Flash by Chelsea Fowler
HANDS COME OUT of the wall. It’s something I’ve seen in horror films over and over. They sink out of the plaster, pushing it forward like it’s nothing more than cling-film. They grope at the protagonist, urging her down barely-lit hallways. The fingers are always bloody or grimy in the films, spasming through the brick and paint.
The hands I see are clean and fairly gentle. They come out of the wall while I pair socks with a song in my ears. The hands don't reach for anything, but I still feel that quiet horror.
IN THE KITCHEN, I can hide from them. I pull up a playlist of melodies on my phone and wind my earphones under my jumper, so the wire won’t catch in my tea. My, my, my. All of it is mine. The teapot on the windowsill that stinks of mould, the sugar in the pot that stains my teeth with a film of grey, and the mugs on the tree that I glued back together when the spines broke free. All of it is mine.
The voices are mine too. It took me a while to accept that. Whenever we spoke about it in therapy, in that stuffy room full of overstuffed armchairs and pine tables, I would cringe back and fiddle with my earphones. ‘The voices are yours,’ my therapist would say. ‘Some part of you that you don’t know what to do with.’
I would cringe and scamper my fingers along the arms of the chair, playing a tune that only I know, itching to run. Which is normal, I’m told.
But now I do not cringe, and I think I know what he means.
I TAKE THE TRAIN to therapy. It is a six-minute journey to the next town. I sit on the seats that stink faintly of tobacco and rub the toe of my cheap canvas shoe on the dirty floor. Greenery rattles by. I think of a film I watched last week where the sky was a bright, watercolour blue and the steam from the train was paper-grey, clean. This train doesn’t have any steam or smoke, and it’s never been clean in its life.
The journey won’t take long. Six minutes. Three songs, give or take. I hold my phone like a vice, the ticket displayed on the screen.
I BLAST SONGS until the drums in my ears quake. I flick the kettle on and dance on the cold floor, feet bare. I take the pills they give me and eat them whole. Swallow them down. Avoid grapefruit. I sing, and it drowns out the other songs, the darker, deeper songs that are nothing but noise. They say that music is a part of some people, and I agree. But inside me it is a war between the songs I want to sing, and the songs that are sung without my voice.
Or perhaps they are sung with a voice that I have tried to leave behind.
Chelsea Fowler is a quiet individual who loves new notebooks and big slices of cake. She writes queer stories for her friends and for herself, and she lives in the English countryside with her troublesome cat. Currently, she is working on a children’s book that she complains about frequently @Cococranberries, on Twitter.