HE HEARD The Whispers for the first time when he was four years old.
He’s crouching on his heels in the overgrown backyard, partially hidden by the long, sun-paled grass, in his favorite blue overalls. He grips his ruddy old fleece rabbit by the ear and his fingers are crushing scurrying ants with excited glee. He thinks that the ants are dumb for walking right into their demise. The sky is an immense blue, and the warmth of the sun does little of soothe the chill that The Whispers leave as they creep along his spine. The Whispers tell him they will see him again.
He heard The Whispers for the second time when he was six.
He’s with a girl in the long, faded grass, and he’s smashing beetles with a stone while draws in the dirt with a stick. He likes how her blonde hair is braided down her back, how she’s snapped dandelions from their stems and woven them in. Their knees are covered in the residue of the
grass and the dirt, caking green and black into the fabric. She has her own fleece rabbit, brand new, soft purple and decorated with heart-shaped patches. His mouth goes sour, and he grabs her rabbit and the limbs come off one by one into his hands, the cotton batting tossing itself into the air like fluffy dandelion seeds drifting away in the breeze. She runs home crying, to a mother that finds the time to love her. Tears slide down her freckled cheeks, the dandelions fall from the swishing braid. Cold on the back of his neck, The Whispers murmur that there
can only be one.
He heard The Whispers again when he was eight.
He’s nervously perched on the couch in the living room--the one veiled in plastic--hugging his knees to his chest when a bottle shatters against the peeling wallpaper. Noise falls from his father’s mouth, reeking with the sharp stench of alcohol. His angry face has gone rough with stubble, his eyes wild and large. His mother’s cheek is darkened and swelling like a ripened plum. As she gently traces over the lump, her lips slack.
His mouth feels like it has been sealed with paste, and he finds that his only sanctuary is taking his father’s wood saw and cutting the head off the fleece rabbit. He reaches deep inside of its stomach and pulls out a handful of decaying cotton. He watches as small clumps of stuffing slip through his fingers and fall onto the dusty floor. He exhales a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He knows that The Whispers appreciate his sacrifice.
The Whispers return to him on his tenth birthday.
When the usual group of boys with the expensive sweaters says that his father is a bastard, his blood feels hot, and his knuckles smash themselves against the leader’s flesh. He likes how the look of pride and confidence is reduced to a muddled mess of begging and fear, and it is only when his fingers are thick with blood and the cries become irritating that his hands stop. He realizes that his father will stay in shackles.
The Whispers follow him, mumbling, growing hot against the soles of his feet, through the bottoms of his peeling soles. The Whispers hiss that his father would be proud. That night, his mother’s eyes are dull and sunken, and he wishes for his fleece rabbit for a fleeting moment. He wonders why she doesn’t kiss him on the forehead like normal when The Whispers echo his mother’s words, that he is just like his father.
The Whispers come to him two weeks later.
He steals a knife from the kitchen, and they gnaw at his ribs when he turns it over in his hands as he sits on the back porch. His eyes land on a rabbit a few feet ahead, its nose twitching in the air. When he catches it, he thinks that it was idiotic for not running faster. The knife buries itself into the squirming creature’s back, its miserable howls and shrieks become aggravating, and the knife moves faster to end them. He hides it half buried under the porch, it’s shredded chest
already starting to rot. The coppery smell permeates through the walls of the house, following him as he washes his hands off in the sink, watching the mottled red run down the drain. The Whispers peer over his shoulder and reverberate in his skull, saying that he has done something right.
Produced from 100% Everything
Golda Grais is from Chicago, Illinois. She studies creative writing and is currently working on her first novel
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