• Published 13th Feb 2013
  • 1,262 Views, 36 Comments

Sing Like You Can't Be Heard - Desideratium

Sometimes, hardship might throw some light on what's really important.

  • ...


Your head snaps off the table in a jolt. Your eyes, wide and now very much awake, dart from side to side, taking in your surroundings. A deep, all-encompassing vibration thrums through your very being, permeating you from ears to hooves.

You look down at your recently-vacated nap spot. A puddle of liquid had congealed there, and judging by the general sticky sensation and smell around your muzzle, it had firmly attached itself to your face as well. Next to the mysterious substance is a plate bearing a half-eaten stack of pancakes, partially coated in maple syrup. Your eyes slide over the plate, taking in the rest of the table. Next to the plate was an empty, upended mug that once held black coffee—the mystery of the sticky fluid suddenly solved. Frowning, you raise your hoof to your face to poke experimentally at the clinging stuff. Some of the stickiness clings to your outstretched limb, eager to move on to new frontiers. The bitter scent of coffee beans finds its way into your nose.

The table wobbles slightly, as if some of the weight had been dispersed unevenly, and had just shifted. You look up to locate the source of the disturbance. As your eyes rise, they move over a slim, white-furred body—moving upward, resting on a pair of giant, violet, insect-like eyes staring you in the face. You yelp in surprise and fright, recoiling slightly.

Your voice cuts off as soon as it had sounded, leaving you with only bewilderment that was entirely unrelated to the giant bug in front of you. Your throat constricts, tightening as it chokes out the intonation that didn’t seem to make a sound.

The sound had left your mouth. You are sure of it—you had felt the vibration, and sensed the voice slipping off your tongue. The only problem is that the sound never reached your ears.

Your eyes focus once again on the orbs of purple, staring unblinkingly. Upon closer inspection, the “eyes” are actually a pair of familiar sunglasses, framed by a wild bush of electric blue mane. And under them, a thin-lipped mouth grins mirthfully. You breathe a deep sigh, then several more, recovering from your initial scare. You look around, taking in your location—a small, modest coffee shop that you frequent regularly, given that it’s en route to work—and therefore convenient—but also because it happened to serve the finest breakfast burritos that you had ever tasted in Ponyville.

The shades belonged to Vinyl Scratch, another consistent customer and Equestria-class club DJ.

“Miss Scratch!” Again, your words are released into the world, and again, their sound didn’t register in your mind.

The eccentric mare leans on the table with both hooves propping her smirking chin aloft. Her gleaming white coat seems to glow in the bright lighting. Her mouth is moving, forming words and throwing them at you . . . but you are lost on the meaning.

“I’m sorry, Miss Scratch, but I can’t hear you.”

Vinyl’s jaw freezes mid-word, then closes completely. Her face shifts, as though she’s squinting behind her trademark shades. One more word is spit out, and from the simple movement of her lips, you decide that the word was “What?” A single syllable conveying her apparent confusion.

“I can’t hear,” you repeat, marveling at the strangeness of the sensation; words were clearly being produced in a manner that Vinyl could understand, but you had been struck deaf. And then the magnitude of that reality sinks in—you are completely deaf. You move one of your wings close to your ear, deliberately ruffling the feathers to check if any of the sound could reach your ears. You look up, your throat tight and seemingly unable to speak. Vinyl Scratch is looking steadily at you, concern showing around her slightly downturned mouth—reading her eyes is out of the question, given their violet casings.

Vinyl begins to speak again, fruitlessly. You can only stare blankly at her. You cut in, interrupting her in the middle of a set of words. “Miss Scratch . . . you don’t know me, but why are you . . . here?” Your soundless sentence falters as you try to compose it as not to sound impolite—words had never been your strong suit. Your face reddens, realizing how foalish you had sounded.

The question had come out before you had actually considered its meaning. Why is she here? You’re nobody—one of the many waiters that staffed the Maison de Lune restaurant. Nothing special, by any means—usually overshadowed by your coworker, Symphonic Keys. You keep your head down and do your job. Nothing that would warrant any attention from DJ-Pon3, or anypony for that matter.

Vinyl Scratch looks puzzled for a moment, confused on how to communicate with a deaf stallion without intonation. Her head turns, surveying the establishment. She hails a passing waitress. She makes a simple request, pointing at the pen sticking out of the mare’s saddlebag and flashing a winning smile that only Vinyl Scratch could pull off. The waitress smiles uncertainly back, then allows the DJ to withdraw the writing utensil.

Vinyl extracts a napkin from the tray with her turquoise magic. She splays it out in front of her and begins to write. You sit silently across from her, confused and uncomfortable—you feel a strange sense of unworthiness, as though you are not important enough to even be in the presence of Vinyl Scratch.

The napkin is swiveled around and pushed in front of you so you can read it. You lower your face to try and make out the DJ’s untidy, spiky scrawl:

“Are you hearing impaired? Sorry . . . I didn’t know.”

You look up at Vinyl, whose smile has tightened significantly, uncomfortably. “It’s okay. You can call me deaf. Hearing impaired sounds so . . . I don’t know . . .” You pause, uncertain where you were going with the statement. Your voice is still nonexistent to your ears, and it is disorienting to try to talk. “Debilitating?” you finish gingerly, wondering if you had used the right word.

Across the table, Vinyl gazes solidly at you for a moment, before her mouth opens. Her figure tremors daintily, and you are left to deduct that she is laughing. She tugs the napkin out from under your hoof and begins to write again. In a matter of moments, a new message is in front of you, the previous one hastily scratched out:

“What’s your name? You remind me of somepony I know.”

You answer Vinyl’s question, not meeting her eyes. Revealing your name seems much more intimate than openly admitting that your hearing is gone—you are honored that Vinyl even cares enough to ask.

Another note.

“Nice name. Do you know Symphonic Keys?”

Your mouth tightens. Symphonic is really nothing more than an acquaintance; you work alongside him, nothing more. He’s been fun to be around, but altogether much too mysterious for your liking—he had disappeared off the face of the planet for a few months a couple weeks previous, and now returned with a whole new outlook on life and a wife, to boot. “Yeah. I know him.”

Vinyl pauses before writing down the next note. “You remind me of him.”

“Huh.” You can’t think of what to say to that. Simple onomatopoeia would have to suffice, as awkward is it might sound. You tear your eyes away from Vinyl’s face and point them out the window, focusing on something other than the beautiful mare sitting across from you. The afternoon sun was angled so that light filtered through the scratched glass, throwing perforated puddles of golden illumination on the tiled floor.

You heart skips a beat. Afternoon. Your shift started at eleven. You missed it. You’re late. Horrendously late.

“Miss Scratch . . . what time is it?”

Vinyl shrugs. Her magic lowers the pen to the napkin to jot out a quick note: “I dunno. 2 or 3 maybe?”

You stand, inadvertently knocking your chair over backward. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. Late for work.” You turn, intending to pin down the waitress and pay for the food that you didn’t remember eating. You spot her across the room, and make to go after her, but a pressure on your shoulder halts you in your tracks. Whirling, you find Vinyl smiling at you bemusedly. She holds up her hoof, as if to say, “Hold on a second.” You comply, but not completely willingly. You plant your hooves firmly on the ground and look at the DJ expectantly. She bends over, placing the heavily-graffitied napkin on the table. She flips it over, revealing a pristine white, untarnished writing surface. The pen goes to work, scrawling out rapid letters that link into words, into sentences. The pen, moving on its own, is mesmerizing; unicorn magic has always been a source of envy for you.

Vinyl withdraws, the pen dropping to the floor, and holds the note up to your face:

“Symphonic mentioned you. He said you work the same shift as he does—you don’t have work today, matey.”

Your eyes dart from the note to Vinyl’s knowing smirk, to her massive, heliotrope sunglasses. “What?”

Vinyl’s chest heaves; she sighs, apparently exhaling an exasperated laugh. The pen is lifted off the ground and dusted off. Another set of words is jotted down: “Today is Monday, right?”

“I’m not sure. Is it?”

Vinyl is getting quicker with the pen. “Yes. I’m at least eighty percent sure.”

“Oh, well . . .” You cough. “Thanks.” Your hooves unglue from the floor to shuffle awkwardly.

“If you’re so eager to get rid of me, you don’t have to stick around on my account.” Vinyl gives you the next note with an even wider grin. As an afterthought, she writes down a postscript: “I’m sure you have better things to do than to hang out with little ol’ me.”

You redden again and you force your eyes up from your hooves. “N-no! Miss Scratch, I’m not trying to . . . I mean . . . what I’m trying to say—” Your unheard stammering is cut off; Vinyl places her hoof daintily on your lips to shut you up.

“No offense taken, mate,” she writes. “I’ve overstayed my welcome. Heck, like you said . . . I don’t even know you. If it’s okay with you, I’ll be the one to take my leave.” The last words are crammed with minute penmanship in the bottom corner—Vinyl had finally exhausted her canvas of space. A sure sign that your conversation with this living legend was clearly over.

“Right,” you reply. “Well, er . . . well. It’s been . . . nice.” You inwardly cringe at the terrible structure of the sentence that you had spat out. Vinyl tremors again—more laughter. Friendly laughter, though. The same hoof that had shushed you snaps to her brow, saluting you mockingly. Unsure of what to do, you return the gesture hesitantly, which causes her to burst out in giggles again. Despite her clear knowledge of your . . . condition . . . she mouths out four words, four words whose meaning is lost on you.

You blink, and it seems like Vinyl has simply disappeared. You turn to see the tip of her violently blue tail disappear out the door, leaving you alone, looking foolish, and standing in the middle of the room with no indication that you had any more intelligence than an inbred Diamond Dog.

You arrive home and bolt the door of your apartment behind you. A heavy, cold, metal ball drops in the pit of your stomach, and you slide to the ground; your wings make no noise as they scrape along the wood of the door. The world starts to spin and you feel suddenly nauseous.

What in the name of Celestia happened?

Your hearing is gone. Completely and suddenly gone. The volume knob on the world had just been turned down to zero by some vast, unknowable entity, leaving you spinning in confusion. Your gut rolls over, uneasy.

What happened last night?

Your memory of your past life was crystalline; your foalhood is spread out in front of you in a clearly defined timeline—leading almost from birth, to where you are today. Ponies you had met, events you had attended. Lessons you had learned.

But what happened last night?

That single facet of your life seemed to be blocked, preventing you from accessing that particular memory. Had you gotten intoxicated, and somehow permanently deafened yourself? Was it a mugging? Was it a concussion, that also knocked your auditory organs loose?

Each scenario is as unlikely as the last . . . none seem plausible, but they keep coming, as if toying with you. Egging you on . . . keep trying, you may get there eventually. You shake your head, accentuating the beginnings of a headache.

The door vibrates in a quick, staccato pattern. Somepony is knocking.

You feel like screaming. The sound wouldn’t reach your ears, but an outlet of all the pent-up frustration that you had accumulated would definitely be agreeable. Unconsciously, you bang the back of your head into the wood of the door, giving you a sharp pain to worry about as well. “Coming,” you call wearily to whoever was waiting just outside the threshold.

You lean forward to free your wings. The massive blue canopies flap twice, hauling you to your hooves. Your mouth wraps around the doorknob and twists—the door pops open. Revealed, silhouetted in the afternoon light, was your long time best friend, Bon Bon. Her face sports a cheery, customary, smile, which immediately fades upon seeing your forlorn expression. Her mouth begins to move, most likely inquiring if you’re okay.

“Bon Bon,” you cut in. “I can’t hear you. I’m completely deaf.” Your words are level, not giving evidence of the tremor that permeates your entire being.

The candy-making mare stops, her mouth frozen ajar. One more word: “What?” you can lip-read easily enough.

“Come inside. I’ll get you something to write with.”