I never had to sign my name in blood to hear the voices. The voices have always been in my head, loud and clear, before the man came. While in my early teens, I listened to what they told me while dreaming of the day I would publish their lives in my stories.
I never thought I would publish a book every year? I didn’t know the public would enjoy the stories as much as they do. It never occurred to me that I had a future doing what I loved. I didn’t believe in myself, which is why I took the deal – if that’s what it was. I swear to you I didn’t realize at the time.
The voices didn’t care one way or the other. They were part of my life and I accepted them for what they were: a universe of characters swirling in my head, living out their lives for me to document. After the man talked with me, the voices became louder over the years, and now they grow more commanding everyday.
It seems lately that I don’t have a moment of quiet.
Usually, the voices took their turn. I wrote their stories and, once I had their voices on the page, they would quieten down again. Some had overlapping stories, since many of them lived in the same area, practically the same town. But, lately — and especially on nights like tonight — no amount of writing, no matter how much I wrote, could quiet the voices. They grew louder and louder. Underneath I heard a deeper fear than usual.
I began writing early this evening, my regular time, because I wanted to finish a story contracted through a horror magazine that my publisher told me would really pay off in the long run. I needed to get it written so that I could write my column for the local newspaper. But, it never became possible. I have been constantly interrupted by a small female voice. Mingled within her lightly spoken words has a loud cracking voice of an elderly man. They have kept up a running dialog in my head all evening and after just a few hours, they had taken over my head completely. I heard nothing but what was happening in their world.
“Lydia, don’t you love me?” the old man asked again, possibly for the twentieth time. He spoke with a cracked voice between labored breaths. I clearly saw the bedroom and hospital bed. An oxygen hose hung loosely below his nose. A crown of billowing white hair ringed his head.
“Yes, I do Papaw, very much. Now, please, you should sleep. It’s coming up on three in the morning.”
Yes, I thought, please go to sleep. Please, leave her alone and let me get back to my story.
“But, Lydia dear, I can’t sleep, darling. Not while he’s here. He’ll take me away if I do. I know he will.”
She stood at the bedroom door looking in on her grandfather. Her face looked pale because of the wet, black mascara trails streaming from her eyes. “There is no one here except us.” She spoke, trying to calm him. She was worried about him not sleeping, because she’d seen this delusion worsen without proper rest.