The worst part was the silence.
A year and a half of living at Baker Street had made John used to noise again in a way he had not realized until it was gone. There was some sort of tragic irony in that he was sure, but it hurt too much to contemplate. Instead he remembered the sounds that had vanished along with his old life.
There were the ordinary sounds that had shaped the routines of his days and nights, the noises that had become as familiar and as necessary as breathing. The kettle boiling merrily away in the morning accompanied by the clack of computer keys and the rustle of the paper. The slam of the downstairs door and the excited two at a time leaps up the stairs when the Game was afoot. The creaking of old floorboards bending under the repetition of thoughtful pacing, underscored by unconscious mutterings and musings. Delicate strains of haunting violin melodies creeping up the stairs on late nights, aiding brainwork and soothing nightmares.
There had been extraordinary sounds as well, punctuating the flow of the ordinary with excitement and danger that made John feel glad to be alive. Sirens ringing through the night as they raced towards Baker Street, promising adventure and bringing matching smiles to the faces of the men whose eyes glowed in the flashing red and blue lights. Peals of laughter that rang throughout the building, tinged with memories of adrenaline and success. The crack of a gunshot as bullets slammed into walls when the boredom and tedium of life became too much to bear, always followed by furious shouts and even sometimes a quiet apology. There was even the occasional small explosion from when experiments had gone disastrously wrong, but the laughter that had followed had more than made up for the shattered glass and jolted nerves.
And then there had been the sounds that most people might not even notice, the private moments for their ears only that John had loved the best. These were harder to define or list, but their absence was the most painful of all. The quiet, contented sighs that followed a stressful case finally solved. The hums of agreement or acknowledgement that so often served in place of words that were no longer needed. The soft chuckles that had spoken more than mere words ever could. There were even the sounds that were not sounds at all, but the memory of a shared secret or the companionable, comfortable quiet that felt like home.
These had been the sounds that formed the rhythm of life at 221B. They were little things, unremarkable and unnoticed by most. But no matter the time and no matter the circumstance, the flat at Baker Street had hummed with the contented melody of two lives well lived and well loved.
There was no music now. Only silence.
The quiet in this tiny flat was deafening. It seemed to fill the cramped rooms and leech all the color from the world until there was nothing left but the pale imitation of life. Where before quiet moments had been a relief from chaos, silence was now his constant companion and constant reminder of what he had lost. He had tried to drown out the quiet with empty noise of course. But nothing worked. The silence crept into the flat and settled on John like a physical thing until he gave up trying to fight it. Why bother? Everything worth saying had died with the only man worth saying it to.
The stillness spread and filled John’s existence until the sounds of life that he had so loved became a distant memory. He did not bother with buying a television – even the sight of one reminded him of the shouts of derision and caustic jokes hurled across the living room on so many nights in. He did not invite friends over – what conversation could he possibly offer when words had deserted him? Even his phone lay soundless on the bedside table, the familiar demanding buzz long vanished with the only friend who would text him. Sound only returned to John’s life when he could stare into space no longer and filled in a shift at the surgery, but the silence followed him there too and muffled the too-loud sounds that assaulted him. He went through the motions of life as blackness crept in around the edges, no longer living but simply existing.
There were times that he forgot. Times when a familiar action or routine would distract him just enough to momentarily numb the ache. While making a solitary cup of tea he would faintly smile to himself and listen for the imperious command for a second cup that would never come again. This was easily brushed aside with a stern shake of the head and a return to reality. But sometimes, upon waking up from a nightmare of falling and the sharp crack of bone on pavement, he strained his ears for the quiet melody that would soothe his fears. On these nights the silence would be broken, but only by a single choked sob that was soon stifled.
It would not do to disturb the quiet, after all.