In Search of Silence
Nearly four months into a town-wide shutdown, Raikida was regretting her decision to not grow poisonous plants in her shop. Not that many would do well confined to pots, but right now she would kill for a single leaf. Just enough to make her unwelcome house guests sick. It’s difficult to talk when you don’t feel good and Raikida was desperate for just an hour of quiet. Kif and Orius had been traveling through the town looking for work when the illness struck. It hit the elderly the hardest, but children and those who’d caught the coughing bug last winter were also susceptible. Those groups had been separated first. When the Consul’s first wife, a notoriously healthy woman, fell ill, he issued a town-wide mandate. Raikida’s shop was one of the more spacious ones, so she’d been forced to take on stragglers. Fortunately, everyone was afraid of Kif and Orius, so it was just the three of them, but they had a way of being loud enough for ten. Right now, they were in her small backyard sparring. In the beginning, she’d fought with them. She stopped when the temptation to stab them became too great. “Raikida?” Orius called. She rolled her eyes. “What now?” “It’s Kif. He, well, you better come take a look.” Raikida groaned. These two idiots were already on her last nerve, and now they were interrupting her pruning. She slammed the counter and hissed when a stray thorn lodged itself in her palm. Using her finest pliers, she plucked it free before weaving through her shop to see what trouble Kif had managed to get himself into. Kif sat slouched over on a stump, a small knife sticking out of his leg. “And here I thought you were supposed to be a renowned warrior,” she said, fighting the urge to smile at his misfortune. “I am,” he replied. He turned to his brother and glared. “This one’s on him.” Raikida crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at Orius. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to throw knives?” Orius turned bright red and forced a laugh to hide his embarrassment. “The opposite, actually. Why throw a punch when you can throw a knife?” When Raikida didn’t laugh, Orius continued. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I was aiming for the fence. A giant hornet flew by and Kif hollered and jumped in front of me as I released the knife.” Raikida burst into laughter. “You…you’re afraid…of a bug?” Kif’s face was stern but the smile in his eyes was clear. “I’m allergic. Bug bites don’t agree with my complexion.” As much as Raikida hated to admit it, seeing him like this made her a little less angry. “Orius, help Kif inside. I’ll go cut the leaves and roots I need.” “You’re going to heal me?” Kif asked, looking genuinely surprised. Raikida quietly sighed. “Of course, I’m not a monster. Something tells me an infection would only make you louder.” Kif’s smile lit up his entire face. “And here I thought our serenading had gone unnoticed.” “I do have one condition.” Kif and Orius looked at her expectantly. “You can’t speak-“ Kif and Orius interjected with a stream of brusque protestations. Raikida held up a finger, effectively silencing them. “You can’t speak again for the rest of today, and for one hour every night after dinner.” Kif and Orius exchanged a glance. “Agreed,” they said in unison. As Raikida prepared the ointment for Kif’s leg, she relished the first silence she’d had in months.
Natalie Gasper is an internationally performed poet whose work has appeared in The Write Launch, The Hickory Stump, Sheila-Na-Gig, Noon by Arachne Press, and ellipsis…literature & art, amongst others. She works as an interviewer for The Nasiona and is a developmental editor for Envie, a Magazine for the Literary Curious.
Find her on Twitter @NatalieGasper.