My life has been anything but quiet.

Everyday, I woke up to the sound of my mother singing. Through our thin windows, I heard waves, my Dad typing on his tablet, the sound of coffee dripping out of the maker, and the gentle shaking of the window panes from the wind. Outside, I was constantly surrounded by the sound of laughter around the compound, machines turning, and trucks rattling by on the misshapen roads. At school, there is the ticking of our clock, the rambling of Professor Binns, and the gentle snoring of the girl who used to sit behind me.

When I was small, I learned that quiet only came when I shoved my fingers into my ears. This came to me when I was six, surrounded by the excited yelling of my classmates during a game where we were reviewing history material. I couldn't concentrate, because Lexi was screaming answers without raising her hand. Binns kept calling on me, and I would get them wrong.

I couldn't think, surrounded by the noise of my peers.

So, I shoved my fingers in my ears every time Binns would write another question on the whiteboard. Instantaneously, the world stopped. The scene around me became a silent movie, lips moving with no sound, hands pounding with no thumps. For a second, my brain was free.

From that minute of Heaven, I learned to love the quiet, crave it beyond anything else in life.

On the way back from Compound 4, though, the quiet surrounding us feels like a hurricane. It shakes my bones, deafening my brain again. All I want is someone to say something, someone to grab my hand and tell me it's over.

Is it over, though?

The next few days that follow are empty, devoid of the usual chaos I've grown to find comfort in. No one wrestles in the floor between bunks. There's no red hands games happening. No couples tangle themselves in each other, partaking in the intoxicating act of joy. The playing cards have been put away.

Instead, I watch the people around me type messages on their tablets to home. They look at old pictures of before they came to the bunks, whispering to their bunkmates about how homesick they are. People read on their devices, eyes moving back and forth like a grandfather clock, motorized and effortless. Behind their eyes, no words process. They don't even focus.

Lexi and Naomi won't speak to me. When I need them to be there the most, neither one of them acknowledge me. Lexi goes to work before breakfast, showering at night and going straight to bed. Sometimes, I stare up at the imprint of her body on the springs, the rocking motion as she fidgets under the covers.

Naomi wakes up during the night, crying to herself, haunted by the scenes that played out on the battlefield. I consider joining her in the bed, holding her against me and stroking her hair until she falls asleep again.

Yet, her stern comment about not caring about me echoes with ferocity between my ears.

So, instead, I lay awake at night, listening to her cry, feeling the knot in my throat form and recede over and over again as she wakes up several times each night.

On the Friday after the attack, I'm sitting at my desk at work, trying to get two pens to stack on their ends. Kovach hasn't given me anything to do since Monday, and I can't bring myself to turn the simulation program on. So, I resort to fiddling with things. A string of paperclips lines the front edge of the desk; a pile of mutilated staples lies by the pencil cup. I jump when a notification comes through on my tablet. Glancing over, I read:

Will you please come to my office? -General Kovach

Why couldn't she walk ten feet to my door and knock like always? Even that sound would have been some human contact, when I've had none in days. I push back my chair, sending the two pens tumbling down.

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