The Voice was almost smooth. If silk was audible, then Tobias figured that that’s how it would sound.
It came to him one day as he sat alone, as he always did at this time of day, reading quietly to himself as the other children of his age played. Nine is a difficult age, as any child knows, and Tobias’ nine-year-old lifestyle did not make him any easier to accept. Whilst he was not rejected by the other children of the school playground, he simply didn’t enjoy being with them. He preferred his books, for in there, he was the centre, and he understood everything.
Tobias chose to read books way beyond the skill of most other children, and often he would have trouble reading them himself, but he was determined and enthusiastic about reading, and was never intimidated by words or entire chapters that floated above his head in a cloud of misunderstanding. He enjoyed finding the definitions of these words, and although he would have forgotten them within a day or two, he knew that if he was challenged with the same word again, he would not falter, and his memory would give him a little nudge in the right direction.
The Voice, at first, was almost inaudible, shrouded in the cries and shouts of children bounding through along on the tarmac beneath, or darting in between the trees hoping to remain hidden from the seeker. Although the voice stood out as different from the others around him – more smooth, slightly husky, but no doubt young, and feminine – Tobias ignored it for the first several minutes of undistinguishable chatter.
Trying to lose himself in the book once more, he let the slight breeze ruffle his dark hair. Although it was late May, and the summer was finally peeping out from behind the drizzle of spring, Tobias couldn’t repress the small shivers that tingled down his spine, like a swarm of ants crawling all over his body, tickling and touching with their legs and feelers. Tobias had now completely lost concentration on his book, and quickly darted around to check that there were in fact no creepy crawlies sliding slyly up his back. He gave a little huff when he saw that his back and bum were clear, but was unable to look back to his book, and so closed the cover, memorising the page number, and placing it gently on the patch of grass that enclosed him.
For several minutes, Tobias simply watched the sky, looking at the clouds and then watching the other children as they played. His tranquil moment was strangely interrupted once more by the – now slightly louder – smooth Voice.
It had to be coming from somewhere, and although it was still almost silent, it was increasing in volume, and sounded as though it was coming from somewhere quite close by.
Leaning away from the tree that he sheltered beneath every lunchtime, Tobias swung his head back and forth, curious as to the source of this whisper. Getting slowly to his feet, he poked his head around the back of the tree, convinced that it must be a cruel trick by some of the boys in the higher years. It was, to Tobias’ great puzzlement, not a simple game, and nobody that Tobias could spot seemed to be talking in time with this soft voice.
As the voice grew louder he realised that although it was a very quiet whisper, it seemed to be overpowering everything else he could hear. The conversations of the other girls and boys were almost undistinguishable; the patty-cake routine of the girls in Tobias’ class was almost silent, and the sound of extrovert and shameless young boys imitating machine guns was barely audible. It was almost as if somebody had planted a little microphone into Tobias’ head whilst he wasn’t looking, and was now stood on the other side of the country, trying desperately to get in touch with him. It seemed that the Voice was inaudible to everybody else, as nobody seemed to be behaving in the same confused way he was.
Tobias had read about people that go mad because they can hear voices talking in their heads. They tell them to do things and if they do them they go to a mental asylum. Well, Tobias was certainly not going to do anything this Voice told him, no matter who it was that was talking from the other side of the country. He wasn’t going to kill anybody, and he wasn’t going to steal anything. Tobias had never been in trouble in his life, and this mysterious Voice was not going to convince him to do anything he didn’t want to do.
For the rest of the day, Tobias managed to avoid thinking about the Voice, which seemed to have faded away, which made him think that he had simply imagined it all. He was incidentally reading a book about a boy with an imaginary friend. Although it sounded a bit childish – his mother was quite surprised when he returned with it from the library – the way it was written made it quite tricky to understand, and it actually tackled some very adult themes, most of which went right over Tobias’ head.But as the boy in the book became more and more talkative with his imaginary friend, the more and more he seemed real to him. Maybe that was what had happened at lunchtime. Tobias had been reading about imaginary friends becoming real, and his own imagination had run away with him. It had all been a figment of his overactive child’s mind. It was something to forget.