I’ve been blind since birth. As I grew up, everything was described to me in such vivid detail that I didn’t even realize why it was that important to see, especially having no reference point to compare it. We lived in a single-floor ranch house, that’s what Father told me. In my mind, of course, I could see, although unlike how a sighted person could. I had spatial awareness. I knew where my bedroom was, where the bathroom, living room and kitchen were. Each wall had its own texture. I don’t know if that was done on purpose, or if I could feel things others never noticed.
I rarely fell over. Only if Father, or one of the visitors, put something somewhere they shouldn’t have. It was usually the visitors, and Father would shout.
They visited infrequently, and only briefly when they did. Father said I shouldn’t speak to them, that it unsettled him. He’d worry when I saw something he didn’t, saw it with my ears or by touch.
Ellie was the first. She seemed very sweet. She asked me my name and why my face was so messed up. She was in the living room. I could hear where she sat from her breaths. Harsh nasal sounds, as if her nose was blocked. When father had a cold, he’d always breath through his mouth, big labored breaths, as he wasn’t used to it.
When people mentioned my face, I always touched it, trying to work out why it was so strange to them. When I asked if I could touch theirs, there was always a pause. I guessed sighted people never did that. Why would they need to?
When I asked Ellie if I could touch her face, she reluctantly agreed, but moments later Father entered the room and asked me who I was speaking to. I told him, “Nobody.” He would always punish me when I spoke about them. I think it scared him. He’d take my arm and march me off. I’d be knocked off-balance and disoriented, to the point where when he finally set me down, my hands would frantically search my surroundings until I knew where I was. It was usually my bedroom, though every now and then he’d leave me outside, in the middle of nowhere. That was the worst. I would be lost and scared. He told me about the road that ran in front of the house, and explained that the sounds I heard were cars, that they’d kill me if they touched me. Those sounds were my only means of recognizing my surroundings. I waited until I heard one, and then knew which way to run back to the house.
I heard Ellie that evening. She whispered to me, saying she was scared. I whispered back, but she didn’t hear.
I asked Father about Ellie. He didn’t want to talk about her. I asked him why. He didn’t reply. When I told him that she asked about my face, he asked me how I responded. I told him I wanted to touch hers. He laughed, though I knew he wasn’t happy. I could hear the difference. When you laugh for pleasure, your mouth is wide open. When you pretend, your mouth is almost closed. To me, the difference is obvious.
It wasn’t until I was older that he explained.
He said we lived in a special place, connected to the “other world”. That sometimes dead people slip through, people who died in pain and wanted to reach the living. He explained that because I couldn’t see, I was able to tune in to that. That they knew I was listening when others weren’t. He said I had to ignore it. Otherwise, he told me, they’d latch on and never leave me. All the dead want is to be alive again, he said. It was dangerous, and they would trick me. He said he knew how to deal with them, but he couldn’t help if they became attached to me.
Alex appeared to me a few years later. She told me she was lost and didn’t know where she was. I told her I wasn’t allowed to speak to her. Still, she pleaded for help. I kept quiet, knowing what would happen if I said anything. “Did you speak to them?” Father asked. Though I was upset, I told him no. I wished I could help her. I knew what it was like to be lost, and it scared me.
Alex didn’t whisper to me at all. I’d ignored her, and she ignored me. Father saved me, and I was thankful.
After Alex, I knew what I needed to do, so I did it. The spirits stopped bothering me after that, for a very long time. That was, until Sarah appeared.
Sarah didn’t give me a chance to be quiet. I was on my own, sitting in the living room and listening to the television. “Help,” she said. “I need to find a way out.” I stayed silent. “You can hear me, can’t you?” she asked, surprised.
“I’m not allowed to speak to you,” I told her.
“Please,” she begged. “I’m scared, I’m lost. I want to see my daddy.” I gripped the arms of the chair and told her I wasn’t allowed.
“He’s dead,” she said. I didn’t answer. “Your father is dead,” she said again.
I wasn’t going to fall for it. I heard banging from around the room as things began to fly, and the shelves began to shake. “Stop it!” I shouted. And it did.
“Please help me leave,” she said.
I wasn’t going to talk to her. I did the only thing I thought would help. I unlocked the front door, hoping she’d run out and get lost, just like I would do. When I heard from her no more, I locked the door and sat back down. I listened intently for any signs she was still there. Except for the sounds of the TV, it was silent.
I hated when my heart raced. I became all too aware of the tick-tock feeling of the rise and fall within my chest, like it was about to explode. When I heard my father’s voice, I screamed.
“Son,” he said, “I need your help. I think I’m dying.”
I did what he told me to do; I didn’t speak. If he did die, he’d never leave me. Instead, I raced out into the open air and shouted for help. I shouted until my voice was hoarse. I heard the sounds of cars racing along the road in front of my house. I shouted until I heard someone respond. It was a woman.
“What’s wrong?” they asked. I told them I think my father was dying. They asked what had happened to my face. I pleaded with them to help me, and they promised they would.
I sat down on the grass and waited. Sometime later, the woman returned to me and asked if she could hold my hand. “I’m so sorry,” she told me. I heard the sounds of sirens, and of people rushing. I asked what was going on. The woman said she was there for me.
As the noise died down, a man asked me a question. “I’m a paramedic,” he said. “What happened to your face?” I told him I was fine. He asked if I was sure, and I told him I was. He asked if I minded him touching my face. I said it was okay.
A moment later, I felt a pressure release from around my forehead and the air felt cold against my skin. It sounded as if he were peeling an orange. I imagined that in my head and worried he’d expose my insides. I screamed and asked what he was doing. He told me everything was going to be okay, and the woman squeezed my hand, telling me to be brave.
I didn’t know what it was I was experiencing. I felt a tight pain within my head, like when you smash your shin against something hard, followed by something I’ve come to understand as “bright”. It hurt so much. I began to cry.
“What happened to your eyes?” the paramedic asked. I said I was blind. He asked to check them. The pain returned when he examined them.
“Do you know him? the man asked the woman who had helped me. She told him that I had been screaming for help and that she had come to my aid, but that she had never met me before.
“How long have you had your eye injury?” he asked me. I told him I’d been blind from birth. He asked me if I could see his fingers. I told him no. He asked if I could open my eyes. I said I didn’t know what he meant. He asked if he could open them for me. I didn’t respond. Then I felt his fingers on my face, fingers covered in something rubbery. Suddenly, it became “bright” again. I screamed.
He tried to calm me. The woman squeezed my hand again. I didn’t know what was happening. Things I couldn’t describe came to me. It was like it always was, but multiplied one hundred-fold, and so much more real. I carried on screaming as a fuzzy form came into view.
“Just breathe, okay?” the paramedic said. “Everything will be fine. When was the last time you saw?” As my heart began to calm and my breathing slowed, I became distracted by what I was experiencing. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to cry, and I did. “How long has it been?” he asked again.
“I’ve never seen anything before,” I told him.
* * * * * *
I was told to keep an eye mask on for most of the day, only taking it off at night at first, to allow my eyes time to adjust. At the same time, I was placed in the custody of my aunt and uncle, and didn’t even know it at first. They were shocked at what happened to me, and that I had never attended school.
The past few years have been a rollercoaster ride. The doctors said I may never have perfect vision, though what little I have is a Godsend, and I’ll take what I can get. I’ve only recently been learning to read and write, so I apologize if my English isn’t the greatest. It’s the best I can do.
I’ve been asking my aunt what happened to my father, but all she says is that he died of a heart attack. I asked what sort of man he was. She says he was her brother and she’ll love him no matter what. My uncle doesn’t want to talk about him at all.
I’ve been using the computer a lot recently, and really enjoying the internet. I can’t believe such a thing exists. After being so lonely for so long, I can talk to whoever I want, when I want, though I’m wary of that. After all, how do I know if who I’m speaking to is alive? No one seems to share my father’s concerns about that.
Today I was on a forum discussing the spirit world – I was so happy to find people who I could relate to – and someone curious about my username sent me a link to an article on a true-crime website. It was about my father, and mentioned me by name. They asked me who I was, and if I was the same person. According to the article, my mother had gone missing soon after my birth. It said I’d been bound so that I couldn’t see. That my father always wanted a daughter.
They found fourteen bodies in the basement. They said one got away, a girl by the name of Sarah Frank. She was the one to call the police. They found Father’s car parked around the back of the house. They supposed he carried his victims into the basement via the storm entrance and left them there. Sarah had managed to get away after she agreed to be his daughter following four days of sustained torture. She stabbed him with a knife he’d placed on the counter to butter some toast.
I didn’t want to believe it. And I am not sure I would have, if it weren’t for the names of the victims, two of which stuck out: Ellie Farmer and Alex Riddle. I’d spoken to them both in the living room.
To this day, I wonder if my father had been honest with me about a single thing in his life. Throughout it all, one question remains above all others.
Did I speak to Ellie and Alex before, or after, he killed them?
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