No one in the house heard the hiss of metal blades cutting through ice. Nor did they stir at the straining groan of hemp ropes or the complaint of wooden boards juddering to a halt. Not a soul had woken to the sharp but whispered commands of the strange crew aboard. And the muffled, fearful whimpers, bleats and squeaks hidden beneath the other sounds of the dark ship all went unnoticed.
No, the arrival of the pirate ship not fifty yards from number 22 Dunstable Lane had gone unheard for a number of reasons.
These are the reasons:
1. Sally did not hear because both she and David slept in rooms at the back of the house facing onto fields which stretched away into the dark, wooded countryside.
2. It had started to snow and the fields were slowly disappearing under a fresh, white blanket. The slow, thick, heavy flakes absorbed each creak, groan, and frightened whimper from the new arrivals like soft, white sponges.
3. The third reason was quite simply that the youngest child, David, could not hear. He was deaf.
4. There is one reason but we shall come to this as the story unfolds.
And so for all of these reasons, the sinister new arrivals went unnoticed. Until…
The eight-year-old boy’s eyes snapped opened and he was surprised to find himself in his own bed in his own room and not somewhere else entirely. For, in the first instant of waking, David knew that something was different. He wasn’t sure what it was that had woken him but something was changed, wrong, not the way it was supposed to be.
Nothing stirred and, for you and I, the house would have been completely silent. But something echoed through this silence: some strange vibration; the memory of a sound hanging in the air. The very night itself seemed to pause, and hold its breath, waiting, and David felt this.
He sat up and gasped as the cold hit him and the sweet, warm blankets slipped away. He scratched the back of his head, his fingers combing through the messy brown hair and rubbed the sleep from his bright, green eyes. Then he got out of bed, slipped on his slippers, grabbed his blue dressing gown from the floor where he had dropped it before going to bed and padded gently across the carpet to the window.
The curtains seemed to stir with movement from outside, a slow, magical, glowing movement, and a long-forgotten joy burst into life in the small boy as David realised that it was snowing.
He yanked the curtains aside and made a swift hole in the condensation on the window so that he could see outside.
Every child knows this feeling: the deep, intense pleasure of the first snow fall of the year. The delicious chill. The shiver of happiness that runs up your spine and then down again. The sharp expectation of fun that snow promises: warm gloves, hot soup, no school, snowmen, snow sledding, snow balls. Snow. Christmas.
For a brief moment, a memory of sadness filled the young boy but he quickly shook it off and allowed the glowing, alien snow-light to shine through the window and wrap him in its magic.
He watched as the flakes danced through the night air, twisting, turning, rhythmic. Almost melodic in its movement; every flake a note in a symphony of white and for a second he fancied that he understood what people meant when they spoke about music. For indeed, the falling snow was a song of silence whose lyric and tunes were built from poetry of movement. It was a song that even a Deaf boy could appreciate.
David stared out gleefully as the fields behind his house slowly disappeared beneath a white cloak. It was a good snow – it was laying. Everything began to soften: the dark trees, the garden fence, the zebra which gently nibbled on the long blades of one of his mother’s ornamental grasses.The white, icy…
Hang on ?!
David blinked and quickly rubbed his eyes. It was still there; its black mane falling over a long, striped nose.
It couldn’t be true! He pinched himself. Ow! He was definitely awake! And there, absolutely, certainly and without a doubt, was a black and white zebra munching away at the bottom of the garden.
He stared amazed as long as he dared, all the time wanting to run and shake his parents awake but scared that if he took his eyes from the chewing creature outside, then it might just disappear.
After a few minutes, during which the snow gradually built up on the window sill outside, and after he was as sure as he could be that the horse (was it a horse? He would have to look that up in his encyclopaedia later) looked like it might not just up and run away, he pulled himself back from the misted glass and ran from the room. He hurtled down the corridor, past Sally’s closed door and charged through into his parents’ bedroom.
And now we finally come to that fourth reason for why nobody had heard the peculiar goings on on this strange winter’s night: his mother and father had not heard because, to state it plainly, they were not there. Their room was empty. David’s parents were nowhere to be seen!