TO SIT IN A ROOM, LISTENING

It’s rare for me to have story ideas, which as a writer, is a very bad problem to have. Most writers say that you never seek out ideas or even set aside time to think up ideas. You should always be writing. In your head. In your notebook. You’re never not writing. Well, when you don’t actually perform the act of writing for so long, the ethereal writing doesn’t get done either. Sometimes, you use tools like Oblique Strategies and get prompts. A long time ago, I received the prompt:

In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly.

One story idea I had-which I’ve shared elsewhere before-was about listening. There had been a recent passing that caused a frequency that could almost be felt throughout my community of friends. I’ve never believed in ghosts or spirits, as I’ve said before, but on the rare occasions that I’ve had to deal with death, I always wish that I did.  The idea came to me about allowing yourself to believe just enough to sit in a dark room, alone and whisper into the emptiness. Then to just sit there and listen; really listen.

Instantly my mind took me to an old house outside my hometown that everyone said was haunted. There were stories of people breaking in to sleep inside on a dare and then waking up outside with no explanation. I’d be surprised if anyone has ever really broken into that house. I myself grew up in a house that was probably almost as old as the town was. If any house should have been haunted it was mine. My older brother said the thought he sensed something once. I never did.

The listening idea has come back to me several times since I abandoned it. One instance was after reading a post on Morning.Computer (yes, I have the same WordPress Template design for now). Warren Ellis talks about Alvin Lucier’s recording “I Am Sitting In A Room.” He sat alone and spoke into the emptiness, recording and playing back the audio. Then he recorded and replayed that. Over and over. The noise gets absorbed into the room and only sonic rhythms remain. As Ellis beautifully put in, “Any room, therefore, has sound embedded in its fabric, just from having been lived in by people.  All houses are haunted by the voices in the walls.”

I never wrote idea this out because I couldn’t decide how it would end. Is there a response of any kind? I am a fiction writer but even I felt that having  a response would be lying to myself. I think that it would have still be a touching tribute to have sat and listened.

The office I currently work in is supposedly haunted. There are stories about a former employee roaming that halls or trying to get people’s attention.  I sometimes sit in the back room to meditate in the dark. I never hear anything except electric buzzing and cars driving passed. But I’ve spoken into the room, either.

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