At first I didn’t think it was the voice. It was dispersed amongst the soft whisperings of swirling leaves outside. But as I hastily threw on my day clothes, I could hear the voice clinging to my actions, a soft buzzing commentary at the back of my head. Maybe I was still in my dream state, I thought. Or worse still, maybe I was going mad. The thought was dismissed as I lumbered to the bathroom, and heard the rapid mumblings of the radio as I passed my sister’s room. Lucy was lying there, on her back, reading a book that I knew would not interest me, because romance sagas were definitely not my thing. I turned my nose up at her taste, muttered “Eww, romance…”, and proceeded to my usual morning activities.
At noon, my friend Dalia called. She didn’t normally call on weekends, especially not Saturdays where her ambitious authoritarian parents have lined up for her a string of activities from singing to swimming and Chess club. I am glad I was not born into the same family as her. Her and I were as alike as two peas, but peas from completely different pods. I was born into a family that cared little for me – which of course I didn’t mind, because that meant I had more freedom than Dalia. I am often envious of my sister for being the more prized child in the family though, and I hated that my existence didn’t matter as much to them. Lucy was the darling that would carry the family’s expectations, while I, Nash, often having as much value as trash, was left to the will of my own daydreams. I sought my revenge behind my parents’ backs, mocking the mindless obedience of my sister, and strutting my intellectual and moral superiority before her, using words way over her tiny little brain so that she would never understand what I was talking about. Over time, she learned that the best response was to ignore Nash the Trash. Though I’m sure she was already conditioned to do that by Mr. and Mrs. “Straitjacket” (my dear parents).
The telephone gave off a particularly persistent ring that morning. Maybe it was a reflection of Dalia’s own desperation to see me. How flattering. Still, I wasn’t sure why she would be calling me on a busy Saturday morning. When I picked up the phone, her voice was hushed and on the verge of tears.
“Hey Dalia, how’s it going?”
“Oh my God, Nash, you won’t believe what’s happened?”
“Oh my God, Dalia, what really could have happened? Did swimming get cancelled? What a shame. You finally get to rest and do whatever you liked for once.”
“No, Nash, it’s bloody serious!”
“What on earth in your life could be so bloody serious? Tell me, I’m curious now.”
“Gawd, Nash, why are you always like this? Look, I’m so embarrassed to say this but…it’s…blood!”
“Oh my God, Dalia – did you just crack your first joke? Like ever. Gawd, I don’t even use the word like. That’s so like improper. So I take it it’s a seriously blood-y situation?”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re so funny Nash. Yes it’s bloody alright. But cleaned up now. Anyway it’s only the first one, so it’s not that bad.”
“Wait, wait, wait…what is this bloody problem? Are you…are you talking about…you know…that…thing?”
Then the emotions came.
“Yes, yes, oh my God, Nash, I can’t believe I’ve got the THING! Stupid, bloody thing! Now my swimming lessons are interrupted by this thing that supposedly comes every month, and I have no chance of making it to State Finals now, because I needed every single bloody day to train for it! Oh my God, why now? Why not when I’m 20? And why don’t you have your thing, Nash? It’s so unfair…”
I listen to her moans over the phone, and I don’t know whether to laugh or just say something generic to comfort her. Course, I don’t have my thing yet. I don’t get fed half as much as Darling Lucy, but it is a wonder to think that someone with my level of maturity still hasn’t entered the pubescent stage of her life. I am more than happy for that to happen of course. I’d rather avoid pads, tampons, period cramps and the undesirable list of PMS symptoms for as long as possible. By my postulation and deduction, my observable low percentage body fat should give me longer cycles than other pubescent women, and hence save me from half as much pain.
I let Dalia bewail her catastrophic circumstances, and I casually give her a gentle “that’s ok” and “there, there”. She seemed to respond well, and very soon she was sounding less like a suffocating gorilla, and more like a normal, well-composed Dalia, ready to take every situation in her stride. I was glad she was back. And very soon, we were chatting about the usual things: feminism, David Attenborough and how very immature and undeveloped the boys at our school were. It always felt good to rant about these things to Dalia. She never minded what I said, and I never minded that she didn’t say much and just listened to this outspoken and heavily opinionated freak preaching on her latest hobby horse.
At the conclusion of the phone call, I felt very much refreshed and proceeded to recline at the neglected couch in the corner of the living room. My tattered couch, and it was my favourite couch for that reason. I begged for it to stay, but I know Sir and Madam Straitjacket will take it away some day – I’ve seen their eyebrows knot many-a-time in frustration over that one thing in the living room that looked so out of place it almost completely destroyed the designer look they were going after. Alas, I have not the sympathy for their petty woes.
While I dreamily scanned the pages of the science magazine I bought, I heard a soft voice behind me. It whispered something I couldn’t make out, but I caught words like:
“I….something….tell….important….urgent….quick….somewhere safe….and listen….”
I wondered whether this was some creepy radio message again. When I turned my head, there was nothing there behind me, and the radio in my sister’s room was still on. Before long, the voice was back again, and more insistent that I do what it asked me to do:
I glanced at the clock, and the solemn ticks of the hands were all of a sudden alive in their beckoning. I had no idea I felt the way I did, but the voice appeared to be coming from the bathroom, so I tiptoed there, walking cautiously along the walls, ears flattened against them, as though the voice itself emanated through these walls.
Half-expecting someone to be there in the bathroom (though I knew this was totally not plausible), because the voice appeared so lifelike, it had to belong to an actual person. I avoided swinging the bathroom door to its full extent, but opened it slowly, delaying what I irrationally anticipated.
I flicked on the lights.
Nope. OK, I was getting pretty concerned about myself. Maybe it was early signs of psychosis, which I had read about somewhere on the internet long ago.
“Don’t leave. I have something to tell you.”
Now I was scared, as well as worried. There wasn’t anyone around. Just me, in the bathroom, and the door now was closed behind me. But I could hear the voice loud and clear, as if someone spoke directly into my ear, and let the sounds radiate across all my brain matter. After a long silence, I realised my socks were feeling sweaty, and I had frozen stock still.
“W-w-who are you?” I whispered. Outside, the neighbour’s lawnmower revved into motion.
“I have news for you. You are not who you think you are. Listen to me now, and I will show you.”
I wasn’t prepared to hear this, and I seriously wanted to get out of the bathroom, but at the same time his voice was so compelling, it drew me in like a mystifying tune of a nightingale.
And as he spoke, the images began to flash before my eyes.