Rhianna Herd, As Night Falls, Silence Gathers

As Night Falls, Silence Gathers

The only inclination of light came from the tiny pinpricks of orange that flashed in a moment, before vanishing. The flame ignited from the end of the cigarette, glowing briefly before the darkness swallowed it whole. A thick fog bled across the sky and covered the stars with a blanket of darkness.

A silence seemed to follow that darkness – stalking it.

When a flame flickered, the noises shimmered with a cough or a murmur. But they were always snuffed out with the light.

No one spoke in the darkness; for it gave away their position.

The trees moaned in the wind, whispering across the forest to one another. The men sat huddled in the small holes, dotting the terrain with flickers of light and small huffs.

The occasional pop pop echoed through the forest – wrenching the silence from the night air with a gleam of sparks before it was eliminated once more by darkness.

Only when the first tendrils of light licked the sky did the men begin to speak; soft grunts in low tambours. A cackle of laughter broke out and birds began chirping overhead.

The light crept into the sky like an intruder, shattering the relative silence of the night.

Footfalls crunched on snow and with it the men appeared, from their foxholes, shaking out sore limbs and shouldering their rifles. A few complained loudly of back pain, sitting on the hard, compact dirt all night.

A great distance away, a group of men sat in silence, not intoxicated by the pull of light’s grip. Out they sulked, amongst the trees and Umbra. Even the birds knew to keep quiet here.

Oscitant sunlight poured into the clearing, the snow glowed startlingly bright, the men’s eyes squinting as their owners blinked against the luminescence.

The weary group chatted while setting up large radios and pouring over maps, tracing their fingers across the inky lines of road and forest.

Jeeps rumbled past, while men unloaded carts of supplies.

As sound had returned to one side of the dense forest, so it began to return to the other. Like light, sound poured in, men shouting orders, their faces grim, and their fingers pointing across the dense foliage.

The humble noises of the forest were altered, slanted in sharp cries and the sound of scrabbling before a Calliopean boom resounded around them. The trees shook from the force of the explosion and cries pierced the air like the points of sharp knives.

Chunks of dirt flew into the air and artillery rained overhead. The multitudinous cracks of bullets puncturing bone rang out. A tree burst into tiny splinters and fire illuminated the surrounding snow.

Men fell gracelessly into the snow, face-first. Colouring rouge on the white powder.

With the sun came the heat of day – the transparent rays touched everything and indifferently gazed downward. The gasps and the moans, the shrieks and the cries of death hung in the air like a stench – the outcries and the fiery sun intrinsically entwined in a fierce battle for the day.

The cacophony relentlessly tugged at the very air, pulling fourth horrid bangs and pops.

Men ran in every direction and each one fell. The lights faded from their eyes as the sun faded below the horizon, casting the forest in an unearthly glow. The suns dying rays slid effortlessly through their unseeing eyes.

The sky turned an inky blue and balanced the sunlight. The clamour dissolved into a settling mist.

The days afterglow still clung to the surrounding tress and trampled earth, where only soft moans and retreating footsteps could be heard.

Then as abruptly as it came, light vanished; leaving the silence of death in its wake.

Rhianna Herd is a incoming 2nd year undergrad at the University of San Francisco, studying English and Philosophy. She loves exploring stories that delve into the human condition and tries to understand the complexities of human emotion. She has published two short works on The Hungry Chimera and Longshot Island Literary Journals. She also writes and edits articles for The Odyssey Online and Her Campus.


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