I was the Sound Tortoise, or Exclamitus Testudinidae. The scientists thought me a rare species and came from across the globe to witness my uniqueness. On the tropical island of Mostunusual, where I lived, the beaches were pure pink sand, the coconut palms swayed at the most perfect of angles, and the birds were colored like emeralds, and yet still I was the greatest spectacle. Mostly I spent my time walking through the jungle telling everyone how wonderful I was. The scientists said I was the most vocal tortoise they had ever discovered, which is why they named me so.
These are all texts that begin with the phrase “I was the sound.” I wrote using this prompt for 50 consecutive days.
I was the sound of thunder over the tree line, the flash of lightning far off, and the sour twang upon the tongue before the storm. In the early night, summer hot, all the houses and their people were waiting. Excitement and grandiosity, tension and vibration; a toddler played on the porch steps with jacks and marbles; the lamp hung still and moths made noises like paper, burning. A wind, a scout sent forth from the storm, rustled the brush in the forest, and the boy looked up in fear of a monster. Nothing, but the wind.
I was the soundless prayer that came to you suddenly when your world closed down upon you. There upon that night with the windstorm rattling your jacket, as you walked the promenade and thought of your loneliness, I was the spur aside your soul that reminded you of higher longings. Nearly you had forgotten what you were, which was beauty unblemished and indestructible.
I was the sound of my brothers when they ran the Wyoming fields and yodeled at the Rockies. When the dry grass folded, the clouds hung low, the rain sheets fell, I was there with them as they huddled together. Have you seen them? Have you seen them walking in the twilight between the crab apple hedges? They look for Grandfather, who stared off into the West and then went there. They call for him to return. Father stares off into the West.
I was the sound you heard in the cemetery where you went to weep. In the flower garden, within the tulip bulbs, I was that sound. You heard me, didn’t you? You heard the soft fluttering and swore it was an illusion within your heart, like I was your heartbeat skipping with too much grief. You thought the sound of my call was nothing but an error in timing. Just nothing, you thought, and your tears fell down. But what if I said I existed and the sound you heard was my call? And that I was always there when man or woman wept near grave stones? Turn your head and listen. I shall tell you what I mean.
I was the sound of grief. A man once told me his life story and all the saddest parts. He did not flinch nor hesitate in the telling, but he did not share as if reciting stale text. There was heart in his speech and his eyes often watered and seemed to fire from within, until I wondered whether the four elements were first born in his eyes, for something earthy and something light as air also seemed to be in them. His words were simple and easily understood; I never was tempted to ask for clarification with any verse. I was wrapped in his story and felt its humanity and spirit. All the sadness and sorrow he said and I heard him well. But he did not weep. I wept for him. I was the sound of grief.
I was the sound of her heart. She lay in the backseat and, though she was a dog, the entirety of my being was with her. They came with a needle and injected her. I wondered what she thought when they came, whether she thought I was dropping her off at the kennel like all the times before when we had gone on family trips and she couldn’t come. I wondered if she knew there would be no more times like that, there would be no dropping off and no coming back to get her with her little butt wagging ready to go back home. I wondered if she knew she’d never go back home again. She’d never look out the window and wait for us. She’d never see the living room again, or the back yard, or the front steps. And at the last of her sounding heartbeat, I wondered whether I knew all those things were about to come true. I was stricken with grief.
I was the sound; finally I heard the shouts I cast out into the world. With disdain I accused him of cowardice. I told him he feared being original, because he feared what others would think of him. I told him that while staring off into the distance, while others stood and listened. Secretly I hoped they’d gathered for me; in my mind was my greatness. And he must thus be cast down to grovel too at my feet. How had I come to that, how had I lost my humility? Later I looked for it, and all I found was the sound of my own voice, repeating, repeating, repeating. I heard my harshness in my words to him. I heard the hypocrisy, oh what hypocrisy, in what I said. For where was originality? When had I ever braved public rebuke and placed my creative expression out upon the world for all to see? There was no book I had authored. There were no courageous comments or fearless opinions given. I was the king of hesitancy. My own voice was mostly silent, and when on rare occasion it did rise to become barely audible, it was done safely and with much second-guessing. Such a hypocrite was I to judge him for what I had never done! What do I do now, I wondered. What sound would I make next? Would it be the sound of shouting into the void, or would it be silence, the sound of reflection, repentance and self renewal?
I was the sound of his insincerity; the anger that rattled his voice gave me away. I was born from sufferings unaddressed, emotions unmaintained, presence lost. He didn’t see me coming, so don’t blame the fool. I had ensnared him so completely. He walked apart from others, he felt his isolation, and he thought there no reason to change. He’d long ago forsaken the promises he’d made to himself, those strong marks on the paper that proved that once, years ago when they were made, he’d had conviction. But it had faded away. He was becoming that old tired thing he was before the courage came. He didn’t even seem to care.
I was the sound of one hand clapping. All of the demands I placed on the world, all the arguments made, the criticisms, the advice, the wary words and slappy speak; I didn’t know that no one heard me, not even I, not even I . The claps were echoes and my hand wasn’t seen, how could I have known it was me? Today I heard the sound of one hand clapping, as I bitterly voiced my opinion against a fellow, not for the first time nor, forgive me, likely not the last. My mouth clapped and my sound went out into the void with intent for all the universe to hear my babbling. But, of course, no response came; there are no aliens in a void made by me. Do you see? If truly all That is This, then my clapping is meant to be heard by me, can only be heard by me. Forever and a day I have focused on the echoes. Today I saw the clapping was me. Perhaps tomorrow I shall see the invisible hands of my ego ghost applauding its own delusions. This is all babble speak, surely you do not understand, certainly you do not hear, but that is exactly to what I speak. What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is me.