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My fingers are twitching again. That’s always one of the first signs that The Voice will be back. After the twitches, I’ll begin to hear whispers, nearly silent, barely audible, like the whispers in the rainforest of Lost. Then the whispers will become words, the words stringing into sentences, sentences that tell me to lift the blade, to push it into my skin once again so that I can watch the pretty red pain well up from the pale flesh.
My hands jerk in my lap, beyond my control as I curl into a ball on the sofa, cocooned in an itchy brown blanket.
Raaazzzorrrssss. Hisses The Voice. Slice.
No. Not again. Nonononono. Whimpering, I bite down on my tongue, hard enough to draw blood. The Voice falls silent, pushed down by the pain in my mouth. But I can still hear whispers in my head, sounds only I can hear. I haven’t asked if anyone else can hear them for years, not since the kids in the school yard chanted over and over again.
Loony, loony, loonyloonyloony. A teacher found me curled in the gravel, pounding my fists against my head because, every time the other kids cried Loony, The Voice screamed louder and louder until I couldn’t hear anything else.
Blaaaaade. The Voice coos.
I switch to chewing my lip, scraping my teeth along the raw sores until the new pain drives The Voice back down yet again. I haven’t stepped foot outside in two years, seven months, twelve days, and fourteen hours. They all think I’m crazy, I think they’re all right.
My family gave me medications, said they would make me feel better. They didn’t, they made the voice louder. Now I just flush the little white capsules down the toilet, watching them swirl ‘round and ‘round until they disappear with the water.
Cutcutcutcutcut! Insists The Voice. You’re not worthy, everyone hates you, cutcutcutcut.
My voice rises in a keening wail and I find myself gnawing on the curve of my wrist, leaving angry red marks in my pale skin.
Maaaaaya, you don’t talk to meeeee anymooooore. Whines The Voice.
“What do you want!” I scream, voice echoing around the empty house.
Mommy washed the steak knives this morning. The Voice prods. They’re sittin’ right there on the counter just waaaaaitin’.
“Go away.” I beg, hands shaking uncontrollably. “Go awaygoawaygoaway.”
Meanyweany. Whines The Voice. You should just do it, the pretty blades are just sitting there, cutcutcutcutcutcutCUTCUTCUTCUT! The Voice rises in volume, shouting into my head.
Sobbing, I disentangle myself from the blanket, stumbling into the kitchen. There they are, all in a neat row, my mother’s silver steak knives, set out for her dinner party tonight. My hand reaches out without my permission, caressing one of the blades.
Yesyesyesyes. Chants The Voice. Pick it up, pick it up now.
My fingers grab the handle, the cold of the silver seeping into my skin. I clench my teeth, I don’t want to do this, I can’t do this.
“NO!” I scream, my voice ragged, “GET OUT OF MY HEAD, GET OUT GET OOOOOOOUT!” I hurl the knife away, sending it clattering into a corner.
Clenching my teeth together, I bolt for the door, snapping the deadbolt open, wrenching the cold knob with stiff fingers. Heart racing, I yank the door open, hurl myself outside. Something warm touches my face, light blinding me. I stand there, stock still, staring at the world that’s gone on without me.
People walk down the sidewalks, an engine roars as someone mows their lawn, dogs bark, children laugh. The chkchkchk of a sprinkler taps the air, a light mist gracing my cheek. And the sun is touching my skin for the first time in two years, seven months, twelve days, and seventeen hours.
Gasping, I cast my eyes around, searching for the source of the word. My eyes fall on a boy, somewhere near my age, tall, shaggy blonde hair, tan skin.
“Maya, is that really you?” Slowly, he steps onto the lawn stretching out in front of me, “Do you remember me?”
Raising my hand, I shield my eyes from the glare, peering at his face. Sluggishly, a memory surfaces, this boy, much younger, catching my eye across a classroom, across a playground, across a dance floor.
“W...w...Will?” I stammer, hands shaking.
His face breaks into a smile, “Yes! Gosh Maya, I didn’t know what happened to you, I thought maybe you’d moved away or something, you just... disappeared after prom.”
Prom. More memories flood my mind. Me, dressed in purple silk, forcing myself up the steps and into the dance hall. For a few moments, I thought I’d made it, that everything was okay, then The Voice had begun it’s chant yet again.
Uglyuglyuglyugly, they’re all looking at youuuu.
I’d curled in on myself, pressing my hands to my ears, sending the pale pink rose in my hair tumbling to the ground. Then the voices of the real world, laughing at me, scoffing, teasing. Then my mother’s arms around me, pulling me upright. The last thing I saw before she yanked me outside was a crowd of laughing faces, and one unsmiling face, belonging to a boy who held out a pale pink rose.
Right there on the lawn, in front of Will and whoever else may be watching, I collapse in a heap, sobbing into my hands. Voices draw closer, footsteps ringing on the sidewalk. Now is the time for The Voice to begin it’s chants, telling me to find a blade, to slice, to cut, to bleed.
But instead, I feel hands on mine, peeling my fingers back from my face. And the voice that comes doesn’t belong to The Voice, but to Will. “Maya! Are you okay? Everything’s going to be okay, shhhh.”
Still, I wait for The Voice, the cruel words it will spew, but nothing comes, only Will’s arms slipping around my shoulders. Then other voices, asking if I’m okay, if I can get up, can they get me some water. But no whispered scorn, no painful laughing, only concern.
Hours later, I’m bundled up on my porch, glass of tea in my hand as I watch my neighbors go about their business. Will’s still here, sitting beside me, watching me with his honest green eyes.
When he finally speaks, his voice is hesitant, careful. “Maya?”
“Yes?” I murmur, snuggling into the blanket.
“I... I heard you were... sick.” He clears his throat, “Are you sick?”
Warmth fills my chest as I turn to him. “I was, but I’m okay now.”
His hand touches mine within the folds of blanket, sending sparks up my arm. “I’m glad.”
In response, I curl my fingers around his, “So am I Will, so am I.”
And still, years later, The Voice has not returned, no longer croons about blades and blood. But every now and then I look down at the scars crisscrossing my wrists and my fingers tremble and I feel the terror at the possibility of The Voice’s return. But when this happens, I reach for Will, and he’s always there to take my hand, to stop the shaking and fear forever.