This short story is from Hany Ali Said’s collection by the same title and is a companion to ‘The Last Stop’ a story from the same collection, also translated by Ibrahim Fawzy. It is part of a series of online extras to accompany our Spring 2022 MIRRORS issue.
By Hany Ali Said
Translated by Ibrahim Sayed Fawzy
The reading glasses straddle his nose, their ends clamping down on his ears as he mounts the back of his ancient chair, contemplating a book with the title How to be Talkative stamped on its black cover. The lines of the text exude such an intense silence that fills the room so that a single soul cannot be found nor the slightest sound heard.
Time crawls by as silence prevails, spreading its echo far and wide. Every now and then he thinks he can hear sounds emerge that remind him of what he would usually make out at this time, but they turn out to be nothing more than the echoes of the same silence permeating the corners of the room.
He twiddles some of the hair from his goatee between his thumb and his forefinger, listening out for any of the daily sounds he’s accustomed to. The meowing of the black cats has disappeared, and the marks of their scratches on his door have vanished. A chilling stillness hangs in the air, warning of an inevitable catastrophe.
The rattling sound of his father’s chest that he would hear every day through the keyhole has disappeared. Even the wind had stopped its teasing of the trees and windows that night, and the annoying barking of the dogs was gone. He tries to hold his breath to hear anything else… but there is nothing.
Feeling his limbs also beginning to vanish, he gets up from his chair and walks over to the large mirror facing him. He struggles to drag his feet away from the pull of the floor that feels like it’s trying to gobble them up.
He stares at the reflection of the furniture in the mirror but everything is perfectly still. When he speaks to his own reflection, he hears a muffled hiss like the one made by the hands of a clock. But even the clock has stopped working and no longer emits any sound.
He holds his breath once again but he can’t hear anything, not even his own breathing. His face slumps as the silence engulfs his feet. As his limbs shrink, he vanishes from the room, gravitating towards the glimmer of the silver mirror. Diving into its lustrous glow, he is engulfed by its silvery realms and becomes like a lifeless doll, cut off from existence.
When he hides in one of the corners of the mirror, he is besieged by a silence that he tries to escape. He secludes himself in one of the alleys of the huge mirror, surrounded by a terrain of echoing silence. He tries to evade it but he is wrapped up inside it. He searches for traces of any frozen breath in the shards of broken glass inside then tries to get away from the echo’s range, but silence’s steeds pursue him. Though he frightens them with his frozen and glimmering form that he acquired through the mirror, their neighing chases him. He tries to scare them with his eyes’ glare, but they continue to advance.
When he leaps in various rounded forms into the oceans of the mirror, the silence of the waves rushes after him. He soars into a fisherman’s hat towards a silver light but silence’s web hurls its threads at the lapels of his jacket. With all his remaining strength, he manages to take a long-lost breath through one of his limbs. He hears the meowing of a black cat, and the sound of it scratching at the door. His organs take form once again and he is tossed from the mirror. Slowly, his breathing restores, while his limbs gradually vanish.
Dr. Hany Ali Said is an Egyptian professor of Arabic Rhetoric and Literary Criticism at Fayoum University, Egypt and Qassim University, Saudi Arabia. His first collection of short stories, Ṣada al-Ṣamt (The Echo of Silence), was published in 2014 by Sindbad. His latest collection of short stories Farāshāt Kāfkā (Kafka’s Butterflies) was published in 2022.
Ibrahim Fawzy is an Assistant Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, Fayoum University, Egypt. He earned his MA in Comparative Literature (2021) from Fayoum University, Egypt. He has participated in many translation workshops organized by Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT) and Poetry Translation Center (PTC), and he volunteered at ALTA’s 44th annual conference, 2021. His first literary translation appeared in Merit Cultural Magazine.