The full version of my newest short story, The Whispers.
Once upon a time, I used to have dreams. Now all I have is piercing blackness. So comforting but so ready to destroy me. It cloaks me in the darkness that hides me from the people that could be my accusers. They cannot blame what they have never seen. His men will not find me here; in this place I am safe. They cannot find me.
But the Whispers can. There is no hiding from the Whispers. They know what I’ve done, they tell me so. Always whispering. So no one else hears them. But to me, they scream louder than thousands of bells tolling together. They scream, ‘He’s dead and he’s never coming back.’ and worse they tell me, ‘You killed him.’
I cannot escape them. They have too many ways to attack, sleep will only bring their nightmares, but wakefulness is just as bad. So I resign myself to hate the Whispers. I’ll loathe them the way they abhor me. They must hate me. Why else would they spend so much time haunting me?
The back roads always thought they were his, twisting and winding their way through the city, they were his kingdoms and he ruled them well. No one dared travel his road and managed not to be forever changed. If they travelled down his road then they met him. They met him then they thought they were more than disposable men. But I knew better. They were always just temporaries to him. He told me too many times, that a good leader made everyone feel important, but no one truly mattered. I knew he followed that policy with everyone, even me. And if he did, that meant I didn’t matter. But I let myself think otherwise, to read into his careful treatment. I let myself believe that he must have cared a little to take me in, and more to let me tag along with him, when I only caused him trouble. Then on my honest days I would tell myself the torturous truth. If they were only disposable men, those who were so much more useful than me, what could I be beyond a pet?
The way he glared at any of his men that looked at me wrong, and wouldn’t let anyone near me, I read into it as big brotherly protection. Now I see he only wanted me to feel that way. He wanted to buy my loyalty. I hate him for it. I hate him because he succeeded, and even though he’s gone, I still want to follow. So the Whispers tell me why I cannot.
It wouldn’t bother me, if I didn’t know they were right. But they are. I did kill him. I doomed him to his death when he asked me to let him live by not leaving, I should have gone then, not waited until he was already nearly dead to try. But he asked. Worse he ordered me to. He said if I left he’d kill himself. So when he asked, I let him die.
The days of pain are all still there, there with the drab and faded grey brick, the smell of construction. The building was going to be demolished in a few days. The agonized mixture of groans and screams echoing through the building as Seb wrestled through the pain still run through my mind. Obliterating all hope. I was trapped; I didn’t know what to do.
If he had let me follow, I would have gone with him. I loved him too much not to try. But I looked away and he was gone. So why is it that They still haunt me? I know it was my fault. I know I killed him. But I tried to help. Why couldn’t I call for help? He wouldn’t tell me, but something had happened and nothing he had could fix it.
The bullets in his flesh were tearing his life away from him slowly. So when he somehow managed to whisper my name on the last day, when all of them were gone, I barely managed to answer. The tears I’d been holding back made it hard to choke out one word. “What?”
“Save me.” The fever had taken his mind, so when he spoke so clearly, I didn’t understand what was going on. But when I started to leave he wouldn’t let go.
“I can’t!” I begged, “You won’t let me help you!” I couldn’t see him, not really. The world was too busy being wet with hot, salty tears.
He forced himself up—wincing at the pain it brought—and kissed me gently. It was the first time he’d ever kissed me. The first time I’d kissed anyone thanks to him. I thought it would be something spectacular, I’d often imagined what it might be like, but instead all I could focus on was his hot lips, burning with fever. When he fell back he whispered in between ragged breaths, “If you won’t, I will.”
His hands shook as he grasped at his gun and dropped it once, cold weak fingers unable to hold his relief. Then he grabbed it again more firmly. I screamed, “No! Please no don’t give up yet!”
But it was too late, the trigger had already been pulled, he’d already made his choice. It wasn’t suicide. We both knew he would die eventually. He only chose to find relief faster.
As he lost the ability to speak he told me only one more thing. After hours and hours of talking, planning, dreaming, all that matters is this one thing. He gave the Whispers their worst truth. “You can’t follow me this time.”
So now all that I have left is woven in and out of nightmares the way his last words echo. The Whispers have turned something precious into the stuff that makes me what I am. A half-mad, weak, scrawny teenage girl with no home and no him. Driven crazy by the final whisper that ruins me. Because I know he’s right. I can’t follow him.
I hate the Whispers. They carry him with them. They remind me. It’s my fault he died. I shouldn’t have looked away. They stole him from me, just so they could haunt me. They’re always whispering. About how I can’t follow. About how I killed him. They hate me. He was mine; they had no right to steal him. I hate the Whispers.