Sheila was afraid of quiet.
When she was very young, Sheila suffered medical problems and spent most of her first three years in hospitals. At such a tender age, no child really knows what the grown-ups are talking about- but the emotional tone isn’t difficult to decipher. And so it was that Sheila regularly experienced lying weakly in her hospital bed while doctors huddled nearby -sometimes with her parents and sometimes not- and had very serious discussions in muted tones. These discussions often came soon before or after various unpleasant tests, procedures, and surgeries. When Sheila cried over her misery, her mother always tried to calm her with soft voice and soft touch. The hospital is no place for a small child’s natural tendencies. And so it was that Sheila began to associate quiet with pain and suffering.
By the time that Sheila started going to school, the medical problems were mostly cured and what remained was fading quickly- but the damage was done. Sheila fought desperately against the quiet. As she learned to speak it seemed that speaking quietly was not a possibility. Her parents were very concerned, wondering if Sheila had some developmental disorder that was only now becoming apparent. The girl seemed to have no ability to be subtle about anything, and not only spoke with gratuitous loudness but seemed to think the same way as well.
So the medical doctors and hospitals gradually gave way to psychologists and special schools. Eventually the psychologists determined that Sheila was emotionally challenged to be sure, but was otherwise mentally healthy enough to live what they called a normal life.
But this life would be anything but normal. Sheila had problems at school from the beginning. Her grades were never good, and there were behavioural problems too. Sheila often showed a poor understanding of basic academic concepts and seemed to be in trouble more often than not.
By high school Sheila was solidly among the social outcasts, but even they regarded her with a mixture admiration and caution. Her behaviour was often outlandish and outspoken, and she showed signs of being given to a nihilistic view of the world. And Sheila still feared quiet. She’d discovered heavy metal music and took it up anthemically, making it the core of her life. She looked the part, acted the part, lived the part. Sheila’s hair was dyed jet-black and spiked, she wore ripped leather clothing and chains, and she had a loose circle of ‘friends’ who were the only people who showed her anything resembling acceptance.
Of course it wasn’t long before Sheila’s embrace of heavy metal led her to participation. She began to scream lyrics whenever she could, and tried to learn to play guitar like her heroes. Before long Sheila had dropped out of high school and had joined a metal band that played around town. She’d also discovered sex and drugs and partook of them in just as intense and excessive a manner as everything else she did. The band gained a lot of notoriety, probably more for Sheila’s onstage antics than for being good at playing heavy metal. If Sheila lived an amped-up life, her life on stage was an even more concentrated distillation of what she lived. And of course all shows must come to an end. Sheila feared the end of every show with a cold dread that ate at her from within. She often pushed her bandmates for encore after encore, often to the consternation of the staff of the bars and clubs who needed to close their establishments for the night. The audience of course loved every moment of it, and this left the members of the band caught in the middle.
Sheila clung to the stage for dear life itself. But quiet always came sooner or later and she would do almost anything to avoid it. The parties got wilder, the drugs got stronger, the sex got more extreme. Life had to be kept loud and louder at all cost. Would this urge eat her alive? Would it kill her without a second thought?