It was the third day when Luke realized the whispering he had been hearing was voices.  On the first day he’d readily dismissed them;  written off the brief tingling and slight ringing in his ears as nothing; the preface to a cold he’d soon contract or the opening stages of the flu.

After all, he had rationalized with himself, his friend the ER nurse had warned him that the flu was going to be particularly bad this year.  He’d been able to sleep that night, leaving his T.V. on for background noise, lulling himself to sleep with the infomercials on channel 50.

On the second day Luke still wasn’t sick.  His throat didn’t feel swollen with drainage, nor did he feel the stiffness settling onto his bones like the morning dew of a serious flu bout.

But the noise was still there.

The seeming interference in his head, like a fuzzy AM radio show from two towns over, didn’t go away.  He popped three Tylenol and popped in two ear buds full of Lil Wayne, blasting from his I-Pod.  Later he popped open four bottles of Blue Moon.  None of these seemed to help.

Luke wasn’t sure what to do.  His head didn’t hurt.  But he felt strange.  On edge.  His head seemed to be full of whispers; soft rattles floating to his ears like fallen leaves rustling in an October breeze.  He settled quickly not to tell anyone.  He knew, deep down, that it was childish.  But he didn’t want to sound. . .crazy.  So he didn’t tell anyone.

On the third day, during his second class, he heard a definitive whisper.  It rang in his ears, clear, just for a moment.  Like a hammer tinging off a thin metal sheet, then fading quickly.  He leaned over to the brunette girl sitting next to him, with a whispered, “what was that?”  She just scrunched up her face, a “what-the-hell?” look, painted across her face as clearly as clown makeup.

“Forget it.  Sorry.”  Luke mumbled.

The next time the whisper was louder.  More distinct.  He was crossing from the English building to the student center and he heard it.  He whirled, backpack whiplashing around his body, as he sought the speaker.  Nothing.  No one.  Fear’s icy caress brushed across the nape of his neck and Luke became acutely aware of the sound of his heart, thrumming in his chest and echoing in his temples.

By his final class that day, the whispers were more concrete; more audible.  The whispers had gone from a few scattered drops into a light misting, not completely stopping, but blurring out his thoughts.  As his teacher gave the obligatory, “Have a good weekend everyone.  Happy Halloween,”  he barely heard and he quickly headed for the door.

And the voices, the things they said, were far from pleasant.  The spoke in hisses and low-throated growls, of hate and despair.  Of madness.  In lurid details they called to Luke, promised him darkness with the heated tones of malcontent.  By the end of class on the third day, Luke’s head was throbbing.

The voices wormed their way between his own thoughts, slick and winding; and they steered him as surely as reigns on a horse.  They steered him away from the lights of campus.  He stole to night.  They steered him away from the students, clutching their hooded sweatshirts about them to ward off the season’s first chill.  He crept to silence.  They steered him away from a place of vibrant life.  He eased himself towards death.

Luke wasn’t sure when he arrived at the storefront.  Suddenly he was aware that he was back in a place with lights.  He glanced up, distractedly, and blinked at the brightness of the neon signs in the window.  He felt a tugging from within.  Like something grabbing hold of his belt and pulling him into the store.  The voices simmered; coaxing him onward.

He slipped in, doors mechanically sliding open before him, and found himself in aisle 11.  For the first time in 3 days, Luke heard nothing.  His breath rattled in his throat as he inhaled a deep, free breath and held it.  His eyes flitted back and forth, glancing furtively around.  Silence.  But something lingered in his mind.  Like the fetid breath of evil come too close, it stung his thoughts.

Perplexed at this sudden pause, this sudden dam placed in the flow of voices, Luke reached forward and touched the Halloween mask hanging before him on the hook.  It was a silly, child-like mask with a pumpkin’s face painted on and slits for eyes.  As his fingers brushed across smooth plastic, the dam burst.

The voices babbled wildly in his head, a cascading, disjointed choir of seething chaos.  His knees nearly buckled.  His vision faded out then crashed back vividly, like some camera trick of a B-Movie.  He staggered against the shelf wall briefly.

Luke straightened up, easing his back to a full upright posture.

Then slowly, with metered, proportionate calm, he grabbed the mask and pulled it over his face.  The voices slid into place, jagged edges fitting together like a tainted, stained glass image.  The whispers danced in his head, capering madly through his mind.

In no hurry, Luke walked quietly across the store to aisle 4.  The voices murmured their approval, coursing pleasure through his veins.  He unzipped his backpack, filled it and walked towards the exit, slipping out through the doors without so much as a second look back.  The beeping of the stores anti-theft technology, and the plastic casing for a 12-inch kitchen knife on the floor, the only proof he’d ever been there.

It was only a short walk to the stretch of bars in the middle of town.  Luke got there in no time at all.  All around him the crowd of young, costumed people pulsated with life; with blood.  Luke unzipped his backpack, leaving it in an alley, buried in shadow.  He slipped from darkness to midnight, an oil slick upon the surface of the streets he walked.

Underneath his plastic mask, the voices continued their whispers.  Underneath the mask. . .Luke smiled.

FIN

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Comments
  1. Sue Tolles says:

    Wow this is good….I want more..you left me hanging. Will you continue?

  2. madhat says:

    Very creepy. You hooked me from the first sentence and kept me until the end. Oooooh, that smile!!!

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