Monday 31 March 2014

The Voices

by Hannah Begg.

A gust of wind blew through the open window, sending a skitter of papers across the wooden floor. Rows of news clippings pinned to the walls fluttered as the breeze caught beneath their edges.

Danielle paused, closing her eyes for a moment and letting the noise of the rustling symphony sweep over her; the sudden breeze against her skin helped to slow her heartbeat; it began to pound less violently in her chest. The panic which a moment earlier had threatened to take over her senses was now fading, disappearing back into the depths of her soul.

Sighing heavily, she rocked back on her heels, surveying the work in front of her. Laid out across the floor were newspapers arranged in careful piles and straight, ordered columns. A pair of brightly-coloured scissors sat before each column; a signpost, a beacon indicating possible information waiting to be unearthed.

She’d scour them all; she’d find what she was looking for; she was confident, this time.

Standing up, she rubbed her eyes, feeling suddenly exhausted. Stepping back, she lowered herself into the huge, plush armchair and reached for her cup of tea, stone-cold now after sitting for hours, forgotten. Taking a sip, she grimaced and looked down into the cup.


But she didn’t dare leave the room to make another - not now, not after such a monumental breakthrough. She must continue working. 

From this new perspective, sitting in the faded armchair with the cold cup of tea on her lap, Danielle smiled down at the newspaper arrangements. They looked smaller, less significant from this distance. Glancing up at the clock, she realised she’d been crouched down on the floor for over six hours. No wonder her back ached.

Looking at the papers again, a shiver of excitement danced across her neck. Those papers - day-old publications that people had tossed into trash cans, or dropped discarded along the sides of highways, or left under piles of empty fast food trays - they contained such crucial information. Life-changing, earth-altering data. Why couldn’t anyone else see it? 

Danielle knew she was different. She knew she had been placed on this earth for reasons that no one else understood. The voices had found her when she was only eight or nine years old. She remembered hearing them, muffled at first, echoing in a far corner of her mind. 

For months, she’d been confused by them, irritated when they disturbed her thoughts. Then one day, sitting alone in a dark room, surrounded by blank pieces of coloured paper she’d collected from her schoolroom, she’d heard the voices crystal-clear for the first time in her life. They were soft, intuitive, encouraging; they gave her fragments of information that no one else in the world seemed to have ever shared with her. Information about the earth, the trees, the people. 

Over the years she began to gather newspapers and hide them beneath her bed. The voices were the loudest at night, when the moon shone brightly and the world was fast asleep. The voices spun together long, beautiful, intricate webs of finely crafted words and phrases; sometimes they were just a mess of poetry and prose; other times they sung like lilting melodies. She discovered that by arranging the newspapers into careful groups and categories by the light of a torch, she was able to untangle the sentences as they flooded into her mind and danced behind her eyes.

She remembered telling her mother about the voices when she was ten or eleven. 

“Sometimes they’re really easy to understand, and other times they’re blurry and I’m not sure what they’re trying to tell me,” she’d said, as they’d sat at the kitchen counter one afternoon eating cheese sandwiches. “Maybe I should break open my head and scoop out the voices to untangle them properly?” She laughed, stopping abruptly when she saw the look of alarm on her mother’s face.

“What voices do you hear?” her mother had asked sharply, a note of concern in her voice.

“You know, normal voices,” Danielle had explained. “Like, people telling me things.”
“You mean, people near you? You can hear people’s thoughts?”

Danielle looked at her mother, confused.

“I mean, Dani, are you saying that you can read people’s minds?” her mother persisted, looking intently at her daughter while something resembling panic began to unravel in the pit of her stomach. “Are you saying you can read my mind? Do you think you’re telepathic?” 

“No,” Danielle replied, placing her sandwich down in front of her. “I mean, I can hear other voices. Like, people who don’t exist. They’re not here, in this world. They’re kind of out there, in the universe.” She waved her hands as she spoke, trying to illustrate what she meant.

The creases in her mother’s forehead grew deeper and deeper with apprehension.

After that, Danielle never mentioned the voices to anyone ever again. She was unique, she now realised; she was silhouetted against a backdrop of monotony and plainness. The rest of the world carried on, day after day, year after year; each and every person, she was sure, was oblivious to the valley of voices existing within each and every one of them, flowing through each subconscious like an unstoppable river, teeming with facts and warnings about the future.

She was the only person who seemed to be in tune with her voices. And it was up to her, she had realised, to save the world. 

As the earth spun closer and closer to oblivion, teetering on the edge of the universe, threatening to destroy itself and every living thing it held in the palm of its hand, Danielle scoured hundreds and hundreds of newspapers she’d collected from every corner of her life, carefully extracting every tiny piece of information from each one as the voices guided her.

Excitement buzzed across her skin as she clutched the mug of cold tea; she was closer than ever before at uncovering the final piece of the puzzle, the piece that would explain what she needed to do in order to save humanity.

Another gust of wind blew through the open window, rustling the papers. Dani sat, staring at the intricate arrangements of clippings, entranced, a feeling of pride blossoming within her chest.

Outside, the trees swayed gently in the breeze; light spilled from the window, stretching across a tangle of broken picture frames and coffee mugs that lay strewn on the unkempt lawn. Stacks of newspapers sat under the moon, reaching up towards the stars - the only sign that an unstoppable, irrational obsession existed within the walls of the small, dark house on the quiet street.

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