In My Ears

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write about someone grappling with an insecurity.... view prompt


Speculative Horror Contemporary

“In My Ears” by Elizabeth Fenley

Ereshkigal is whispering in my ear again. I shake my head and flap my hands flutily around my ears. “No, no, no.”

“Bats attacking you again, Darcy?”

Gregg with two stupid ggs grin at me and laughs. He’s an asshole, and his teeth smell like cockroaches. I ignore him.

“Gregg, that’s enough,” Nurse Ratched tells him. “That’s not productive in group. Darcy, is something wrong?”

I shake my head—a “No” shake this time, not a “Get out of my head!” shake. I don’t like to talk in group. I don’t like to talk to people at all, but she’s in my head all the time, and I keep trying to make her stop.

“It seems like perhaps something might be upsetting you.”

“Other than Greggggggggg?” Leisi replies with a grin, twirling her stringy black hair through her fingers and across her tongue. She hates Gregg too.

“Shut up, Goth Girl Gone.” Gregg hates her back.

Nurse Ratched clears her throat, which means we are about to be in trouble. I don’t like to be in trouble.

“But you deserve to be in trouble, don’t you, Darcy?” Ereshkigal hisses. “You know you do. You always do. You know you’re so fucked up, you need to be punished. That’s why I’m here. And I’m not leaving until you are.”

I clap my hands over my ears and squeeze my eyes shut, rocking back and forth in the chair bolted to the floor. “Go away, go away, go away.”

Nurse Ratched, even though I know that’s not her real name, but I don’t remember it, and that’s what the others call her and laugh, but I don’t understand why, is moving her mouth at me. Then her face twists, and she becomes Ereshkigal. Her brown stone face stretches obscenely and cracks, pieces crumbling off and falling on her naked body.

I scream as the big man and the woman with the short hair grab me under the arms and pick me up over the back of my chair. “No, I’ll be good, I’ll be good, don’t take me away! I promise I’ll be good!”

“You know you can’t be good. You aren’t good, Darcy. You don’t know how to be good. You never have.” She uses my mother’s voice even mom’s been dead for twenty years. “You’ve always been useless, worthless, fat, ugly, stupid—”

“No, no, no, no,” I yell, but they take me to the room with the buckles on the bed, and I cry.

The whole time I’m strapped down to the bed, she talks in my ears, floats around the ceiling, and I try to close my eyes because I don’t want to see her breasts and her... down there, but she doesn’t have any stone clothes to cover herself up, and she doesn’t seem to mind even though I would, and I think she must be cold. Her rough tongue slides across my face, peeling off my skin and ripping out my eyelids so I can’t close my eyes so I don’t have to see her. I throw up on myself, choking and pulling at the wrist buckles. Ereshkigal cackles like the witch with the winged monkeys and the sound bounces and bounces off the walls until someone comes in a stabs me in the arm with something.

Everything fades.

“Darcy? Darcy? Darcy, can you hear me?”

My eyelids have grown back, so I keep them squeezed so hard they hurt, but I can’t squeeze my ears shut. I don’t want a voice back in them.

“Darcy, it’s Dr. Kotes. Do you remember me, Darcy? I’m your psychiatrist, your doctor.”

The voice doesn’t sound like Ereshkigal. It sounds like a man. I remember a man. His voice might sound like that—or it might be a trick. I decide I’ll just nod and keep my eyes squeezed into my head, and maybe if I squish them hard enough they’ll go into my head so I’ll never have to see again.

“That’s good, Darcy.”

He still sounds like a man, like an echo of a voice mail I heard somewhere.

“Darcy, can you tell me your last name?”

I nod.

“Darcy, what is your last name? I need you to say it out loud for me, please.”

He said please. Ereshkigal never says please. My mother didn’t either.


“What city are we in?”


“Good, good, Darcy. That’s excellent. Do you know where we are?”


“I mean what kind of building are we in, Darcy?”

I shake my head and scrunch my eyes harder. I don’t want to say it.

“It’s ok if you don’t. But I think you know.”

“The place… for …bad people, bad people… like me….”

“Not for bad people, Darcy. You aren’t bad. It’s a hospital, a place where we can make people feel better. Do you understand that?”

“Yes.” I know that’s the right answer, the answer he wants me to say so I say it.

“Good. Do you think you could open your eyes for me?”

I shake my head. I wait for him to get mad, yell, throw things, hit me. I wait for Ereshkigal to wake up in my ears, but she doesn’t.

“That’s ok. You don’t have to open your eyes right now. But I need to ask you some questions to see how you are feeling and see if we can take those restraints off you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, please, please, I’ll be good, please.” But I shouldn’t have said I’d be good because Ereshkigal wakes up in the middle of my brain and pushes herself out of my nose and back into my ears. It hurts, and I start to cry.

“Darcy, everything is fine. You’re safe here. I’m here to help you.”

“I’m not,” she rasps. “I’m here to make you suffer. Because you deserve it, don’t you?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I sob.

“Darcy, are you hearing the voice?”

I nod, my face running with tears and snot and whatever poison Ereshkigal sprayed on me.

“What does the voice say?”

“I-I-I’m bad. I have to be punished, to suffer, because I’m bad and stupid and worthless.”

“You aren’t bad, Darcy. You’re sick, and I want to help you. Does the voice tell you to do things?”

I shake my head hard. “No. Just how bad I am, ugly and useless.”

“Does the voice tell you to hurt yourself?”


“Does the voice tell you to hurt other people?”


“Ok, that’s good, Darcy, very good.”

“No, it isn’t. You shouldn’t talk to him. See how stupid you are? You think he wants to help you. You idiot. He knows how bad you are. He wants to punish you too. He knows you need to be punished.”

“I’m going to adjust your medication so we can make you more comfortable, see if we can help you quiet that voice.”

“Not going to work. You aren’t getting rid of me, and neither is he. You’re mine. Mine, mine, mine.”

Something stabs me in the arm, and I scream. I don’t know if it’s him or her.

I hear her laughing, then quieter, and quieter.

It’s different. I’m sitting up now. I have wheels instead of feet. I don’t have to walk anywhere. One of the men in green candy wrappers pushes me and my wheels go. I don’t even have to think about it.

No one asks me questions anymore. I don’t have to tell them anything.

I don’t have to tell them she’s still in my ears, she still flies around my new room when they put me onto the bed. I can still try to squash my eyes under my eyelids so they can’t open, but my hands won’t move right to cover my ears—they flap around on the bed next to me like dying fish. And Ereshkigal howls with her splitting face, telling me I’m getting what I deserve, lying there helplessly. She says she’s ripped my voice right out of my throat and all the muscles out from under my skin.

Now I have to sit up on my wheels or lie on my bed forever because that’s what you get when you are bad like me.

October 03, 2021 12:27

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Zelda C. Thorne
12:15 Oct 08, 2021

Well, I was hooked. At the beginning I was confused, but then I realised that was the whole point! Very effective way of describing this characters internal struggle. Nice one!


Elizabeth Fenley
18:18 Oct 08, 2021

Thank you. I was great fun to write, sick as that seems. I love the ambiguity of the questionable narrator.


Zelda C. Thorne
18:58 Oct 08, 2021

Yes, I always enjoy those too.


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Jon Casper
16:07 Oct 03, 2021

Excellent work. Pulled me right in and kept me there. Very clever depiction of this person's torment. I love that the nature of Ereshkigal is not certain: is she insane and imagining this demon, or is she a sane person possessed by it? Scary to think of the latter -- where no one believes you and just thinks you're crazy. How awful that the meds only serve to make her defenseless.


Elizabeth Fenley
17:39 Oct 03, 2021

Thanks. I love writing through unreliable narrators. Or maybe they write through me. Who knows?


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Kathleen `Woods
18:40 Oct 08, 2021

I can't screech anything on account of a recent and unplanned anti-Pescatarian diet. Darcy's hallucinations seem to be very consistent which is a plus for the flow of the work overall, this made it very easy to keep pace while slightly distracted. Your word choice in line with that was nice by ear even if the subject and chosen sequence were meant to be unsettling. Thanks for Writing!


Elizabeth Fenley
11:52 Oct 09, 2021

Thank you. I like to keep pace snappy. Wouldn't it be exquisitely unsettling if the visitor in her ear wasn't just Darcy's hallucination?


Kathleen `Woods
16:05 Oct 09, 2021



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