Source: The Atlantic Cities
There were voices in the darkness. He could hear them whispering. Like a thousand overheard conversations where all he could make out were the S sounds.
He picked up his pillow and cradled his head with it, then pulled the covers up and tried to block them out. But he could still hear them.
He threw the covers off in one violent motion and kicked his legs out. The bed squeaked and he liked the sound. He bounced on it a couple of more times to repeat the noise then threw his legs over the side and pushed himself off from the bed. He tore open the drawers of his dresser and grabbed the newly laundered pants and t-shirt his mother had brought him. The noise and motion quieted the voices.
He clomped downstairs like a Clydesdale, making the pictures on the wall rattle with each step he took.
“Walter? Is that you?” he heard his mother call.
“Of course it’s me, no one else lives here!” he yelled as he rounded the banister and went into the kitchen.
“Alright darling, there’s no need to shout. Here, I made you some toast and jam,” she said, offering him a plate.
“I don’t want it!” he snapped at her.
“Darling, you need to eat so you can take your pills,” she said, gently.
“I don’t want it!” he yelled, then grabbed the plate and raised it above his head.
He breathed in and started to rip his arm down but her hand was on his wrist before he could make the throw and she gently pried his fingers apart. He snapped his arm out of her grip and hit himself in the face with his palm. He liked it. He hit himself a few more times.
“No, no- darling,” she said, grabbing at both of his hands and pulling them in so that he was sort-of hugging himself.
He fidgeted, hating her and the voices and their incessant whispers. But she held him, cradled him, and hummed the same lullaby he’d heard since as long as he could remember. He calmed in spite of himself and settled back against the warmth of her blouse.
“There now,” she said, freeing him. She picked up a piece of toast, covered it with raspberry jam and placed it on the plate which she cautiously slid in front of him.
“Are you going to work in the garden today?” she asked as she poured his medications out of the Monday morning slot and placed them on the plate next to his toast.
“Of course I am” he said and two-handedly popped the pills into his mouth.
She said a silent ‘thank you’ as she watched him swallow them.
He ate his toast in large, angry bites then stood without further explanation and pulled open the kitchen door.
“Here darling,” she said, handing him the sun hat she’d bought after he’d burned his head last time.
He grumbled as he took it from her, jumped down the stairs and went out. As soon as his feet touched the ground he felt better. He immediately set to work, pulling slugs off the plants and plucking weeds from the soil.
The brown soil, the green leaves, the sounds were all real. The sunlight chased the darkness full of whispers away. He settled inside as he worked his trade and forgot about the voices for now.
In the kitchen she picked the phone up and dialed.
“John? Yes it’s me… he’s fine… well, you know- mornings are always a bit rough for him… yes, I got him to take his medications and he even ate a piece of toast… no, I think he’s going to stay in the garden until sun down so we should be fine until then… I got him to wear the new sun hat, I’ll see if I can sneak some sunblock on his arms later… Oh it is? Well then he’ll get a little wet… no, I’m not going to fight him on that again, a little dampness never hurt anyone… He loves his garden, John- you should really see him. What? Ok, I’ll take a picture. Yes, we’ll see you later,” she said, and placed the phone back on the receiver.
She stood in the doorway and looked down on him, smiling.