What's more frightening? A loud sound from an otherwise silent place? Or the absence of sound in a place where there should be?
Do you remember the first sound you heard? Maybe you heard your Mama’s voice or maybe rain tapping against the window. When Amira was born, there was nothing she could hear.
When she turned six, her friends all sang Happy birthday to her. She watched as they moved their lips as one. And when she took her first piano lesson after school, every key she pressed was no different than the rest.
When you’re deaf, a sound is something that is felt, and Amira picked up every vibration as they coursed up her arms, down her spine, and leaving her toes.
If there was a jolt that rattled through her shoulders, that was the feeling of the front door closing whenever Dad came home from work. Thunder was her favorite. Every white-hot flash shook her house all over like a rollercoaster. But on the days where she went without rain, she knew where to find smaller sounds to feel, like the bump of her hand knocking against her closet wall, and the prickle of something on the other side knocking back to her.
Not a night went by where Amira wouldn’t crawl into the closet just to knock on the wall. Her ear against the cold surface, she’d wait and wait, until a phantom knock sent chills her way.
She knew there was nothing on the other side of that wall–just an empty guest room and maybe a few dust bunnies. That should’ve been the first red flag. Maybe the house was haunted. Maybe there was something evil on the other side. But some days, those little tremors would be the only thing to feel. It was the closest thing she had to hearing like the rest of the world.
The years marched on. Amira's tenth birthday passed, then her eleventh, twelfth, and on her thirteenth, her parents gave her a special gift. It was a paper pamphlet about cochlear implants and the steps she needed to take to get one. Her jaw fell open. She shrieked and then she started to cry harder than ever before.
When the implant turned on, she heard it–her first sound. It was her own voice saying her name and it felt so much louder than she expected. Her Mom’s voice came pouring in, then her Dad’s, and wind outside, and the buzzing of the lights! There were so many beautiful sounds she had missed out on, but not anymore.
Then the night came as the crickets sturred outside. Amira lay under her covers wondering how anyone sleeps with so much noise around them. She was going to have to get used to it. So, she closed her eyes tightly, and let the sounds around her lull her into a deep sleep.
Until a single thud rose above the rest.
She pulled herself up and looked around her room. She wondered what caused that noise. What actually caused it. She didn’t know any of the sounds that anything made so… all she could do was listen.
The thud came again. Only louder. It shot a familiar tremor through Amira. The other side of the closet wall. That’s where the sound was coming from.
It was nothing, she told herself. There was never anything on the other side. But the noise grew louder, drowning out her thoughts.
Amira pulled the covers over her head. Something was on the other side of that wall and it was getting angry. Perhaps it just wants to be heard. And now, Amira could hear it.
Knocks came from beneath the floorboards. They rose up her bed frame, carrying an electricity through the air like a dozen frightened faces were hovering above hers.
One by one, they began to whisper.
All night they poured nonsense into her ears–as they had every night before–only this time, she had no choice but to listen.