Invisible Songs 
 

    A year ago, my world went silent. The doctors told me the particulars, which of several genetic disorders was to blame, but I had enough shouting elders in my family that it wasn’t a surprise. Twelve months since I’ve heard a human voice, and I only spent one in rage and despair. Family had shown me what to expect. 
    But nobody said anything about the music. 
    Eleven months ago, I heard a soaring aria, faint and tinny but real. I stood up in my living room, rotating in place, trying to find the source. A shadow at the window told me that someone had probably rung the doorbell. But my doorbell didn’t sound like that. 
    I yanked open the door in time to see a delivery person heading back to her truck. She gave me a wave, her steps jaunty and her attention elsewhere. I was too dumbstruck to wave back. As she got into the truck and zoomed away, the music faded. I stepped forward to follow, and stumbled against a package. 
    Everything was quiet again. The package was nothing; some light bulbs and soap I’d ordered online. My thoughts whirling, I took it inside and spent a frustrating afternoon trying to find things that I could hear. 
    Since I worked from home, sending many an email about web development and rarely seeing people face-to-face, it was a while before I heard the music again. This time I had gone out to empty the trash, and as I lowered the lid with its usual silence, a burst of death metal made me jump. 
    No one was behind me with speakers, or in a nearby yard having a party. The only person on the street was the neighbor across the way, who was scraping his shoe on the grass with dramatic fury. 
    I stared. He was clearly shouting, waving his arms and everything, but all I heard was discordant electric guitars. 
    A child appeared at the window, surely asking what had happened, and the tempo slowed. By the time the man had left his shoes by the door and gone inside, the tune in my ears sounded more like classic rock. It wasn’t a song I’d ever heard before. 
    I left the trash can and circled the block, listening as hard as I could. With each neighbor I encountered, their voices were silent, but something sang. 
    The woman gardening sounded like a pastoral scene in a movie, all skirling flutes and good cheer. The man carrying groceries from his car sounded like a workout montage as he strained to lift all the bags at once. The children playing soccer each had a different version of the same song following them about; it spiked with excitement when someone scored a goal, and hummed in anticipation when the next round began. 
    I didn’t know what to make of this. I went home and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. That was eleven months ago. By ten, the doctor had tested everything and said politely that he didn’t believe me. I gave up on answers. 
    Nine months ago, I started spending time in coffee shops for the music. Many people passed through, some staying longer than others. At first it was exhilarating, being able to hear something, many somethings! But the songs were unpleasant more often than not, accompanying people under stress of one type or another. I tried other places that people gathered: the park, the movie theater, even the library. That one was the most likely to sound peaceful, but not as much as I’d expected. I started to get discouraged. 
    Eight months ago, I heard a crow sing. 
    It was so unlike the rough caw that I remembered, I stopped in my tracks and laughed. The crow was happily eating something: a bit of fast food that someone had left on a bench, and the music surrounding it was the most cheerful of reggae tunes. 
    When I laughed, it startled and flew off in a flutter of chase scene drums. I apologized to it and crossed the street so it could return to such a delightful meal. Instead of going home, I went to the woods outside of town for some birdwatching. 
    Seven months ago, I did my research, cleared space in the yard, bought the supplies, and built a proper atrium. I filled it with the happiest songbirds you’ve ever heard. They have their every need met, and I spend a good portion of my days there, laptop at hand and seeds ready to scatter. I can’t hear the chirps of my birds, or the jingle of their playthings, but I hear their joy. 
    Web development pays well, thankfully, and I haven’t lacked in funds to care for my new feathered family. They are happy, and I thought seven months ago that I’d heard the best there was to hear. 
    Then six months ago, a cat passed through my yard, and sang me a new song. One of curiosity, and stealth, and a mix of peace and excitement that the birds could never match. 
    I started researching again. 
    Five months ago, I brought home three adult cats that the shelter knew to be sisters. The car ride was full of anxious violins, but once they explored the house and realized they could stay, they sang me a song full of such purring love that I couldn’t stop crying. 
    By the four month mark, they had settled into a routine of sunbeams, treats, windows overlooking the atrium, and the occasional high-octane gallop through the house. My life is no longer silent. It is full of an ever-changing orchestra of largely good moods. 
    Three months ago, I set up a “catio” on the other side of the yard from the atrium, to let the cats spend time out in the breeze without worrying about losing them to cars or dogs. They like this arrangement just fine, and the birds have learned to ignore them. 
    Two months ago, I was sure that this time, I was set. 
    One month ago, I was even more certain. 
    Yesterday I took a walk by the river, and heard a fish sing. It was devastatingly beautiful. 
    Today I am researching aquariums.