I consider myself a sensible person. I scoff at ghost stories and roll my eyes at the thought of a fourth kind. As an adult, I can easily disregard the notion that there is a supernatural realm that could affect me. But there is one problem with my current ability to ignore all things mysterious, a series of events that contradicts my disbelief.
As a child I heard things. However, I should be more specific, as I do not mean music or laughter or the innocuous, normal sounds belonging to our everyday surroundings. The “things” I heard were spoken by three distinct voices. And they had ill intentions – for me. You may be thinking, “Oh these voices could have been talking about anyone!” But they called me by name. You may also be thinking: “Children have nightmares!” And I cannot force you to believe what I have experienced is real. All I can do is share with you in the hopes that the telling of this story will provide me with some relief.
The most vivid recollection I have of the voices is actually the first time I heard them. At least I think it was the first time. I can now point to this event as the beginning of it all, but I know how easily my other childhood memories have blurred together and been altered unintentionally, in the years since growing up. In the interest of this re-telling, however, I can say with relative confidence that the first night I heard the voices I was seven years old. I was in an awkward phase – though in the interest of full disclosure my life has been a 24-year long awkward phase – and was still struggling with not only a severe lisp, but a stutter as well. My hair was cut in a blunt, harsh bob style at that age, adding to my peculiar look, as I was not only short, but also scrawny in the limbs with a pudgy stomach. Cute right? All awkwardness aside, I was a fairly happy child, despite a somewhat traumatizing home life that can be boiled down to “Daddy has a terrible drinking problem, but we all pretend it doesn’t exist and attend church like a good family should.” The fact that I was raised in the church makes this story even more disturbing to me in retrospect, though in my immature mind at the time I never made a connection between my religious upbringing and the demonic presence in my home.
So this vivid recollection – one seemingly average night as a seven year old, I lay safely in my racecar bed (being a tomboy had some advantages). My routine at that age included listening to religious-themed audiobook stories, which I found soothing for whatever reason. The cassette rolled, as usual, and I began to drift off to sleep, as usual. But that night I was awoken by the voices from beneath my room. Let me clarify something. My bed was positioned next to an archaic air vent, under which was the first floor of the house. More specifically, my room was above the first floor bathroom, and the style of the vent in my floor made it possible to see and hear what was happening in the room below me. The novelty of this view had grown old, and I no longer spied down to the sink (the only part of the bathroom I could see clearly) on a daily basis. So when I heard soft murmuring underneath my room, I at first subconsciously processed the voices as my parents, having a quiet discussion in the bathroom. I continued to drift.
I remember that I suddenly realized that there were more than two voices. Though my brother and sister were born by that time, neither was old enough to speak in a clearly distinguishable voice. The drifting stopped. I sat up in confusion. I would like to tell you that I panicked immediately and because alarmed – but that just isn’t how it happened. I was only perplexed, as I knew there were only two adults in my home, and there were three adult-toned voices conversing beneath me. From my position on the bed I could not hear clearly what was being said, and as I was not entirely concerned at that point, I inched off my mattress slightly, closer to the vent. I could not see down through the metal slats, as the lights in my room and the bathroom below were off, but I could certainly hear more clearly.
The following is my best possible recollection of what was said; I do not claim to remember word for word, and the phrases were spoken softly so I had trouble understanding exactly what was being said, but this narrative should give a general idea of what the voices said to me.
Male 1: She’s asleep
Male 2: We knew she’d be asleep. She’s a child. It is night.
Male 1: *soft laughter*
Female: But that’s no reason to waste time. She will wake up.
Male 2: This is kinder for (my name).
Male 1: There is no kindness.
These voices, obviously discussing me, belonged to two males and one female, though her tone was raspy and deep for a girl, I remember thinking. After the first male voice had spoken the last sentence, there was silence. I shook my head and told myself I was hearing things. Or maybe I was still asleep. I pinched a bit of my arm flesh between my fingers to wake myself up, to no avail. You may be wondering if I ran to the room of my parents for help or to alert them of what I had heard – but I did not. I had learned never to disturb them in the night, and so I tried to talk myself into a calm state of mind despite my rapid heart rate and sinking stomach.
I eventually found peaceful rest, and did not give a second thought to my nighttime terror as the next day dawned and passed without incident. That night and many nights after were free from the voices. I eventually dismissed the notion that anything had even happened; convincing myself it had been a nightmare, a bad dream.
Several weeks later, I believe, it happened again. Same set-up, so I won’t walk you through all of the mundane details. But this time the voices were making plans. You may question how I can remember this, and although I will admit I don’t remember the exact specifics, I knew that plans were being made to harm me. After this second occurrence of hearing the voices they came more often, having started to formulate their plans more concretely at that point. The plans seemed to change in nature, and I heard things ranging from burning me repeatedly, to kidnapping me, to torturing me for information about some unknown secret. It seemed to me that they did not care what the plan was, only that I was harmed. At this point it seems logical to you as readers that I should have disclosed my nighttime experiences to my parents, but I think I was still trying to convince myself that I was in the wrong – I was imagining these voices, and no one would believe me if I did not even believe myself. So I kept quiet and continued to listen to them.
I got to know them, almost as if they were friends. Thinking back I realize that I was a lonely child with few friends and a lack of love or nurturing in my home. I felt somewhat comforted by their presence after a while. The terror turned to familiarity. Sure these voices had bad ideas about me, and wanted to inflict pain on me, but they used my name. They knew where I was. They kept coming back.
One male voice, the first I had heard, was cold, decisive. He knew what needed to be done, though the plan kept changing. He always had new and more extreme ideas. He never used my name.
The second male voice seemed to have mercy. He would always mention that I needed to be asleep before they could do anything in order to make it as painless as possible. He used my name regularly.
She was malicious, graphic, and brutal. She wanted to harm me the most. She used my name occasionally, but with an edge in her voice that made me feel like my name was a dirty word.
After a while (I wish I could tell you how long, but my memories of time periods are vague and inaccurate) I started to try to stay awake for as long as I could in order to catch more of their conversations. They would repeat the plans, uttering the same phrases multiple times, almost as if they were trying to bore me into sleep, but I also somehow knew that they didn’t know I was awake. I began to think that staying awake was the only way I could prevent terrible things from happening to me. I would sit up in bed, on the edge of my mattress, legs dangling over the side, and listen to stories to keep myself awake. I would occasionally drift off to the sound of the voices, which had become almost as soothing as they were terrifying. But on nights when I could manage to stay awake until dawn, I would trudge through my day following the night of vigilant sleeplessness, proud of my ability to “beat” the voices. Even though nothing happened to me when I did fall asleep for any length of time, part of my brain told me that awake equated to safety and sleep to death.
Nights without sleep passed. The voices changed their plans. I struggled to stay awake in school. It became routine as listening to my audiobooks on cassette.
You may be wondering another thing (you may be very curious readers). Why didn’t I turn on the lights in the bathroom before bed so I could look down into the room and see whom the voices belonged to? I tried that. I would turn the light on, and one of my parents would flick it off before bedtime. I also tried sneaking downstairs and turning it on after they’d gone to bed. By the time I would reach my room and try to peer down through the rusting slats of the air vent, the light would be off again, making me wonder if I had turned it off at all. I began to feel like I was part of a twisted game that forced me to ask myself questions.
Would I fall asleep?
Why can’t I get the light to stay on?
Was I really hearing anything?
As I quizzed myself each night, lying in bed tormented by the trio of voices, the terror grew – but not because the threats to my safety increased or frightened me more. I began to question my sanity. As a young child, to become so unhinged I now realize was normal based on my belief that three people were underneath my room discussing plans to torture me. But at the time I was determined to find my fault in it. If only I could stay awake all night. If only I could see who it was. If only I wasn’t a bad girl who deserved to have these things happen to her. They seemed so sure that I needed to be hurt. I started to believe it.
I decided to sleep through the night and let them carry out their plans. I was tired. I was guilty. I just wanted the confusion to stop.
I slept all night. And all the next day. And that night as well. I slept for 36 hours. I remember my mother coming in and out of the room, tenderly pressing a hand to my forehead, presumably to check for fever. Little did she know I was the healthiest I’d been in a long time. Nothing happened. No plans were carried out. I rested my mind and body. I awoke eventually and went to school. My mother asked if I felt ill. I didn’t, and told her so. The voices did not return that night. Or the next night.
They did not return in my childhood.
When I look back on that period of my life it is easy to chalk up my experiences with the voices as normal childhood fear of monsters. I wish I could. I am so solidly a disbeliever in anything paranormal that it makes no sense to me that anything in that realm could have occurred. Did any of this happen? I have given you my most honest recollections. I leave it up to you to decide. Thank you for letting me release my inner demons.
I consider myself a sensible person.
I hope I can stay awake tonight.
I need to stay awake.
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