The day Max’s mother told him they were moving to Witches Crossing, he stopped talking, not because he wanted to but because he had to. She hadn’t asked him what he thought but turned away, leaving Max alone in the empty room with just his father’s empty chair. As the door clunked shut, Max tried to scream an angry scream but not one sound came out. He tried again but his mouth just hung open, his tongue wriggling around his mouth and his face going pink like a peppercorn, then red like the reddest radish, then purple like a beetroot. But nothing would come out, and so he stopped.
Words are dangerous, he thought, they only try to hurt you.
He shrugged, accepting silence. And so from that day forth to this, he did not speak one word, because Max hated his mother, he hated the world and he hated everybody else.
Max was a small boy, just eleven years old and looked young for his age. He had long and limp black hair that hung down past his face like a just-washed bed sheet left outside in the rain; a small nose that looked like it was trying to hide upon his face, and cold bright blue eyes. Each morning Max took a thick black stick of charcoal and badly drew a line around his eyes. His favourite colour was black: his clothes were black; his shoes were black and he even coloured his nails black with a felt tip pen. Max did all this because he thought it made him blend into the background, a shadow that passed across a wall unnoticed, but it only made him stand out more.
When Max’s mother was packing up their tiny flat to make the move, Max found a battered red leather suitcase left behind by his father. Inside amongst the yellowing papers and dusty books, Max found the old stuffed raven. Without thinking twice Max took it and strapped it to his shoulder with an old belt and it had stayed there ever since. It went with him to school, where the children called him “Bird Boy”, made cawing noises and laughed at him behind his back. It lay with him in bed at night, as they hid under the covers together and read stories about ghosts and magic by torchlight. He even wore it in the bath, and the smell of damp wet feathers followed Max around wherever he went. Max called it Hector, and Hector and the stories they read at night together, were the only things he did not hate.
It was one month exactly from when his mother told him they were moving until the day they left. Even though he had not spoken once in all that time, and even though he wore Hector upon his shoulder, his mother had not noticed and had not said one thing to ask what he was doing. In his silence, this made Max angrier even than he was before. He felt his anger fizzing like a shaken can of lemonade, bubbling in his tummy and tickling his nose. It felt like his head would pop right off his shoulders, but still he could and would not say one thing.
As they left their old home, Max sat slumped in the back of the car, stroking Hector and reading a book of ghost stories, and as they drove off together towards Witches Crossing, Max did not say goodbye to the life he left behind.