The Voice of the Night

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Write about a character who doesn’t want to go to sleep.... view prompt

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Inspirational Drama Speculative

“Sorry, tell me again what happens when you turn off the lights?”

A rattling breath preceded the answer. “Cold… I can’t breathe… The weight on my chest suffocates me… I can feel… the walls of my skull crushing my brain… No sleep.” 

An older woman in glasses scribbled a note on her pad, saying in a soft voice, “I see… And this voice you talk about-” 

“The voice of the night,” he interjected in a hoarse tone, feeling his heartbeat quicken.

“Does he only talk to you when it’s dark?” Her brilliant eyes shone through her glasses. 

He nodded in a jerking motion. “Yes,” he whispered. “It’s always him.” 

“Jamie, have you been keeping that journal we talked about last week?” she asked, still scribbling. 

Another jerk of a nod. “It’s… in my coat pocket.”

“Do you mind if I read it?” 

Jamie shook his head. “No… Of course not.” His eyes became fixed on a shady area in the corner of the room, and though a blanket of clouds shielded the sun from dancing that day, he thought he saw something move within the darkness. He jolted himself to an upright position, about to cry out when Dr. Abraham cleared her throat. 

“This is… very interesting, Jamie…” She ran her finger down the small page and paused, asking, “Can I read this part out loud to you?”

He tried to shift his gaze to her, but he couldn’t stop looking at the corner. “Go ahead,” he muttered, his sandpaper voice grating on his own ears. 

“This is from last Wednesday,” she began, “‘He speaks to me in shrouded whispers, he says, “I am the voice you hear on the night whispering your worst fears into the depths of your heart. The sound of your teeth chattering as the cold wind bites you and forces your soul to shiver is a premonition of my arrival. When you look into an inky shadow and your mind forms all the fears you hide even from yourself, I am those fears. The flutter in your chest as you hear a rustle in the alley, the half step you walk faster when the streetlights are dim, the reckoning you know you will face in the afterlife… they are me, and I am them. When the twilight drips into the sewers, I will be there to haunt your every move, and when you close your eyes and view the darkness of your subconscious reflected on the backs of your eyelids, I will peel away the curtain and view it with you, for it is me and I will make myself known to you in ways you cannot imagine.”’, and then you go on to add, ‘can’t sleep.’… It’s very poetic. ”

Jamie’s face was a deathly pale, his gaze stagnant and horrified as sweat began to build on his face. He pointed to the corner and whispered, “He’s there!” 

“Who? Who is there, Jamie?” Dr. Abraham looked at the corner and frowned. “Do you see something there?”

The patient shook his head. “I… I feel something there!” 

“And what does this thing ‘feel’ like to you?” She pulled out her pad again. 

“Like… Like him!” he said, frustration creeping into his voice. 

“Like who, Jamie?”

“The voice of the night!” 

Dr. Abraham penned a few words. “And what does he feel like?”

Jamie struggled for words, his hands gripping into the chaise lounge, though there weren’t many places to hold. Finally, he said, “Like… fear… asphyxiation… cold… But so cold that it burns… I… I can hear him now!” 

“What’s he saying to you, Jamie?”

Jamie swallowed, his brown eyes wide and his eyebrows arched into his hairline. He began in a voice not quite his own, “You can’t… escape… You can’t… hide. The nameless things you keep locked away, I will… make them bare. Sleep… sleep and I will find you in your dreams and make them nightmares of shadow.”

“Jamie… Jamie,” said Dr. Abraham, finally getting her patient to turn his head slightly towards her. “I thought you said this voice only comes to you when it’s dark. It’s two in the afternoon.” 

“It’s dark,” whispered Jamie, tears welling up in his eyes. “I’m… tired… so tired, and the shadow is everything now… it’s dark.” 

“Can you confront the darkness? Can you close your eyes?” 

He shook his head hard, his hair swirling around. “He’ll find me.” 

Dr. Abraham stood up and knelt next to Jamie, quietly saying, “Please try, Jamie. Please. You’re focusing on the darkness, but you need to be able to close your eyes. Try and find that within you. Remember when we talked about your favorite places?”

“Yes…”

She smiled and said, “You told me your favorite place was Hawaii-”

“Waikiki Beach…”

“Yes, Jamie. Can you go there right now? In your head, can you find the beach?”

“It’s too dark to swim.” 

“Think of a hot summer day… The sun a blinding beacon in a clear blue sky, the softness of the white sand beneath your feet, and the sweat cooling you down as a salty breeze hits you from the ocean. Lapping waves of clear water against a silky shore… Can you picture that?”

“Uh-huh. But the clouds-”

“There are no clouds, Jamie,” said Dr. Abraham. “Take yourself there…”

“Okay…”

“Alright, now… close your eyes.”

“What?” Jamie’s voice was sharp. 

Dr. Abraham pursed her lips and said, “Close your eyes on Waikiki Beach… Just follow my voice. Hear it over the kids laughing as they play, the music coming from up the shore, and the birds… Can you hear all those things, Jamie?”

“Yes,” he murmured, finally closing his eyes, though his knuckles were still white as he held onto the couch. 

“And can you hear my voice over those things?” 

Jamie nodded. “Yes, doctor, I can hear you.”

“Am I the only person whose voice you can hear clearly?” As tightly as Jamie gripped the couch, Dr. Abraham clutched her pen. 

“No… Someone else…” 

Jamie’s eyes almost opened, but Dr. Abraham swiftly replied, “Keep your eyes closed and focus on my voice. I’m there with you, Jamie, walking along the beach. The sand’s pretty hot, isn’t it?”

“Yes… Can we… walk closer to the water?” 

“Of course. Let’s go there.” Dr. Abraham paused and then said, “Can you feel the coolness of the water? How about the small waves just coming up to your ankles, testing their strength as they climb your shin with gentle fingers?” 

“I can feel that… I like it.” 

“I do too, Jamie. Now, I want you to keep your eyes closed, and just keep walking on the beach and following my voice until I say so, okay?” Dr. Abraham’s heartbeat was rapid as she looked at Jamie’s pale face beginning to relax. 

“Now, you said there’s another voice. Whose is it?”

Jamie frowned. “Deep… It’s… too deep.”

“What’s too deep? The voice?”

“No… the ocean. The water’s up to my waist… I don’t like it.”

Dr. Abraham nodded. “Let’s walk back to the shore a little.” After a brief pause, she said, “There. Can you feel the water on your feet again?”

“Yes.”

“It’s no higher than my ankles, is it the same for you?”

He nodded. “I like it.”

The doctor smiled and adjusted her spectacles. “I do too. Why’d you go so deep into the ocean, Jamie?”

“That’s where the voice is,” he replied. “It’s in the ocean… way out there.”

“And you don’t like the ocean?”

“I like the beach.”

“Yes, but what about the ocean beyond the beach? Can you look out there for me now?”

Jamie’s face tightened as his eyes turned beneath closed eyelids. “I don’t want to.” 

“Are you scared?” 

“Uh-huh.” Jamie’s voice gained an octave. 

The doctor wrote furiously, trying to keep the pen light on the paper to avoid perturbing the scene. “What about the ocean frightens you?”

There was a pregnant pause where each person took a few breaths; Jamie’s were rattled and Dr. Abrahams were constricted. At last, he replied, “I… can’t see in the ocean. My feet, my legs… what’s out there.”

“So you don’t like that you don’t know what’s in the ocean?”

“Yeah… It hurts me.” 

“That voice you were talking about earlier, how does it sound?”

Frowning, Jamie muttered, “Sounds like… me…”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was… you know, but maybe…”

“You think the voice out there is you, Jamie?” asked Dr. Abraham. “Why do you think that?”

“I… I don’t know. I like this place, but I don’t like the ocean.”

“Because the ocean is unknown, but here you know everything?”

Jamie took half a breath and said, “Yes…”

“Did you feel that wind, Jamie? It came from inland… It’s warm.” 

The patient smiled. “Yes, I felt it.” 

“When you picture the ocean, is the sun there?”

“No… no sun.”

Dr. Abraham ticked off a few things. “What about clouds? Are there clouds?”

“I… I don’t think so…”

“Why are you so uncertain?”

“I… the sky is black. There’s no light to tell me if there’s clouds, I can’t see anything-”

Dr. Abraham noticed his knuckles go white and interrupted, “In the ocean it’s dark, but here where you are, Jamie, at the beach, it’s nice and bright. Can’t you feel the sun on your face? I can feel it.”

For a horrifying moment, Jamie looked lost in the dark, but he relaxed and said, “I feel the sun here, doctor.”

“Jamie, while we’re walking on the beach, can you tell me about your job?”

“My job?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Abraham, trying to push her heart out of her throat. “You’re a detective, right? I heard you’re pretty good.”

“Detective… Yes, I think I am.” 

“How long have you been doing it?” 

Jamie frowned. “Six years… Why am I on the beach?”

“We’re on vacation, Jamie. You and I. Look over to the left, what do you see?”

“The ocean.”

“Alright, and what do you see to the right?”

“A white hotel.”

“We’re staying there,” said Dr. Abraham, trying to refocus the conversation. “Can you tell me why you like being a detective?”

“I… I like solving puzzles, and I like when people who have bad things happen to them… get justice.” Jamie’s face, though sweaty and fearful, began to show pride through the sternness of his chin and the furrowing of his brow. 

“I think the tide’s coming in, Jamie, can you feel it?”

“Yes… the water’s up to my ankles now.”

“Please, tell me about the first case you solved.” 

Jamie paused to ponder, and then said, “It was a burglary with vandalism… Over at the Conways’ place, d’you know them?”

“I think I do. Continue.”

“We found some prints. Turns out it was a maid they’d fired the year before who wasn’t happy with her severance pay.” Jamie smiled. “Pretty cut and dry.”

“I bet you had a lot of cases like that.”

“Oh yeah. It’s not exactly NYPD stuff.”

“What does that mean?”

Jamie chuckled and said, “Well, those guys have to deal with serial killers, mass shootings, gang violence… that kind of stuff. We mostly have small time break-ins and some car crashes, y’know?”

“Hey Jamie, can you see those kids playing with the beachball over to your left?”

After a moment, he said, “Yes…”

“I think it’s cool how light it looks with the sun glancing off the side as it floats in the air. Do you find that interesting?”

“Yeah, I suppose…” Jamie’s voice was slow but a smile played on his lips. 

“Now, you were saying you mostly dealt with small crimes as a detective.”

“Yes.”

Dr. Abraham pursed her lips and asked carefully, “But not all the cases were like that, were they, Jamie?”

His eyes moved from left to right beneath his eyelids. “No… No they weren’t.”

“Can you tell me about your last case?”

Jamie shifted uncomfortably in the chaise lounge, scratching the gray stubble on his face. “I… I don’t think-”

“Focus on the tones of my voice over everything, Jamie,” said Dr. Abraham in a stony voice. “Hear the waves, the breeze, the birds, the people, and your breath, but follow my voice over all of them.”

“Oh… okay.” 

“Now, while we’re on this beach, do you think you can tell me about your last case?” 

Jamie’s hands balled into fists, though his knuckles did not turn white. “The voice of the night… that was his name.”

“Whose name?”

“Dorian Smith… the night watchman.” 

Dr. Abraham shook her pen to get the ink to the front, trying to write her thoughts down as fast and quietly as she could. “Who was the night watchman?”

“Serial killer,” whispered Jamie, his voice no longer hoarse. 

“And he killed at night?”

“Yes.” The patient remained still in the chair. 

“Had you dealt with a serial killer before, Jamie?” asked Dr. Abraham. 

“Yes…” 

“And why is Dorian different?”

Jamie shook his head slowly. “I don’t know… We caught the other ones before…” 

“Before what?”

“Before they hurt someone in the department.” Tears began leaking out of Jamie’s eyes, but he didn’t wipe them. 

“Who did they hurt in the police department?” Dr. Abraham waited for Jamie to answer, but when he did not, she asked, “What happened to Dorian Smith?”

“We caught him… He’s in jail,” said Jamie, adding, “The water’s getting too high, doctor.”

“It’s fine,” she said, “It’s just the tide.” 

“Okay.”

“Now, did he hurt someone in the department?”

Jamie’s tears dripped on the chaise lounge. “Yes… Matty…”

“Matty… Matthew Johnson? He was a detective, wasn’t he?”

“My… partner,” he choked, “and his daughter… my godchild.” 

Dr. Abraham paused and put down the pad and placed a delicate hand on her patient’s forearm. “Can you feel my hand on your arm, Jamie?” He nodded, so she finished, “I’m so sorry. Have you lost a partner before?”

“Once,” said Jamie after a few deep breaths. “The water-”

“That’s just the tide,” repeated Dr. Abraham. “What was your other partner’s name?”

“Gary Smith…”

She picked up her pad again and jotted down a few notes. “Did you seek help after Gary’s death?” 

“No… I didn’t.”

“I see. Why is that?” 

“Didn’t need it.” 

“You two weren’t close?”

“We were close…”

Dr. Abraham frowned. “Then why didn’t you need help? You didn’t hear voices after him, did you?”

“No…” Jamie took a few thoughtful breaths, adding, “Gary died in a random shootout with some druggie who came up from the city to rob a place. It was an accident, and there’s nothing I could’ve done. I wasn’t even there… He was off-duty.”

“Wasn’t Matty off-duty? He was killed in his home, and you were at your own home, right Jamie?” 

“Yes, but…” he again took a few breaths before continuing, “There were clues… things I should’ve known that I didn’t. If I’d worked harder… If I was smarter, all the clues were leading to a cop being the next victim, and since we were the head detectives on the case, it was clear he or I was gonna be the target, but he had a family - wife, two kids… I had nothing. Dorian’s MO was big, flashy kills… I should’ve known it’d be Matty. I could’ve protected him.”

“You think Matty died because of what you didn’t know?” asked Dr. Abraham.

“I’m sure of it.”

Dr. Abraham smiled. “Can you feel the water receding, Jamie? I think the tide’s going out.”

“I… I feel it.” 

“See, that’s what the tide does. It comes in, and sometimes it comes in quickly, but it goes out, too. The ocean can’t hurt you like this, when you know about the tides. Matty’s death wasn’t your fault. This ‘night watchman’ was - is, a criminal, and he’s been brought to justice because of work you did. Jamie, you saved countless lives when you brought him into custody. Thanks to you, that man won’t kill anyone again.” 

“I… I guess.” His tone was uncertain.  

Dr. Abraham silently took off her shoes. “You know, there’s a similarity between the darkness and the ocean, Jamie. Can you tell me what it is?” 

“I don’t know.” 

She padded over to the shadowy corner, finding the lamp with her hand. “Just like the tide, the darkness also recedes. Every night has a dawn.” She turned the light on. 

“Why do you sound further down the beach?” asked Jamie. 

“I’m just walking a little faster. You can follow me if you open your eyes.” 

His eyes fluttered open, and he squinted in the light. “Doctor… Dr. Abraham… is that the same-”

“The same corner, Jamie.” She walked back over to him and knelt by his side, smiling as she said, “Every time you close your eyes, I want you to go to the beach. Remember Matty, but remember all the good things about his life, not the circumstances of his death, and use it as a light. Can you do that for me?” 

Jamie looked at the corner. “Yes…”

“Now, I want you to go home and try to sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Dr. Abraham stood up and led him out of her office. 

Somehow, Jamie made it home in a daze as the sun set over his lawn. He went to his bedroom, lit by a hundred light bulbs, and began turning each one off. He closed his blinds and made his way to the bed, the last lamp on his nightstand fighting a losing battle with the shadows in his room. His heart began to beat quicker, a voice seeping into his mind, but he thought of the beach and of the tides, and the darkness retreated from his perception, the voice fading into an afterthought. Jamie slumped into the pillows with a small smile on his face, falling into dreams undisturbed by the voice of the night. 

March 21, 2022 03:53

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2 comments

L.M. Lydon
23:30 Mar 27, 2022

I like how the therapist talks Jamie through his difficulties. I was afraid this was going to go very south, but it had a happy ending. The imagery you have her use is very vivid.

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Dhruv Srivastava
11:41 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you, LM! I originally felt the story was going to go south myself, but as I kept writing, I realized that it was far too predictable and gloomy to have a sour ending. Glad you enjoyed!

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