When I was a child, I heard voices in my head. They came often and mostly at night. Sometimes they melded into my dreams—the peripheral ones—the ones that didn’t seem to belong to this world or that. When they came, I didn’t just hear them. I could feel them in my fingertips if I rubbed them together, like little pieces of sandpaper that somehow rolled around like liquid. They weren’t loud, but steady—hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of voices. I could never pick out just one or understand what they were saying. The tone seemed both urgent and resigned, as if they were trying hard to be heard but realized that there were too many of them for that to be possible. I never knew if they were speaking to me or not. Maybe I was just in the way somehow, interfering with the signal. It was strange, I suppose, but so normal to me at the time that I didn’t even think to mention it to anyone until long after it had begun.
My mother was intrigued. She even wrote a little essay on it at one point. Nobody seemed to think that the voices were a problem, so mostly it was just between them and me. I’m not sure why I wasn’t scared. Years before, I had been quite uneasy about a girl named Lou whose footsteps I thought I could hear coming into my bedroom some nights. She walked slowly, with soft steps that sounded like she was treading on a bed of dry leaves. She never spoke to me or did anything at all, I suppose, but I felt somehow that she was sinister, and she scared me. I would close my eyes and wish her away. I never wished the voices away. If anything, I tried harder to hear them all the time. I tried to pick out one word from the din, never with any success.
Somewhere around twelve or thirteen the voices started to become dim, further away, until eventually they were gone completely. I almost never think of them now, but when I do, I find myself trying to hear them or at least trying to remember what they sounded like, just in case I might ever make sense of them. Just in case they might be important. Just in case.
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