There was a time, long ago, when I could only sleep in a room bereft of noise.
I remember when I purchased this house, at a reasonable price, and the realtor joked about this fact in relation to my closest neighbors. “You should have no trouble sleeping with a cemetery nearby,” the realtor had said with a smile, “for in this house, you’ll also sleep like the dead!”
Despite their assurance, I eventually found myself once again using a fan to generate white noise as I had done in my previous home. Before I moved, I had a neighbor who would get up and mow their lawn at eight in the morning. Their reasoning, when I complained, was that it was easier to do so in the morning due to the oppressive heat; no one wants to mow their lawn under the midday sun. Apparently, for gravediggers, this logic also applies to the midnight sun.
I didn’t really notice, at first, as the walls were thick enough and the distance between my backyard and the edge of the cemetery was considerable. If I squinted, like with an eye exam, I could just barely make out the outline of tombstones along the horizon when I stared out my bedroom window. Then, over time, the tombstones started to become more pronounced as they were multiplying and creeping ever so closer. This didn’t bother me, but then I began to hear their labors at night with the ever increasing sound of a shovel breaking ground and moving dirt.
I wish I could say that this all occurred over the span of many, many years, but it all happened within mere weeks of my initial acknowledgement. Eventually, it got to a point where my fan was just not cutting it anymore despite ramping it up to the highest setting. I tried tuning my television to static and increasing the volume in response, but this method eventually succumbed to the noise outside as well. Needless to say, I got less sleep the more this went on.
Then, one night, with the realization of no more sleep to ever again come my way, I instead spent my time staring intently outside my window and watched the gravedigger at work. They were about fifty feet away from my backyard at this point, a far cry from the horizon, with the graves and tombstones looking like a massive chessboard spread out across the Earth.
I opened the window and yelled out to the gravedigger, “how many more you got?”
The gravedigger, who looked a lot like me, yelled back, “how many more you got?”
Then the gravedigger kept digging… and digging, and digging, and digging… until there were not only graves and tombstones in my backyard but also in my front yard and all around my house, in every direction, for as far as I could see. If there’s solace to be had since, it’s that there’s no longer any noise to keep me awake at night… but now I cannot sleep amidst terrifying silence.