“Vow of Silence explores many aspects of loneliness and the anxiety of a dreadful future with a twist that almost feels like a triumph.”
Joelcy Kay | Editor | Edge of Humanity Magazine
Written by Mellow Curmudgeon
Reasons to speak dwindled for Martin Cavendish, who was already taciturn when his wife’s early-onset dementia left him widowed and childless. Neighbors moved away. Friends were in other time zones and communicated by e-mail. Flawed as they were, online customer service and tech support were still better than holding for “the next available representative” on a voice call. A pandemic lockdown in 2020 closed the restaurants he sometimes visited.
Martin did not pray at all, let alone out loud. In one respect, however, he was like some old-time Calvinists. Those Calvinists scrutinized their lives in this world for clues about what they were predestined to enjoy or suffer in the next. Martin watched for early symptoms of dementia. Exaggerated or frequent versions of common minor things could be early symptoms. Martin was uneasy when he forgot why he entered a room, when he drove past a lawn being mowed and did not smell the fresh-cut grass, and when he spoke to nobody. Without any explicit vow of silence, Martin suppressed the occasional urge to talk to himself. Days without speaking stretched to weeks and then months.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An angry cobra slithered inside Martin’s left arm, pausing often to bite. A python squeezed his heart. Martin chewed aspirin tablets while starting his old flip phone. Kept more from habit than from felt need, the bare-bones combination of device and plan was good for voice calls. No texting. No GPS.
When the 911 dispatcher asked about the call’s purpose, the sounds that came from Martin’s mouth were somewhere between coughs and grunts. Martin’s voice had atrophied.
The dispatcher was unfazed.
“You seem to have a medical emergency. I will send help as soon as I locate you. Are you at home now?”
“Please press 1 if you are at home or 2 if you are not at home.”
Martin’s hands trembled as he jabbed at a button, missed it, and dropped the phone. Whatever the dispatcher may have said about triangulation as a backup option was unheard, as Martin felt the cobra bite again while the python squeezed harder.
A new thought came to Martin before he blacked out. He smiled.
Dementia won’t be what gets me.
Text © Mellow Curmudgeon
Mellow Curmudgeon has been a computer scientist, a software engineer, and a dementia caregiver. His short stories Satori from a Consulting Gig and Entanglements appeared in volumes 1 and 2 of The Rabbit Hole (a series of anthologies of weird stories). An early version of Vow of Silence was posted in the Show Case section of Writer’s Co-op.
Mel’s legal name (Barry K Rosen) was inflicted by his parents. Online, he prefers to go by the deliberate oxymoron he chose for blogging sporadically on a wide range of topics, with images (mostly photos), poems (mostly haiku and tanka), and prose (mostly nonfiction).
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