FOREWORD: It’s time for another Reddit writing prompt: Your entire life, you’ve been followed by a voice only you can hear that constantly narrates everything you do and say. One day, the voice talks directly to you for the first time, and it has a warning for you.
It was there for as long as I could remember, a woman narrating my daily life. When I was young, I used to think it came from one of my imaginary friends. Then I grew out of that phase and went along with my parents’ beliefs that I was just crazy.
Seeing how they reacted to my condition made me keep it a secret. I’ve never told another soul about my predicament, and I ended my parents’ worries by telling them that the voice had one day disappeared. Them buying the lie was a stark juxtaposition to me going through this experience on my own.
Here’s the weird thing though. I’m Malaysian, and the voice was British. My question is, how did I know what an English person sounded like when I was four years old? Somehow, I always had a hunch that my narrator was another entity, and not just a figment of my imagination.
Then the movie Stranger Than Fiction hit cinemas, and I thought I had found my answer. I was Harold Crick! At least his story stopped at the end of the movie; mine barely had a plot. So I tried getting in touch with everybody that was on the movie’s credit list. If you think sending out CVs during job hunts was tough, try searching for contact details from a name and sending e-mails to said persons without sounding like someone who’d subsisted on a diet of acid tabs.
Only a few ever replied to my messages, and all I got for my troubles ran along the lines of: “See a shrink.”
You know the term born-again Christian? Well I was the opposite of that. I was dead-again Eddie. With my last glimmer of hope shattered, I fell into the deepest resignation I’ve ever been in. I guess it was time to accept my fate.
Eddie passes a liquor store and longs for a drink, despite having only two dollars in his pocket, my narrator would say. Eddie likes his new acquaintance, but is too shy to ask her out, as usual.
Still, that annoying bitch had her perks. She sometimes gave me insight that I’d otherwise overlook. For instance, she actually pointed out that I was depressed instead of just being lazy, so she had that going for her, at least.
Eddie is beginning to see the bright side of having someone narrate his life, she’d say. “Maybe I’m just comforting myself,” I’d reply aloud, to nobody in particular.
For thirty years of my life I’ve lived with her, until the day I decided to shop at Kinokuniya instead of Times (reading is the only time she ever shut up, so I read a lot).
Eddie had exhausted his reading pile again, and hopes he doesn’t have to browse the Law section for new materia—wait. Eddie wait. Wait, stop stop stop.
Don’t go in, she said. Turn around. Walk away.
Please. Trust me. She will be the end of you.
I stood there, not knowing what to make of the situation. Has she ever talked to me before? I couldn’t remember. I started walking again.
In my stupor, I bumped into something, before jumping at the pain shooting through my foot. I looked down and saw a few hardcover books on the floor.
“I’m so sorry!” a voice called out. “Did I hurt you?”
“Ow ow ow—I’m fine.”
The woman I had just collided with scrambled to pick up the books she had dropped.
“I really didn’t see you,” she said, as she stacked 2001: A Space Odyssey atop Forever Peace.
I rubbed my toes through my shoe while eyeing her pile. “It’s fine. Hey, you… you’ve read The Forever War?”
“Huh? Yeah it’s my favourite. Look I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to bump into you.”
“It’s okay, really.”
We stood in silence for a moment.
“What I find offensive, though,” I said, “is how you’ve read Forever War and not Space Odyssey yet.”
“You a sci-fi fan too?” she asked.
“Maybe we could find out over coffee?”
“I don’t know…”
I wanted to blurt “Noworries sorry okaybye!” but before I could mouth the words, she completed her sentence.
“…I guess I should make up for that,” she said, pointing at my foot.
I stood there, waiting for my narrator to point out how awkward this interaction was becoming, but there was only silence.
“To Starbucks then?” I ventured.
We walked on, without the usual third-party observation in my head. Her name was Danielle, I learned, and for once, the voice didn’t repeat that. I found out that we read the same books. Radio silence. We even shared a couple of hobbies. No comments. We got along so well that we got married three years after that fateful day.
Every year since, while Danielle and I celebrated our anniversary, I secretly rejoiced in the absence of my narrator; both events shared the same date.
But sometimes, when I’m enjoying a book on the couch with Danielle’s head on my lap, I find myself wondering which I fear more: the return of the narrator, or finding out that she was right all along.