Authors: Andrew Neiderman
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For my sister, “Zane”,
who hears the same voices.
Heartfelt thanks to Anita Diamant and Humphrey Evans III for their faith. Gratitude, appreciation and respect to Ann Patty, a creative editor, a literary jewel.
E ARE HYPNOTIZED BY THE SILENCE, ESPECIALLY ON
winter nights when there are no stars and the streetlights wash the skeleton-white snow in a sickly pale yellow. Beyond the reach of the streetlights, there is a deep blackness that soaks into my memory. I struggle to pull shapes and sounds out of the past, but I have little success. I know that the bodies and the voices are there. They torment me. Sometimes I hear a word or catch the glimpse of a familiar face. But in an instant, they are gone.
I have the same dream every night. I'm asleep and I feel soft fingertips tracing the lines of my mouth, moving slowly up my cheeks and pressing softly on my eyes. I try desperately to open them, but I am unable to do it. I want to shout, but my lips won't
part. Finally I settle for hoping I can cry so a tear can escape my clamped eyelids, but even that never happens.
Sometimes during the daytime, she will wheel me before a mirror and leave me there to stare at myself for hours. She even does it at night if the whim comes into her head. I don't know what she expects this will do. I know she enjoys doing it. She laughs and says, “There.” She'll stand behind me and look at both of us in the mirror. Sometimes she's naked and presses her breasts against my head. I see them there and know that I should feel them and wonder why I don't. It makes me think I'm watching two other people, that I'm looking through a window instead of into a mirror.
There are times when I can hear the music she plays. It's mostly music that we both enjoy. At times she will play music she's not really fond of, but music she knows I enjoy. I know that I like the music; I remember that it gave me pleasure to listen to it, but I don't have the same feelings now. I wonder about that, but I don't try to understand any changes in myself.
I suppose I don't think very much, or at least not in the way most people think. I hear her words and see her move about, but I don't react. I know when she's laughing; I know when she's crying. I sense when she is angry. She is always reciting names at me. Sometimes, she shouts them. I know they are names, but I can't relate them to any faces. This enrages her and she storms about.
There are times when she will sit quietly with me and not say a word for hours. It's like we're both waiting for something or maybe someone. It could very well be we're waiting for someone to come
home. I don't know. I try to remember who it could be we're waiting for, but I am unable to think of anyone. When she grows tired of this, she will get up, pace about a bit, and then sigh and leave the room.
I never mind the silence. When there is a complete silence, I feel encased in it. It brings a warmth I would otherwise not have. Recently, however, I was terribly bothered by the sound of my own heartbeat. The thumping reverberated through every bone in my body, especially the bones of my skull. It began as a minor annoyance and then grew to be terrible. The first time it happened, it lasted for a short while. Then it lasted longer and longer. Yesterday, it lasted nearly all day.
Of course I can't control it. If I hold my breath, it just beats faster. I know what's happening: parts of my body are revolting, going off on their own. I am literally falling apart. Someone else would panic, but I have always remained calm, steadfast in any crisis.
She knows something is wrong. She looks at me differently.
“You're flushed,” she says. “I haven't seen you flushed for a long time. Maybe you're having a sexual thought. Are you having a sexual thought?”
She feels my forehead. I know she's feeling it because she's standing right before me and her hand is extended down toward me and out of sight. I don't feel her hand. I want to feel her hand; I even long to feel her hand, but it is as though she has no hand or I have no head.
“Oh God,” she says, “you're ice cold as usual.” She steps back and looks at me. “There's ice in your eyes.”
She sits across from me and stares at me for the longest time. Her face has little expression. I think she's trying to reflect what she sees in me.
“When I die,” she says, “I hope I die in this chair staring at you and I hope you stare at me until you die.”
There is no hate in her voice. I remember the sound of hate and I would recognize it if I heard it. Her statement is more like a statement of fact. It's a good statement and I feel myself almost considering it. But it dies quickly, disappearing like a streak of lightning, singeing the blackness in my mind.
It works like an incision, though, and some thoughts seep through the darkness, oozing down to the threshold of where they could become words if I could still make words. I hear them clearly in my own mind and for a few moments I am terribly excited. I am like a man in solitary confinement for a lifetime finally hearing another human voice.
I look at her and I think:
“We were not always alone like this, you and I. There was someone else here sharing our solitude.”
If she could hear me, she would say, “Yes, yes. Go on.”
“I'm not talking about our mother and our father.”
“But it's someone who was with us for nearly our whole lives.”
“I can't â¦ see his face, but I can hear his voice. I know this voice.”
“Go on, go on.”
“He's calling, calling.”
She's so happy; she's so excited. She knows I'm going to pull him out of the darkness. He's within my reach. I can feel his hand. It's as cold as mine, but I do not let go. I pull harder and harder until he is brought back. Then I see his face.
“It's Pin,” I say. “Pin, Pin.”
As soon as I am able to say it, it all begins again.