Normally I sleep through the night and dream away the darkness until the morning light.
But not tonight.
Tonight I have tossed and turned in the quiet darkness of my room. Seeing every hour pass by silently without a noise echoing through the sleepy house. Watching the numbers on my phone flicker to show the current time.
A slight panic coursed through my veins at the realisation of what time it was.
The words of my Great Grandad rang through my head.
Never be awake during the witching hour.
If you are, pretend to be asleep.
Because if you are awake, they will find you.
As a child, I was too scared to ask who ‘they’ are but it was probably just a story to make me fall asleep. Even though that is probably the case, just a story to make sure I fell asleep, I bury my head under the duvet and pretend that I am sleeping.
Eventually, I begin to drift in and out of sleep when the sound of whispering brushes past my ear. I jolt up, but all I can see is the empty darkness yet more whispers fill my ears. None of the whispering is coherent enough to understand what exactly is being said.
The sound of whispers filling a sleepy house is weird. No. Unusual. Especially considering I can still hear the snores of those sleeping above the sound of whispers. I just shrug it off to my imagination running wild. Curling up, I fall asleep in the hope that I am hearing the whispers due to a lack of sleep.
But, when I wake up the whispers are still there.
There was no mistaking that the whispers were still there, they had grown louder since last night. But still, I could not tell what they were saying.
Sleepily, I trudged downstairs and joined Jake, my older brother, at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. Jake looked just as tired as I felt, maybe he had heard the whispering too. Speaking of the whispering, they had followed me to the kitchen. I had to focus on Jake and what he was saying to me. I had to concentrate. I had to listen through the static of whispers.
“Jessie are you okay?” Jake asked as I tried to find where the whispering was coming from. Maybe he was just as tired as I was because he was behind the whispering. Maybe he had put a speaker in my room and played whispers through it since 3 last night. I just need to find the speaker. Stop the whispering before it drives me insane.
“Yeah, can’t you hear that?” I ask back, looking past his exhausted figure. Desperately, looking for where the whispering is coming from.
“Hear what?” Jake asked real confusion written across his face as he raised a concerned eyebrow at me. Either Jake had taken up acting classes because normally he would have been laughing at me and shoving the speakers in my face, or he really had no idea what I was talking about.
“Nothing, my brain must still be dreaming” I laugh awkwardly, rubbing my hand on the back of my neck. Jake just shakes his head at me before returning to his now soggy bowl of cereal.
With the whispering continuing to follow me, I decided to try and ignore the whispers as I attempt to go about my day. Noticing that the whispers became louder around certain objects in the house, to the point that they almost become deafening. But I push that to the back of my mind as I could no longer just ignore the whispers. They had become too loud. I had to do something otherwise I could not continue without going truly insane. I decide to drown out the whispers by filling my ears with my earphones and the sound of my music.
For days I filled my ears with music so I couldn’t hear the deafening whispers.
So that I could focus on everything else.
So that I could sleep through the night.
That was until the day I had to help sort out the boxes in the attic.
As what had become commonplace in the last few days, since the whispers started, I looked through the boxes in the attic with my music blasting through my earphones. Each box had to be sorted, items that we didn’t want or need were to be placed in black bags depending on whether they were going to be thrown away or were going to be sold. Everything else would be kept and stored in the boxes in the attic.
With my music accompanying me I had made quick work of sorting through the boxes, that is until I made it to the last box. The whispers were becoming louder and louder until a blast of static rang in my ears. Ripping out my earphones, I throw them to the ground in haste. Trying to get as much distance between me and the blast of static that was still blasting through my earphones. Just as soon as I removed my earphones, the whispers filled my ears once more.
The whispers had been following me for days. Weeks even.
“What the hell do you want?” I shout at the empty nothingness of the attic. Hoping that the whispers would respond. But they just continued to whisper incoherent whispers past my ears.
With anger bubbling through my veins, I grabbed the last box. I had to carry on with what I was doing. I could not let the whispers control me. I can’t let the whispers drive me insane.
The whispers were shouting at me.
I sorted through the last box. Old newspaper clippings practically crumbled at a single touch. Polaroid photographs of a family, labelled in cursive writing as Christmas day 1956. This box must have been up here for decades, people must have just left it up here as they moved in and then out of the house. Remaining untouched until now.
My fingertips brushed against the cold metal. Picking it up, I found a silver chain necklace with an intricate pattern with emeralds adorning it. The same as the one the woman was wearing in the polaroid photographs.
The whispers had become deafening.
But so was the silence that followed.
Nothing could be heard as it seemed that time itself slowed.
Dust particles were suspended in the light streaming through the only window. There, standing in front of me was a middle-aged woman. Her dark hair was pinned and curled up into a fancy updo. Her red dress puffed out from the waist had long but faded, but you could just make out the white polka dots covering the dress. She was the woman from the polaroid photographs.
“Thank you my child for finding my necklace. I have been looking for it for a lifetime.” Her voice was hypnotic and sounded like harps playing on a summer breeze.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But I had been hearing whispers for weeks now, with no explanation.
Shakily I held out my hand, the one holding the necklace, for the woman to take. After all, it was her necklace. But instead of taking it, she curled my fingers around it.
“I can rest now that it has been found. My child, look after the necklace”
Time returned to normal as the woman disappeared into the particles of dust that were no longer suspended in the sunlight that was streaming through the window. The dust that was once captured in the light continued to fly and settle on the ground.
I would have thought that the whispers would have disappeared with the woman, but they stayed.
Whispers once more filled my ears, softer this time. No longer in desperate need for me to listen. But the whispers nonetheless continued.
Leading me to other objects.
Objects that they had lost.
Objects that they wanted.
Objects that told me their stories.