17
Aug
19

Voices

“I don’t know why you bother. It’s not like you’re going to manage anything useful.”

Her tone is mocking, the singsong of a child, though the voice itself is husky. It’s a voice I’d almost forgotten, one that might have been better off left in the mental graveyard. But I’d dug her up, because there was something else in there with her.

You dug me up? I don’t think so, Gumby.”

God, I hated that name. It’s what she used to call me. A million years ago. That annoyed me more than her rifling through my mind to spit my own metaphors back at me.

“I dug myself out, thank you very much. Once you finally stopped piling more pills on top of the grave you threw me in.”

My eyes drift to the corner of the desk, to the row of orange bottles with their child-safe tops and the dozens of capsules, tablets and pills inside.

Haldol. Prozac. Xanax. Lithium. They sound like the names of Elder Gods, come to drag your soul and sanity away. They had certainly taken away my soul. Sanity was up for debate.

I hadn’t taken any of them in a week. After three years of them, I’d gotten lonely. I could do without her voice, but they also blocked the other voices, the ones I had to listen to, the ones who whispered their stories to me in the middle of the night and begged me to write them down in the morning.

The doctors claim it’s dangerous. Just going full-stop, cold turkey on a pile of psych meds that have been collecting in my bloodstream for years. They’re probably right. But I couldn’t keep going. If having her watching over my shoulder was the price, so be it.”

“So noble you are, Gumby. Don’t you think it’s a little pretentious?”

I felt a weight on my shoulder, both comforting and horrible. She was so strong, so there. I could feel her digging her nails in, and knew if I looked down I’d see the flesh of her fingers turning white with the pressure.

I didn’t look down. I didn’t want to be right. I acted like nothing had happened at all, that everything was fine, everything was normal. There was only one thing that would make her let go, make her shut up. Maybe not forever – maybe not even for more than five minutes – but at least for the moment.

I reached forward and hit the button on the back of my computer. Her fingers loosened just a bit… or maybe I only imagined it.

“Awww. You think you’re gonna do something? I doubt it.”

The last syllable was buried under the ominous but still comforting “bong” that any Apple user is familiar with. The word processor app popped up almost immediately, the window still open. The computer seemed to feel it had merely been put to sleep while I got a coffee, not powered down in a petulant fit nearly a year ago when I’d stared at the blinking cursor and empty white space for almost an hour while grinding my teeth and accomplishing nothing.

“Should have formatted it. Packed it up.”

Maybe she was right. But only one way to find out. I cracked my knuckles and settled my fingers on the keys, wincing at the electric stab of pain that worked through my wrists and forearms.

“I think you’re wrong,” I told her. Actually saying it, instead of just thinking it at her, seemed to be important. Sure, if anyone else was watching, they’d see an old gimp hunched over in a ratty chair and talking to himself… but no one was watching, unless you counted her.

“We’ll see, Gumby.”

I swallowed. The cursor blinked at me, patient and yet somehow snide.

The keys clicked. I wasn’t aware of them moving, but they seemed to know what to do. “Elle,” they spelled out. A name. I was always fond of starting things with names.

Click, click, click. “Might have been dead for years,” my fingers added. She had fallen silent. I was quiet, too. Didn’t even breathe. Writing is like casting a spell, and I was afraid to break it.

Might have been dead for years, my fingers said. That implied there was a “but” coming. Somewhere inside I felt something else waking up, some other part of me that had been buried in the same hole that she’d crawled out of, the same medically-induced coma all the other voices and drifted through for the last three years. That part of me was wonder, curiosity, the part that wants someone to tell it a story, that wants to know what happens next.

I gave in to that part. I let it listen, while my fingers did the talking.


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