He first heard it when he was 6, at least that’s the first time he remembered hearing it but even back then, it felt like he had known that sound a lifetime. The beautiful sing-song voice, called out to him from the woodland behind the house. The sound was unforgettable and even though it played over and over in his mind, when asked he wouldn’t have been able to accurately describe it; it’s a voice that much is true but it is neither high nor low pitched, there is no accent, the tone- there are no words to describe it. Yet it moved something within him, in his 6 year old mind, he named it; The Voice Of Dreams. As he lay there in bed, staring at the old poster on the wall, not seeing anything but eyes wide anyway, listening, not with his ears but with his mind, his heart.
Jack William Brown, Jacky as he was known, was always a small child, skinny with knobbly knees and long branch arms, the other kids were so mean to him and were always pushing him over. No one would play with him so he spent all his time alone, with a book or with his daydreams. He never shared his secret with anyone, he felt so special that his otherworldly friend chose him and only him. He knew if he told anyone, they would make The Voice go away. So he spent all day alone and all night awake with his friend.
When morning came, he was never sure what The Voice Of Dreams had actually said to him, he knew he answered back and they had conversations and though he was never able to tell you anything that was said, he had feelings, different feelings each morning. Sometimes he would be irrationally angry- shouting at his mum, kicking and screaming, refusing to go to school. Other mornings he would be so full of melancholy he couldn’t even get out of bed, he’d lay there, slack faced and despondent ignoring his mother’s tears as she desperately tried to get him up, to get him to tell her what was wrong. Then there were the good days, days he jumped out of bed, manically smiling, not caring what anyone thought, not caring that no one would sit next to him and the big kids in the playground pushed him around, he’d smile all through the day, occasionally laughing to himself. On some level, he knew The Voice Of Dreams was making him feel all these things.
“He’s not right Sharon” Jacky’s father, Billy said one night.
“He’s just going through a phase, having a hard time” Sharon- Jacky’s mother, defended him.
“Jesus Christ Sharon, you’re as deluded as he is, get him some help. I’m falling apart here Sharon” Billy shouted. Sharon just walked away sadly, not knowing what to do or say to make her little family okay again.
At 8, The Voice started making demands of Jacky, he couldn’t remember the exact words said but he had this urge to do horrible things, he felt powerless to resist. “Push Sally off the swing” his mind would suddenly demand, so he did. “Flush Whiskers, the class hamster, down the toilet” so he did. “Bite Miss Summers” he did everything that was asked of him, even though he didn’t want to and always got into big trouble. The teachers didn’t want him at school anymore and his father stopped coming home in the evenings, his mum wouldn’t spend time with him, he was left in his room, with his books, with his daydreams and always with the soothing Voice Of Dreams. The Voice made everything better, when he was sad, when he was in trouble, the crooning song creeping through his open window soothed his distressed young mind.
That’s when the doctors started asking him funny questions, he was 9 now, a big boy but they treated him like a baby, gave him toys to play with in blandly decorated offices with fake sympathy in their voices and a devious interest in their eyes like he was an experiment. A rat they had trapped in a cage while they zapped him and operated on him. Jacky hated these visits, he would refuse to talk, he sat in the corner, crossed legged on the floor, face in his hands and refused to look at their malicious eyes.
“Doctor Haskell, I need help, I just don’t know what to do with him anymore” Sharon pleaded, standing outside the office in the comfy waiting room with vinyl padded chairs and a sickly green floor.
The receptionist looked away discretely, her hair pinned up in a severe bun showing the curious expression she couldn’t hide.
“From what you’ve told me of his symptoms, hearing him talking to someone at night, his lack of social interaction and his severe mood swings, I believe, Jack is suffering with what’s known as schizoaffective disorder” Dr Haskell answered her, gently turning Sharon with an arm around her back so she faced the shaded window into the little room in which her son sat waiting for her.
“I know that’s a very scary and intimidating word but if we break the word down schizo- just means psychotic symptoms” Dr Haskell was a kind man, who specialized in pediatric mental health. “Let me be clear, that does not mean your son is a psycho” Dr Haskell continued. “The psychotic part just refers to your son hearing voices, whether they are inside his head or he can ‘hear’ them from outside of his head” Dr Haskell looked down at his notes “I also believe from what you said, he thinks he is specially chosen by this voice, is that correct?” He asked her, Sharon nodded her head numbly unable to speak.
“Very well, yes, hearing voices and delusions such as being specially chosen fit in correctly with this diagnosis, the affective part of schizoaffective refers to mood symptoms, from what you’ve said and from what I’ve seen here, I can clearly see he has severe mood swings, what we would call rapid cycling, swinging from very depressed states into manic states, the aggression you sometimes see from him are what I would categorise as hypomanic”
“Now there are several very effective treatments, he will need to be put on the waiting list for CBT- cognitive behavioural therapy but for now let’s try to stabilize his moods and thought processes so he is able to effectively take part.”
He started having to take tablets. Tablets that made him feel fuzzy and softened the harsh edges of the world, made him so sleepy he would fall asleep at the table. Jacky’s mother found it incredibly hard to keep giving this medication that made her son so zombie- like he couldn’t make it through breakfast, she worried about him not being able to go to school and tried to teach him things at home but nothing ever got through to him. She worried about money, now that she had to quit her job to look after him full time and his dad had moved out, he couldn’t take the stress of not having a normal child. This disgusted her and made her worry about how Jacky would be treated the rest of his life but she stopped worrying about Jacky hurting other people, he was on the right medication the doctors said, the side effects would wear off soon when his body got used to the chemical changes. They’d review him again in a few months they said. She trusted the NHS and thanked God she didn’t have to pay for his treatment. She trusted the doctors and she trusted the medication.
Jack didn’t trust the evil doctors and the pills that made his head spin and his mouth taste funny and he stopped trusting his mum, The Voice Of Dreams told him this, he thought. Why would his mum poison him? He didn’t like the name Jacky either anymore, he had just turned 10 and The Voice told him he was too old for baby nicknames. Jack withdrew more, he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, he didn’t say a single word to anyone but The Voice, he pretended to take his pills then climbed out the window once he was sure his mum wouldn’t notice, once she was sure he was sleeping soundly. He climbed down the side of the house, down the drainpipe to wander the woods and be with his beloved friend, his only friend who knew exactly what to do.
The voice was his only companion now, Jack walked around, never truly awake and never truly asleep, his emotions hard to reach and far away. He started to hurt himself, in small ways at first, banging his head against a wall, punching himself in the leg, he wanted to feel. The Voice encouraged this, he knew exactly what Jack needed. Jack found an old Stanley knife in some things his father left. He hadn’t seen him in years and his mum wouldn’t talk about him. Fuck him, he thought, still a child in body but a grown man inside. Fuck them all he thought as he made his first cut.
Sharon walked in on her little boy, sitting on the corner, hunched over himself like Gollum- cradling something that gleamed dully in the dim light. Then her brain registered registered all the blood. Time froze for a moment as a screamed swelled up in her breast. Her mind repelled the image in front of her repulsed by what he had done to himself. Her little Jacky- now tall and lanky, tree like in appearance, his uncut, unruly hair a mane around his face, hunched over with deep gashes, slashed across his bony chest and concave stomach. Her chest heaved and her head span.
Sharon reacted immediately, though perhaps not her best reaction, she spun on her heels and raced down the stairs to her phone.
“999 what’s your emergency?”
“My son, he’s… He’s hurt himself, there’s blood everywhere”
“Calm down ma’am, what’s your address”
“3 Farthings way, Surrey”
The sound of the keys tapping as the operator input her address sent Sharon’s teeth on edge, she thought of her baby, her only child upstairs bleeding, she needed to get to him, to make sure he was okay.
“Help is on the way but stay on the line with me, I need to ask you a few questions”
Sharon did not stay on the line, she threw the phone down and sprinted back up the stairs but when she got there, Jack was gone. Sharon wailed uncontrollably whilst she frantically searched for her son. Her thoughts span and her pulse raced, she could feel time ticking away in every harsh beat against her ribs. She searched the house high and low, searching every room before ending back in Jack’s room, she finally noticed his open window as the ambulance pulled up outside, flashing blue and red lights dancing on her face.
It was too late, she could feel it in her bones.
Jack William Brown, wasn’t found for another three days. A volunteer found him hanging from a tree, half a mile away from his house.
He finally joined the The Voice Of Dreams.