By Delbert H. Rhodes 

Generations ago, verbal speech disappeared. No one remembers why, except that somehow human lips no longer existed; slowly people witnessed physical deformities, eroding lips away. Without lips, man is rendered incapable of shaping words. The exchanges between the vocal cords, currents of air leaving the throat and mouth, and interaction with the skin covering the mouth facilitates speaking.

Yes, this ability once shaping the human family was lost. Future generations adapted, introducing a new speaking method. Naturally, learning to shape words without lips is an enormous task. Words beginning with the letters, B, F, M, P, V, W, and Y, are difficult. Verbalization is incoherent without the fleshy folds, jaw and tongue, and teeth. Shaping letter (O) without lips occurs by gutturally expressing the sound deep in the throat and belly.

With lips, the action is smoother and more refined. Shaping the remaining alphabet is operational with use of the tongue and teeth and rear section of the mouth. There is no change here. Jaw movements remain as a central part of the process, and thus incorporating some vestiges of the original speaking pattern.

With practice, the new speaking mechanism evolves, introducing a reconstructed format. Communicative needs replace the old form, crafting a new world of speaking. Any demonstrating the archaic traits of lip movements must be destroyed, lest risking social collapse.

Tory Oberlich’s family hosts the old world ability and until now has been able to hide it… until now.

The years are old since it began. Tory recalls stories of a better time; a time when the township hosted laughter and joyousness a youthful playfulness embracing all living here. In his youth, the curious child was instructed by his parents’ stories. They were passionate tales of sweeter times when beliefs were different, when concerns for life family and society embraced unity relation and love. Sadly: these feelings have been lost and replaced by fear. Death comes soon enough, but why should one be killed because one speaks.

The event happened during the time of Tory’s great-grandfather, and the tale and depending on its teller, reconstructs as much as has the new way of speaking. Tory only knows that in addition to changing the way people speak, the event massively modified thinking. This community, once loving and caring has been reduced to unspeakable mindful malevolence. No longer is your neighbor someone to trust but someone to trade. Even those fully mutated have lost trust they have lost love.

Yes, laughter, smiling, and joking are witnessed, but only until the cries ring out, only until the peril of the pointing finger.

Tory and his family are the only people blessed with the curse of old world speech. This trait though purely human renders inhumane judgment by those hunting his kind. The relationship of old world speech and social destruction is one foreign to Tory; how could this occur? Why would this be? The answers to these and other questions live in another world another life, and Tory must find them or witness destruction of his family and him.

The less interaction with the others the better for safety and because of this: Tory and family live remotely. His family and he venture into town once or twice weekly for supplies, sometimes taking in a show at the movie theatre. These days: the distraction reduces the stress of thinking. He thinks mainly about protecting his family, his wife Laura and daughter Gina and son Mark. Tory loves his family and would die for them, any man would.

While in town masking lip movement is important a measure of life and death; any caught speaking are immediately killed. Even at the movies, total relaxation is impossible. Great care must be taken in order to hide the use of the lips or what remains of them.

Tory and family though no longer having full lips, are able to form words in the old way. Years ago: medical evaluations of people with functional lips were justifiable causes for human destruction. Many people were mercilessly killed. Naturally, realizing the outcomes, Tory and family demonstrated an inability to speak, in order to fail the testing batteries.

This man and his family have become experts at hiding; they have had years of practice. Nevertheless, the moment is master and one slip (of the lip) would be fatal. Today is Thursday and Tory and family prepare to depart for town.

Tory recalls a day when things got a bit too close. On this day his seven-year old, Mark and he were in town. Near-by and playing were some boys Mark knew. Immediately the lad hails them and without realizing, it uses his lips to speak. One boy responds by saying, “Mark, you can talk with your lips!” Quickly turning away, Mark yells out, “No… ‘No I can’t.'”

Fortunately, the other boy shrugs it off and resumes play. Tory and son realize that further attention to the matter would have imperiled Mark. To be branded as a “Speaker,” one would be stopped and investigated. If the accusation is true, then the person is immediately killed. Mark is lucky-this time. All seems well though Tory and Laura worry about trouble.

Trouble never comes and that day is instructive for his son and family. A sit down follows the event and everybody rallies around the youth and a hopeful tomorrow.

The ride into town is about five miles and the weather is perfect. The sky is sweetly blue with puffy clouds blushing white. The wind blows ever so softly and butterflies birds and other carefree creatures flirt with the landscape for fun and food.

The lives of these creatures are consumed by survival. Everything has purpose and assures continuation of the species. Though he abhors his predicament, Tory acknowledges a newfound human need a craving to destroy every threat to humankind. Like it or not his loving family and he are representative of such threat. Would things ever change? The hurting man asks himself. 

Staring at the horizon the view is glorious. The mountain ranges and distant tree line and streams snaking pathways are majestic. Tory cannot believe that such wonder is a backdrop to imminent peril. Life would be better if one could simply live. Tory scans the dashboard of the car and then reaches for the radio knob. Selecting a favorite station brings a smile to the man’s wishful face. A song begins and he and Laura provide chorus. (If only this was all they had to suffer.) After about three or four songs Tory turns the radio off.

Laura sighing deeply stretches her arms and smilingly says, “Such a lovely day, isn’t it?” Together the kids remark, “Yeah!” Momentarily glancing into his wife’s seductive grey eyes (smilingly) Tory whispers (Yeah).

Laura is lovely and Tory has loved her for as long as he can remember. Only yesterday, it seems, he proposed and received the best answer any man in love could…Yes. Tory loves his wife and family deeply and aches inside because of the things they suffer, the things he suffers. Why has such a terrible weight been placed upon his shoulders; why has life left his family and him to bear sorrows older than time? One day maybe these questions would be answered…maybe one day.

(This morning the other boy shares a tale with his family. He tells of how Mark Oberlich used his lips to speak. Feeling alarm about what their son has told them the Jordan’s telephone the authorities. Immediately a Unit is dispatched to the Oberlich farm. No need: Tory and family are arriving in town.)

Word spreads fast and the townsfolk are pouring into the street. Mark is first to speak saying, “Look at all the people!” Laura nervously searches her husband’s face. Tory realizing trouble quickly turns the steering wheel.

Too late: Someone cries out, “SPEAKERS!”

Copyright © 2011 Delbert H. Rhodes

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