READ: This is an original work of fiction. Please do not beg, borrow or steal from it. Or I will be forced to do nastey things to you in your sleep. If you want please respond to the story and tell me what you think of it. I appreciate any feed back (positive or negative).

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The world was covered in darkness, and the crickets let the night sky echo with their mating calls. The room was lit by a warm, yellow glow that filled it and bounced off a smooth polished floor, the faux marble tiles were meant to keep stains from sticking. Toys dotted the flooring, a small house made of tiny wooden logs was pastured in one corner, surrounded by various plastic animals that cast stretched shadows from the light above. The girl sat on the floor, the tile had been cold at first, but had gradually warmed and was comfortable to the touch where her body had rested. Before her was a black red checkered board. Plastic rounded pieces dotted it in similar colors. On the other side of the board was the boy. His large eyes were staring blankly at a place on the floor, were a small ant struggled to navigate the nature grooves and cracks of nonprofessionally installed flooring.

"It's your turn." The girl remarked. Impatience creased her face. She was older, but still smaller. His body was larger then hers, with broader shoulders, more mass and a few inches advantage in height. She was fine boned, with vibrant curled hair, that fell in ringlets of red to frame rounded cheeks, freckled with Irish descent.

"Oh!" The boy looked back at her. His face formed a lopsided grin that pushed a dimple into one chubby cheek. "Right." He paused, and glanced down at the board. He was losing. He had red chips in his favor, but they were mostly stacked on the girl's side of the board, forming a towering monument to his impending loss.

Stocky fingers, that later in life would dominate a masculine hand, reached for his piece on the board, and the door swung open.

He entered, the swell of pride that usually carried his shoulders squared, had abandoned him. His dark hair was mused, curls pushed tightly against his scalp in some places and torn free by fretted tugs in others. His head sank, and he stared at the floor, his eyes fixing on the checkerboard.

The boy, his bushy hair the same texture and color of the man who had made a stunning, yet silent entrance, let a grin tug upon his features. Wickedly he smiled and his finger curled back, pressuring its self against the thumb it flicked. A king set the girl had previous claimed title to toppled and the top piece skidded across the board and onto the smooth floor, eventually ceasing to move a few feet beyond where they sat. The girl stared at the boy. Her eyes were pale by nature, but they had suddenly darkened, bringing anger alive in them causing the boy to sheepishly turn away. His grin faded, and as redness claimed his cheeks he balanced himself upon his hands and knees to fetch the piece he'd given momentary freedom.

The man sighed. The girl felt the despair more then saw it. It was in his sigh, her father never sighed. He moved grimly from tragedy to tragedy, with the same amount of importance placed upon the loss of valuable jewelry to the loss of a potato chip to the ground and eventually the wild critters that would consume it.

The girl frowned. The lines of worry creased her face further, forming a wrinkle between her large, mostly round baby blue colored eyes. They were a good compliment to her skin, also lacking a bright, vibrant coloring. It all seemed to fit together, right down to the small nose that buttoned on her face with a hint of an upturn suggesting confidence. Even her lips, which were rich and full, glossy with the taint of carmex, lip color to keep the dry summer heat from sapping them of smoothness and texture. All fit by the crease between her eyes, and the sense of worry that hung about her features like a black shroud over a widow's morning.

There was no sound in the room. The girl could have sworn the crickets had fallen silent. They had been just out side the windows, chirping and clicking away in the nighttime. But there was stillness all around. The world seemed to hold its breath, waiting for what had brought the shoulders of the proud man down.

"Daddy?" Her voice was meek, she wondered briefly why it had abandoned her.

"Something's happened." He murmured, his eyes never leaving the abandoned game of checkers.

The boy crawled back into place, and carefully set to the task of using his awkward hands, in stages of development and age that did not allow him complete dexterity, to assemble the game as it had been prior to his excitement.

"What?"

The boy's tongue had come out of his mouth, and was trapped between his teeth in concentration.

"To Grandma".

The girl wanted to speak again, to rephrase her previous question, but suddenly her throat stopped working. She could not swallow, and she could not breathe. Dread washed over her. She wanted to touch something, something warm and solid. But there was nothing to touch. The boy had even taken notice, but only for a moment. His head turned back to the game, and he moved a piece of his own red plastic chips.

The girl grabbed at her own black chip, and moved it forward. Leaping over the red chip so recently placed in its path. The boy's face momentarily fell, he hadn't seen that piece, he hadn't anticipated that. The girl sneered, curling her upper lip back to reveal a glimmer of teeth braced with metal brackets.

"Idiot." She cursed.

"Don't talk to your brother that way." The man's voice held no authority, as if the response was conditioned rather then brought out of some conscious awareness of the vulgarity of the victory she'd claimed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The digital clock said it was 1am. She'd put herself in the top bunk of the shared bedroom several hours ago. It had been just past ten when she'd finally turned out the light that was fixed to the edge of the wooden frame. Sleep hadn't come. She'd wasted time staring at the clock, trying to count the seconds in time to watch it change with the proclamation of a silently mouthed "sixty". At midnight she'd given the habit up and shut her eyes, hoping sleep would come with the added aid of pretending. It didn't much to her distaste.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and her eyes fluttered open. She felt groggy. Sluggish didn't even quite grasp the way her body seemed unwilling to move with any sort of grace of speed. Below her brother slept, soundly with a growl of a snore around his nostrils that flared with each breath. She moved, rolling over to her back, and eventually to the other side with a perceived slowness that was maddening. She did not want to wake the boy, but even as the bed squeaked his only response was a loud snort. He murmured, incoherent phrases that sounded much like a bear's hungry stomach. The snoring resumed a moment later.

A woman was there to greet the dreary eyes of the girl. Her dark hair was smooth, slick, but kept in a tight pony tail at the base of her neck. It drew her skin taunt, and made her youthful appearance all the more deceiving for her age. The woman's dark eyes held a somberness that was disheartening. The makeup she'd donned earlier in the day as a measure of presenting herself to the world had worn away. All that was left were smudges of mascara around her eyes and a few traces of lipstick that lingered in dried cracks in her lips.

"We're going to be leaving soon". The woman stated, keeping her voice low as not to disturb the tiny sleeping bear with wild bushy hair.

"Leaving where?" The girl asked, brushing a few tendrils of her own wild hair away from her round face.

"To Mountain Home."

Nine hours in a car and on free way, it was a long way to go. "To see Grandma?" Hope glimmered, replacing the sorrow and weariness of before.

"Honey, Grandma died."

The girl couldn't remember what it felt like to breathe. She felt like was going to suffocate, drown from lack of air into her lungs, as she lay in a room full of it.