His Voice

by D. Allison Smith

I'm not really alone; I have my dolls. The mother says they're not real, but she never plays with them. She just says, "Constance, don't talk to your dolls. You're going to be all right." But I do anyway. The room is both comfort and stifling. I have long since stopped lying in the bed, since it tried to swallow me in its depths. I won't give it the satisfaction. The mother says the bed is nice, and has many covers to keep me warm and comfortable, but I remain safe on the floor.

When I first hear His voice, that's the first thing I think of, not being really alone. The mother is wrong from time to time, yet dolls only talk if you want them to. This I know for certain, but His voice cannot be mistaken.

"Hello Constance."

He sounds quite different from the mother. His voice is smooth and flowery and sounds as if He could never yell. He sounds quite clever and at first, He sounds far away, but gets closer as I look around the room for Him.

"You won't find me, Constance." He says.

But I look behind the closet doors of the room anyway. I look under the bed, outside the door; the more I look the more he laughs, very near me.

"Where are you?" I yell.

"Constance!" the mother's heavy footsteps are storming toward the door. "No talking to your dolls!" she screams with the door still closed.

"But I can't find him!" I say.

"Constance. Shut up!"

So I do. I sit on the floor and hold my dolls tight. I won't talk to them, not while the mother's so close.

"She doesn't understand you," He says. I don't bother to look around while he talks. "She'll never understand you. Only I know how you feel. No one else. Only me."

I nod to the air. Hopefully the mother doesn't hear Him and stays away.

"Play with your dolls, Constance," His voice says.

I do as he says. His voice is so soothing; I can't bear to disobey him.

I play with my dolls, quietly, because He told me to, and the mother brings up food through the door every now and again. There's no one else anywhere, just me, Constance, the mother, and Him.

The room feels smaller sometimes; I think because He is now there. When His voice speaks, the walls move from the places and come closer. It feels like the walls breathe each time he speaks.

I try to see out of the window of the room. Each time the light comes, the room is bright, and each time the light leaves, the room grows dark. Every now and again the mother will press at a button I cannot reach, and a new light shines in the room, but the mother does not do this often. I jump toward the window to see the bright light that comes and goes, but then He says not to, so I don't. He tells me, I only need to listen to him.

"Rip the square, Constance," He says.

The large square sits in the corner of the room and has for some time. It never moves with the walls as he speaks, though. Something must be wrong with it. I move toward the square and rip at the brown fabric. It feels different from anything else in the room; He tells me it's paper, to be ripped. The brown paper comes off of square, shred by shred and something quite shiny shimmers through the remaining shards of brown paper.

I pull off the last piece and see another large square, but this one is amazingly different. There is a person looking directly at me. It is a girl who is my height, with light brown hair, pale skin and very green eyes. Everyway I move, she moves with me.

"Look at her, Constance," He says. "She will do remarkable things someday. She will do remarkable things because she listens, only to me."

I raise my arm and reach out to her, and she does the same. I cannot touch her, though. It is as if she's trapped behind some kind of magical force.

"Will you only listen to me, Constance?" He says.

I nod as the trapped girl nods. "Always," I say.

"Constance!" the mother screams. She towers above me and pulls me away from the square. Another mother, just like the mother, pulls the trapped girl away as well.

The mother shakes my shoulders. "Never look at it. It's not time; you're not ready. Someday you'll be all right. You'll be all right…"

The mother shakes me harder with each word.

"Pull away," His voice says calmly.

I pull away from the mother, who registers clear surprise.

"Run toward the girl. Free her, Constance," He says.

I run past the mother, into the large square; it slides slowly against the wall, hitting the floor hard, and shatters. "Take up a piece of it."

I stare at the shining pieces, and pick up a piece of what was left of the square. It cuts my hand in several places, but I hold it because he tells me to.

The mother is backing away. "You'll be all right," she pleads. "I know you'll be all right, Constance. Once, I gave birth, I was all right. And you will be too." She looks away toward the door of the room.

"Take the piece to her neck," He says.

I take slow steps toward the mother's position at the doorway.

"Run to her!"

I run in the mother's direction and leap, piece in hand, toward her neck.

The mother screams. "Mor-ris!"

She is holding me at an arm's distance while I yearn to reach forward.

"Rip her!" He says.

I make quick movements with the piece and swipe at her face. The mother screams and several slices later a pair of large black hands grabs hold of me. I struggle and squirm, but feel a small prick on the side of my neck.

The black hands turn me around and I see the black hands belong to a black man. The black man pulls me close to him.

"Please, be quiet, little one. Don't listen. She listened, but don't you listen."

I hear the voice from the black hands and my eyes close. I see and hear nothing, not even His voice.

"Hello Constance."

My eyes open to His voice. I see my legs tied to the post of the bed, and I pull and pull to no avail.

"Stay still, Constance," he says. "Only listen to me."

The black hands had said not to listen, but I cannot stop. His voice is everywhere and He tells me to listen.

I sit on my spot on the floor. The square and its pieces are gone and the girl with them. I smile with the satisfaction of knowing I freed her. He told me to, but I freed her.

The mother comes in the room with food every now and again. Each time she returns, He tells me, "She will never understand you."

One day the mother comes and leaves with my dolls. I want to protest, but he always says stay still and I do. Another day, the mother brings another mother with her. The other mother smiles at me, and tells me how someday, I will be all right.

His voice grows louder when the two mothers are around me. The other mother must bring some extra presence with her that He must love, but I cannot tell what.

Every now and again the mothers bring a pale boy into the room. They call him Andrew. The mother tells me how Andrew will be the one to make me all right some day. I don't like Andrew. His eyes are cold and His voice often goes quiet whenever Andrew is near. The mother tells me, that Andrew has a mother who wants his problems to go away as well. The mother says, "You and Andrew will make one another well."

"You're crazy!" Andrew yells before the mothers leave us alone together. "We were just playing!" Andrew yells to the door.

"Don't worry," Andrew says as I remain near the no longer breathing walls. "One day, someone will take us away from them. No amount of money in the world can let them keep this up." I never reply to Andrew's rambles and he rambles all the while we're together.

Every now and again, when Andrew is not around, the mother comes in with stacks of papers. She calls them books, but He returns and calls them evil. Each time the mother comes, she says she wants to teach me, yet He says to cut her with the piece of square the bed had kept for itself. I try each time, but the black man always comes and pricks me on the neck, all the while telling me to be quiet and not to listen.

I sit by the bedroom door in the darkness of the room and say the words He speaks to me.

"Morris, help," He says.

"Morris, help."

"Please let me out," He says.

"Please let me out."

"I'm so afraid," He says.

"I'm so afraid."

Each night this continues and this once, the door clicks and creeps open. The black man sticks his head in. "Please be quiet little one."

"Tell him to free your legs," He says.

"Please free my legs."

"I'm in pain," He says.

"I'm in pain."

The black man hesitates, but slowly unties the restraints on my legs.

"Run!" He says.

I bolt out of the room in a frantic run. I fall down several series of uneven levels in the floor and into a whole new world.

The new room is large, quite larger that the other and there are many rooms leading from it. I want to explore, yet I hear His voice.

"Walk to the door, Constance," He says.

I find a door in the large room and walk towards it. I pull on the door handle, seeing the mother in the corner of my eye.

She screams and the black man quickly runs down the series of uneven floor and grabs me before I can hear His voice again. I feel the prick on my neck and I see and hear nothing.

I am now tall enough to see out the window of the room. The black man walks around beyond the window, but never by the door anymore. I see Andrew and another boy hold hands beyond the window, but the other mother always comes and rips them apart. The mother tells me that there are gardens and people on the "outside" and when I am all right, I will see everything. His voice tells me to nod, but not to believe, so I do and I don't.

The mother comes in every now and again with food and her books. She says girls my age are too old for dolls and must read instead. She tells me that I will one day go all the places in books. The mother tells me all of this, but I cannot read. His voice reads to me instead. He tells me of a woman named Elizabeth and a man called Darcy, of Nick and green lights, of a man named Boo, of a big brother always watching, and of adventures of a boy called Harry…I love it most when He tells me of Holden and rye. I sit in my same spot and listen to His voice.

When the mother is away from us, He reads to me until Andrew comes and then He goes quiet. Andrew tells me that he does not have a problem, that he knows who he is; that anyone would be glad to know themselves at his age. Andrew tells me, "This is so wrong, what they do to you. What they do to us. Why can't they let us just live?"

Every now and again Andrew comes with the mother. Andrew does not like to be in the room and I don't want him there. When I tell Andrew about my talking dolls, he only sighs and says, "I hate coming to this old house." When I tell Andrew the walls have stopped breathing, he only rolls his eyes and says that someday we will runaway from them. When I tell Andrew about the girl I freed, he rolls his eyes and sighs and says that someone will stop "them" from doing this.

I feel different each day. My arms and legs grow longer and my chest gets bigger and one day, my stomach sears in pain and I start bleeding from nowhere. The mother is triumphant. She tells me soon I'll be all right. He tells me the mother and Andrew are plotting against me, making me change.

"They don't understand you," He says. "They will make evil from you."

The mother brings Andrew and another mother to see me every now and again. They tell me, we need to spend quality time together to break Andrew's problem. The mothers force Andrew to touch my face with his lips. I don't like it, and His voice only whispers, when both Andrew and the mothers are around me.

The mothers come in every now and again, with Andrew each time. Andrew says, "Morris told me to make sure you don't listen. Don't listen, Constance. They can't do this forever."

Only when Andrew leaves, does His voice return. He tells me that Andrew and the mothers are evil and I only want to believe Him, but I lose faith in Him every now and again. How can He leave me when Andrew comes, when I need Him most? I argue with Him, every now and again; the mother tells me to shut up. Why should I only listen to him?

One day, the mothers bring a wrinkled man dressed in black with a white collar in the room. The mothers force me into an all white dress, much to my displeasure and His, and Andrew into his own black suit. The wrinkled man says words in front of us and the mothers force Andrew to touch me with his lips again.

The mothers leave and Andrew says he has to do this or it will never end.

He is touching me with his lips on the bed in the room and there is nowhere I can go. Andrew's hands are touching me everywhere and I cannot hear His voice. How can He leave me now?

Andrew is bigger than I and touches me everywhere with everything. I don't know what to like and what to call evil. How could He leave? Andrew says, "Regardless of what happens. I'll take care of you," once he has finished. I only find my spot on the floor and cry until His voice returns to me.

"Hello Constance."

He tells me everything is fine and never allow Andrew to touch me again, so I don't.

The mother comes in every now and again, touches my belly and tells me that soon, I will be all right. His voice speaks me, but sometimes I ignore Him. He grows louder the more I try to take no notice of Him and the room shrinks as the walls heave.

The bleeding that happens every now and again stops and my belly feels swollen. Andrew comes into the room and tells me, "in a few months everything will be okay. They'll have what they want and it'll be okay." I want believe Andrew, but His voice tells me different things once Andrew is gone.

"They've done something evil to you," He says.

"No, they haven't," I say to Him.

"They've put a monster in you. You must get it out, now. You can't let it come out on its own. Its gestation period grows shorter each day."

"What do I do?" I say.

"Cut out the monster," He says.

I hold my belly. "No."

"Yes. Only listen to me."

I cover my ears. I don't want to listen anymore. "No!" I say.

Andrew holds me every now and again, and tells me everything will be all right soon, but I don't believe him or Him. I can't, I don't believe anyone.

My belly swells to half my own size and I feel something inside of me kicking and moving about. He tells me it's the evil monster Andrew and the mothers put inside me. He says it's about to come out and then all will be lost.

I lean against the breathing wall and stare out of the window. His voice tells me evil is all around, but I try not to listen. I stare at the vast blue above the masses of green to the right and water flowing and foaming forever to the left, seeing all of the odd shapes of "outside."

"See the evil around you," He says. "Look, Constance!"

I see Andrew beyond the window, amongst the green. He stands somewhat hidden with another boy and he embraces and kisses the boy.

"Evil!" He screams.

I gasp and turn away from the window. My stomach turns and I feel a great release of water all over myself.

The mothers have me on the bed, in great pain. They tell me I'm early, but I will be fine. They tell me to push. He tells me to stop the evil from coming. They say push, He says stop…

The monster comes out from nowhere and the mother holds it as if it were precious. It makes noise, but I want it, anyway. It's mine.

The mother tells me that I will be fine now and leaves with my monster.

"You brought great evil here, Constance," he says. "The monster is just outside the room."

I shake my head and cover my ears. I don't want to hear anymore. I don't want to listen to His voice any longer.

I leave the bed and open the window to the room. Air blows on my face and I feel at peace. His voice sounds far away. It is like the black man said to me. Don't listen, little one. I listened and should never have. He is only a nuisance, He makes me evil. He must leave!

"You only listen to me, Constance," He says. "I'm the only one who understands you. None of them care. They are all evil."

I shake my head and pull myself into the window. I want my monster; I want to listen to what I want; I don't want Him anymore.

"Constance, come down from the window," the mother says holding my monster.

"You want me to hear him, don't you?" I say.

"You're all right now," she says. "Now, everything will be roses."

"She wants more evil from you," He says. "Come from the window and I will tell you how to keep evi-"

"No! I don't want to listen anymore!"

"Constance," He says. I don't listen. "Constance. Constance? Constance!"

I jump from the window to the screams of the mother and Him very near me. I feel water sting all around me. It enters my mouth and nose and burns. But I can't hear Him. He is gone.

I awaken after what seems only a few seconds on a bed in a white room. Machines surround me, each making their own sort of noise and I as I squirm on the bed, the hoses connected to me pull and hurt.

A woman in white enters the room and tells me to calm down, that I had a long fall, but I was all right.

"He's gone," I say. "You don't understand. He's finally gone!"

I pull myself from the small bed, hoses still connected to me.

The mother and Andrew come into the room and I back away from them. "They," I tell the woman in white, pointing at the mother and Andrew, "they wanted me to listen. They made me listen. But I beat them. I beat them both!" I laugh. "He's gone, he's gone, he's gone. They wanted me to go crazy and keep listening so I wouldn't miss my monster. But I beat them and now he's –"

"Hello Constance."