When the school bell rang to mark the beginning of another Friday, the children ran to their assigned positions in a desperate attempt to impress their head teacher, who was parading in front of them proudly, beaming adoringly at the children who smiled at her first. All but one was present.
Tobias lay curled up in his parents’ bed, recovering from the terrible night that all three members of the family hoped was behind them. Although Tobias had cried until his eyes were red, he had attempted to return to bed, with the accompanying song to get him to drift off. For the first time, it was unsuccessful, and so his mother invited him back into bed with her and her husband, allowing their son to falter due to exceptional circumstances.
As Tobias had watched his father’s chest rise and fall slowly and silently, he found that even the hypnotic growl of his mother’s snoring was enough to distract him from what he had heard. Because he had heard the Voice, there was no doubt about it. It wasn’t until morning brought the bright sun streaking through the blinds that Tobias was able to feel safe with his eyes closed. His parents were reluctant to leave him, and did not want to hear his inevitable screams as he woke up alone, but they could not lie in bed all morning. Tobias’ father had to go to work, and his mother decided it would be best to call the school and warn them of Tobias’ situation, and that he would not be attending today. The woman on the other end of the line, no doubt with an earpiece and tapping away at a computer, was very understanding. Either that or she wasn’t paying any real attention.
Tobias awoke after little more than two hours sleep. He was tired, groggy, and could remember everything of the previous night. The slightest detail. The exact sound of the mysterious and terrifying Voice. Every single breath he took was replayed in his mind a thousand times as he sat up, hiding his bare legs under the duvet to keep them warm, and gazing into space. Tobias felt as though the Voice was still with him, still trying to get its message across, whatever that was, but he knew that it was just his memory echoing the words in his mind. It was very obvious when the Voice was talking. He could feel it inside himself, almost as if it were a part of him – something in his mind, but not simply a figment of his imagination, but as if somebody was using telepathy, or something like that.
The smell of his mother’s cooking crept up the stairs, inviting him to lose himself in a most delicious and well-prepared meal, especially for him, as if it was his mother’s fault that he could hear the Voice, and this was her way of apologising.
‘I’m sorry, son,’ she would say, holding out fried eggs and bacon on a plate. He would of course forgive her, and they would laugh it off. Ha ha ha! All one big joke. A little bit of silliness in the middle of the night. Nothing to worry about.
Tobias almost smiled as his imagination once more presented him with a situation that was far from the truth. Because there’s no way that this Voice was actually, technically a voice, as in a human voice. It was some kind of supernatural occurrence, like something that happens in a horror movie, right before the victim is contacted by aliens or some evil psychic wizard.
It was a Voice.
You can save me.
Tobias was afraid. But he did not cry out for his mother.
Sitting in silent submission, Tobias allowed a repeat of the night’s fear to appear as a single trickling tear slid down his cheek, bouncing on to the duvet beneath and leaving a little patch of damp. He knew that this time the Voice was real, not just a repeat of what had been said last night. The fact that the sound seemed to out-do everything else was the first piece of evidence. The second was the horribly cold feeling that washed through Tobias as he listened to the Voice repeat itself.
Save me. You can save me.
What did it all mean? Why was this Voice talking to him in the middle of the night? Why wouldn’t it leave him alone? Why wasn’t it just a bad dream?
Tobias already felt like the dark depths of the previous night would hang over him for some time longer, and he knew it was impossible to escape the horrible situation he found himself in. And he hated that.
He imagined he was in a tiny box, in complete darkness, and as he kicked and punched at the sides and top and bottom and every single part of the box, nothing happened, and he was trapped in here forever, for all eternity, with nothing to do except wait to die. And he was powerless to stop any of this.
And that’s how he felt when he thought about the Voice. And that’s when he decided to do something about it.
As his parents bid him goodnight, they assured Tobias that he was okay to go to bed, and as he ascended the stairs, he felt a horrible nervous tinge in his stomach, indicating that the night ahead was to be harder than the previous one.
Tobias knew there was nothing he could do to escape what the darkness held in store for him. The Voice would raise itself once more, and he would feel the same fear that he did whenever he was alone in the dark, only tonight it would be on a more amplified scale. Although he was apprehensive about what the night would bring – the confusion and the fear – Tobias was determined to find out whether or not this Voice was real. As scary as it had been, he could have just been dreaming.
He had not shared his experience of the night with his parents. They would simply tell him it was a bad dream, and that it would not happen again. But as much as he wished it could be true, Tobias knew that it was not the typical material of dreams. For one, that Voice seemed so real. As real as any person who talked to him throughout his day to day life. But there seemed to be no source of the noise. There had certainly been nobody in the room when Tobias had been hiding under the covers, and yet it was as if the person making the sound had been right there, in bed with him. He shivered at the thought of approaching his bedroom to be surprised by somebody lying on his bed, talking with the same Voice that had haunted him through the night.
Oddly, the Voice had faded during the daytime, but maybe that had been because Tobias had tried to focus on other things. He watched the TV, and he read his books, and he tidied his bedroom. Anything to take his mind off the Voice. Maybe that’s all it was – his imagination. Once Tobias had forgotten about the chillingly smooth Voice, it had faded. But it seemed so real.
The landing light at the top of the stairs waited for him, illuminating the small corridor, but casting odd shadows that seemed to come from nothing in particular. There was something suddenly foreboding about the upper level of his house. It was empty, and seemed colder than downstairs. Nothing much ever occurred up here, just sleep, and that gave it an ominous presence. As if this half of the house was the evil twin of the ground floor. But of course that was ridiculous. As ridiculous as hearing Voices. Which, incidentally, was becoming less and less absurd to Tobias, and more and more plausible.
He crossed the threshold into his bedroom, and he closed the door behind him, so that if anything was hiding out in the hallway, intending to trap him in his own room, it would not be successful. The digital clock’s green glow was not so visible with the main light on, and so the room seemed cosier, the yellow flicker of the cheap light bulb producing the familiar warm tone to the otherwise cold room. Tobias set about searching his safe house for anything suspicious.
Under the bed was no different than it had been the previous night, minus the dirty socks, which had been removed and put in the basket in the bathroom to be washed. Behind the curtains that reached the carpet, there was nothing, except an abandoned cobweb. But Tobias was not afraid of spiders. And, although a shirt gave him a fright, the wardrobe was clear of anything horrific. Except for the ugly jumper than his Grandma had knitted for him.
So, nothing was in the room, for now. But Tobias was too aware that come midnight, something would no doubt occur to scare him. This was not allowed. Turning off his main light so that his parents would think he was asleep, he replaced it with the small lamp on his bedside table, which, although not emitting very much light, helped Tobias feel that much safer. He sat up, the duvet tight around him, and he waited, sure that he could remain awake for the entirety of the night, to catch anybody or anything that came into his room.