Michelle was most definitely wrong in the head, I knew that. This wasn't unusual: that was the sort of person this hospital was designed to treat. But somehow I didn't think this was any illness. I think there really were voices in her head. The thing that was worrying me was that I didn't know how they had got in, or why.
"Tell me about your dream," I said softly, trying not to disturb her too much. She'd obviously had a shock, poor thing--her face was white and her hands were shaking, and she was drenched in sweat. I put one arm around her shoulders. At first she shrank away, not used to contact.
"I don't know what to say," Michelle whispered. "I don't want them to hear me." She started to cry. I wiped away the tears as they fell.
"They won't hear you, Michelle. It's okay. You're safe here."
"I wish I could believe you!" She didn't sound nine. She sounded about fifteen. Was this what her troubled mind had done to her, stolen her youth from her? It was too cruel! "But I'm not. They're still here. They're getting louder and louder all the time."
"I can't hear them."
"I know," she told me. "Of course you can't. They're talking to me. But I can make you hear them, if you would let me."
"You can do that?" She bit her lip and nodded. "All right, then. What do I have to do?"
"Just relax," Michelle told me. She put her small hands on my temples and thought for a moment, then pressed her middle finger--hard--into my head. I didn't make a sound.
And then I heard them. A gathering clamour, like the wind during a storm. They all spoke over each other, yet curiously I could make out some of the words. I tried to get away but they just got louder the further I got.
~Not right here! Get away!~ ~You'll never be normal, Michelle. We won't let you.~ ~The harder they try to get rid of us, the harder we'll cling on. There's no escape from us~ ~You're ours, Michelle, just face it. We'll never let you go~
I almost screamed. "Was that them?" I gasped. I knew I was white, and I was shaking like mad. "Is that what you have to hear them say, all the time?"
Looking serious, Michelle released the pressure on my head. Immediately the noise ceased and I was in control of my brain again. "Not always," she said. "They used to be nice. But now ..."
"Now, they're not?" She nodded to confirm. "This isn't good. Don't worry, Michelle. We'll sort you out, don't you worry about that. You won't have to put up with this for long."
Again, she said, "I wish I could believe you." But this time her eyes were dry.