A voice stabbed through my ears. It gave me a terrible, pounding headache. The beeping noise added to it, like a sharp knife stabbing through my brain.
I could not force my eyes to open against the bright lights that assaulted them. The voices around me melted together in a cacophony of nonsense.
One of them stood out amongst the others. It didn’t blend with the others. It didn’t stand with the voices around me.
It was in my ear; in my head. The raspy, emotionless voice was inside me. It sounded like pain, agony, torture; death.
It came from within my head yet it sounded distant. It invaded my head, mingling with my thoughts and confusing me. I could hardly tell which sentences were mine and which came from that voice.
The scream that choked its way down my throat earlier came back. It burst from my lips in a desperate attempt to drown out the voices.
It didn’t work. They only grew louder. They became ever more frantic. The voice in my head was still sedate, rising above the others without needing to raise its disembodied voice.
I tried to scream louder, until my lungs hurt from the lack of air. I attempted to take a breath but found a heavy weight on my chest.
My arms were trapped at my sides. They couldn’t push the weight off.
My mouth closed and opened again, as if that would help me breathe.
The voices: that’s what was suffocating me.
Pushing them away was out of the question. Screaming at them to shut up was out of the question. I only had one way –one chance– to communicate.
I opened my eyes, and died. At least, I wish I had.
My racing heart nearly stopped. My entire body froze over as my eyes burned in their sockets. I felt my frigid body plunge through ice, sinking quickly in the Arctic Ocean.
Or so I wished.
Only the sensation of falling was there. I wasn’t sinking; no, I was trapped.
The voices stopped. The beeping died.
It was replaced by a crackling, then a crunching sound. A scream echoed somewhere far from me.
I know that scream. I know that voice.
As the scream morphed into a deep, melancholic howl, the grotesque monstrosity before me turned its head. It’s swollen, midnight eyes met mine.
These were eyes that had once looked at me with cheerful abandon. These were eyes that had once overflowed with perpetual excitement. These were the eyes that had once belonged to my best friend. These were the eyes that once belonged to Lori.
Except she was gone from them now. Replacing her was a deep, unutterable loneliness that tore my soul to shreds.
My eyes would not close. My eyelids were glued to my skull.
The voice that had whispered in my ears and invaded my thoughts had a face now. It had a mouth, one filled with sharp, crooked teeth that were a faded, washed-out red. Within its mouth were small white fragments of what I assumed were bones. I didn’t want to know who they belonged to.
Its voice was not calling my name; it was sending me a message. The sinister tone of that voice told me there was no escape; that I was out of time.
My silent heart sank. The sensation of falling grew stronger.
At the same time, I heard a long, incessant beep, and found that I was falling towards something.
The tops of peoples’ heads rushed to greet me. There were six; five of whom I didn’t recognize. The last one, dressed in mismatched T-shirt and shorts, was my mother, who was running alongside the other five. She looked thinner than the last time I had seen her, when I left home that morning. There were new wrinkles on her face and bags under her eyes. Her hair seemed longer, and was hastily tied up in a sloppy bun.
The other five were dressed in white and blue hospital clothes. Two were pushing a gurney while the other three were frantically fiddling with various things I didn’t recognize.
The body in the gurney sent a jolt through me. It was my own, I think. It was soaked in blood and dirt, lying motionless on the white fabric. The features were blurred and nearly unrecognizable. Countless tubes ran all over the place, hooked up to different limbs.
The beeping had been coming from a machine beside ‘me’, one that was supposed to measure my heartbeat.
According to the monitor, I had none.