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Michelle Duy
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shadowvoices.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2014

Shadow Voices

 

Michelle Duy



Three days after her older cousin's funeral, Christine opened a sagging cardboard box that had been stored in Karen's attic for years.

"Whatcha got there?" asked her roommate.

"Stuff from my cousin's house," said Christine absently, setting a Raggedy Ann doll on the carpet beside her. "Aunt Judy went through everything and found a box with my name on it."

"Were you and Karen close?"

"We used to be. She babysat me all the time when I was growing up, but we kind of lost touch." I should have done more, she thought, unpacking several ancient video game cartridges.

"I'm sorry for your loss."

"This is crazy, but I really want to find clues or something," Christine went on. "It makes no sense, you know? She didn't even leave a note."

Jessica lowered her voice. "Didn't you say she was bipolar?" 

"Yeah, so freakin’ what? I am, too, but I'd never…Jess, I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just so sad. One day she said she heard voices, and the next..."

"I know it's hard." Jessica watched her from the apartment doorway, a handbag slung over her shoulder. "But you should do something fun tonight, too. Go out and see your friends. Get some fresh air. Take your mind off things."

"Okay, I will." Christine managed a weak smile. "As soon as I'm done, promise."

Her eyes brimmed with tears as she sat alone, poring over toys and games. She flinched at the sight of two dead spiders on a fairy tale storybook. A rather flattened teddy bear stirred up memories of Karen tucking her in under warm covers, turning off the bedside lamp as the night light cast its soft glow.

At the bottom of the box, she found a record player encased in tan plastic, its cord curled up underneath like a snake. Below it sat an old 45 rpm record, "Favorite Nursery Songs." She wiped dust off its square cover and stared at the familiar drawing of Mother Goose surrounded by smiling, apple-cheeked cartoon kids. It might not work anymore, she thought, but she had to try. Moments later she lowered the stylus onto the spinning black disc. First, there was only silence; then a wavering chord sounded.

"Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down,” children’s high voices sang. “Play, play the other way.”

Strange, she didn't remember the last part. The record skipped: "Play, play the other way−play, play the other way−"

Where did that line come from? It seemed out of place.

The other way...

"Maybe backwards," she murmured. With two fingers of her left hand, she pressed down on the paper label. Then she began turning the record counterclockwise with her right index finger. Creepy gibberish filled the air. She leaned closer to the record player. At first she heard only nonsense syllables. But after a couple of tries, she caught snippets of meaning and a message started to form.

Her heart thudding, Christine grabbed a pencil and score sheet from a long forgotten board game. She had to get it all down. Karen wanted to reach her, she knew.

That night, Jessica came home to find the door wide open. "Hey, Christine, are you still here?" she called, glancing around. "Where are you?"

The contents of the flipped-over box littered the living room floor: a jack-in-the-box with chipped paint, a plastic doll missing an arm, scattered Old Maid playing cards. Jessica saw an overturned record player, near the two halves of a broken record. She noticed a piece of paper. On the back, she read the scribbled note: “‘Shadow voices hidden but everywhere, we bring insanity. Now Karen is with us. Soon you will be, too.’”



From the time she first read the story behind the name Yellow Mama, Michelle Duy has been strangely addicted to the art and fiction on our site. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago and also writes for a movie site called Reel Reviews.

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