Happy Tuesday! This week’s guest judge for 5 Minute Fiction is Carly Anne West–her debut novel, The Murmurings, will be out shortly (Simon Pulse, March 2013). It’s a little bit of a YA thriller with some mystery thrown in, which is right up my alley, and as you can tell, tonight’s prompt was directly inspired by her title (and, as you will see, the plot). Here are the finalists Carly Anne picked for tonight:
- Tauisha Nicole, @shells2003
- Gwendolyn Wilkins, @KiusLady
- Kel, @Aightball
- AmyBeth Inverness, @USNessie
- Rebekah Postupak, @postupak
And now…the finalists’ entries:
The murmurings in my head…
It’s hard to just simply be alone because of them. They can do a million things.
Shutting up isn’t one of them.
Guess the glass of Riesling isn’t helping. Not really. If anything, the voices like it. Makes them more bold. More vocal. They love telling me how weak of a woman I am.
I shake my head, hoping to distract them into silence just when my date Arnold grabs the seat beside me.
“Lovely party,” he smiles at me.
I nod. The voices don’t agree with him.
“Met your friend Thomas.”
The voices swoon. Thomas. The whole reason I’m here tonight.
“And his girlfriend, Anna. She’s cool.”
I groaned out loud.
“Not a fan?”
My eyes grew large. Uh oh. Only the voices were supposed to hear that. “Uh…”
Arnold laughs and shakes his head. “Hey, we all have our taste, right?”
And she just so happened to be his. Thomas could have done a better job in the love department.
But, what do you expect when he skips over you, the best thing to ever happen to him?
Or, better still, what do you do when you don’t speak up about your feelings?
I sigh, listening to the voices chastise me yet again about my many failings.
If only they’d shut up…
“Whoa?” Arnold waved his hands in front of my face. “Where’d you go?”
I looked down into my glass. “This is good stuff.”
“Only the best for an engagement party,” Arnold agreed.
Wait, halt! What?
“This isn’t an engagement party!” I whispered loudly.
“You don’t pay much attention, do you?” Arnold shook his head.
It was at that moment I heard the loud applause. Saw the people lining up to talk to the now connected-at-the-lips couple.
Thomas and Anna.
My mouth hung open in shock.
The voices were silent.
The murmurings in my head are so inviting, so seductive and compelling.
“Just go outside, that’s all. The moon is full, the night is warm. Come outside and play.”
I want to, oh lord I want to give in so badly; but it won’t stop there, I know it.
“Stay inside,” I firmly tell myself. “This isn’t the time and place.”
Still they call to me, always quiet and gentle, never demanding.
I sigh and look out the window at the bright, clean moon; then I look down at the filthy street below, at the occasional cars driving by, the concrete “grass” and light post “trees”.
“This is not Home,” I remind myself. “You get in trouble for that here.”
I think back to the open fields of my Home – to the people dancing skyclad around the nighttime bonfires. To the laughing and communing with nature and ourselves. That is where I belong, where I *should* be. Not this urban jungle where no one knows what the stars truly look like.
“Come outside and play,”
I turn away from the window and wipe a tear from my cheek. Torn as always between livelihood and love.
The murmurings in my head were my only companions. On this cold street in some city whose name I’ve long forgotten, I have the murmurings in my head for company. They are male, female, friendly, mean. The mean one is in charge tonight…and this little cocktail in my hands? If I listen to him, I’ll take it and *poof!* no more murmurings. There’s a downside…isn’t there always a downside? But in this barren wasteland of some city I can’t remember, does the downside matter? No one will miss me. I don’t remember having anyone to miss me. Clearly someone used to love me, but no one does, now.
No, I can be stronger than the mean voice.
I flipped the packages in my hands. All I had to do was mix them together into the fatal cocktail that would end me. The mean voice…he’s almost been the death of me once. And I dare say he’ll be the death me of again. Finally, I opened the relevant packages and mixed the contents together. Up my nose, in my vein…the delivery method didn’t matter.
Nodding once, I filled the syringe. I tightened whatever passed for a strap these days around my left arm. Then, I pierced my vein and depressed the plunger. It took a moment and then, at last it was done.
The murmurings in my head were talking too fast. A childhood curse that I’d thought I’d overcome, yet it lived on in my unconscious brain. Years of speech therapy spent trying to get me to slow down when I talked, and it didn’t kick in until late in my teens, and even then still came through when I got nervous.
My fingers moved quickly, but they weren’t quick enough. The words stretched out behind me, becoming lost before I could get them out of my head and onto the screen.
I looked at the wire. I hated the thing, but I had no choice. The story would explode if I didn’t get it out.
The tiny USB fit neatly into the port behind my ear. I sighed as a wave of intense pleasure flowed through me, releasing the dam of words that had built up to near fatal pressure. I hardly noticed the nagging itch of the port. It was like I’d drunk an entire gallon of tea and run into the outhouse just barely in time. There was no stopping the flow once it started.
Words appeared on the screen. They were definitely my words, yet somehow they weren’t as eloquent or organized as I needed them to be. But at least they were getting out of me.
Drained, I watched the last dregs drizzle out. Reluctantly, I took the wire out, knowing that if I left it in too long, I’d become so dependent on it that I’d never be able to walk away. I’d never be able to look at my words with an objective eye.
I always have to walk away when I’m done with a dump. It’s too raw and fresh when I come down off the high. It’s so raw, some of it is incomprehensible. But that’s what the editing process is for.
And that is where the real work begins.
“The murmurings in my head,” she said, “trump any words coming out of your mouth any given day of the week, and twice on Wednesdays.”
“The words coming out of my mouth,” he said, “at least make sense.”
She frowned at that. “In whose opinion? That nitwit shrink of yours? He wouldn’t recognize sense if it crawled down the chimney and smacked him in the head with a bag of Barbie dolls.”
“So I’ve heard you say,” he said, flashing his teeth in the kind of oily smile that always set her own teeth on edge.
“Well, it’s as true now as ever. You belong here every bit as much as I do, and one of these days he’s going to realize it, and BAM! in you go, tight as a drum, bye bye, blue sky.”
“You’re awfully confident for someone in a straitjacket.”
That one stung, and she kicked at him. “You’re awfully confident for someone who’s been bamboozled by someone in a straitjacket.”
His hands flew up in surrender. “Uncle! Uncle! Geez Louise, Uncle, all right??”
“Why did you come here, then? Why do you always come here? To mock me?”
“No. Never that.”
“You know why.”
“Why should I? Your murmurings are truer. You said so just a minute ago.”
“Yes, they are.”
“So why ask?”
“Because,” she said, her lips trembling, “because I need to hear it. I need to know I’m not crazy, at least, not the unsalvageable kind of crazy. I need to know, between all the murmurings and all the voices, that I’m not alone.”
His voice was a tender whisper. “But my love—oh, my dearest love. You are.”
“I am not!” she said, kicking at him again.
But as usual—the murmurings were wrong.
Congratulations to the finalists! The prize du jour: the winner gets a copy of Carly Anne West’s soon-to-be-released novel The Murmurings:
Everyone thinks Sophie’s sister, Nell, went crazy. After all, she heard strange voices that drove her to commit suicide. But Sophie doesn’t believe that Nell would take her own life, and she’s convinced that Nell’s doctor knows more than he’s letting on.
As Sophie starts to piece together Nell’s last days, every lead ends in a web of lies. And the deeper Sophie digs, the more danger she’s in—because now she’s hearing the same haunting whispers. Sophie’s starting to think she’s going crazy too. Or worse, that maybe she’s not …
Have I mentioned yet how much I like the cover of this novel? It’s quite pretty and creepy. But back to 5 Minute Fiction! It’s time vote for your favorite finalist entry…