Malachi – The Silence of the Inmates

It was just weeks ago that we went to the prison, a correctional facility that’s only for women. I expected dark halls and a sense of division, but expectations are known to fall flat. We were there to listen, to gather new sounds. We were walked through the inside and over the grounds. Our recorders were running, and of all that we found, the silence impressed me the most.
In a room full of women at sewing machines, an unnatural silence hung over the scene. There was rustling, and whirring, sounds of inanimate things, but no words dared emerge from their mouths. It is rare to see so many people together and not chat about life or speak of the weather. I asked why it was so and this ruffled the feathers of the director of said institution.
She looked at me sharply:
“What, would YOU talk in class? Don’t you think that’d be rude and terribly crass?” At first I agreed and we went walking past, but the silence kept tugging my sleeve. So my ears looked again at that silence they saw, and I knew ‘twas not normal under natural law, that their voices, clutched tightly in authority’s claw, were buried as if underground. That silence represented a loss of their freedom. Their faces, so haunting, even now I still see them. Quiet rules like a tyrant, who does not speak without reason. When I left, quiet followed me home.
Can the silence I heard be considered a sound? I feel that it can, for it was massive and loud. Like the migration through sky of a pod of white clouds, it was both quiet, and not, all at once.