t written, hadn’t whispered back to the discreet speakers that broadcast the white noise, hadn’t moved in 72 hours; we thought he was dead. I went in first, cracking the door and tossing his sunglasses in — which was all but guaranteed to provoke a reaction, as even the imperceptible click of the rubber frames against the padded and insulated floor was enough to set him off anymore — but got no reaction. Daring further, I gestured for the doctor and my attendant to hang back, and stepped into the room.
That was a mistake. I only got a glimpse of him, but he told me the rest later; all I could see was that his eyes were gone, empty sockets dripping blood and the tattered remnants of the optic nerve. He jumped at me, shoved me aside, and dove for the door.
The door swung shut behind him. I didn’t know how or why at the time; it should have been impossible. It opened into the room, was six feet wide and eight feet tall, made of padded steel and locked with a valve mechanism. As emaciated as he was it would have taken Randy a lot of effort to pull it shut, let alone lock it, but by the time I hit it and attempted to open it, it was already locked.
I raised my fist to bash on the door, knowing that Randy was probably down in the hall, either shot by my assistant or tranq’d by the doc, but as I went to bring my hand down, I froze. Every nerve in my body was suddenly on fire, my throat was closing and despite the utter darkness I could see. I could see what was happening outside; Randolph was just standing there, smiling. The doc was shoving his hypodermic into his own neck, shoving the plunger down all the way and delivering what was almost certainly a fatal dose of flupenthixol direct to his brain. My second had his pistol drawn, seemed about ready to kneecap Randolph… then turned the gun to his own temple and pulled the trigger. I heard laughter, and knew it belonged to Randy; high and strange, it seemed to carry much worse than psychotic mirth. I found my own mouth opening and I began to laugh along.
Through the laughter, Randy spoke to me. Told me what we’d really made.
“I’m deaf, now. But I hear everything,” he said, and I saw him raise a pencil — the one I’m writing this with, in fact — to his ear and shove it in before repeating the task on the other side. He didn’t need his ears anymore, you see. They were a hinderance, the frequency his own eardrums made in the complete absence of sound worsening his madness and prompting migraines.
“I may be blind. But I can see everything,” he told me. The image of the hall, what befell my fellow researchers? The images that followed, where he murdered everyone in the building? All of them were what he was seeing, watching it all like a spectator lurking just behind him… but that wasn’t all he saw. He showed me things from the brass’ office in D.C.; showed me a child dying in a gutter somewhere south of the Sahara; showed my ex-wife and her new lover, fucking like rabid wolves on the bed I’d picked out, in the house my government contracts had bought. He saw everything; he showed me everything. He showed me how he gouged out his own eyes, tired of looking through them while watching himself, tired of hearing them swivel in their sockets like trapped gerbils, tired of the sound of his own blinking.
“I can’t feel anything… but I can feel everything. And feeling it is the first step to controlling it.” That was the last thing he said to me. To prove it, he made me dance. I drug myself to my feet and did the worst Riverdance impersonation anyone’s ever seen; he made me do the splits, tearing a few muscles in my thighs in the process. He made me weep, made my eyes feel as though they’d been filled with acid, then made me resume laughing uncontrollably. He did worse, but it doesn’t really matter. Between that and what he’d done in the hallway, I knew his control was total, if he wanted it to be.
We made a monster. A mad God that knows only someone hurt him — badly — and wants revenge. One who has seen every instance of pain, suffering and lust both as himself and as every human on the face of the earth, and isn’t going to take it anymore. In depriving him of all the things that make us human, we made him something else… and now he’s loose.
Nobody is coming for me. I accept that. I could wait — the automatic systems will keep delivering food packets and water until the generators die, and that will take years — but I’m already losing my grip. Already starting to understand what we really did to him.
I’ve been in here for three days. He was in here for three years. He showed me some of what he’s become, but I refuse to allow that to happen to me; what’s already happening is bad enough. The sound of this pencil rubbing lead against this notepad is maddening. My head is throbbing, and despite the lack of light every pulse of my brain brings with it a flash of the paper in front of me, a view of myself from over my own shoulder. I don’t know why it’s taking me so quickly, but I think Randy did something to me, broke something inside that would have let me resist this longer.
I won’t be like him. I can’t. When I’m done, I’m going to do what he did; dig this pencil into my ear. But I won’t stop at the eardrum. I’m going to shove it through. All the way. Suicide may be a mortal sin, but I think I’ve committed enough of those already; won’t make much difference. If there was a surer way, I’d take it, but I left my gun on my desk — in case you have to go into the room, it’s always best to avoid temptation — and there’s nothing to hang myself from in here.
The silence is deafening. I understand that, now. When it’s so quiet you can literally hear your blood flowing through you, when a pencil on paper sounds like dogs clawing at the backdoor for a 3 AM potty break, when even blinking carries with it the sound of a gunshot… then you’d understand. When it’s so quiet that your thoughts start to seem like a heavy metal concert beside your ear, instead of whispers in the back of your head… now you’re getting there.
The silence is deafening. It’s time to go.