1: The Whispers
Maggie, my little sister, has taken a liking to bugs. She takes out books from the library to educate herself on their anatomy, she tore up rotten wood to look for termites, and is currently keeping a caterpillar as a pet.
I hate them. I have a collection in my room of bugs I’ve killed over the years. I started when I was thirteen to stop the voices and I wanted them either as far away from me as possible or dead. I have them kept in twelve jam jars, the majority just filled with an assortment of beetles, ladybugs, crickets, and worms, but one of the jars is specifically for moths and butterflies - they’re the chattiest.
I’m assuming Maggie doesn’t have the same problem as me. If she did then she wouldn’t be so interested in learning more about bugs. She wouldn’t have jumped for joy when I offered to get her a book on them, she would have rejected the offer, wanting to know as little as possible about the creatures that whisper in her ears.
“I don’t know why you collect bugs if you don’t like them,” Dallas said as he put down one of the jars. He wanted to get a closer look at a mantis squished to the side by the rest of the carcasses.
“Dad always liked them,” I answer. Dad claims that they would talk to him and they were friends. Dad said that the bugs would give him visions if he ate them, but I’m not sure if that’s true because I’ve never tried. The mere thought of one slipping down my throat makes me want to puke.
“Have you visited him lately?” Dallas has always been nosy and I don’t blame him, really. I grew up with him, our parents were friends, and at one point we told each other everything. Despite all of that, the trust you have for your best friend can falter when you’re afraid about ending up in asylum like your father.
“No,” I admit. “I don’t want to be near St. Kerry’s, it depresses me.”
He quickly changes the subject.
“So...” he trails off. “Stella brought up marriage.”
“Marriage?” I ask, happy that the topics of my dad, bugs, and mental institutions are out of the way. “You’re only eighteen.”
“I know,” he slumps down on the bed next to me and wraps an arm around my shoulder. “But we have been together a year now, plus it’s legal. She is sure that she wants to spend the rest of her life with me.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t know, that’s why I wanted to talk to you-”
“Is she pregnant?”
“No, she just wants to marry me.”
“Okay, and what can I do about that?” I ask and he goes silent. Always so nosy but never gives out information himself.
′He loves you,′ I hear a whisper. My hand immediately shoots up to enclose around whatever was near my ear. I clench my fist to crush it and open my hand to see a common housefly smeared on my palm.
“How’d you notice that?” Dallas asks, his brows creased and his eyes fixed on the insect. I walk over to open one of my jars and scrape the fly on the inside of the lid.
“You didn’t hear it?” I ask. “It was buzzing.”
“No,” he admits. “I didn’t even know it was there.”
Suddenly I hear the bugs again. Not the exact same sentence as what the fly said, or even words, but I can hear wisps of small voices coming from all sides of me. I don’t see them but I know they’re here - they’re surrounding me.
“Are you okay?” Dallas asks. He takes a cautionary step towards me, almost as if he’s afraid of something. Can he hear the insects, too?
“They’re everywhere,” my words came out in short breaths. “I can hear them.”
I can’t breathe properly and I begin to hyperventilate. My heart is rapidly beating and I try to be aware of my surroundings but it’s not working - I don’t know what’s happening.
“You look like you’re about to pass out,” Dallas rushes to catch me but he doesn’t reach me. He’s all of a sudden not in my room anymore. He has disappeared. Gone. As if he were never here.
The voices get louder but I can’t seem to comprehend what any of them are saying; there are too many of them. I clap my hands together, trying to at least catch one of them - to end its voice so that it can never bother me again. It doesn’t work.
A swarm of flies enter my vision. They’re circling me. I try to move, to scare them into leaving, but I appear to be immobile. I can’t see anything but them. I try to scream for help but they just fly in, forcing themselves down my throat, blocking my air passage and squirming down my esophagus.
All at once, the flies disappear and I am no longer choking. I’m back in my room with Dallas, my hand scraping a fly on the inside of the lid to the jam jar. I gasp at the memory of what had just happened.
I’m speechless as I twist the lid back on. None of what happened a few moments ago was real, it couldn’t have been.
I feel something in my cheek and I raise my hand, digging my nail into my mouth, fishing out whatever it was.
It was a housefly.
“How’d you notice that?” Dallas asks. I quickly hide the fly from my mouth and turn around, pretending that nothing had happened.
“You didn’t hear it?” I ask. “It was buzzing.”