Contest #103 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Horror

Eliza MacDougall is hearing voices.

She tells her father, over breakfast one morning. “There’s an invisible woman talking at me.” 

“To, you, dear,” her father corrects absently, as he butters her toast, “talking to,” and they speak no more of it.

She tries to tell her mother the same, peeking her head around the doorway of her study, where her mother sits on the rug covered floor, surrounded by textbooks. Her mother does not turn her head and simply shooes her away with her notetaking hand.

She does scribble a reminder, somewhere in the margins of a psychology journal, to look into the incident, later. Six, she is sure, is rather too old to be inventing an imaginary friend.


Eliza MacDougall is hearing voices.

One voice, really, but it rings and echoes about her mind in multitudes, and sometimes she hears the words shadowed in different timbres, and they crowd her head and drown out her own voice.

She relates this sentiment to a teacher one day, word for word. He is awed by the metaphorical depth he perceives in her words, and notes that Eliza MacDougall is a rather precocious young girl, with a vocabulary and grasp of language evolved far beyond her peers.

Of course, when asked, she has no satisfactory reply for where she learned all her many words. Experience has taught her not to mention the voice feeding her the answers, and claiming that the information was already in her head, true though it is, didn’t go down well, so instead she stays silent.

Eliza MacDougall is also slowly gaining a reputation for being arrogant.

She bears it. What choice does she have? The voice comes and goes as it pleases, and her mother’s friends marvel at her growing lexicon, while her father ponders the eternal question of its origin, and her teachers note with some bemusement that while she knows a great many words, her spelling is absolutely atrocious.


She doesn’t have many friends. Eliza MacDougall hears voices, but tells no one because no one will believe her, and though she hides her secret well, it comes at the cost of isolating from people lest she let something slip.

She is eleven years old, and her parents are worried.

Some days, the voice is the only human conversation she manages to have, one sided as it is. Really, she ought to be grateful. At least someone is keeping her from succumbing to the lonely void.

“Say thank you, Eliza.”

The constant silence and secrecy, have created a rather sullen girl, all in all. In a desperate bid to socialise her, her father invited the neighbour’s son to come over for dinner. He is a friendly boy, a year younger and full of enough conversation for the both of them, and the evening has been lively despite Eliza saying very little.

They stand at their front door now, seeing him out. Her father nudges Eliza, while the boy natters on. “Thank your guest for coming, Eliza,” he mutters, “be polite.” 

Her guest is unperturbed, and takes his leave cheerfully, but had he thrown a fit right there on the doorstep it would have made no difference. Eliza is not paying attention. She stopped hearing anything happening outside of her own head, tuned in to the words of another for the past minute.

Say thank you, Eliza.


“Eliza MacDougall is hearing voices,” snickers someone in the back row.

Eliza has not told them that she hears voices. But if you periodically slap your own head, cover your ears, and hiss threats and warnings to seemingly no one, well… It isn’t a hard conclusion to draw.

Her fists clench, nails biting into palms, tense and familiar. 

She does her best to ignore the giggles spreading behind her, and instead focuses forwards, standing up slowly at her teacher’s beck.

The teacher has been recounting the People’s Crusade for the past half hour, and asks Eliza where Rainald led his people after leaving Constantinople. Eliza doesn’t know. 

The answer is Xerigordos, a fortress in Anatolia, which they captured and then lost in siege within a fortnight. Xerigordos, X-e-r-i-g-o-r-d-o-s.

She parrots this back to her teacher, who nods, satisfied if somewhat nonplussed by the response. Eliza sits back down.

She pointedly does not thank the voice in her head.



Eliza MacDougall is sixteen when she finally snaps, and bursts her own eardrum with her mother’s hatpin.

It doesn’t work. Of course it didn’t. Even half deaf, Eliza MacDougall is hearing voices.

Years ago, she had tried to convince herself that the voice was her own, a figment of her mind, or else her own thoughts. But she has long since abandoned that illusion - the voice knows things she does not, knows her own thoughts and distinguishes between them, and has a tone that always dances along the edge of mocking. 

But one thing is for certain - the voice is inside her own head. It will find her no matter what; there is no drowning it out, beyond perhaps drowning yourself.

The stained pin falls from her fingers, impact muffled by the red flecked rug, and Eliza does not move from where she sits cross-legged on the floor, until her father finds her frozen there, head tilted back and dark blood crusted around her ear.

His scream is muted to her ears, and she ignores his dithering in the doorway. Her eyes are fixed in place on the wall before her.

The wallpaper is simple: a plain white expanse, headed with two thick stripes, in navy and cornflower blue. And it’s funny, but as she listens to the voice narrating her life, she can almost imagine the echo of the words spread out in front of her, in neat lines of even black print.


It isn’t long before the white coats come for her.

She sleeps in her new room in Statton County Lunatic Asylum, and the voices have not left.

They croon at her, words rising and falling in teasing lilt. They whisper in the dead of night, sweet lullabies and cruel truths in equal turn. She has a horrifying suspicion, that some of the voices are new, inventions of her own mind, brought on by the isolation.

She’s right.


“Eliza MacDougall is hearing voices.”

She mutters along, alone in her secure cell, half deaf and defeated. She pictures the words appearing in front of her as the voice speaks, neatly printed along the walls. Maybe they really are there - she doesn’t know anymore. 

This is how she spends her days, without visitors and without hope, and in desperate need of distraction.

Why don’t you come and say hello, Eliza? People are dying to meet you.

July 24, 2021 01:41

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Soul 9000
18:52 Aug 01, 2021

hello there im trying to be a horror storyteller on my youtube channel so im wondering if i can tell your storie on youtube


A Mehendale
22:39 Aug 01, 2021



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Gerald Daniels
17:52 Aug 05, 2021

Loved your story, to my mind it's a winner through and through. I think you attacked the theme from an oblique angle and it worked. Super.


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Trina High
05:42 Aug 01, 2021

What a captivating, if sad, read. Poor Eliza and real people like her.


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Shea West
20:03 Jul 31, 2021

This was eerie. The way that you built up Eliza's mental health state with each subsequent break had me thinking. In life, people often speak up about their mental health. They're discounted, invalidated, ignored, untreated. I feel like you captured that here for Eliza, that all of those mental health issues escalated and without care, until she takes it into her own hands. Congrats on the shortlist!


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19:50 Jul 30, 2021

The story's awesome,I really loved the way you brought it out, people actually dismiss such cases , bravo! For bring it out beautifully.I really enjoyed it thaank you.


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Amanda Lieser
17:42 Jul 30, 2021

My heart was absolutely shattered by the beauty of this piece. I really appreciated how you painted the conflict and fear within the main character and her community. I thought you did a great job choosing your repetitive phrase. Thank you for writing this story and congratulations on getting shortlisted.


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04:18 Jul 30, 2021

Very very creepy!


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Andrea Magee
19:17 Jul 29, 2021

Creepy....poor Eliza.


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