024 - Muted Words, Chapter 3


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Chapter 1: Introduces Mara

Chapter 2: Maud is at Mara's place. It ends with Mara reading Maud a story. Chapter 3 happens on the same evening.

Sleep wasn’t coming. Maud knew this. Her phone was in the living room. Mara had vandalized all the plugs by filling them up with Gorilla super glue and glitter. The plugs glittered at night. Like a little night sky in the room. Maud tossed the top blanket to the side. It was an old wool blanket, heavy and very scratchy. 

The first night she was staying over at Mara’s she couldn’t sleep. After trying out everything, even sleeping with clothes, she finally woke up Mara asking for a real blanket. It took Mara some time to grasp the situation. “A real blanket?” she exclaimed “What you got there is a real blanket. It’s not a synthetic fiber with wires to keep you cool or hot depending on a myriad of factors. This is the real deal!” That night Maud could feel tears. She was missing her parents, her stuffed animal ice bear, Mara’s apartment smelled funny, the glitter plug teased her. In her young mind her world was breaking apart. She was scared that there would be no tomorrow, or worse, she would have to live with this old neighbor her whole life. 

Mara grumbled “Don’t listen to the words, listen to silence”, and got up. She dragged a chair to her wardrobe and carefully stepped on it. High above, on the top shelf, she pulled out a baby blue sheet. Its border had a fine pattern of stars and animals, dancing with each other. “Follow me” she ordered Maud and light footed like a cat went to Maud’s room. By the time Maud arrived, her bed was freshly made. The scratchy wool blanket was still on her bed, but now the blue sheet protected her. 

“If you are too hot, you kick the top blanket towards the bottom of your bed. If you are too cold, you pull the blanket over your chin and make yourself small. Like a bear going into hibernation.”

That night when Maud went back into bed, it felt transformed. Nothing itched anymore, and a sweet heavy smell engulfed her. She gazed at the patterns of stars and animals. A bear was looking at her. It winked. 

Since that first night, Maud normally would fall asleep in a heartbeat. Tonight was different. With the heavy blanket at the end of the bed, Maud sat up. It was chilly. She never understood why Mara would not follow the default heating setting. Maud groped for her jumper and socks. She put them on and walked to the living room. Her phone had a program to help her sleep. After using it, she would wake up grumpy, but at least the night passed quickly. It’s the tossing and turning and thinking that Maud wanted to avoid. 

Her phone was where she left it. Next to it the book about Momo and the gray men. Mara read half of it. Momo lost all her friends to the time thieves. The window in the living room was turned off. Maud saw the city for what it was: Grey blocks one after another. Tubes of wires going up and down, left and right. Criss-crossing the concrete walls. Far below her, closer to street level, she could make out the displays. One after another. Some flat, some curved. They emitted lights, flashing in multiple colors, always on ready to stamp their message of convenience into a passerby’s mind. 

Maud reached out for her phone. She craved the sleeping hypnotizer app. The combination of music and smooth talking voice always had the desired effect on her. It’s even better with the pill her parents gave her. This must have been how it was in the wambo, the sugatory machine. 

Her eyes were heavy from sleep but her mind still raced at a thousand miles per hour. Questions kept bubbling up. Who was that girl from the story and why did she live alone? Who are those gray men and what do they want with all that time? 

“Why is everything gray?” she mumbled, while taking the book and curling up on that old-school couch that kept its shape and didn’t automatically bring comfort. The friction brough by seeking comfort was weirdly relaxing.

Maud struggled with the reading. Mara did it without effort. Every character had its own voice. Her intonation changed. When Mara read, Maud could feel the story. Now, alone, she fought with the words. Her books read to her. She didn’t have to string the letters together. 

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#fiction#muted words