I wish they would just stop. I wish they wouldn’t utter a single word anymore. Nowhere is safe, nowhere is quiet and I don’t know what to do about it. I hear them chatter constantly in my head, as if someone had somehow opened a door and now everyone could get in and out as they want.

At times I tell myself I should head back into the woods where it was quiet, where it was peaceful but I know my chances are I will only get lost again and it is unlikely that I will be found a second time.

The chatter is bad once I’m in the apartment, as if the walls had grown absolutely paper thin and every word or thought was thrown at me, flung into my face.

A small part of me seems to believe I might be getting sick, that somehow I may have developed schizophrenia. I have to tell myself this is unlikely, I would have shown signs much earlier than this. The only way I have found to keep the voices out lately is by heading up to the roof. It’s a difficult task, made even more difficult by the fact that I need both hands to open up the heavy door that leads to the top and that’s just not an easy task for me.

It only helps a little. I can hear the quieting chatter for a few moments, half an hour at most before I’m bombarded by everything again. I don’t understand what’s going on. I haven’t spoken to my psychiatrist about this. When I lost my lover, I lost a little bit of myself and I started seeing someone, I thought I wasn’t doing well, I thought my whole world had collapsed and that I was going to collapse with it. I was on medication for a while but I’ve gotten better.

I don’t want to go back there and end up being drugged out of my mind again, even worse is that if I go there and somehow this is the onset of schizophrenia, I don’t want to end up locked up somewhere. I know it can be treated with pills and whatnot but I just don’t want to be on pills anymore.

I struggle with the door to the roof for a moment, fearing it might have been locked, just wanting to get away from the constant voices that I hear even when I cover my ears and I can’t. I panic briefly, wanting out up there and I struggle a bit more. I almost fall backwards and down the slim staircase when the door does open slowly and there, of course, my last time saviour, Eoghan, the manager. He blinks at me and then he smiles. I manage the ghost of a smile in return but the pain from all the voices must show on my face, he frowns and steps out of the way, letting me manage my way up to the roof.

He keeps his distance for a while, just watching me from a distance as I struggle to draw breath. In and out, slowing down eventually as the chatter eases to a low murmur and I can focus on my own thoughts for a few moments. I feel like crying, I don’t know what’s wrong with me and I’m terrified.

Finally he’s at me side, he looks down at me with those eyes, those bright eyes that don’t judge me. They’re just filled with some curiosity, some concern and I can’t understand that one. He touches my shoulder and suddenly it’s silent. Even the murmurs are gone. My eyes widen and the tears spill. It’s beyond my control that I almost stumble forward and I just latch onto him. He looks surprised, he stiffens even briefly for a moment before he rests both arms lightly about me. I just cry, it’s quiet, silent. It hasn’t been that way since—well since I went out to the forest and met him, actually.

He doesn’t release me. He actually lifts me off my feet and I cry out a little, startled. He only moves back to that single chair that somehow has always been on the roof and he settles down to it. It’s void of snow, the white stuff has been steadily melting away to nothing at this point. My cheeks burn in embarrassment but I still stay where he settles me, on his lap. My mind is quiet, it’s all I want.

He does move away slightly, just leaning back so he can look into my eyes and I feel shame wash over me. What he must think of me right now, a grown man, clinging to a stranger and crying for absolutely no reason. I do have my reasons but they are unknown to him, after all.

I was expecting to see some disgust in his eyes at this point but he’s only smiling lightly at me, studying me. He cants his head, looks off to the horizon before he looks back down to me.

“How about you tell me what this is all about before I decide that you just have quite the crush on me and you’ve been dreaming of hugging me to pieces this way?” His voice is light, there is a hint of playfulness and it calms me. Though the words hit something and I blush deeply. That hardly is the case, he’s handsome but I’m more than aware that even if I did somehow fancy him, I would not stand a single chance.

I take a deep breath, slowly in, then out and I close my eyes with a sigh. I enjoy the silence for a heartbeat more before I open my mouth to reply. “I’ve been hearing voices. Even if I put my hands over my ears I hear voices and they don’t stop. I’m not crazy, I swear I’m not. This is the only place where it dies down to a murmur. In my apartment it’s like the walls have gone paper thin, I can hear everything. When I’m in the library it’s a little quieter usually because it’s not very busy but I don’t know what to do and I can never focus on my own thoughts and when you touched me it just went quiet so I thought—I just—I’m sorry.”

I had all the reasons in the world to apologize, I felt like I’d just somehow latched onto this still mostly stranger for no reason at all, at least to him those would be no reason at all and that’s just not how a grown man acts.

He only smiles at me, there is a bit of a worried crease to his smile and that baffles me. He doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy, he seems to actually believe me.

“I see, I think I might have something to help you with that. Let’s go back down, first to my apartment and then back to yours to make sure it works, all right?”

I want to believe him, it’s not hard to, by simply touching him, everything went quiet. I can’t stay latched onto him forever, even if that might be an interesting idea.

He brushes his hand briefly over my temple and I feel a sort of weight settle onto my mind, as if someone has decided to put a heavy blanket on me. I release him reluctantly and the voices do come back though they’re murmurs still, whisper soft. I know they’re going to get louder as we get back downstairs and I’m not looking forward to it.

We walk back towards the door and he pulls it open with a slight grunt. I’m glad to notice that it’s heavy for everyone and not just me, it makes my struggles to get it open a little less shame inducing.

I head down first, slowly since this is as dangerous as getting the door open, for me, and he follows suit. We take the elevator down to his floor and he walks me towards what I assume is his apartment. The voices are still quiet and I’m a little baffled, maybe it’s his presence.

He opens the door and lets me in. It’s a quiet, comfortable place. It’s warm.

“Alexis, brought in Armin for a moment. I think I need one of your special bracelets.” He calls the words out and I blink. Special bracelet, that’s a strange one. That and I’m so used to being called about by my last name that his use of my first name only makes something flutter warmly in me. What makes that flutter stronger and more heated however is the sight of Alexis, the owner whom I had only seen briefly twice, wandering out of a room beyond a hallway in nothing but pants. The sight is something I might never forget.

He gives Eoghan this sort of look, it’s a look I can’t decipher but it doesn’t look like he’s out to believe I’m insane. He walks closer and holds up a simple bracelet. It’s black with some engravings I’ve never seen both on the inside and outside. He looks it over briefly, as if to make sure of something or other and he hands it over to Eoghan who smiles and turns to me.

“Let’s have your wrist. I’d like to ask you to not take it off until I tell you to, all right? I think it will help with the voices.”

From the corner of my eye I can see the slightly startled look on Alexis’s face but I let it be. Whatever this is, it is between them. If this bracelet can somehow keep the chatter out then I won’t complain. I hold up my crutch-free arm but he shakes his head and moves to actually set the bracelet about my crutch arm. I look down at it a moment.

“What about when I need to shower?”

He smiles at me as he carefully turns me around back to the door and out. “It can go in the water, even pool water. So don’t worry about it. Please just don’t take it off.”

I nod and we head back towards the elevator. The voices are still down to murmurs. It’s not utter silence but it’s much better than the constant chatter that has been with me since I got lost. Once in the elevator to head back to my floor, again he touches my temple briefly. I blink but I don’t question. The weight that had been on my mind seems to lift but the voices still remain quiet. I don’t understand it but I’m not about to ask. I just want some quiet.

He walks me back to my door and I know the look on my face screams that I don’t want him to leave me alone. He only smiles warmly at me and brushes some hair from my face. The motion is almost brotherly. My breath catches and I close my eyes again to keep myself from crying. It’s been so long that anyone has touched me at all in any way, this makes me long badly for something and someone I no longer have.

“Go on.”

I open my door, step inside and I turn to look at him one last time. He walks away and I wait for the voices to come back but they don’t. Still nothing but murmur and I know I can handle that. I watch him disappear down the hallway and into the elevator and still it’s quiet.

I’m not taking this bracelet off for anything in the world.


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