Yet another night, the sobbing voices kept her awake. Maria’s feelings had transitioned from fear to sympathy, at this point, it was pure fury and frustration.
‘Show yourself or just go away! Reach out if you need help. I could help if you reached out, or at least just listen to what you have to say. I am certain of your presence. I freakin’ know I’m not crazy!’ Maria kept her voice low, but the rage was obvious.
She heard a gasp, followed by complete silence. The darkness in her room intensified for a moment. The chilly air through the window kept moving the curtain, allowing moonlight to enter as waves. It wasn’t the first time Maria tried to communicate with ‘nocturnal sobbing being’, but it was certainly the first time she heard a response.
Was it a response to what I said? Or maybe it was some other reason? The voice was always coming from the roof but living on the top floor, she couldn’t blame it on anyone else. In midst of bizarre ideas popping in her head, she eventually fell asleep.
The glinting sunlight through the curtains illuminated the room with a soft golden glow when the alarm went off. After scrolling through her phone for a while, Maria got up to get ready for work, with the thoughts of last night’s incidents still playing in her mind. Even at the office, she could not shift her focus on work.
‘Maybe I should get professional help,’ she finally gave in.
Her roommate, Selena never felt the persistent presence of the “sobbing being”. Maria’s belief in the presence of supernatural beings made her certain that there was someone else, and it wasn’t just hallucinations, but the exhaustion and complex feelings she had to face altogether made her drop back to seeking help from a professional. She still believed in that presence, but her way to deal with it was altering her own mindset to ignore it rather than getting rid of the ‘sobbing being’
‘Is it fear? Why do I have to change myself instead of the uninvited guest? Or do I doubt my own beliefs? Or maybe the culprit is my insecurity and other’s opinion of me?’ Maria rubbed her eyes as she leaned back in her chair.
Alan walked in with a pile of files as he noticed Maria. ‘Still not feeling well?’ He sounded concerned.
‘I just don’t know what’s wrong so I can’t fix it yet’, Maria responded in a raspy voice.
Alan walked towards her, bowed slightly, kept his hand on her shoulder and asked, ‘are you crying? Just talk about what you feel and let me help you figure it out. Please!’ Alan was perturbed.
Maria held back her tears and took a deep breath. She smiled with tear-filled eyes to reassure Alan, the tears rolled down her cheeks, disclosing her pain. She couldn’t speak because of the choking feeling in her throat with all her overwhelming emotions.
‘Just take the day off, I will report to the boss so don’t worry about it’ Alan figured she still wouldn’t reach out and avoided insisting. As he asked her to leave, he even worried about whether it’s okay to let her stay alone in this condition.
Maria nodded and headed to the washroom to calm herself. A few minutes later, she went straight to Alan’s cabin. He was working on a file from the pile he just brought.
Maria asked him to help her book a psychologist’s appointment for today. Alan’s older brother was a psychologist, so it was easy for him to ask for special favors.
‘Liam reserved today’s afternoon slot for you in his clinic. Is that okay for you?’ Alan inquired, and Maria agreed.
‘Would you like me to drive you or-?’ Alan asked after he got off the phone with his brother.
Maria interrupted, ‘that won’t be necessary, I will manage. Please send me the location.’
‘Sure,’ Alan said.
Maria gathered her stuff and left the office right away. She waited at a coffee shop in front of the clinic until the time for her appointment with Liam and sipped on tea while scribbling on a notepad corresponding to her random thoughts.
After several hours of doing that, she still started her session with a blank mind.
With a friendly introductory start, Liam carried a conversation to make her comfortable, but she struggled with opening up to him, yet the 2-hours session ended, making her feel more relaxed than earlier.
Maria stopped by in an Italian restaurant to get some pizza, then headed home.
Walking towards her apartment, she noticed the streets weren’t crowded. Chills ran down her spine when she was stunned by the same sobbing voice again, it was so close that she couldn’t differentiate if it was just near her ears or from within her head, she stood there frozen and her shock intensified as she felt a tightening grip on her left wrist.
‘DIE!’ it hissed in midst of sobbing.
Maria dropped to her knees, terrified, her body felt lifeless and with the faint strength left, she made futile efforts of heaving her hand to break free from that grip.
“P-p-pp-please”, Maria barely whispered before she passed out.
Maria opened her eyes to the sobbing voice again. Chills ran down her spine as she recalled the events before fainting. In fear, she wanted to run away or just disappear, but in reality, she couldn’t move a muscle. The sobbing got louder and louder.
“Die! You will die! Die!” the loud whispers in between sobbing terrified her even more.
Maria covered her ears as she laid on her back. The warm tears flowed from the corner of her eyes on her cold, pale skin.
‘please please please please please stop please please please please please please’ Maria increased the pressure on her ears with her hands as she said in a desperate, squeaky voice.
The sobbing voice halted at once and a second later, Selena walked in. Maria was still begging the sobbing being in the same manner, with her hands firmly pressing against her ears.
Selena rushed towards her, ‘Maria, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s all fine. I’m here, it’s okay!’ Selena said as she hugged Maria and held her icy hands, massaging them for warmth.
A few minutes later, Maria finally calmed herself, but she was too fearful of being left alone. Selena cancelled her evening plans and stayed in.
‘Are you hungry? I’m going to order pizza,’ Selena asked her.
‘Hmm,’ Maria said in a low voice and slowly nodded.
Selena spoke on random topics to distract Maria until the food arrived. While eating, Maria seemed more relaxed.
Selena opened another can of cold beer and handed over to Maria as she sipped in on some herself. ‘So, what happened to you last night? Luckily, I saw you passing out on the street and called for help immediately’
The events from that night vividly played in Maria’s head. She chugged more beer instead of answering.
Selena stared at her for an answer. Even without facing her, Maria realized it and couldn’t ignore it anymore. She raised her eyebrows and looked at Selena with her tired, red eyes that appeared sunken due to the dark circles. ‘you wouldn’t wanna know, believe me; and I don’t want to be suspected as a psychopath either’ Maria’s tone was low yet sharp.
‘If you don’t tell me, I can’t help you; and it’s obviously affecting you a lot so you must reach out’ Selena maintained a sympathetic tone.
‘I started seeing a psychologist. I was on my way back from my first session yesterday. I will see him again next Friday’ Maria wanted to end the conversation.
Selena looked at her for a few moments, then changed the topic again, ‘so you wanna watch something or go out for a walk?’
‘I’m not sure; I’m sorry you had to cancel your plans and thank you for staying with me.’ Maria said gently.
‘Gosh! you don’t have to put it like that, it’s nothing... let’s watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ Selena grabbed the laptop as she shyly responded.
*The next day*
‘Selena, can you drop me at the bus stop on your way?’ Maria said while preparing breakfast. She wanted to avoid walking across that street alone.
‘I will be ready in 10 minutes; we can head out then,’ Selena answered as she hurried to her room.
Maria was already dressed. She grabbed her bag and kept it on the chair next to her, then sat to have breakfast.
‘Should I pack your sandwich or you’ll have time to eat?’ Maria asked in a loud voice so Selena could hear.
‘No time, pack it please,’ Selena replied aloud.
*later in bus*
She kept checking the time restlessly with no deadlines to meet, every moment made her restless. Like she was running out of time.
‘Hello! Alan? This is Maria, mm… Please, can you arrange an appointment for me today? It’s more like an emergency… I’m on my way to the clinic, I will wait at the café there,’ Maria left a voice message after Alan didn’t answer her call for the third time.
She arrived at the last stop and was walking towards the café when Alan called her back.
‘Hello?’ Maria answered the call
‘Hello Maria, sorry; I was in a meeting but I got your message and reserved an appointment at 11am today and stay at the café, Liam will be there for the session…’ Alan said.
Maria glanced at her watch again…
‘Thank you so much, Alan! I really appreciate it’, Maria responded
‘You can get well soon and make it up to me; oo—okay; umm; sorry Maria! it’s a busy day today, I’ll call you later, okay?’ Alan said
‘Sure, uh… take care; bye!’ Maria disconnected the call but actually wanted to speak to him more.
She sat on a table next to the glass walls and looked at the cars passing by… her mind wandered off to a few months old memory of Alan’s confession…
A small teardrop rolled down her cheek as she stared at the glass view with these thoughts… I want to get better and make myself worthy of him. He liked me at my worst and I will become his at my best because that’s what he deserves. I will reach out for help and fix all of this. Yes, I will!’ she told herself and wiped the tear, then pressed her eyes gently for relief.
‘DIE!’ Maria recalled the hissing voice but shook it off right away and resumed reading. She was interrupted by a knock on the table. It was Liam. She gently smiled
‘Good to see you Maria. How are you doing today?’ Liam said in his usual friendly tone.
‘uh- I’m, ah- I’m not doing so well lately’ Maria said hesitantly without maintaining an eye contact.
‘I understand. Things get rough, don’t they?’ Liam didn’t dig in to give her full control and comfort.
Maria's face was flushed as she tried to speak out, ‘uh…. Um…’ She couldn’t make up her mind on how to start.
‘It’s okay, Maria. Take your time, just relax first, take a deep breath; there’s no pressure, I just need you to know that whatever you feel, whatever you say, there will be absolutely no Judgement at all, Alright? Just relax and we may begin when “you” are ready, okay?’ Liam said in a low, friendly voice.
He was so kind, Maria felt the warmth in her heart and wanted to just cry, spilling out all that’s been going on. She already kept getting a feeling that she needs to hurry up, not knowing why.
‘There’s something I’ve been experiencing for quite a long time now. I could hear it all along. It was like a-; like someone crying and yesterday I actually saw and felt it near me and since then; the voice has been getting louder and closer… I am just terrified… I never thought it was just some kind of hallucination but my roommate never noticed it; I was the only one. I still can’t completely accept that it’s just in my head but I have no evidence… I never discussed it with Selena- uh- my roommate, her name’s Selena… I just didn’t want to be laughed at or misjudged… mainly because it’s no way near a joke for me…. But I can’t take it anymore, I really need help Liam! Please help me,’ she said in a low, raspy voice, pleading, to convince him of her truth, and he accepted it without objection.
Liam had some questions for her and a long speech filled with compassion, acceptance, encouragement, and guidance to make her feel better. He also suggested visiting his clinic for some tests, considering medication and regular sessions.
Maria was able to end the session feeling much better again, but she didn’t want to go back home.
She texted Selena on her way back to ask when she will get home. Maria didn’t want to go in alone and roamed on the main street to kill time.
Exiting a bookshop, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her head, and grunted. As soon as she lifted her head, she froze. ‘Y-you- aa-a-again…,’ Maria was terrified. She saw someone as tall as her, dressed in a plain black oversized hoodie, wearing a black mask and swollen, teary eyes exactly like hers. It was just like what she saw before she passed out on the street last time. Before she could pull herself together and react, this person tightly grabbed her wrist while sobbing. Maria stood frozen, staring in horror at this person with her eyes wide open. That person’s grip on her hand got stronger and stronger and at the same rate, the sobbing became louder and louder and eventually it was yowling. Maria screamed in pain. There was a crack sound. Maria’s wrist was broken, but that person continued to put on more pressure. Maria continued to scream in agony until she lost consciousness.
Maria woke up in a hospital. Selena and Alan were near her.
‘What happened to me?’ Maria asked
Alan lowered his head quietly.
Selena ignored her question and moved towards her. Gently touching her shoulder, she asked, ‘How are you feeling, Maria?’
‘What happened to me?’ she repeated her question aloud, in a panicky voice
‘a-a according to the eyewitnesses on the street, y-you… uh; you suddenly broke your own wrist while screaming in pain; uh- u-until you lost consciousness,’ Selena hesitantly responded.
‘I? it wasn’t me, i-it wasn’t me .... no! it was that person,’ She was devastated
Alan stamped forward and tried to comfort her. ‘I know, I know, you are right, I believe you Maria, calm down, Yes, I know I believe you’
Selena couldn’t hold back her tears and left the room.
Alan sat next to her and talked to her until she relaxed and eventually went back to sleep.
Alan watched her sleep peacefully as Liam’s words echoed in his mind, ‘I planned to break it to you after confirmation, but anyway; I suspect bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but she has to be admitted and observed at the clinic to officially diagnose that. I want to arrange an appointment and carry out certain tests to disregard some doubts first. For now, I suggest that you keep an eye on her because it’s dangerous to leave her alone. Meanwhile I will work on her case. Unfortunately, the urgent appointments caused me to not attend her as efficiently as I usually attend my clients’
Alan sat there for a while, then left to finish the pending work and submit it with his leave application at work. His priority was Maria’s well-being and he wanted to fully focus on it.
Maria is feeling better and she’s asleep, you can go back home, I will complete some important work and stay with her, so don’t worry’ Alan said to Selena on his way out.
Maria laid in her bed, thinking about all that has happened. The tears continuously rolled down her face, wetting the pillow.
Three hours of torturous thoughts later, Maria sat up on the bed.
She suddenly heard yowling instead of sobbing.
Gritting her teeth, she held her head with both hands.
The voice now turned into laughter. Mocking, wicked laughter. ‘It’s time to die. Die to let me live, die to let me live!’
Maria finally realized the voices were in her head, not around her. It kept getting louder and louder until Maria felt a blood rush and her own voice overpowered the other one.
“‘So this was the time I was losing?!… last moments of my life leading me to death… and they were all contaminated by your filthy presence. Hearing you sob and freaking out! How dare you?! And; a-and you! You are me? A split…’ she chuckled. ‘I loathe you! You can’t live in me! I will kill you even if that kills me! I will split myself to death rather than splitting my brain and body with you!’” Maria said in a low, enraged tone, with her eyes stretched open and a wrathful grimace.
She grabbed the phone and removed the phone case, then picked the thin, sharp blade.
Holding the blade in her hand, she fixed her gaze on it. ‘Goodbye Alan, the love I couldn’t have…’ she whispered as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Alan and Selena rushed to the hospital on being informed of Maria’s death. They found her wounded body in her room.
“Died fighting herself” These were the last words she left on a note on the side table with a request for it to be on her tombstone...
RIP MARIA 1995-2023. A sharp voice echoed in the empty graveyard….