The Voice from the Wall
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
When I was little you were the wall behind my bed. You spoke in a voice very much like mine—a little girl's high, fanciful, sing-song voice. Your voice turned the rag rug at the foot my bed into a carpet of cockroaches, the shadows into puppet-hands that reached for me out of nothingness and tried to drag me away. The sheets turned against me at your command—they twisted into chains to choke the life out of me. The very air became a thick haze of dust and mosquitoes.
You weren't like the monsters other kids talked about. You were my voice—and even my stuffed-animal soldiers would turn against me at your command. "What's wrong, Sally?" you'd say innocently as the entire room contorted in your curse. "All I want is for you to love me."
And then when I got a little older you were the wall I slept facing. I couldn't look away from you. Your voice changed. It grew deeper, more masculine, more powerful. You swore often and had a laugh like coarse sandpaper and choking engines. You caused the very earth beneath my feet to tremble. My blankets turned to lava and my tongue became encrusted with thorns. You caused the world around me to reek of death.
You asked me to come closer to you, to embrace you, to give you a kiss. I huddled against the far wall, afraid to face you. Your voice was suddenly behind me: "What's wrong, Sally? All I want is for you to love me." And then you laughed and your laughter was like plaster-dust in my throat.
High school moved you once again. Suddenly you were in the ceiling. You were a smooth, deep, undeniably feminine voice, coaxing me into your dreams. You spoke with an air of sophistication, a cool professionalism. You encouraged me to come and speak to you personally but I didn't want to. I hid my face underneath the pillow. Tentacles emerged from my pillowcase and wrapped around my throat, a collar of suction-cups and sinew. You dragged me out bit by bit. First an arm. Then a leg. Then my throat. My eyes were last to go—when they came out, though, the pale, dappled plaster on the ceiling stared back at me, as motionless and plain as ever. But I sensed you behind it. You were smiling. "What's wrong, Sally?" you asked me, trying to reach towards me through the barrier of your own dwelling. "All I want is for you to love me."
Sometimes the ceiling would leak when it rained heavily. That's what they told me. But I knew it was you, drooling over the thought of my flesh, its rich, meaty flavor in your teeth. If only I'd get close enough to you.
You followed me when I moved to a dorm in college. You took the wall with the window on it. You called out to me, told me to come closer. I dared not respond for fear of waking my roommate. I tried to live without you. I tried to sleep. But you sent flies and rats to wake me. Tiny teeth gnawing on my skin. Tiny wings buzzing in my ears. You persisted, even as I cried and begged you to stop. Your voice was cicadas, screeching brakes, and crumbling chalk. "What's wrong, Sally? All I want is for you to love me."
When you followed me to the apartment I shared with my boyfriend post-college, I began to grow frantic. I asked a priest to come and chase you out. You giggled about it all through the night. I called ghost-hunters and they found nothing. I spoke to self-proclaimed witches, to voodoo priests, to exorcists, to anyone who claimed they could possibly chase out a determined spirit. But none of them could detect you, much less banish you. You found this hilarious and delighted in reminding me of all of this when I worked late, letting my boyfriend sleep alone—you crashed around within the walls at night and refused to let me sleep.
I asked you finally, "What do you want? Why won't you leave?"
"I told you, Sally. I just want for you to love me. Please, love me!"
"I can't. You're not real."
"What are you talking about? Of course I'm real. I've been here for you your entire life—even when everyone else left you, I was here—I've always loved you—I'm your only true friend." you insisted.
"You're not real! You're just in my head! They all told me the same thing!"
"Even if I am in your head, I'm still real! And I'm the only one who loves you for real." you said. "Please just give me a chance. Love me, make me real. I love you so much."
"What can I do that will make you go away?"
You seemed delighted by this question. "Write me a love letter. I've never read one. Write a love letter for me. One that you mean it."
"Will you go away if I do?"
"You won't know unless you try, right?" you giggled.
I could see it was all part of your game.
You were never going away.
Two days later I sat down at my
desk, mulling over again and again what you had said.
I tried to fall in love with you. I wrote a hundred love letters to the emptiness only I knew, the voice whispering to me from the wall. But no matter what I wrote, I couldn't coerce myself into loving you.But I wrote it anyhow. I wrote "I love you" one thousand times on sheets of notebook paper. I put the paper in a large envelope, sealed it, and addressed it to "The voice from the wall"...you wanted love letters, so I wrote them to you. I wrote you eight thousand of them, and not a single one of them was true.