There was no escape from the voices, from the cacophony of white noise in his head. Awake or asleep, they would not be silenced. The medication cocktail would quiet the voices to a drone akin to the buzzing of a million billion bees. He could almost…almost…tolerate that. But no matter how loud he screamed, both without and within, his screams could never exceed the volume of the voices.
He tried to separate the voices, tried to make some sense of what they were saying. But how can one extinguish the light of all the stars in the sky so that a select few shone brighter, clearer? No, they whirled around him, in his mind, as if it—he—were the absolute, fixed center of a maelstrom of screams and whispers and everything in between. Now and again, he might recognize a word or phrase, one to which he was somehow especially attuned, like overhearing snippets of various conversations at a dinner party. Such recognition and understanding offered him little comfort because they came without context. Moreover, when he could filter out anything at all, the voices were always filled with pain or anger or despair.
Then one day came when, as clear as day, a woman’s voice silenced the din for just a moment and called, “Paul, save us. Paul, he’s coming for us all.” The experience left him shaken, frightened, and confused. After all, he was only a boy, and one too slight and broken to be expected to carry the fates of strangers or the weight of the world on his narrow shoulders.
He wouldn’t hear that voice again for twenty years. It would be a little deeper then, a little raspy with age and tobacco and drink, but he would recognize it. By then, though, when he came to fully understand the import of her plea, it would already be nearly too late to save anyone, let alone save them all.
Paul Gray was involuntarily committed to December Park Psychiatric Facility at the tender age of eight. By then, he was an orphan with no immediate or distant family to speak of, all having died inexplicably in their sleep on an ordinary November night—mom, dad, and sister in their adjoining rooms; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents in their respective bedrooms in quiet houses on quiet streets throughout the country.
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