It made such a difference to him, the quiet. Here, he had only the breeze for company, the breeze and his thoughts. Silence had always been his saviour; this was where he came to contemplate life, but for once he couldn’t bring himself to do so, couldn’t bring himself to process what had just happened.
He strained his ears to listen, desperate for some sudden rustle in the branches to distract him, to take him away from the inside of his own head; even the sound of falling pine needles would have been enough. But he knew none would come. He had chosen these woods for a reason, all those years ago when he had first been looking for somewhere to clear his head, and that sacred silence he had craved was now betraying him.
He regretted coming here. He’d arrived at the spot in a haze of numbness, driving as much on instinct as anything else, but now, hours later, that was all beginning to fade. Now what he’d done was beginning to come into sharp focus, and he couldn’t bear it.
He wasn’t ready to be alone with his thoughts yet, and here he was surrounded by nothing but a dark void that sucked sound from all around it. Doubts screamed at him from every angle, mocking him in a cacophonous chorus of disapproval, accusing him of what he could not bear to believe.
He rushed back to his car and sparked the ignition, just to add some noise, any noise, to silence the voices in his head. No, not the voices, it was his own voice alone, and he knew it was right.
Distracted, he didn’t notice the flashlights emerge from behind him, the noise of footsteps coming towards the car covered by the sound of his engine. The first he knew of them was the tap on the window to get him to turn his head, just enough for his pursuers to make sure they had the right man.
The sound of the shot erupted into the air, tearing through the nocturnal idyll and finally breaking the pact of silence he had held with the woods, the pact that had protected him for so long. Darkness descended once more, and with it, the quiet he had once craved. Those woods the only witness to his fate, and they would never speak.