Once upon a time, in a world where silence was highly valued, there was a girl named Claire who talked. A lot. In fact, Claire talked so much that it was quite common for her parents to hear her talking all through the night while she slept. Sometimes reciting poems she had read, but mostly recounting the previous day’s events.
One morning, Claire woke up slightly earlier than usual and decided to use this extra time wisely by practising talking to herself in the mirror. She had decided many months ago that she would attempt to provide as much detail as possible in every conversation she had. “Good stories,” she had been told by her teacher, “Have a great deal of detail in them.” So, since Claire respected her teacher immensely, detail it was.
She got dressed, walked over to her mirror, looked herself in the eye and began to recite the details about the day before. From describing the various greens and browns of the grass she walked on to get to school, to the number of pencil shavings missed by the school cleaner on the classroom floor. Well, this is what would have happened if Claire had been able to speak. She was opening her mouth and was forcing the air from her lungs, but no sound was coming out at all. Claire froze. Then panicked. Then froze some more.
Once unfrozen, Claire briskly walked down the hallway towards her parents’ door and knocked impatiently. “Come in,” her mother said croakily as she rolled over. “What is it, honey?” she asked without opening her eyes. As Claire couldn’t speak, she couldn’t reply, so she went over and shook her Mum so that she would open her eyes and see Claire pointing to her throat. She saw the concern on Claire’s face so she sat up and looked down her throat. “Mmmm. You’ve just lost your voice, baby,” her mum said.
Just. What? Thought Claire.
“It will come back if you go back to sleep, baby. go back to…” Claire’s mother fell asleep again before she could finish her sentence.
I’ve lost my voice? What on earth does that mean?
Claire slowly walked back to her room and sat crossed legged in the middle of the floor trying to figure out what to do. Well, she thought, If I have lost my voice then I must look for it. Claire began looking in all the usual places you look when you have lost something. She looked under her bed, went through the draws in her cupboard, emptied her school bag, looked under her bed again (this time with a torch), emptied all of the pockets in her shorts and pants and cleared out her money box. Her voice was clearly not in her bedroom, so she started looking throughout her house. She checked every bench top, looked under every chair, searched every draw and emptied every bag and she still could not find any sign of her voice.
Sometimes, Claire thought, when people have lost something, they go over their steps from the day before. Even though this meant going outside, Claire was so attached to her voice that she was willing to do what it took to find it. She opened her front door and started retracing her steps. Although this involved mostly looking at the ground, she stopped every now and again to look under cars and peek into her neighbours’ gardens. After an hour or so of searching, Claire stopped to gather her thoughts and ask herself a few questions:
What does a voice look like?
What does MY voice look like?
Can it make a sound on its own?
It must be able to travel but where would it go?
She didn’t know the answers to most of these questions except for one. Since it is my voice, it will want to be heard, and the higher you go, the more likely you are to be heard. Claire checked her surroundings for a very high point, with her eyes stopping on a mountain in the distance. She took a deep breath and began the long walk up the mountain.
The walk was exhausting and difficult, but, the longer she went without her voice, the less she felt like herself, so she used all of her energy to make it to the top. Once there, Claire took a moment to catch her breath and regather some her strength. Out of the corner of her eye, Claire noticed a track leading to the peak of the mountain. She pushed aside some branches and walked along the track, stopping once she reached a clearing. When she looked up, Claire saw people. Lots of people. Some were sitting peacefully, some were standing, some were playing quiet games together. All were silent.
Claire joined the group and they stood up to greet her. One of the ladies noticed the panic and worry on her face and placed a hand on her shoulder to calm her. The lady then pointed to every person one by one, looked at Claire and pressed a finger to her lips. They have no voice, she thought. None of these people have a voice. The lady grabbed a stick and wrote a word in the dirt: TRAPPED. Claire turned around and realised the path she had taken to get here had disappeared.
How do we get heard without a having a voice?
Getting an idea, she began to beckon people over to her. One by one, the voiceless gathered around her, and, when everyone was watching, Claire started to jump. The people observed her for a moment and then she started encouraging them to jump as well. Several others started jumping and the noise began rumbling through the mountain; quietly at first, but the more people who jumped, the louder the noise became. Soon, the noise had become so loud that they knew it would be impossible not to be heard by those at the bottom of the mountain, but this was still not loud enough. Claire watched the crowd while she jumped with increasing strength. All the people were jumping and slamming their feet on the ground now, except for one little boy at the back of the crowd. He was climbing his way up one of the giant boulders which lined the crowd. He looked down at the sea of people jumping realising that, although he was small, he could still make himself heard. He stepped back, ran forward and leapt off the rock.