Midnight Quiet

Soon, the job would be done. This they knew. It didn’t take very long for them to return the dirt to the hole, to watch the light drain from a poor soul’s eyes, for the smell of soot to dissipate from the midnight air.


Soon, the job would be done, and they would go home. They would go home and shower away the dirt and go to sleep. And when their wives would ask them cheerily how their day was, they would be sullen and silent. They would admit nothing, and they would survive another day and another grave.

He arrived in a grayed haze that left him unable to swallow, his throat patchy and arid. Dust filled his lungs with each involuntary inhale, though his desperate exhales brought him no relief from the smog. Blinking rapidly, his eyes stinging with soot, he fumbled blindly, finding cold walls on each side of him—walls that crumbled in a cascade of rubble when his small fingers scratched at them. Rubble rained onto his shriveled figure and continued even after his hands had returned to their place against the floor of the room. The cascade continued without resolve, coming slowly to a downpour.


The illusion of rainfall’s musk filled his nose, the calming nature of falling water soothing his bones. But deeper in his soul, he knew the rainfall as the dust hovering above him—that the illusion of calm was just that: illusion.


Breath came shallower and shallower for his panicked lungs as rocks rained onto his pajamas, coating blue cotton and pale skin in charred black. Breath came shallower and shallower as rocks and soot slowly pinned his arms and his legs to the damp floor.


Mobility gone, only his mind remained free of a crushing reality atop him. Hushed voices filled the air above his body, but the haze had overtaken his mind, and he could not recall their words enough to actualize their implications. A mountain of rocks and dirt stood between him and fresh midnight air.


There was nothing he could do, really. He knew this was true. Dirt covered his mouth—he could not scream. Dirt pinned his arms and legs—he could not escape. Submission to the haze was not voluntary. There was no way out. The boy could only lay in silence as the voices whispered above him, and the dirt shoveled on top of him, and the cicadas and the crickets rose and began to chirp in the stagnant air.

When the silence reverberated across the blank field and even the cicadas and the crickets ceased to whisper their hesitations, the men shook hands, as they did each night. They lingered for a single moment in time, and then their shadowed heads began to fade into the distance, into the quiet homes of simple suburbia.


The boy remained in the ground, and he would remain in the ground for all of eternity.