Author : Glen Luke Flanagan

The howling had been with humanity for three generations. At first, it drove people crazy – drove them to cut off their own ears in order to be rid of it. Of course, that didn’t work, because the howling came from inside.

The second generation was born with it, but heard their elders’ tales of a world without it. They dreamed of a silent world, though they had no idea what such a world would be like.

But by the third generation, the howling was simply a part of life, like the seasons, or climate change. At that point, those who preached against it were not revered storytellers; they were fanatics, lunatics.

Chief of the lunatics was Lex Tomenko, founder and high priest of the Church of Silence. Most considered it a somewhat absurd cult. Others, more paranoid – or perhaps, more wise – called it a terrorist cell.

“Silence will fall,” he promised anyone who would listen. “Silence will reign.”

Like anyone willing to commit himself to a belief and repeat it loudly and often, Tomenko attracted followers, despite the insanity of his message.

“You cannot truly hear God when the howling is with you,” he would tell them. “You cannot truly hear yourself.”

His was an impossible task, however. The howling pervaded every aspect of society; from fortune tellers offering to read your spirit animal by your howl, to computerized locks keyed to your particular howl like a fingerprint or eye scan.

It was like trying to fight the tide, or the rising and setting of the sun. The howling was a force of nature. Though no one knew its origin or its purpose, it had become part of us. It had become essential to life; or at least, to stability.

But like all rabble-rousers, Tomenko cared very little for life and nothing for stability – and like all misguided geniuses, he refused to accept the impossibility of his desires.

No one expected him to succeed. So, of course, it was that much more of a shock when he did. If the howling had caused chaos when it first appeared, its disappearance was tenfold worse. Billions of people raised from birth to accept that incessant noise as part of themselves now wandered the streets empty, alone in their own heads.

Into the void came thoughts that had long been drowned out, kept at bay by the cacophony that was no longer there. The dam was broken, and the flood rushed in. The silence was deafening.


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