|THE VOICE by Mason Yates|
The raspy voice echoed all around her, and in response, she flung her head from side to side, her brown hair following her every move. Around her, trees towered, and a fine mist settled next to the ground. The forest was dark for the most part, but the moon above provided a sufficient amount of light.
Grayson, why did you ever leave? the voice asked. This time, the raspy sound faded. Instead, it sounded womanly and faint. Even though it was faint, it sounded as if the voice was right next to her ears. Inside her head, perhaps?
“Who are you?” Grayson asked, terrified. Her eyes were large, her legs shook, and her head spun to find the voice. From what she saw, she was all alone. From all sides of her, the forest went as far as the eye could see. After a certain distance, all she could see was blackness.
You know who I am, the voice responded, this time sounding as if it was coming from her right. She spun around with her hands out just in case she needed to fight. The voice sounded menacing, yet she knew who it belonged to.
Suddenly, the whole forest exploded. The ground was ripped apart and thrown in the air; the trees splintered in every direction; and a void opened below her. It took only a millisecond for this to occur and for everything to stop in mid-flight. Then, before Grayson knew what was happening, she found herself in the desert. A massive cactus spread its arms out a few feet away from her, and the sand on the ground blew between her feet. Above her, high in the sky, the sun shined hot rays upon her. Her skin was already starting to burn.
The burning feeling did not last long, however. She recognized the place where she stood, and it took away the feeling she felt on her skin. Memories started to float into her mind, but before she was engulfed in nostalgia, her mother appeared before her, walking out of a haze that was placed in front of her by the sun. Her childhood home was just out of Phoenix, Arizona, and she recognized the landscape. Past her mother, mountains rose to the sky. Earlier in her life, as a little girl, she remembered a moment just like the one she was seeing now. Her mother and her used to walk in the desert together, and this moment felt close.
“Mom? What’s going on?” Grayson asked.
No answer. Her mother kept walking towards her.
She stopped before her daughter and gazed into her brown eyes.
You shouldn’t have left, Grayson. You have to watch out.
“Watch out for what?”
The planet plays tricks.
Grayson stood confused before her mother. She tried to analyse her facial expressions, but it was no use. The desert blew up as well. Grains of sand projected upward and hung all around her. In the distance, she saw the mountains split and huge chunks of rocks were obliterated. Her mom, on the other hand, remained standing in front of her. Grayson knew now that the person was not her mom, but instead it was something else that was taking her form. What it was, she had no idea.
This time, there were no other visions. The forest and the desert were completely gone, and she woke up instead. They were only dreams. Very vivid dreams.
“Ah,” Grayson said, sitting up. She was in a white pod that was just big enough for her body. Around the pod, which was positioned three feet off the ground, a small room gave her privacy. She looked down at herself and found that she was naked, and next to her, hanging from a hook that was screwed into the wall were clothes. She reached over, grabbed them, and stepped out of the pod and onto the cool metal floor. She changed quickly.
When she was finished, she exited the small room through a door and stepped out into a hall. She took a right to where she knew the main room was located. They were in a spaceship, and the rooms were not too hard to find.
After a minute she went into the large room to find three men sitting at a massive round table. Two of them were smoking, watching their smoke dance in the air, while the other one was writing something onto a piece of paper. Grayson guessed it was another one of his stories he so desperately craved to get published one day. Maybe, she thought, he would be able to publish it when they returned to Earth, but as for now, they were billions of miles away.
“We touch down yet?” Grayson asked upon entering, referring to the planet the mission had their sights on.
“An hour ago; yes. We’re waiting for everyone to wake up from their slumber.”
Grayson nodded and walked further into the room, taking a seat at the table with the men. She looked at each of them. Robert still had his eyes glued to his story, while the other two—Nick and Austin—watched Grayson through their smoke. She looked at each of the two individually. First at Austin, who had shaggy hair and a scar on his left cheek. Then, she turned to Nick.
The raspy voice that she had heard from her dreams echoed in her mind. She spun around again, hoping to catch the person behind it, but the three of them were the only ones in the room. Nick saw this sudden move and asked her what the matter was. In response, Robert looked up from his story, a child-like curiosity stamped on his face.
“Did you hear anything?” Grayson asked. “Someone talking?”
“No,” Nick responded, shaking his head. She saw that Austin was shaking his head, too. “You must still be tired.”
Grayson nodded and saw that Robert’s humble face was still staring at her. He looked so much like a child, so content and soft.
This time, Grayson did not bother turning her head. She knew the voice was in her mind, and she wondered how it got there. She wished it would go away. Instead of looking around, she looked down at the table and wondered what it all meant. What did it mean when it said those things?
Overtime, a few more astronauts walked into the room. They were excited about landing on the planet that their mission was destined to. It had been a two-year flight, and everyone was finally relaxed. Over the past year, the stress levels in the ship had been through the roof. Everyone was ready to land.
Nick was the first one to address the chattering crowd. Fifteen people of all backgrounds were crammed into the space, and Nick had gotten onto the table to speak. Everyone stared at him. Even Robert took his eyes off his story long enough to listen. Grayson watched the humble man with a curiosity of her own.
“I’m glad you all are finally cheerful. As we all know the past year has been a rough one and tension is high. Being cramped into this God-awful ship for two years can really drain the life out of someone, wear down their mind.”
It really wore down his, the voice spoke inside Grayson’s head.
“Today we are all going to have a chance to stretch our legs and take a look at this place for ourselves. We don’t plan on going far though, just a perimeter sweep. This planet has enough oxygen to support human life, so there’s no need to wear a suit. You can go out in your underwear if you like, but please stay aware of that fact that we don’t know what’s beyond this ship. What we do know is that there seems to be nothing hostile out there, and so far, we’ve been here for a few hours and nothing has attacked. It seems safe enough.”
“What’s it look like out there? I haven’t looked out a window or anything yet,” someone spoke up from the crowd.
“We’re on the edge of a forest,” Nick said. “From the looks of it, it’s massive. On the other side of us, there’s a massive ocean. But let’s quit this talking and get ready to explore. This seems like a future home for mankind, and we’re the first ones to step on it. How do you feel?”
A murmur of cheer slithered through the crowd.
It took no less than a half an hour before they were all stepping off the ship and onto the land. The ground underneath their feet was firm, and the air around them was cool and fresh. As soon as they began to wander away from the ship, an odd feeling passed over them. No one knew what it was, but it was there. It could have been a good or bad feeling; they had no clue. Everyone felt it, but no one mentioned it.
“Seems that the water is fresh,” Nick called out. Grayson, who was standing on the edge of the forest, looked over and saw Nick standing in the water, cupping his hands to scoop the water to drink. She looked at the muscular man with a hint of attraction in her eyes. There was no use hiding the fact that Nick was a handsome guy—well-built and nice features. She loathed that he had a better figure than she. She felt that she was not nearly as attractive, but despite her thoughts, she was a beautiful woman.
She turned back to the forest, which held a haunting familiarity that beckoned her forward. In the back of her mind, she heard the raspy voice telling her to walk into it. Then, she remembered where she saw the forest: in her dream. In it, it had blown up, showering her with dirt and splinters, but she doubted the forest would actually blow up. The Arizona desert had never blown up when she was younger, so she doubted the forest on this strange planet would. With the desire to walk into the forest on the forefront of her mind, she gave in to the pressure. The ground felt softer and inviting.
There you go, the voice spoke within her mind. I’ll show you the future.
An image of the interior of the spaceship flashed across her mind. In it, the hallways were splattered with blood, and there were pieces of skin stuck to the white walls. On the floor, small puddles of blood had formed, and at the far end of the hall, a man who she could not recognize was lying dead against the wall. From the looks of it, the dead astronaut was butchered.
The image passed. Grayson wanted to scream, but she held it in. Next, another image passed through her vision. She saw herself running through the forest with a panicked look stamped on her face. This vision went away quicker than the last.
She found herself standing in the forest, still not far away from the spacecraft. She turned around and could still see the astronauts wandering the beach. A few were even close to her, no more than fifty feet away, and one in particular—Robert—was standing by the spacecraft admiring her. She met his eyes and dashed her stare away.
He’s a friend, the raspy voice said.
She had no idea what that meant, but sooner or later she knew she would find out.
It was not until later in the day, when the planet’s sun was beginning to lower, that the astronauts all decided to retreat into the spaceship for shelter from the night. They joked, laughed, and shook hands in celebration over the newly discovered planet. Everything that they had seen was very Earth-like. The only thing that came off odd about the planet was the subtle feeling they had all received when they first stepped foot on the ground. The feeling only lasted for a second, however, but even so, it had still happened. Nobody talked about it over dinner that night. It was all a big party with burgers, cake, and a few beers.
Grayson had not heard the voice for a few hours, but the sound of it was still in her memories. She thought about it the whole time the party lasted. She wondered what it meant; she wondered if anyone else had heard the voice; and she wondered when it would come back. Surely it would.
With the thoughts on the tip of her mind, she snuck away from the party and into the hallway that led to her room. In a flash, she saw the image she had seen earlier—the hallway splattered with blood. She was frightened and stopped. Once the image dissipated, she shook her head and continued. Maybe, she thought, she needed sleep. Maybe tomorrow morning would be a whole lot better.
She reached her room in a jiffy and started to open the door when Robert rounded the corner down the hall with a book in his hand. When was he not reading or writing? Grayson looked up to see him and smiled. They rarely talked; there was something about him that seemed different than everyone else. Mayhap it was the child-like feeling he gave off, or maybe it was how he kept his distance that gave her the inability to understand. He was a shy person, but no matter what, she knew he was a smart man. Everyone on the ship was incredible intellectually.
“Grayson, can we talk?” Robert spoke.
Grayson was shocked that Robert had actually said something to her. Usually he kept quiet, so she assumed that whatever he had to say was important. It was.
“Sure,” Grayson said, nodding. She closed her room’s door and leaned against the white hallway wall that just a second ago had been completely stained with blood in her imagination. “What’s on your mind?”
“You’ve been hearing the voice, too,” Robert said, not making a question but a statement.
“Yes?” she said. “Have you?”
“Yeah. It’s trying to tell us something.”
“I’ve kind of already had that idea. You know what it’s trying to say?”
“Something bad is going to happen. Most likely it’ll be tonight.”
The bloody hallway, Grayson thought.
“And I think it has something to do with Nick,” Robert said, sounding as if he did not really want to say it, but he obviously felt better when he did. He nodded and licked his chapped lips. “I think it does.”
Grayson remembered earlier that morning when the voice had said “bad, bad” when she had looked at Nick. The puzzle pieces were starting to fit together. Then, she remembered what the voice had said when she had looked at Robert: He knows.
Well, he had known. The voice was right; she was not alone, and Robert knew about everything.
“What even is this voice?” Grayson asked.
“I don’t know. I never had it until we reached this place. Have you?”
She shook her head. Standing before her, Robert’s child-like ways seemed to vanish, and a new, manlier Robert presented himself. He was confident and seemed to take charge.
“It has to be something in the air. Maybe the planet has some sort of psychic phenomena that it has placed in our minds. It’s just a guess. Or maybe the planet is able to speak telepathically.”
“The planet is able to speak?” Grayson questioned.
“It’s only a theory, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a good theory that’s very plausible. Think about it. We get here and this very morning we end up hearing things and seeing-”
“What have you seen?” Grayson cut in.
“You’ve seen something?”
“Yes. What have you seen?”
“I saw an image of a hand holding a knife that was dripping blood. What have you seen?”
She told him about the hallway that they were standing in. She even pointed down the hall to where a man in her vision had been sitting limp against the wall covered in his own blood. Robert kept his gaze down the hall as if he was trying to see the man, but when he returned his gaze to Grayson’s, she guessed that he could not see what she had.
“Do you know who was sitting there?” he asked her.
“No. It was too far away to have a clear picture of his face.”
“What should we do?” she asked him.
“What is there to do?” he returned. “We’re the only ones hearing the voices. Maybe nothing will happen.”
But it will happen, the raspy voice said, entering both of their minds. Tonight.
Robert and Grayson stared into each other’s eyes. What were they to do?
In the other room, where the party was still alive and David Bowie’s “Starman” was blasting from a CD player, Nick finished off his fifth beer and began to slip to a place where he had not been for a while. When he used to be an alcoholic, he called the place The Dark Side of The Earth. It was where another side to him roamed wild and free. It was a violent side.
“Ah, hell,” Nick said, taking a sixth beer off the table. He cracked it open and began to let the liquid slide down his throat. How wonderful it felt! The last time he had a drink was four years ago, and the act of drinking was a rebellion. The other side to him began to grab a hold of his personality. It felt as if he was crawling in his skin, and the voices of the dark began to echo in his mind. It was not the raspy voice Robert and Grayson were hearing, but instead, it was his own twisted mind.
Take another drink, Nick. You know you want to.
Nick eyed another beer. He took his seventh and cracked it open. He was resting on one of the chairs in the room, and his eyes began to droop. Everyone around him was still partying. He had been left to wallow in his drunken stupor.
You know what you should do, Nick? Kill. They aren’t paying any attention to you.
He shook his head, but the voices raged on in his mind.
Grab a knife and slice and dice. Don’t hold back. See that knife over there?
Nick’s eyes rose to where a knife was sitting next to the cake. It gleamed in the light, and it was left abandoned in the middle of the party.
Yeah. You see it. Get it.
Nick stumbled up from his chair and wobbled over to the knife. Still, nobody paid any attention. David Bowie’s song changed and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” boomed over the speakers. As soon as the words started, Nick picked up the knife and slashed at the party. Screams erupted, blood flew, and a stampede occurred. As this happened, Nick managed to kill three. He slashed one’s throat, stabbed one’s heart, and sunk the knife into the last one’s stomach. By the time three astronauts were dead, everyone had piled out of the room. An odd smile formed on Nick’s face.
Kill. Kill. Kill.
Nick ran into the hallway that Grayson and Robert had just been in, but now, they were by the opening of the ship, where earlier that day they had got off and stepped onto the planet. Robert smashed his hand on the red button on a control panel and suddenly the huge wall in front of them slid open and a ramp protruded from the floor. The ramp touched down on the planet’s soil, and when it did, Grayson and Robert snuck away with a few other astronauts. Some of the unfortunate one’s had fled the party and into their rooms, and the one’s that did were killed eventually. Nick had gone insane.
Inside the ship, Nick forced open a few rooms, and he found a few astronauts concealed in there. He sliced them open and blood tricked all over the floor. In one instance, another astronaut was running through the hallway and Nick managed to earn another kill. Finally, the hallway was splattered in blood just like Grayson had seen in her visions.
However, she was glad that she was not another kill. Robert grabbed Grayson’s hand, and together, they ran through the forest. She realized that if he had failed to stop her in the hall, she would have been in her room and eventually slaughtered.
Thank God for him, she thought. Thank God.
“We have to hide,” Robert told her when they had reached a good distance from the ship. From where they stopped and stood, they could see the ship and the glow from inside. If Nick was going to step foot outside the ship, they would see it. Robert grabbed Grayson’s arm and manoeuvred them a few yards away behind a tree with a massive trunk that hid the both of them. Together they stayed put.
For a time, the silence was overwhelming, and it reminded her of the horror movies that one of her high school boyfriends liked to take her to see in the theatre. There was always a silent part in the movie that made her stomach churn, and her nerves were always set on edge. She secretly wished that Robert would wrap his arm around her like her boyfriend had done all those years back. However, this was real. She was living a horror movie. As they waited to see if Nick would emerge from the ship, she crawled in her skin. It felt as if something was ripping inside her, tearing at her, eating at her.
Then, the minutes were over, and Nick emerged with the gleaming knife in his hands. A twisted smile covered his face, and even from where Grayson stood, she could see the hatred in his eyes. They were full of hate, and they even looked possessed.
Stay with Robert, the raspy voice spoke up in her mind.
“I will,” Grayson said without realizing it. Following this, Robert covered her mouth and held her. He shushed her, but still not trusting her, he kept his hand over her mouth. His eyes looked questioningly at her, but now was not the time to ask why she had just said that. Now was the time to prepare for a fight or flight. He looked around the tree and watched as Nick began to walk into the woods.
Someday you’re going to marry him, the raspy voice said.
Robert took his gaze off Nick and looked around the dark forest. Nobody else was around them. The other lucky astronauts had fled the area, and they had left Grayson and himself to deal with Nick.
“We got to try to get back to the ship,” Robert told her in a whisper. His hands were still covering her mouth and holding her against him. Robert did not want to let the embrace go because he liked the warmth and comfort, but he told her, “I’m going to let you go so you can run, but don’t talk.”
She nodded, and he let go. They prepared to run.
“When I say go,” Robert said, “we’re going to get low and run. Stay close to the trees. We’re going to try to get back to the ship. Maybe we can get off this planet once we do.”
Ignoring Robert’s command for her to stay quiet, she asked, “what about the others?”
Remembering the other astronauts, Robert shook his head and said, “We have to protect ourselves. The only way is to get off this planet. But let’s go.”
Together they stealthily ran to the next tree, then the next. Grayson could not help but take peeks at Nick, who was still walking through the forest with the knife. She was thanking God every second the maniac failed to see them.
By the time she and Robert made it to the ship, Grayson’s heart was beating rapidly. She was glad that they gotten away from the killer, but she was still terrified. There was a chance that Nick could still get to them. They crept up to the ship, but once they reached the entrance, they sprinted up the ramp, which made a loud clanging sound with each footstep. Nick became aware of this and turned around. Grayson, still running up the ramp, looked back in time to see Nick change his direction and run towards the ship. Her chest began to hurt, but now was not the time to deal with pain. Now was the time to close the ship’s entrance.
Robert ran to the control panel immediately began fumbling around with the buttons until the ramp began to slide back into the ship. Although it was decently fast, Grayson doubted the ramp was moving fast enough. Her eyes were wide open in terror.
What if he gets to the ship in time before the entrance is closed? she thought.
He won’t, the voice in her head spoke.
She saw Nick grow closer and closer. The ramp was almost back inside the ship, but that still was not enough. Nick could easily still jump in before the doors closed. She watched the maniac run, knife still in hand. Remembering back to her high school days again, she remembered the horror movies. Every villain had that smile—that smile that seemed to scream insanity. Jack Torrance had it in The Shining; Norman Bates had it in Psycho; and the Joker from the Batman movies always had that twisted smile as well.
The ramp had closed, and now the doors began to slide shut. Nick was gaining speed, and the knife swung back and forth in his hands. It gleamed in the light from the ship.
“Come on. Come on. Come on,” Grayson repeated. She threw her nails into her mouth and began to chew on them—something that she had not done since her preteen years. “Shut the damn doors already!”
The smile did not leave Nick’s face, and that image pierced her thoughts. For as long as she lived, she knew she would never forget that face. Then, suddenly, she was grabbed by Robert and taken away from the doors that were still closing. He needed to get her away from the doors. The last thing he wanted was her hurt. The child-like way about him had vanished. He had taken control, and as she was dragged away by Robert, she seemed to think that it was her who was the child.
Luckily, the doors closed just as Nick had arrived. Instead of seeing the killer jump onto the ship’s platform and start to come at the two of them, they both saw the metal doors lock in place. What followed were loud banging sounds. Then, there were scraping sounds, which both of them understood was Nick slashing the knife at the metal exterior of the ship.
“We did it,” Robert said with a sigh of relief.
“Yeah. We did,” Grayson acknowledged.
They sat in the large room with the loud thumping and scraping sounds to the left of them, where the doors were locked in place. Nick was not giving up on slashing at the doors, but even he had to know that slashing at them was not going to get him into the ship. With all their might, Grayson and Robert tried to ignore the sounds. They held each other tightly and felt the warmth of one another. It had been so long since the two of them had felt another person’s embrace, especially an embrace in which they were in at the moment. This was more than an embrace that someone gives another after saving their lives. This had begun to grow into something more. Robert slowly manoeuvred Grayson around so that she was facing him. Then, his head lowered, and Grayson lifted her chin up so she could meet his lips.
Just before the day broke apart the night, the ship that the astronauts had come on began to lift into the air. Robert and Grayson sat at the head of the ship and watched as the planet below them began to grow smaller and smaller. The voice that had been in their heads quickly faded until nothing was there. Now, it was only their thoughts. They both wondered what would happen to the people they had left on the planet. What would become of them? Would Nick murder them eventually? The answers to their questions were unknown. There was one thing they did know though: they were lucky to be alive.