There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.
Occasionally, a flicker of curiosity would urge the pilots to turn their heads and glance out past the sharp metallic casing of their jets to gaze at the distant, inland desert. They could barely recognise anything less conspicuous than the many mountain ridges, their complicated shapes shaded with streaks of black and grey and brown and, above the network of sunlit summits, just below their booming craft, hung swirls of thin cloud, suspended and still like a stretched, cotton-wool web . . . Their location, far up in the sky, gave them the feeling of detachment they needed.