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Author's note: It's a long read but it's well worth it. I've put a lot of time and research into it. Please read it in its entirety and let me know what you think!As always, please do not use without my expressed permission and feel free to post pictures.
The snow started falling December 15th, just as she was returning from the grocery store. Sarah Monroe heard about the oncoming blizzard and left her Minnesota home to buy extra food and water. After returning home, she was snowed in for 17 days. Officials found her on the 18th day wandering the snow entrenched streets; barefoot, covered in injuries of unknown origin and babbling about something she called “The Whispers”. This is her story.
Sarah had hoped to beat the Y2K-esque mob of customers buying up all the water, bread, and batteries. She was not so lucky.
When she arrived at Arnold’s Grocer, she parked her car across the street, cursing the mass of people and hoping that there were even scraps of food left. The wind nearly blew her over. The sky was growing darker and the temperature had plummeted drastically from a few hours ago. She needed to hurry.
Inside, indignant customers scrambled about, fighting over the last bits of canned tuna and $1 flashlights. Sarah, remaining as calm as she could while dodging flying cans, picked up what little she would need for the next week or so, which wasn’t much as her father was away in Hong Kong. (He was a businessman tasked with sealing a particularly auspicious deal with a wealthy entrepreneur.)
The last thing on her list was batteries. Her father kept an emergency radio tucked away alongside flashlights, books of matches, and blankets. Blizzards where not so uncommon in the area. People knew to prepare for them.
Sarah lost hope after searching every isle only to find that all of them had been purchased or removed from the packaging. Hopefully the batteries from the remote and other small appliances would last.
On her way to the disaster of a check-out line, she noticed the iconic Energizer logo glaring up at her from under a shelf. She smiled greedily, looked quickly to see if anyone else had noticed, and bent down to pick them up. Her hand touched the pack just as another hand did. The other hand belonged to a woman that terrified her.
This woman, if indeed it was a woman, looked as if she would break if blown by a stiff breeze. She had virtually no body fat or muscle, giving her the haunting appearance of a skeleton wearing a leathery-skinned costume. Her skin, pock-marked and liver-spotted, sagged like wet clothing hung on a clothesline. Her cataracts oozed onto her ghostly pale cheeks which framed her blackened, decayed smile. Around her neck she wore a gaudy silver pendant, depicting an open-palmed hand with a lightning bolt carved out of the palm.
Sarah yelped before jumping back a step. The sickly lady had not been there when she had looked around moments before. When the old woman realized -or, more accurately, acknowledged- Sara’s presence, she cackled, releasing from the depths of her decaying mouth the foul odor of rancid meat and other questionable odors Sarah dared not guess the origin of.
The woman, despite her apparent blindness, looked directly into Sarah’s eyes. “You take them dearie,” she said with a voice eerily reminiscent of nails on a chalk board, “you’ll need them more than me.” Without waiting for an answer, she turned and began her journey to the front door, the tap-tap-tapping of her cane trailing off with her. She hadn’t bought a single thing.
Sarah watched, shaking, as the woman left. What just happened? She thought to herself. The woman had looked at her. She was obviously blind and she LOOKED at her! What the woman said chilled her more than the foreboding winds outside. What did she mean “you’ll need them more than me”? She did her best to compose herself. She convinced herself that old bat was crazy.
After this unsettling encounter, she braved the sea of customers one last time and left with her purchases. She drove the ten miles to her home faster than she normally would have. This was partly because of the darkening sky, but also because of the nervous feeling growing in her chest. She desperately wanted the comfort of a familiar place.
When she arrived at her immaculate, if utilitarian one-story home, the snow had begun to fall. The thick flakes stuck to the roof of her car as she began pulling her groceries from the trunk. The sky grew darker still. The heavy black clouds loomed over her as far as the eye could see. The wind howled, nearly blowing her and her load over on her way to the front door. She stumbled over the threshold and slammed the door with her foot.
Peanut, her Great Pyrenees, rolled over from his post on the couch, expecting a belly rub. Guard-dog my ass, she thought, stopping incredulously to rub the spoiled dog’s stomach. He kicked his leg in approval. She found some comfort knowing she wasn’t going to be completely alone during this ordeal.
After putting the food away and filling Peanut’s bowl, she sat in the enormous armchair near the window with a copy of Stephen King’s Misery. Though she had read it many times, she enjoyed re-reading it, savoring the suspense. She poured over the text for an hour or so, listening to the howling wind, Peanuts noisy munching, and eventually, his light snoring.
Despite the distraction of her book and the company of her canine companion, she could still sense the deafening silence building in the background. Maybe it was the isolation. Maybe it was paranoia brought on by the book she was reading. Either way, she couldn’t shake her uneasy feeling. Something didn’t feel right. The silence was consuming her.
She shivered and drew her wool blanket tighter around her. A little TV never hurt anyone, she thought. She flipped on the flat screen mounted to the wall and switched the program to a comedian performing a set for a large audience. Comedy always calmed her when she was feeling uneasy. She spent the rest of the evening channel surfing, occasionally looking out the window to see how much of her car was buried. As the darkest evening turned to the blackest night, the TV began to go fuzzy at random intervals.
Sarah accredited this hassle to interference from the weather. She dreaded the moment she knew would come eventually: when the electricity would cut off. She fell asleep that night in the armchair. She had drifted off in the middle of an old Christmas special featuring animated clay figures resembling Santa’s elves doing some menial tasks in the workshop, singing all the while. The screen cut to static mid-song.
It stayed that way all night.
The next few days were exceedingly uneventful. Sara’s car was now completely buried in the white powder and the wind had still not let up. She wasn’t going anywhere for a while. She spent long hours staring at the ceiling or watching local channels on the TV (The cable had gone out and the only signals she got were the local ones the HD TV picked up.). The fourth day of her frosty imprisonment began abnormally.
Sarah was sleeping, as she had been that first night, in her father’s armchair. Peanut snored at her feet. Silence had permeated the house since the previous day when the power had gone out. She occupied her time with books and crosswords, but still could not ignore the excruciating silence. It gave her headaches. It even intruded her dreams.
Without warning, a noise reminiscent of static and what sounded like a child screaming assaulted Sara’s ears, wrenching her from her slumber. The static was the generic buzzing of a snowy-white television screen. The child’s screaming was more chilling. The voice was fragmented and tinny like it had been badly formatted on a computer. Sarah fell out of her chair and face-planted the floor. Standing up, she whirled around wildly looking for the origin of the noise.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary, save for her blanket which had been slung into the floor, she looked down at Peanut. He lay there snoring away as if nothing had happened. She grimaced, rubbed her carpet-burned face and scratched him behind the ears. It must have been another nightmare. She had been having a lot of them the past few days.
The snow had not stopped since she returned home. It now piled around the house covering all but a sliver of the window, letting in almost no light. Sarah wandered through her dungeon of a house most of the day, desperately searching for something to do. She had already read and re-read most of the books she owned and her father’s gun magazines. Surely there was some object with some sort of entertainment value in this house. Anything to distract her. She could feel the silence getting to her.
In the late evening she routed through her father’s room in her deliberate search for entertainment. She happened upon a box of paperwork with odd symbols on it in his closet. Sarah ignored it, attributing the symbols to important things written in another language. Her father traveled a lot and it wasn’t uncommon to see him poring over documents written in foreign text.
She was just about to toss the box aside when she noticed the corner of a small plastic device peeking out from under the mountain of papers near the bottom of the box. Surprised, she pulled out an old dust-covered tape recorder. Inside was a white cassette tape with the word “Beatles” written on it with a permanent marker. Sarah was overjoyed at her find, as the Beatles had been her and her father’s favorite band for as long as she could remember. In her excitement and the darkness, she didn’t notice the small hand and lightning bolt etched into the dull black plastic.
She ran to her room, yanked the headphones out of her long-dead iPod and plugged them into the recorder. Noticing that the batteries were missing, she put in the fresh ones she had bought previously and pressed play. The crystal clear voices of her idols Paul and John emanated from the headphones, putting her nagging paranoia to rest.
She lay in her own bed that night listening to that miracle of a cassette. She began drifting off with a small smile on her face. She was almost asleep when the notes of George Harrison’s guitar gently weeping ceased, leaving behind static. Sarah sat up in bed, disgruntled. What the hell? She thought, shaking the recorder. She was just about to unplug the headphones in anger when she heard it: The whispering.
She could hear four- no, five voices speaking urgently in hushed tones. She couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she could hear the distinct sound of a woman sobbing in the background. Sarah stared at the tape recorder in confusion. It was definitely not the Beatles. It occurred to her that the tape had been recorded over.
A man’s voice, instantly recognizable as her father’s broke the chattering:
“SILENCE!” he commanded, “It’s time. The brand, Opal?”
An older woman replied in a scratchy, crackling, oddly familiar voice. “But sir-“
“THE BRAND, OPAL.” Commanded her father, apparently . Sarah sat, dumbfounded. Her father never yelled. The sobbing continued.
Sarah could hear the woman quickly shuffling about, fiddling with what sounded like bits of heavy iron and a wood stove. “Here you are, Eli.”
Sarah flinched. She had hoped whatever she was hearing was a fabrication, one of her dad’s sick jokes meant to scare her. Eli was her father’s name.
“Now then…” began her father, “Helena Monroe-“
Sarah stopped the tape, tears streaming down her face. Helena was her mother’s name. She had never met her mother. She was told her mother died due to complications during child-birth. Why was she on the tape? What the HELL was she listening to?
Morbid curiosity got the better of her. She had to know. She pressed play.
“…you have agreed to undergo the Ceremony of Benevolent Sacrifice. Is this true?”
The sobbing continued, harder than before. “…Please… n-no…”. Sarah was shaking.
“HELENA MONROE. You have agreed to undergo the Ceremony of Benevolent Sacrifice. IS THIS TRUE?!” Repeated her father, his voice rising.
“…p-please stop!” cried Helena between sobs of agony.
“HELENA MONROE. YOU HAVE AGREED TO UNDERGO THE CEREMONY OF BENEVOLENT SACRIFICE. IS. THIS. TRUE?”
Sarah was now sobbing with her mother. This exchange repeated itself for five minutes. Each time her father’s voice growing more guttural. Each time her mother’s replies growing more strained.
After what seemed like ages, Sarah heard a different reply from her mother. A reply barely recognizable, as it was little more than a whisper. The reply of a woman who has lost all hope, giving in to the cold embrace of the void: “…yes…”
“Wonderful!” Eli chimed, as if they were having a completely normal conversation. “Opal, the dagger?” More shuffling. “What say the council? Is this vessel ripe? Will it usher in a new age for the reverent?”
In haunting unison, the whispering voices heard earlier replied: “IT IS RIPE. IT IS READY.”
“Then let the ceremony… begin.”
Sarah’s father’s voice joined the ‘council’s as they began chanting some unknown incantation in some forgotten language. Their voices continued to grow, but they never overpowered her mother’s screams of agony. Sarah sat, frozen in fear; sure that the madness she was listening to had long outlasted the cassette tape’s livelihood.
When Sarah thought her head would explode from the volume of the voices, they ceased all at once. All of them except her mother’s crying. Finally, her cracking voice rose to a scream that rattled Sarah’s very soul.
A new sound joined her mother’s sobs: the crying of a baby.
“It… is… DONE!” cried her father.
The next thing Sarah heard would haunt her the rest of her natural life.
The sliding of metal across metal. The sound of meat sizzling. The tearing sound of a knife rending flesh. Her mother’s screams cut short; reduced to gurgling puffs of air. Then, silence. Total and unfathomable silence.
The sound of the crying baby slowly faded back in, its cries fragmented and tinny. When it grew to an unbearable volume, it stopped, fading in to the last notes of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
Sarah sat, crying; shaking; gripped with terror. In her mind, she was reeling between two impossible, infallible facts:
One, she had just listened to her own birth,
And two, she had taken the batteries out of the recorder ten minutes ago.
In the next fourteen days Sarah did not sleep at all. She did not eat. She only searched. She scrambled about morning and night to find a way to stop the voices… OH GOD THE VOICES… No matter what she did, she would always hear the whispering; Always loud enough to be noticeable, but never loud enough to be intelligible. Static could always be heard along with the voices. Eventually, Peanut shied away from her. She was oblivious to his presence. He ate what he could find and drank what little water dripped from the thawing windows.
She had to get out. She wanted to hear voices from people other than the Council’s and her own. On the 18th day of her imprisonment, she noticed that the snow was only waist high. In her addled mind, she knew she could find someone to talk to. She had to.
Sarah Monroe was picked up by officials on January 1st. She was admitted to an area mental institution where she is undergoing large amounts of therapy to discern what happened in that house. Eli Monroe never returned to America. Documents found in his house point towards dirty dealings with multiple criminal organizations overseas. He is presumed dead.
It is unclear whether or not Sarah will ever recover. She maintains that she can still hear the whispers and still cannot understand them. But they are starting to get louder.
Written by Fritzy's Paradigm