Dealing with the Whispers
The trails were overgrown, the trees were gnarled and dark, the brush was as thick as it always was, yet, as with every time before, the footsteps continued on the path. It was not so much a path as something that was being recited, directions were being provided, but one person was alone in the woodland. The thoughts were being directed by a whisper. A whisper that you unexpectedly stumble upon when wandering through a forest such as this one. With a lake like this one. With a truth like this one.
Each time you head a different way, you never know if it is the same place as the last time you went or if there were numerous locales waiting for someone to find them. To ask them. You do not know if you are the only one, but when the whispering reaffirms you that you are the only one you find that you trust the whispers. They have never failed you before, never lied to you before. So, you follow them further through the brush and undergrowth to the place that you were going to all along.
You see the twisted roots, the rock formation, and the flashing and reflection of light. These are always the same, they bring you a sort of security. The whispers have not led you astray. For, who knows what their true intentions are. You always have a small edge of doubt whenever you enter the woods, this is the time when they will suddenly stop and leave you alone in the thick of the forest. This might be the time when I die because I kept returning to this wretched place. You keep coming back nonetheless. With each time your doubt starts to ebb away even further. Slowly being ground away by the whispers.
You look-up and see the reflection of the lake water. In that moment you realize that your previous reservations of doubt are gone. To think that the whispers would lead you with deceit was never a possibility. They shared their secret with you after all.
The lake was not completely natural, it was where the whispers came from, only certain people could hear them. The reflection was unusual. No matter the weather, wind, snow, rain, its surface was clear and lit up. What stared back at you was not what you looked like in the world, but a reflection of your soul. Each time you came to the lake it was different from the last. You had changed, so your reflection shifted as well. It could be similar, quasi-alike, or entirely new: revitalized.
You walk up to the lake’s waterline and sit down on the boulder which is always by the lakeside sand. Taking a deep breath you exhale and gaze into the water. The waters provided a great conundrum of esoterica. You were the only one who held its knowledge, at least currently. On the surface you see a raven circling a cluster of burning yarrow plants. Rarely did the images mean something immediately, and occasionally you would come back again to face that you failed to unravel a message’s purpose. This was a new kind of hidden though, you had no clues as to where to begin. You set these thoughts aside though, and think of what you will say to the warped mirror this time.
On the mark the whispers were recalled from your mind and encompassed in a fog-like state; the mist surrounded your figure and you let the calm enter into your mind. You knew what would happen now, unlike the first time. You had come to trust the process, even if it was something a living being stood at odds to grasp fully. The whispers were trustworthy, they never hurt you before-not intentionally. The only way they could harm you was if you did not accept the way, or the truth that was given to you. Your eyes slip closed on their own accord, and you exhale another breath of air when the whispering begins to grow louder. You settle your last bit of nervousness and wait until the slight pause.
“Take me down”
The whispering resumes and you start to feel it lift your body into the air. Your eyes remain closed as you are maneuvered to face away from the waters: you fall backwards into the lake. You feel the water against your back and then feel it cover your limbs and face. The whispers comfort you, as they always do at this point, and switch their tone to an underwater hymn. Air is becoming scarce, your lungs are revolting against the water filling them up. Your body starts to convulse and suffocate. The water keeps coming. Your throat is raw from the lake’s strange saline quantity, your lungs are screaming for air. You fight the urge to move. The pain spikes and you feel your body start to give-up. There is too much water. Everything starts to shut-down and go silent; still and slowly sinking to the ground beneath. In a short time you feel your body go lax and hit the bottom of the lake as though you were a fish in unoxidized water.
You open your eyes. Disorientation washes over you as it always has. You are surrounded by a charcoal void on all sides except for a cluster of lights which are floating towards your presence. They have always manifested as such, though you are unsure why they have. The whispering approaches you and starts to speak in the same tongue.
“You have come,” is the first line, it always has been. So you respond in kind, speaking your line to the play that commences each ‘conversation’. “I have.”
“Are you willing, liaison?”
“I am willing.”
“Făcĭo tu adsēnsus?”
“Ego adsēnsus ad tu.”
You feel a chill as you express your consent to the whispers. For the exchange to happen. You listen and try to make sense of the language, but you do not know enough of it to fully understand. They are discussing their price while you think of yours. You ask for something and the whispers deliver it to you, whether you appreciate it or not, that was your decision. In exchange for this gift you had to do something for them since they could not leave the lake or take physical form.
The voices suddenly stop and the world is silent. It is black. You know what happens next, what always happens next. You never refused: you won’t this time.
Something new enters your mind, you feel a presence. The whispers melded with your mind make you feel different, more complete then being separated from them. You are their vessel. As you breathe and exist they are now vulnerable within your mind-it is the only place where they could die. If you ever truly died with them there they would as well, yet they perform this ritual and take the risk.
What do you desire?
I wish to know of ill-deceit when it is spoken.
Do you verify?
You are granted the knowledge of truth. Whenever anyone speaks a lie directly or indirectly of you, or of a matter concerning your being and opinions the inscription ‘Memento Veritais’ will appear to be inked onto your right wrist. It shall be visible to only you.
What do you ask of me?
Look for a book titled ‘De Spiritu et Dolorem Talionis’ and read through it. By the end of it you will understand what I ask when I say to look for where the moon reflects away light. Bring this back.
I will do as you ask. I now command the exchange to be recognized as formal, consented, and agreed upon to the fullest extent of understanding. I refer to these terms when I say that I finalize. Do you also finalize this exchange as justified?
Finalized and justified.
Finalized and justified
The squid oil toned darkness begins to fade away from your peripheral vision. It begins to collect in the center of your sightline, you become unable to look away as it begins to swirl into a whirlpool of various grays. The feeling of awareness is losing its appeal quickly when a spell of dizziness washed over your mind. The presence is leaching out your strength as it pulls away from the dual-connection, gradually numbing until nothing remains but a sharp pounding in your skull. Then all things evaporate.
The feeling of ice-cold-water seeps throughout your entire body. Your oxygen deprived brain and lungs will you to breath, but water surrounds you and when the reflexive inhale from jump starting your physical body takes place you regret it. More water enters your lungs and you jolt fully out of the stupor of your mind. You command your heavy limbs to move and start to desperately swim upwards: to the surface.
The lack of air weakens your perception and you feel a spike of tiredness in your bones. The surface of the lake is mere seconds away from your stretched-thin strength. You are torn between wanting to sink down into a peaceful slumber and the goal which is almost within reach. The sunlight seems to brighten when you look up again; you are beginning to lose the struggle with consciousness as you breach the barrier of water and greedily suck in the air that has been stolen from your brain and body. You glance around and hurriedly stroke to the bank a couple meters in the distance.
You collapse onto the lakeside in a boneless heap. Your body is fused with a feeling of aching pain in every possible place imaginable and undiscovered. The air is welcomed with great appreciation as you lay there in your half-dead state. Your throat is raw and you retch water out of your abused lungs, the salt content so heavy that you spit out blood as well. For a long time you alternate rapidly between gulping down the sweet, invisible, life-granting gas and choking up the saltwater which threatened to kill you-no-started the task which was aborted just before it was successful.
When you finish the desperate acts of ridding the water from you and taking back the oxygen that the lake stole from you you further sink into the semi-dry mix of sand, gravel, and dirt. Your hair is drenched, so are your clothes; the salt is streaked through everything clinging to your shivering frame. Exhaustion settles into you, but you fight it off as you hear the whispers filter into your ears. They urge you to rest for a few moments and then assure you that they will guide you back to the forest’s edge as soon as you can get up without a threat of immediate collapse.
This short story was written by Veronika Rembowski, a freshman at Hopewell Valley Central High School.