The Quiet Place
first fiction by Roberto Reyna
We’ve been together for as long as I can remember. The origins of the GHST club may have been a mere façade, but the same cannot be said for its importance to us. We came up with the idea for a fake community service club to complete our school requirement in what felt like an instant; it wasn’t hard, the four of us literally make up GHST. I’m Grey, you could say that I’m always a step ahead of the others, making me the natural leader. Heath is the quietest among us, but he’s always listening. Sara, although I’d never admit it to her face, is the smartest; she just needs to work on her arrogance. Timothy is a bit reckless, sometimes too headstrong for his own good. We’ve been friends ever since we met, so many years ago, at the orphanage. I’m thoroughly convinced, that if it weren’t for these specific circumstances, we wouldn’t have become as close as we are now.
We all agree, every day at school is exactly the same, save for one small difference; in one way or another, every day is, in some way, blander than the day before. The school is always so loud; so much yelling, so many footsteps. The loudest sound is the constant drone that comes from nowhere. The best part of every school day is when we meet up for GHST. We finally shut the door on the overwhelming pounding that persisted throughout the day, but we are still in the school, so it is still loud. We don’t really do anything in GHST, it’s usually best to just sit in silence until we decide to go back to the orphanage.
When it’s finally time to leave school and end what lasts forever, we all walk to the subway together. Sara guides Heath when he forgets his walking stick. Timothy stops every once in a while to catch his breath, or use his inhaler if need be. I walk a couple steps ahead everyone. The rattle of the tracks echoes in our heads, no one says anything about it, but it’s clear that we all hear it. Just when we are all ready to continue the routine, Timothy yells, “Hey! Look at that!” Before anyone can react, he jumps onto the tracks and dives onto the ground. I dive in after him, with Sara right behind me, and try to get him out before anyone gets hurt. Heath stumbles without Sara to guide him and falls onto the tracks too. The rumbling gets louder, a bright light flashes, I can hear so much that I can’t hear anything. Timothy helps Sara lift Heath and I glide out after them. We all take a second to collect ourselves on the platform.
“What were you thinking!?” Sara yells at Timothy.
“Check it out,” he says, holding a bright, white scrap of paper in front of our faces.
Heath clutches his arm and says, “I could’ve broken something.” We decide that it would be best to just walk to the orphanage at this point, so we do.
We push the heavy door open and try to walk in as quietly as possible. All of our footsteps creak and the sound bounces off the walls. No one notices, though. Everyone seems a bit more somber than usual. In the living room, Timothy shows us what he found on the tracks. “It’s a map”, he says. “Everything looks straightforward enough, except for the destination. It says that it leads to ‘the quiet place.’” Sara stares in awe at the paper.
“Is he telling the truth?” Heath asks.
“I think so,” Sara responds.
We decide that we have to follow it. Tomorrow. We will leave tomorrow. We all go to our rooms to sleep, Sara clutches the map and stares at the ceiling, unable to sleep as usual. Timothy breathes heavily. Heath tosses and turns in bed. I’m already asleep.
It’s time to go. We open the door as softly as we can, but the hinges squeak with every inch the door moves. We are out. “It looks like the map only takes us into the woods, but it stops pretty abruptly, it might not be safe,” Timothy remarks. Our silence reassures him that nothing can hinder GHST. A homeless man lies, asleep, on the sidewalk. He looks tranquil. Sara drapes my jacket over him. She feels cold, but she doesn’t feel like she needs it. We don’t even stop for a second.
Suddenly, the buildings twist into trees, the sidewalks melt into dirt. The wind rips across our faces and we cover our ears. “Where are we?” Heath asks.
“We aren’t there yet,” Sara replies. A dog circles us, his cries make Heath grimace. Timothy offers the dog his sandwich, Heath follows by handing Sara his water bottle which she pours out for the dog. We keep pace.
“The end is coming up,” Timothy declares. We find two paths at the end of the trail. One leads up a steep hill and the other seems to be blocked by fallen trees. After careful judgement, we decide to walk up the hill. I feel different. So do Heath and Sara and Timothy. They run up the hill just in front of me. Timothy sprints faster than he ever has before. We reach the summit. Beautiful trees that sway gently in the wind surround a park. An old sign reads, “The Quiet Place.” We all stop, I can hear everything, we all can.
“Let’s go sit on that red bench,” suggests Heath. Everyone walks over. We all sit down.
“I’m tired,” says Sara. We all are. Timothy breathes deeply, exhaling slowly. I sit down on the bench, next to GHST. We sit there for as long as I can remember.
Roberto Reyna is 18 years-old, a student at Haverford College. He grew up in Puerto Rico. He wrote this story between his high school graduation and his freshman year in college. Follow him on Twitter @antiderivada