WHEN I HEAR THE VOICES
I’m not really sure when it started. Maybe twelve? Thirteen? Probably younger than that but I specifically remember that the voices grew stronger in my pre-pubescent years. They’re not like the voices those with schizophrenia hear. I’m not being told cut off my ear like Van Gogh or solve complex math equations for the U.S government like John Nash. My voices are telling me to do something else entirely. The voices started out pretty faint and far away, like a soft echo dancing with the wind near some obscure, picturesque horizon. They were benevolent, not malicious. Encouraging even. I didn’t know what to make of them at first. I didn’t feel like I’d gone mad, I just felt…chosen? There’s no other word for it. Yeah. Chosen. At first they showed up as comic strip characters, doing silly things in homemade newspapers I’d give my dad to read while sitting in his recliner. These were very important comic strip people, doing very important things, carrying briefcases, straightening their ties, rushing off to crucial meetings. They were going places and fast. It’s as if these voices came to me from some other world and they left me with no other choice but to hear them. I couldn’t turn them off and I thought there was something wrong with me. I told no one that every once in a while the voices got desperate, telling me things, begging for me to become their channel into this world. In middle school, the voices morphed into stifled, frustrated teenage boys, needing to be heard. They came to me one by one, forming their own little misunderstood unit, and told me their stories. There was anarchy, death, suicide, prison sentences. To some, this may seem like common tales of teen angst ending poorly, but I had no experience with such things because I was raised in a very tight-knit group of religious fanatics. I had no experience with such things. As I maneuvered through my own confusing teenage years, some of the voices quieted but every so often they’d surface again. They began to leave me mostly alone as I was going through some pretty heavy things at that time. They drifted away but they were never out of reach. Sometimes they’d even check on me. Then I went to college. Not for very long, and I didn’t acquire a degree, but those voices came at me full force the first semester I spent at Lakes region Community College (back then it was called New Hampshire Community Technical College). Things the voices told me were incredibly detailed, so I began to transcribe them in a devout manner. Car accidents; death; paranormal events; life after death; lost souls stuck in limbo. Again, these were not things I had experience with yet there I was writing about them. I quit college after 9/11. Things were just too tense, my world was flipped upside-down on its ass, and I was so despondent that I decided to ruin my new marriage by distracting myself with the cult I was raised in. The deeper I sank into that Kingdom Hall chair, the farther the voices got. I had souls to save, including my own. I stuffed the voices into a chest and thought I’d thrown away the key. They sounded miles away until I heard them crying, beseeching. I hushed them. Then my marriage crumbled. I didn’t realize some of the voices had made a copy of the key to their chest. They got out and started lingering around the fringes of my mind, one by one, keeping me company. I consented to entertaining them again. They spun tales involving unrequited love, music, history, film and pointed me in the direction of many a bookstore. When online social platforms became popular, they got louder and once again, I transcribed.
I’ve stopped trying to quell the desperate voices. I gave them free rein in 2008 and they’ve been in my head, alive and well, ever since. They were too strong to fight; much fiercer than I ever thought I was. They mean no harm, they only wish to be heard. They do, at times, keep me up at night, often interrupting me–and each other–but it works. We work. There’s this other realm in which they dwell. A real aberration of sorts; a universe of other beings with tales to tell, and yeah, they chose me. But I’m not the only one who’s been chosen. Some voices have also chosen members of my author family: Lauren Sapala, J.A. Plosker, Kayli Baker, Katherine Turner, Patricia Kirsch, Jas Hothi…if I’m forgetting anyone, my apologies. These days the voices drift through the same channel: my fingers. Sometimes they prefer pen and paper, sometimes a keyboard, and sometimes a manual typewriter. At times they may also choose different stories, names, aesthetic, eras, wardrobes… The voices keep me on my toes, and I am never, ever bored. They make me wish there were more than 24 hours in a day; they make me wish I didn’t have to earn a living, do chores, or even socialize because when they bring me into their world, I forget this one even exists. Ray Bradbury said it best: “Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called ‘mad’ and are shut up in rooms all day and stare at the walls. Others are called ‘writers’ and do pretty much the same thing.”