tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Silent Girl

The Silent Girl


He was seven years old when he met her, and though she was older, she did not look it. A buzz of rumors preceded her, proclaiming her everything from an axe murderer to a space alien, but when she entered class and silently took an empty seat, he was disappointed to find that she looked perfectly normal, apart from her robotic movements and blank expression.

The teacher forced her to her feet and shoved her in front of the class, telling everyone to say hi to the new student, and telling her to say hi back and smile at them. Upon her failure to do so, or indeed to show any indication that she had heard the request, she was briefly sent to sit in the corner. She proved as inert there as elsewhere, so she was returned to her seat. Class proceeded as normal apart from the occasional shushing of whispering students.

At lunch, she sat alone under a tree, staring into space. One girl after another, and many of the boys, came to greet her personally, but she said nothing back. He was last of all, for he had made no friends among the other students, and he did not expect her to be any kinder. Still, his failure to get any response, not even the taunts he was used to from other children, angered him more than it should have.

There were reasons he had no friends, foremost being his tendency towards violence. He slapped her, and she slapped him back. But as he pulled his hand back to swing again, she leaned her face towards his ear.

"Thank you," she whispered. Then she leaned back and smiled shyly as he gaped at her.

-- -- -- --

At school she was his only friend, if such a strange, quiet person could be considered a friend. He came to understand her life--the parents who'd found her sleeping on their doorstep and considered her God's blessing, the endless cycle of school, church, and empty time alone--and though she showed no outward sign of understanding when he talked about his own life, he was convinced that she cared as much for him as he did for her. They grew together, she as tall as him, and if anyone had bothered to look, they would have noticed that the subtle darkening of her hair matched it to his own, that her stiff, awkward movements turned into his even stride.

As she occupied herself with nothing, he occupied himself with her, trying to find a niche for her to fit. He took her to movies, but found that she only grew interested at scenes of suffering and death. Teaching her to paint was an unmitigated disaster, for her parents eventually saw what she was painting. Only track was anything close to a success--she ran faster than all others, then collapsed to the ground, gasping at the pain.

He suspected from the start that she wasn't normal, and saw it confirmed as early as their first year together, when he tried to teach her to climb trees. Her fall from the highest branch broke her leg quite badly, but her parents (who had already grown used to such things) never took her to the doctor, and within a week she was back at school, perfectly healed. But he was neither so old as to wonder overmuch about such a miracle, nor so immature as to tell everyone about it. Instead, he was occupied by experimentation--by finding that a shallow cut from his father's pocketknife healed almost instantly, leaving only a small quantity of blood, but a deeper cut took five minutes to mend itself, and a broken finger an hour. And by discovering her reaction to each, taking pleasure in the pleasure she took in the pain.

Ah, pain . . . Early in their relationship, he greeted her each day with the slap that had marked their first meeting. As he grew in his understanding of her, he decided his father's pocketknife would not be missed. When they were alone he traced shallow lines across her face and watched as they closed up. In time he grew confident enough for deeper cuts and sharper pains, though always with an eye to caution, and always with something to staunch the blood and somewhere to hide it where her parents wouldn't find it.

-- -- -- --

On the night of her thirteen birthday (or rather, the sixth anniversary of the day she was found), one who wished to investigate such things would have found that her parents thought she was at his house and his parents thought he was at her house. In fact, they were in a secluded corner of the nearest public park, and she lay facedown on a blanket, naked to the waist. He was nervous, far more nervous than she was, and kept looking around to see if anyone else might be near. But when he clicked the pocketknife open, all of that disappeared.

He put the blade of the knife just under her right shoulder blade and made a slow, shallow cut down her back. As it closed, he matched it on the left, then crossed them horizontally. He worked harder and deeper until it seemed her entire back had been marked, and for once she was not silent, but gasping.

At last it ended, for her energy was not limitless, and he did not want to press her healing overmuch. His final cuts made the words “I love you,” and he watched them slowly fade away as he cleaned the knife on the blanket. Then more practical issues entered--sopping up the blood, getting her dressed again, finding a place to hide the blanket until it could be washed. They slept the night in the park, and walked to school in the morning, and he felt fortunate no one noticed how disheveled they both looked.

Though he did not think of it as sex, he always remembered that night as their first time.

-- -- -- --

He first discovered it through her movements--he saw her gestures become sharper, and her stride more arrogant. As always, she said nothing when questioned, but she did not object when he walked behind her as she proceeded, on schedule, to an alley not far from the school. He watched from hiding as a boy in a punk-rock T-shirt handed her a small quantity of money, then punched her in the face. She collapsed, but he kicked her over and over, working all of his rage and frustration into each kick. Only after the punk left did she get up, smooth her shirt, and proceed about her business, the money in her pocket.

He told her parents, of course--what else could he have done? And of course they, as afraid as ever to acknowledge what their child was, told him that she was earning money from a waitressing job, and that he shouldn’t slander the name of a good Christian girl. When she didn’t arrive home from school one day, they finally called the police, but of course by then it was too late, and no sign of her could be found.

He, who had always been known at school as “the guy with that creepy girl,” was now only “that creepy guy.” Alone, he poured himself into study, and earned top grades in most of his classes. He joined no clubs and made no friends, but he did not show sorrow. Instead, the few who paid any attention to him observed a grim resolve, almost alarming in its intensity.

-- -- -- --

On a cockroach-ridden building in a town filled with far worse vermin, the paint peeling off the sign out front could still be read as “massage therapy.” No one was fooled, but the appropriate bribes were paid, and the cops primarily concerned themselves with bigger-scale operations anyways. Yet a place all but intended to be indistinguishable from a thousand others nonetheless acquired a certain fame, because of the rumors about what was inside the last room on the top floor.

On the bloodstained bed a creature lay facedown that for the first time in many years was being correctly addressed as “it.” Three times a day, it was given a small quantity of food, and as often it got up and walked to the building’s bathroom. It was not put to service as often as the occupants of the other rooms, as its master had long since given up teaching it to fake pleasure, but those with stranger tastes were ushered into the room to indulge themselves. It never made noise, and its master thought it to be deaf and mute. It saw only with its left eye, for a regular customer had a fondness for the right, and never gave it time to fully heal. When it first arrived it began to gain weight, but its food was halved until the problem ceased, and it never again attempted to mimic its master.

On a day like any other, it heard the door open, and it waited as it heard a pocketknife snap open. This was by then routine.

Then it felt a shallow cut proceed downwards from its right shoulder blade, and its good eye snapped open.

It heard a quiet laugh as the right cut was matched, then a horizontal slash crossed them both. Every cut was shallow and slow, drawn out till it cried out in a combination of frustration and ecstasy. Deeper slashes spelled “I love you,” but their strange play ended too soon, as it had grown too weak to repeat their earlier feats.

The pocketknife snicked closed, and a familiar man rolled the creature over on its back. He lightly slapped its face, then kissed it on the lips.

-- -- -- --

It listened for a long time, silent as ever, as he told it of his life--the public success, the money he’d earned, and the nights spent alone. He spoke of the rumors about it among the more perverted rich men, the questions he’d asked and the bribes he’d paid to track it down. And finally, he asked it a question.

“Do you want to come with me?”

It hesitated only a moment. She leaned close to his ear and whispered a single word.

There were difficulties, of course, arranging for her to leave, but another prostitute’s clothing fit her, and the pimp’s objections were silenced by more money than she would have earned in three years. She staggered when she walked out into the sunlight, but he took her by the hand and led her away.

And the rest . . . is silence.

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