It was the middle of the night when Megan heard the soft sounds. She clamped her hands over her ears and willed the sound to stop. If only she could fall asleep this way. She’d tried earplugs but the unnatural silence made her feel panicky. Her boyfriend Derek, asleep beside her, never heard anything in the night. He’d suggested she take a sleep aid, but Megan liked natural things and eschewed pharmaceuticals. Although after several weeks of night whispering she was ready to try anything.
She unclamped her ears and held her breath. Silence. Blessed quiet. She exhaled with relief. She was so tired. She could feel the gentle hands of sleep reaching up through the mattress for her.
“Sss sssh ssh-law sha-law.” The whispering went. “Sshh slee she slaw.”
Megan’s eyes flew open. No. No. Why wouldn’t it stop? They’d lived in the house two years before the whispering started. She looked at Derek and he was sound asleep, his lips slightly parted, peaceful. She felt a flash of anger towards him and sighed.
She was wide–awake now. She swung her bare feet out onto the cold floor.
Maybe tonight she should take something. Just this once. Try it. She needed to sleep so badly. She stumbled to the bathroom. Hadn’t Derek brought something home once? A gentle ‘put to sleep pill” he’d called it. She was ready to try it.
She knew from nights past that if she kept busy she didn’t hear the whispering. It was only when she stopped and her eyes started to close that she heard the sounds.
It terrified her. She thought she was losing her sanity. Her mother was in a care home, a victim of early Alzheimer’s. Was this the beginning of her own descent?
She flipped the bathroom light switch on and stared at herself in the mirrored door on the front of the medicine cabinet. There were dark circles under eyes, which looked swollen. She opened the medicine cabinet, saw the little bottle, took it out, filled a cup with water and sat on the edge of the bathtub. Was she sure she wanted to do this?
“Please let me out.” The whispering was clearer, even close by. Actual words. “Please, I’ll be good. She dropped the cup and pill bottle. The warm water splashed her cold feet and the pill bottle rolled, stopping when it hit the base of the toilet. Icy shivers chased up her legs and into her spine and she began to tremble.
“Please let me out.” The whisper said again. “Please.” It pleaded. “Please.”
She tried to control her runaway breathing.
“Please. Please.” The whisper said, and then began to sob. There was no sound but the gentle whispery crying.
“Stop.” Megan whispered back. “Please stop.”
The sobbing ceased abruptly. All was quiet. Megan exhaled slowly. Was this all inside her head?
“Are you going to hurt me?” the whisper asked.
“No,” Meghan answered. “No. I won’t hurt you.”
“How do I know you won’t hurt me?” the whisper asked.
“I won’t,” she said. “I promise. Where are you?”
“No,” the whisper cried. “You’ll hurt me.”
“I won’t hurt you. Cross my heart and hope to die,” Megan promised again.
“No,” the whisper said. “I can’t. I’m too afraid.”
The whisper seemed to be coming from the sink. Megan stood, careful not to slip in the water on the tile floor, and stepped silently towards the sound.
“I could help you,” she whispered softly.
“No,” the whisper said. “No one can help. No one.”
It seemed to be coming from over the sink. The medicine cabinet.
“Go away,” the whisper hissed. “I can’t trust you.”
There was a face in the mirror but it was not her face. It did not see her. It looked like a man’s face, but it was white, so pale, almost translucent. He was very thin, like a starving person and his eyes seemed huge in his thin face. Megan opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. The face in the mirror started like it heard the scream and it looked right at Megan. The jaw dropped in shock and the face began to shake.
“I can see you,” it whispered. “You’re real.”
“What are you?” she asked.
“What do you mean what am I? What are you?”
“I’m just a person.” Megan answered.
“So am I.” The man whispered back.
“How did you get in there? Where are you?” Megan asked, for a moment wondering if perhaps it was a face from another dimension or something.
“I am trapped in the wall.” the man said. “Buried alive.”
“How long have you been in there?”
The thin man shook his head sadly. “I don’t know. I’m so hungry. I just want to get out.” He began to cry.
“I will help you!” She dashed to the kitchen.
In the cupboard under the sink was a tool box. She grabbed it and ran back to the bathroom. The face was still in the mirror, but she thought it looked like there was a little more colour in his cheeks. She picked up a hammer.
“What are you going to do?” he asked, frightened.
“I’m going to get you out. Will I hurt you if I break the wall?”
“Get me out, please get me out. Please.” He began to beg.
She hit the wall with the hammer. It was tiled half way up and the tile cracked and fell away. There was dry wall behind it and she smashed the hammer in and pulled it out, removing chunks of tile and wall. She hit it again and again.
“What are you doing?” Derek howled from the door way. “My God you’re wrecking the wall.” He tried to take the hammer from her but she twisted away.
“There’s a man stuck in there. That’s the whispering that I’ve been hearing. You can see his face in the mirror.” But when she looked there was only her own and Derek’s reflections staring back at her.
“Meghan.” her boyfriend said gently, putting a hand on her arm, the one that held the hammer. “Come to bed. I’ll rub your back. You just need to sleep.”
She let him take the hammer from her hand. He plopped it on top of the screwdrivers and slid the tool-box under the bathroom sink.
“I was going to take some pills tonight.” She said. Her hands were shaking and she couldn’t stop staring at them. “I… I was hallucinating. I thought there was someone trapped in the wall.”
“We’re going to get you to a doctor tomorrow.” Derek said as he tucked her into bed. “Now roll over and I’m going to rub your back.”
It should have been soothing but it seemed the more he rubbed the tighter her muscles became. His touch grew lighter and lighter and she knew sleep was claiming him. Eventually his hand stopped. She felt sick to her stomach and completely awake.
“Slaa slaa ssshhh,” she heard the whisper say.
She wiggled out of bed and slowly walked back to the bathroom.
“Please help me,” the voice said.
She flipped on the light and stood the facing the thin man in the mirror. He looked even sadder.
“Help me.” he said.
She picked up the hammer and began smashing the wall. Tile broke and the drywall came away. She hit it again.
From behind Derek grabbed her arms. “Stop,” he said. “Megan stop it. It’s the middle of the night. And there’s no man in the wall.”
She allowed him to pull her back into the bedroom.
“Megan, try to think clearly.” He was holding her at arm’s length and looking into her eyes. “Does it make sense that a person could be trapped in the wall, or the mirror, or wherever he was? Does it make sense?”
“It’s some kind of a dream. An awake nightmare. You haven’t been sleeping well for weeks. “
“I’ll take the pills,” she said. “I’ll take a double dose. I just want it to stop.”
He brought her a mug from the kitchen and the little bottle of pills. She took a double dose. He was still talking to her twenty minutes later, trying to calm her down, when her eyes slowly closed and she fell into an unnatural slumber.
When she woke up the sun was shining in through the bedroom windows. It was quite bright. She glanced at the clock- 1pm. She’d slept all morning. There was a note taped onto the clock, from Derek. He’d called her work and told them she was sick. He’d contacted her doctor too but they couldn’t fit her in until tomorrow morning.
She wasn’t sure how she felt. Her head seemed fuzzy, but was that the pills or just the fact that she’d actually slept soundly for the first time in weeks?
The bathroom was a disaster. The wall was in tatters where she’d hacked at it with the hammer. Derek had swept up most of the debris and put it in a black garbage bag under the bathroom sink by the toolbox. They’d have to get someone in to repair it. What had gotten into her?
She slipped out of her night clothes and stepped into the shower. The warm water felt refreshing and cleansing. She began to look forward to the rest of the day. Work wasn’t expecting her so she had time to do whatever she wished. How often did that happen?
The thin pale man was looking out of the mirror when she stepped out of the shower. His eyes grew wide with the shock of her nakedness. She quickly covered herself with a towel.
“I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t know.’
“You’re not real,” she said.
He looked even more shocked. “Yes I am.”
She reached down and pulled the hammer from the toolbox. The towel fell away. Naked, she swung the hammer at the medicine cabinet. She had one last glimpse of the man’s terrified face before the mirror shattered and glass flew everywhere. A piece sliced open her lower leg and she began to bleed. She shook the broken glass out of the towel and held it to the cut. There were pill bottles and toothbrushes on the floor and when she looked up she saw the entire medicine cabinet was destroyed. Behind the hanging remains of the cabinet she saw the face peering out.
“You’re real!” she howled.
“Yes!” he said. “Yes” His strange long pale fingers pushed at the wreckage and he stuck his head out. “You’re hurt.”
The towel in her hands was now bright red. Her naked body was covered with her own blood. She stood, intending to put her night clothes back on but she was suddenly dizzy and began to fall. The last thing she saw was the floor rush at her face…
“No!” The pale man cried and began to smash at the wall behind the sink. He broke through and rushed to the unconscious woman. She was too heavy for him to lift so he dragged her back towards the wall. He saw that the glass on the floor was cutting her but he was so very hungry he did not pause.
When Derek arrived after work he wondered where Megan was. He became very worried when he found the bloody towel and the broken mirror. She must have been trying to fix the wall, he decided, because the broken parts had been patched up with some kind of sealant.
Eventually he called the police when he couldn’t find her. Of course she never turned up. Derek, heartbroken, sold the house to a nice young couple who were delighted to get the place for such a good price. The wife slept soundly the first night, but the husband tossed and turned and kept waking up though he wasn’t sure why.