The Incredible Silencing of Sylvia Page
Amanda Besserer

Sylvia Page shut her eyes for a moment as she sat at her computer, clinging desperately to her consciousness. She blinked slowly, as those who are too tired to hold on tend to do, as the images around her warped and stretched into indecipherable shadows. Sylvia closed her eyes for once more and woke up in a strange room.

The room was painfully white, as white as a piece of paper reflecting the sunlight. Nothing suggested human occupation aside from a white fedora lying in the corner. One would think that her first impulse would be to pick up the hat, but in her defense, the mind tends to fold in half when surrounded, for the most part, by nothingness. Sylvia stared at the hat for minutes or hours or seconds before walking over to it and picking it up. Suddenly, the hat disappeared and in its place appeared a stocky, unattractive man. The man was dressed in black, and had nothing with him but a piece of chalk that he rolled between his two fat hands. He put the chalk in to his pocket and wiped the dust all over his black shirt. He didn’t seem to notice or care that there was chalk dust all over his clothes; he was perplexingly self assured for such an unattractive fellow.

“Who are you?” Sylvia eventually managed to say.

“Well Philomel, your name is of little consequence here, but you can call me Mr. Pickenfeits.”

“My name isn’t Philomel. It’s Sylvia.”

“Okay Philomel.”

Becoming increasingly frustrated she asks,

“Okay, where are we and who are you?”

“Where we are is neither here nor there. And I am Mr. Pickenfeits, your teacher.”

Sylvia felt her consciousness slipping away from her as it had before she got to this place. She thought that she was drifting off to sleep, but what she was experiencing felt far too real to be a dream.

She opened her eyes again to find herself in what appeared to be a board room. A large table stood at the center in the shape of a letter ‘T’. She looked around the room for Mr. Pickenfeits, but he was no where to be seen. Across the way was a wall made entirely of windows; not one window, but hundreds of individual windows all with different frames. The view from each window was not of a city skyline, but rather hundreds of different girls asleep at their computers. Behind her was a door with an adjacent water cooler filled with black and white fish. The door slowly began to open. A group of people carrying briefcases walked through the door, right through her, and sat at the table. Some of the men were old, some of them young, but they were all casually dressed. The women, however, were all wearing matching black business suits.

“Hello, hello!” she called out, but none of them could hear her.

The men remained seated while the women got up and started to set up what appeared to be a presentation. There was something seriously wrong with the situation. There were numerous charts and graphs, each of the women held a litany of cue cards, and each woman held her own pointer. The women were presenting, what seemed to be, sophisticated instruments. The technology was like nothing Sylvia had ever seen before. One of the women opened her mouth and began to gesture as if she were speaking, but there was no sound. Soon it was clear that none of the women’s voices could be heard. What was even stranger is that when the women turned around it became apparent that their business suits were missing material from their behinds; that is to say, their asses were completely hanging out. The men talked amongst themselves. Sylvia could hear their voices just fine. Once and a while, one of the men would look up and patronizingly scrunch his face and nod his head. Just as Sylvia began to succumb to her feelings of confusion and powerlessness, she blinked and found herself elsewhere.


Sylvia was on a movie set, and she was tied up. Her mouth was duct taped and her hands were tied up with an unfamiliar, porous material. The material did not hurt her hands, but it was very strong. She tried to pry her hands apart with all of her strength, but her attempts were futile. Just then, a man appeared above her. He was wearing a black suit and a white fedora. He grabbed a light bulb that was swinging above their heads, pulled it down as far as he could and shined it in her eyes. Her cries were muffled. Sylvia Page did not know what to do. She did not immediately want to look at the man’s face, so she peered down again at her bound hands and feet. Strangely enough, the ropes had disappeared, but she was still unable to move. It looked as though her skin had been tattooed where the rope had been. On her hands and feet were written the words: “chastity, silence, obedience”.

Tears began to form in her eyes impairing her vision, but it was still clear when she looked up that the man holding the light bulb was none other than Mr. Pickenfeits. As soon as eye contact was established between them, Mr. Pickenfeits wearing a black trench coat and a white fedora, ripped the tape from her mouth without hesitation. He stared at her for a moment, saying nothing. All Sylvia could hear the clicking of the movie camera and Mr. Pickenfeits’ deep, exaggerated breaths.

“Shhhhhh” he said as he reached into the pocket of his trench coat. Sylvia closed her eyes and gasped with the assumption that he was reaching for a gun. More silence. A few seconds later she opened her eyes to see, not a gun, but rather a mirror held in front of her. Mr. Pickenfeits held the mirror with the same conviction that he would a gun. When she looked in the mirror she saw a disheveled, emaciated girl. At first, she almost did not recognize herself. Her lips were painted with lipstick as red as blood oranges, her eyes smudged with layer upon layer of liner as black as coal. Her face appeared shriveled before her—her cheeks sunken and hollow. Sylvia closed her eyes for a moment and then awoke elsewhere.

The air was warm and heavy. In the pink sky hung cardboard cut outs of stars suspended by clear string. Sylvia was wearing what appeared to be a 1950’s cocktail dress and her male companion, none other than Mr. Pickenfeits was still adorned his signature black suit and white fedora. It seemed as though the couple had set out on a picnic. Beneath them was a checkered quilt, and spread out in front of them what appeared to be a tantalizing feast. Mr. Pickenfeits stared at Sylvia adoringly while he filled his mouth with food. With her emaciated appearance still haunting her mind, and her immense hunger setting in, Sylvia reached for a cupcake; but, before the cupcake reached her mouth it turned to plastic. Sylvia was frustrated and on the verge of tears when Mr. Pickenfeits grabbed the glimmering, plastic cupcake from her hand, threw it on the ground and said:

“Oh Sylvia my dear, I love you as an article to a noun. Will you marry me?”

Sylvia stared at Mr. Pickenfeits for a moment with a blank expression. She could not remember the last time she had eaten. She could not fathom how long she had been away from home. She could not bring herself to speak. Suddenly, as if her mouth was an entity entirely separate from her mind she spoke:

“Well, I love you as meaning to a sign—forever deferred!”

As soon as the sound could possibly travel from her mouth to his ears, a look of absolute anger and hatred saturated the once admiring face of this Mr. Pickenfeits. He raised his hand as if to hit her when suddenly the scene changed once more.

Sylvia awoke back at her computer. She stood up at once and walked from her computer chair over to the mirror hanging on the wall of her room. Everything looked normal. She grinned for a moment and considered all of hideous events of the last, what seemed to be a few hours, to be nothing more than a terrible nightmare. Sylvia ran to the kitchen to tell her father about her horrible dream, but when she went to cry out for him she realized that she could not; she had no voice. She poised her body, opened her mouth and raised her hands in the position of a giant scream, but there was no sound. Panicking, she ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and made a horrible discovery; Sylvia Page had no tongue.

Back to prose - main

Discuss this work in our Forum