It was still a vast expanse of green, and for that Josh was glad and joyful in the way only a child could be. Josh was around ten-years-old, but at times he appeared much older – not that it mattered. His blond hair was too long and unkempt, brushing almost comtemptuously against his collar. It curled around his sticking-out ears and dirty face, so that one would think he was uncared for, but that was obviously not the case. He wore expensive trainers and a famous brand of baggy jeans. His ears sprouted white wires, distinctive of the ipod, which had really taken off a few years ago. The tinny sound of cymbals and a repetitive snare drum came from the earphones, and yet he had the appearance of listening intently for just a single noise in the empty silence around him. He stood on the playing fields and surveyed the grass critically. What he saw made him relax. His shoulders slumped in a kind of weary relief.

It was eerily quiet, even for an early morning, when the grey mist was only just creeping back before the warmth of the rising sun. Josh swung the empty lead in his hand and walked further down the field, a speck of brand name advertising in the middle of a green sea. If you were to look closer, you might see a kind of maddened fear in his brown eyes, a fear that was kept at bay by barely nothing, and might soon break free into a scream. But this was a world where no one screamed.

Josh looked down at the lead in his hand absently, and swallowed. For a moment he felt absurdly silly, coming here with a lead in the morning as though he was just out for a walk. There was no Sam. Not anymore. But if he closed his eyes and listened to the music, and breathed in the scent of the grass and earth beneath his feet, he could almost imagine… Tears rose unbidden to his eyes, and he swallowed them down, past the lump in his throat. Crying wouldn't help. It seemed a harsh lesson for such a small child. Surely innocent.

He hadn't counted the days, and certainly by now it had turned into weeks anyway. What did it matter? He looked at the lead in his hand again and smiled a little. Yes. No one could accuse him of being silly. He called it "The Great Going Away" in his mind. It had quotemarks and capitals when he thought of it. "The Great Going Away" had occurred on a morning a lot like this one. Grey and empty. Empty. That was the word. Josh had been on Level Three reading at school at the time of "The Great Going Away" but he had learnt the meanings of some very real, very personal words since then. Oh, yes. Empty was one.

He was just at the age where he had begun to resent his mother waking him up for school, so when he awoke that morning so many days ago, with the smell of damp rain drifting through the window, he had at first snuggled deeper into his bed, blissfully aware that something had happened that meant he was late. It felt like a treat. That feeling soon passed away, however.

Eventually, when no one came to wake him up, and the sun shone through his window at its highest point, making him hot inside the duvet, he had got up alone. Alone. That was another word he had learnt without the aid of books. For when Josh had ventured out of his room, he found an empty house around him. At first he peered into his parents' room, and then his brother's.

They weren't there, and it was then the first awareness came into his mind of silence. Another important word. It wasn't the silence that came when everyone was quiet with nothing to say. And it wasn't the silence of Sunday morning. It wasn't even the silence of Christmas Eve, when Josh huddled in his bed, sleepless and excited in that magical time between "Going To Bed" and "Getting Up", wondering if this was the year he saw Father Christmas leaving presents at the foot of his bed. It wasn't the silence before a summer storm either. It was true silence. It made Josh feel that the sunlight didn't fit. It should be dark, he had thought instinctively.

The sunlight made the absolute absence of noise more pronounced, until in his nervousness and fear he had begun shouting as he ran downstairs, forcing his feet down to the wooden boards heavily. But when he reached the downstairs, which was as empty as the rest of the house, and he stopped shouting and thumping his feet, the silence came back to taunt him. Like a spectre, it took his hand in its skeletal grip and whispered to him: Come with me, Joshua. Let me show you a world where no one screams. He had giggled hysterically then. He pulled on shoes and rushed out of the house, certain that someone would help him. But there was no one outside either. Neither was there anyone in the houses that lined his small street. He had a sudden clear perception that the entire world had fallen silent like this overnight. A world where no one screamed. And as he explored the town slowly – pulled between hysterical screaming, pitiful crying, and utter depression – he had thought up the name: "The Great Going Away."

He hadn't known such words as 'hysterical' and 'depression' then, of course. Those words had come much later, after his first trip to the supermarket. When the power failed while he was wandering around the Asda, throwing the interior of the store into sudden, inky blackness, he lost a good period of time to madness, and came back feeling older. Now he only shopped in the daytime, in small shops with windows. His understanding of those new, bigger words came when he sat for hours in the empty library downtown, picking his way laboriously through its books in an attempt to forget that outside there was nothing and no one. It was around that time he encountered a new word. Hallucination.

Oh, he knew hallucination. It had become a close personal friend of his over the days since "The Great Going Away." He didn't like to be inside buildings for long, because he began to see shapes passing by outside the windows. He had found the trip to the shopping centre the worst, even though there were no real windows there and the light streamed through huge domes high above. The quiet had spooked him badly there. He had collected some of the things on his list before he saw the electrical shop. Some subconcious voice had insisted there were useful things inside – and there were. He found lights that would run on batteries. He wheeled a trolley from the supermarket around, filling it with batteries. He found more useful things in the camping shop. Cookers that ran on gas cannisters, and heaters. The trolley filled up even further. He even found an attachment for his ipod in the computer shop that would allow it to work on batteries. He happily grabbed it. He had taken clothes, shoes, all the things he had ever wanted. It should have felt good. It didn't.

Before long he began to see movement all over the place. Never where he looked directly, but close enough so that he all but ran from the place with his overloaded trolley, breathing heavily in the silence, too terrified to scream. His own noise had begun to seem frighteningly loud to him, and Josh had started being quiet deliberately. Only the music was bearable, and he listened to it single-mindedly, keeping the terrible silence at bay.

He missed his family. He missed his friends. He missed his dog. But most of all Josh missed strangers. He missed passing people on the street. The sound of lawnmowers at the weekend. The sound of cars driving up and down the roads. He missed birds too, even things he didn't really like, he missed; such as bees and wasps. As he struggled to survive, using bottled water to flush the toilet, another nessesary trip to the hated supermarket began to loom. And that was when Josh noticed for the first time that something was very slowly changing. The plants were beginning to die. He remembered learning that strange word at school. Ecology? Whatever it was, it meant that everything needed everything to survive. Without animals, the plants would all die. Josh mourned for days at that horrible thought, while the grass on the lawn turned brown, and the trees lost their leaves in the height of summer. "The Great Going Away" wasn't over.

Now, as he stood on the playing field, savouring the green of the grass which meant something besides him lived, he knew nevertheless that he would be left completely alone. He looked around at the trees that lined the side of the field. It looked like autumn, but Josh knew it wasn't. The tears came again. He dropped the lead from his hand, and it fell into the uncut grass with a small thump. "Come back," he moaned quietly, talking to everything and everyone at the same time, but perhaps with a special plea for his mother to wake him up.

In a world where no one screamed, Joshua Harris opened his mouth wide and fell to his knees in the middle of a field. But he made no sound at all. There was no one to hear him.

In the flickering blue of an old bulky monitor, Gareth finally stopped typing. He flexed his fingers and leaned back tiredly. He had a highly methodical mind, and he didn't fear the failure. It was the latest in a long sucession, but he learnt from every single one. Learning, he was sure, was the key. When the computer had finished, Gareth took the CD from the drive and wrote on it with red marker. Then he filed it away with the rest of them onto a shelf by the side of the desk. He ran a pudgy finger thoughtfully down the row of pristine CD cases. So close this time. So very close. In the blue electrical light, Gareth smiled. He was a good-looking kid, but he spent too much time indoors. His pale skin, greasy hair and dirty glasses completely ruined his appeal. He smiled again. This time it reached his eyes. It wasn't pretty.

Author's Note: Thank you for reading. Should I continue? Please review.