Inner voices - a short story

'How long do you think we’ll be able to keep this up?’

She wasn’t surprised to hear The Voice, for The Voice was an ever present feature in her mind. What she was surprised at was the kindness in The Voice’s tone. That, she wasn’t used to. That, she raised her eyebrows at. For years, for decades really The Voice made her feel worthless, unworthy and unloved. At first it just whispered in her ear here and there. But over time its monologue got louder and more constant until she heard nothing but what The Voice force-fed her. It became the perfect little bully. A persistent emotional terrorist playing the role of the dominant.

But there was warmth in its tone this time.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked hesitantly.

‘I mean I’m getting tired. I’m getting tired of coming up with ways to keep you down, of seeing you suffer. I see you treading water everyday, barely reaching the surface for air. I see you cry every night until you fall asleep. I see you harm yourself in places only you and I know about, and my heart breaks,’ The Voice spoke and it was calm.

‘But I..., I don’t understand. I thought this is what you wanted. You told me this was the only way,’ she said.

‘Why would I? Why would I want this? Do you think this is easy for me? Do you not know how much you mean to me? I did it because I thought this was what you wanted. I thought this would make it easier for you to survive when you felt like you weren’t enough for this world. I thought agreeing with you and cheering you on hating was what you needed. But I can’t go on like this.’

‘I see,’ she chewed on the raw inside of her cheeks and slowly filled her lungs with air. ‘So what now then?’ she exhaled.

‘Now we have two choices. One, we carry on like we have been in the past and exhaust each other so much we will have no other option but to lay down and give up.’

‘And the other?’

‘The other is to find that small window that I know is in here somewhere, try and undo its rusty long-forgotten latches, open it, light the darkness and clear the stale despair that in time will suffocate us both.’

‘I don’t want to give up,’ her eyes filled with tears.

‘No, I don’t want you to either,’ The Voice agreed. ‘But option two won’t be easy. Option two will try us. I will need you to be strong because I will only ever want to please you and do as you want. I will need you to keep reminding us both that we want to live.’

The Voice spoke no more that day. It left space for her to think.

And though it truly was difficult, through trial and error with small steps forward, constantly reminding to exercise kindness, she and The Voice learnt new ways of making each other happy. Together, they learnt to grow. Together, they learnt to live."

Inner voices - 2020

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