VOICES – a rediscovered flash-fiction piece


“Your parents are worried about you,” the child psychiatrist told Jeremy. “Do you know why?”

“Yes,” the boy said, “it’s because I hear voices.”

“What do the voices say?”

“They don’t say anything.”

“Then how can you be hearing voices, Jeremy? They just sort of hum, or bark? I’ve heard of that.”

“No, they’re not even voices. It’s only one, and it’s not exactly a voice.”

“Then what is it like?”

The boy leaned back in the leather chair. He looked at the cryptic doctoral certificates, framed, on the wall. He looked at a bowling trophy. “You like bowling?”


“I don’t think of a doctor bowling.”

“Well I do. It makes me feel like I’m just doing what my body likes, sometimes.”

“I know what you mean by that, I do.”

“The voice, or whatever it is, Jeremy. Can you try to tell me what it’s like?”

The boy looked at a world globe. “Well, um…I don’t know.”

“Try to describe it. Take your time.”

The boy considered; the miniature grandfather clock ticked. A hummingbird came to the window and seemed puzzled by a reflection in it. It hung beating the air, looking at the glass, fooled and not fooled, then went away. “Huh,” the boy said.

The psychiatrist waited. At last the boy said, “It’s like…if you’re in a dark cold room, and somebody pulled back a curtain, just a little, high up on the wall, so that one ray of light came down and you put out your hand and in the dark cold room you could feel that warm light on your hand, and how that feels.”

“That sounds like a pleasant feeling. A good one.”

“It is. It is a good feeling. But it’s just…It’s like the feeling is talking. It’s saying, ‘Ray of Light, Ray of Light, Ray of Light.’ It’s saying ‘You and Me, You and Me.’ It’s saying ‘Open and feel Me.’ But it’s not saying anything either. It’s not saying anything at all. No words. It doesn’t talk in words.”

The psychiatrist realized his heart was thudding loudly in his chest. “When…when do you hear…feel this?”

“When…when things are a certain way in me. I don’t know how to say…”

“Is it when…just like receiving? A feeling of nothing but receiving? Very…very empty except for…for receiving?”

“Yes! Yes, that’s it.”

The psychiatrist looked at the clock. “We have some time left. Do you want to play Chinese Checkers?”


The psychiatrist told Jeremy’s parents there was nothing wrong with him. But he asked permission to speak to the boy on his birthday every year, “just to keep an eye on things,” but what he didn’t say was: he asked to do this for himself, and not for the boy…