After almost four months of dreaming I started to hear a voice. Not a clear voice, almost not a voice at all. I imagined it to be like the whistling of wind down a long corridor; my mother had once told me that wind had some faint remnant of sound. That it whispers into silent places. This is how his voice came into my mind. To begin with I assumed that I was daydreaming while sat through my long shifts, that I was beginning to miss human company thanks to my night work, so somewhere in the recesses of my mind company was being created. I didn’t consciously miss my friends, and I did still see them from time to time, but I had to admit to myself that sometimes the long nights were lonely. This theory even held while I was at home with mother, because while there I wouldn’t need company. It’s amazing how well humans can rationalise anything when they try hard enough. I convinced myself that the far away whispers were nothing at all, that the slight echo of a male voice in the dark was just my imagination. Once or twice, I could have sworn I heard a name, but the sound was gone as soon as it had come.
The very notion that I was ‘hearing things’ was laughable, even to me, which was precisely the reason that I didn’t tell anyone else about it. They would have assumed that I’d gone mad, the crazy deaf girl hearing things in the night. They might just have been right, sometimes it scared me that I was imagining these things. I couldn’t figure out how or why it was happening, I simply knew that it was. At least the new puzzle was turning my mind away from the painting. I regularly sat at work so wrapped up in trying to figure out this impossible voice that I forgot all about him and his unyielding, unsettling gaze. It never even occurred to me that the voice could have belonged to him. Why would it have? Sure I was occasionally dreaming about him, but the dreams were always silent. There was no reason that I would be creating a voice for him, he didn’t need one. He was my dream-world phantom, not a tangible being with a voice and a name.
Over time the voice got stronger. It was never loud, I never ‘heard’ any distinguishable words, but its ubiquity increased. I became more aware of it rather than it increasing in volume of frequency. I knew that it was all in my mind, there’s nothing else it could have been, but it was fascinating. I had no memory of any sound; this new sensation was one that captivated me. Perhaps after so many years my brain was trying to make up for what it was missing, create what had been lost. A large part of me hoped that it was. With the growing presence of the voice, came the vague realisation that I was dreaming about the painting nearly every night. Nothing about the dreams had changed; it had gotten to the point where it was strange if I didn’t dream about this mysterious man. While I had previously pondered the meaning of these dreams I had never actively thought about trying to find some message within them. I wouldn’t have even known where to start, or how much truthfulness there is in the idea that all dreams contain some message. The only message I was seeing was the fact that this painting was always on my mind. Still, if there was something more now was the time to find out. So I started in the only way I knew, I asked mother.