When They Whisper

Suddenly a hundred, a thousand voices were about me, whispering his name. They sounded urgent, rushed, longing. I was afraid, I’m not going to deny, as Matt and I were the only people on the entire street.

It was clear by this stage that I was hearing the voices. They were high, low, loud and quiet, but all saying Matt’s name and all with that hungry whisper. I started hitting the side of my head with my fist, breathing heavily. I didn’t know what else to do and my insides were clenching.

They didn’t go, and if anything, grew. Next thing I knew, I had my head in my hands and was yelling, doubled over.

Suddenly, one voice broke over the crazy noise: mine.

“Matt!” I yelled, my voice cracking, “Matt!”

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4. Deep Sea Bully

Dad was waiting at the hospital. Max skated the car into the car park and we tried to walk as normally as possible into A and E and inquire after Becky. They directed us through to the main part of the hospital, straight to ICU. Not looking good.

Dad was there in the corridor looking just as good as a homeless person: everything ruffled, in his pyjamas and stubble covering his gaunt face. I didn’t even have time to scold him for his embarrassing attire before he had launched himself at Max and me.

“Thank God, thank God,” he cried like, high panicked voice like a girl.

“Ok, how is she, what happened, Craig?”

I was stood there helpless as an oompa loompa, eyes widened at the scene before me. Always hated hospitals. I had to stay here a few months when I was eight, during that time when I was rechristened by the papers.

“She’s awake, she awake!”

For goodness sake, Dad now even sounded like a madman, repeating things to himself to try and reassure us. I tried to prompt Max into asking what the hell had actually happened by a sarcastic raise of my eyebrows in his direction.

“What even happened, mate?” asked Max quietly, not trying to sound brash or ignorant. “I know as much as Oliver.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry,” sighed Dad, lowering his head. I could see a few grey hairs poking through. “I’ve been at home sick, as you can tell,” he half heartedly pointed at his attire. “Becks was trying to rearrange my office for me. She was chucking out one of the filing cabinets, taking it downstairs. She just tripped and it fell on her. I wasn’t even there to help her!”

What? Even that didn’t make sense. Maxwell looked similarly confused as Dad continued to fuss. Max realised first.

“Oh God,” he moaned, “on the stairs?”

Shit. That was bad. So Becky had fallen down the stairs with a filing cabinet on top of her?

“But she’s awake, the doctor’s just gone in to see her now.”

I tried to peer round Dad. Everything was just so horribly wrong, I can tell you.

So just a week after Matt’s car incident I was sat on the side of a hospital corridor on a smelly metal bench like thing with Max, as Dad was perched on the end of Becky’s bed in ICU. I couldn’t even see her or the doctor assessing her. Maxwell offered to buy me lunch from the Cantine but neither of us was hungry. It took about half an hour before Dad reappeared at the other end of the corridor accompanied by the doctor, chatting away to him, worry lines and the stoop of an old man still there, but he was at least holding up a normal conversation.

I sprung up before Maxwell, who, considerably larger than me, always struggled with such things. Trying to ignore all the white clad figures brushing past I focused on Dad as he approached.

“Well?” not at all subtly.

“There’s no head trauma and she’s awake and well. We’ll move her to another ward this evening.”

The doctor looked and sounded like a robot. Typical.

It was like in Star Trek: the bad acting and then the really bad teleporting out of here. The doctor was gone, nonchalant and not really fussed by anything. I wondered whether he had a wife and kids. Laughing internally at the thought of a wild man at heart, punk rock star and crazy father, I realised I was getting a bit carried away, zoning back in to half way through Dad’s conversation and report to Max.

“I’ve been talking to her and she asked for you guys.”

“I thought her legs were broken?”

“Yes,” pause, “and her back.”

Woah. News to me. Becks had broken her back? I thought that killed people. Or was it the neck? Either way, glad I didn’t take Biology. But evidently it hadn’t killed Becky.

“Craig?”

“Well, it’s very early days, but the doctor said she might not be able to walk again.”

“Hang on, can’t we get physio and all that?

“Sure, Ollie, we can, but right now she can’t feel anything of her legs and they’re both broken. They’ve seen this kind of injury lots before.”

Oh. That was the crappiest icing on the cake which right then was just one big turd. Poor Becks.

“Well can we go see her or what?”

A small smile finally decided to take a visit to my Dad’s face.

“Come on, then!”

 

How Becky, bandage round her head, broken back and legs and black eye, still managed to look pretty good or at least normal and cheery as we approached her bed, I will never know. Women.

“Hey guys!” she called up in only a slightly deflated voice. “I’m sorry for all this fuss.”

“How you feeling?” I was first at her side. Scrap what I said previously, Becky was as good as my mum. I felt like it was my mum shut up in a stinky hospital bed, pinned down by six different braces and being fed all along her arms by numerous tubes.

“Like I’m in animal testing. Do you want to take a photo?”

One of Becky’s crazy campaigns of late. She had thrown out every single product in the house that used animal testing and now only bought one brand of shampoo that was completely organic.

“It would look good on the ‘Becky’s an idiot’ website. What about dailyfail.com?”

Becky laughed, her usual laugh and only let out a wince after she tried to adjust her head.

“Thanks, love.”

Her strawberry blonde hair was mostly obscured by the thick white bandage across her forehead, but Dad still managed to make his way to the other side of the raised bed and started stroking it.

“How’s the cabinet doing?” I asked across to my Dad.

“I called the office ambulance and haven’t heard back,” laughed Max from behind me.

God, I can tell why I’m such a sarcastic bastard. You can see how things run in families. Poor Becky, having to deal with us bunch cracking jokes about the bloody filing cabinet that broke her flipping back! We were all just immature, that was the problem. How Becky chose to live with this household of retards I have no idea.

“You bunch need to stop joking sometimes. On a serious note, I’m going to be fine!”

Becky’s broad smile nearly burst through the walls on either side of the room.

“That’s great, Becks!” I bent down to hug her, deliberately avoiding both Max and my Dad’s gazes. “Can you even move, though?”

“Oh no, but I’m all strapped in alright.”

She was like a body ready to go into a coffin. Lying down completely flat and her body artificially straightened. Broken backs didn’t heal quickly.

“It’s only one disk that’s fractured,” she sighed, spotting my frown. “Doc says that’ll take about a month to properly heal.”

“You’re stuck in bed for a month?”

“And to think your Dad was ‘sick’ today,” Becky raised her eyebrows jokingly. “He thought he was bed ridden!”

Dad burst out laughing and took one of Becky’s hands.

“Looks like I’m taking the month off work to look after you!”

Maxwell had jumped off the back of the bed and was waltzing around the small area of the bed, tapping tubes lightly and throwing glances across to other beds.

“You’re pumped with the pain killers, hell,” he laughed under his breath, making one tube start to swing backwards and forwards. “I’m surprised you’re not being fed through a ventilator.”

“Oh, but I am!” Becky cried, tentatively moving her hand to show the small device in it, which fitted perfectly in her mouth. “I even have a button for when I get in too much pain.”

Her face finally fell. Dad lowered his voice and started reassuring her. I didn’t really know what to do. The initial greeting joy was over and the pure shock of the whole accident in the first place was still swimming through me. It’s like I wasn’t actually there. Like a ghost, a shell stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. All the voices around me, and God were there loads of them, were suddenly under water.

I had nothing better to do than inspect the rest of the ward myself, or the intense care unit. I wouldn’t call it a ward: I know what one of those are like, despite having spent many weeks in ICU like that one, only I spent most of it impressively unconscious and having my brains stitched back together again.

The squeaking, shiny floor, the wheels everywhere, the curtains, the beeps, the trolleys and the nurses were all sickening to any sane person. It was a good thing then that everyone who ended up in ICU was delirious with pain, too much so to notice, anyhow.

At least four other beds were occupied but none others with relatives. Almost invisible figures just slept, or were in comas, or out cold. Becky’s area was surprisingly bright and lively, also considering she can’t have been there more than an hour.

The tubes were quite colourful, at least some of them were. I think the colourless liquids being fed into her were probably the most important ones, but still, the bright tags they used to distinguish tube from tube were quite comical, really. The braces Becky was strapped into were white and almost metallic, but her pillow was checkered and there was a white board above her head on which a few unidentifiable scribbles were strewn, along with a number, right next to her name.

Rebecca Lockhart, it read. With a smug thought I remembered how not too long in the future it would be Rebecca Marsh. Well, if she was to survive this.

I nearly tripped over backwards.

Rebecca.

Becky was called Rebecca: Becks was Rebecca.

That voice. That voice in the library, light years away in a different world where I was more concerned by Anna’s messed up stare. The voice which I could swear she heard too. It was just an echo, saying the name, just one. Or was it an echo? Was it what I had heard the week before only just a long way off, rather than an echo?

Maxwell’s hand was suddenly there, supporting me.

“You alright?” his low gruff brought me back to the spinning ward before me and my sharp intakes of breath.

I stared some more, taking in that the link which I could see was possibly the most sense I’d ever come to. The previous week, the voices, the many voices had called one name: Matt’s. What had been the next thing to happen? That day, I had heard Becky’s name, and here I was in ICU with her.

Max followed my eyes and briefly searched the area I was fixed on. It took him a while and I wasn’t expecting him to see anything. But he did.

He didn’t really give me a choice as he seized my upper arm and called over his shoulder.

“Back in a sec, just need to grab some food.”

I felt like a naughty schoolboy being led back into the corridor, just me and Maxwell, Max hunched over and hostile. I saw that strange manic look in him as I’d seen in his eyes that night he’d questioned me. About the voices.

I had to lean back against the wall, trying to ignore Max’s annoying glare.

“Ollie?” he stepped back and intensified his gaze and hostile voice. “Ollie!”

“God damn it, what?” I burst out, suddenly, “I’m a bit creeped out by this place, alright?”

It was like I was three again and I was trying to tell Dad I hadn’t broken my Christmas present. That look, the omniscient look all adults used to have. What the hell did Max think he knew?

“Look, I can’t have you blowing me off again. Please, Oliver, answer me seriously. You just spotted Becky’s name, I know you did!”

“Why the hell would you think that matters?”

“Because you hadn’t realised before, had you?”

“Realised what?”

“That the voice you heard earlier had anything to do with this! It had everything to do with this!”

I didn’t know what to say. That’s quite a feat for me.

“What the hell are you on about?” I managed to whisper, not looking at him. Max had advanced on me like a school bully, and I was backed, his victim, into the playground wall. “Why the hell do you think I heard some goddamn voice?”

“Because I heard it too.”

It was like that was what I was waiting to hear. But it was wrong. How could Max have heard the same thing as me? Was he messed up too?

But then I remembered again: Anna in the library.

“Max, what,” I couldn’t finish a sentence.

“Ollie,” Maxwell had hushed his voice now to barely a whisper. “Please, you have to be honest with me, honest to god. This is so important, do you hear me?” I nodded, perplexed. “Just say it, say it straight. Did you hear a voice today? Did you hear it last week when you were with Matt?”

I looked away. I didn’t want to see how Max would react to his retard of a nephew. How the hell could he know to expect this? Did he know all along I was demented? He’d left me with no choice. I was a deflated toy the bully had stamped on.

“Yeah.”

 

 

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