The voices squandered her mind again, echoing through its emptiness like a call of the crows.
By Lucy R Arthur
The presence of the rain was soothing, somehow. The sound of its bleak, grey bullets hitting the cracks in the pavements; the diluted, cold taste of it lingering on the tip of her tongue; the way its icy needles stung her skin with injustice. Its bitterness shrouded the darkening street, making the raindrops cling to the leaves on the trees and the knots in their gnarled bark like they were scared to let go.
Her lonely footsteps matched the falling rain’s irregularity as she wandered lifelessly through the bitter grey, eyelashes filmed with cold droplets, motive heavy on her fingertips.
She walked alone, but she wasn’t. The voices squandered her mind again, echoing through its emptiness like a call of the crows. Their tainted presence stung her like ugly purple butterflies, even though the bruises on her skin were long gone, faded away into the lifeless pallor that her body had made a canvas. They were crude, vile syllables; words that had begun as insults and ended in belief. In the rush of the cold rain, she could almost remember their names; the expression in their hollowed eyes as they taunted her, tormented her because they knew she wouldn't fight back.
It was long past the time when she’d wanted to forget the voices; pretend they didn’t have faces and truth attached to them. Now they were all that kept her company.
She couldn’t remember what she felt like before they had invaded, contaminating everything that was her own with their venom; her blood, her mind, her conscience. All she knew was that she was never alone now. The voices consumed her, ugly crows with mottled beaks and beady eyes, scraggly wings that pecked at her remains. They flapped raggedly through her mind, circling each other, getting closer and closer together.
They were getting louder now, in the rain that drenched the desolate street and made her face smart with the cold. Louder and louder; drowning out the rain, the sound of her footsteps, the unhinged jolt of her heart behind broken ribs. She walked faster, stumbling over the cracks in the road, hair flying out behind her in faded red, like blood without a pulse. They never stopped, never left her alone, just taunted and tormented the ashes of her mind. She couldn’t stop them; couldn’t stop the way they were getting louder and louder now, uglier and clearer, scrabbling inside her to be heard.
They were the gnarled faces on the trees that leered at her, the cracks in the pavement, the hiss of wind through her tangled hair as she fled. They were all she was as she ran for her life, hands over her ears to block them out or trap them in; she didn’t know which, all she knew was that she had to run, to escape, to make them stop from screaming. They weighed down her numb fingertips, cold and heavy with vengeful promise.
The pavement was melting away now, and the faint, distraught sobbing that always wove itself in and out of the threatening voices was getting louder and louder, bleak and strangled in the empty rush of rain and pound of terrified footsteps on the blank road, until she stopped.
Even in the rain clouding her vision and the voices fraying the thread of her mind, the house looked the same as it always had. As she stood there, memories mangling her heart like the voices that told the truth, she couldn’t even hear her own gulping breaths. In that moment, the voices might have been her, the weight on her fingertips. But then they bled away and all she could hear was the sound of someone sobbing.
The sobs might have been her as she walked blankly through the front door. They might have been her as she dragged herself up the darkened staircase. They might have been her as she staggered through the bedroom door.
They might have been her, as she pulled the trigger.
But they weren’t her as Amelia crumpled, weightless like a broken marionette, hitting the floor in a heartbeat of blood and noise and silence.
They weren’t her because there was no noise now. No voices, no footsteps, no sobbing.
It could almost have been silent, apart from the rain that poured down the windowpane, as dark and obsolete.
The voices circled above her, eerie and lonely. She could suddenly remember when there had only been one of them, occasionally- faint from across the schoolyard or behind her back, astringent words that stung. Then, when there had only been one or two, she could deal with them; not let them in and destroy her. But then they’d become too many, too often, too much, words that stung her already stinging wounds, and she couldn't keep them out anymore. They all crammed into her skull at once, screaming to get out, screaming at her until they were all she was.
She closed her eyes blankly against the blur of mangled limbs, the dark red liquid, the weight of revenge in her right hand, the rain on the windowpane.
The voices had begun as crows.
But together they were a murder.