Tiny voice

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I can’t say that it was a complete surprise- I had been hearing some sort of quiet murmur for a while, as if mice were running in the wall cavity- right where the wallpaper is a bit torn. There they are softly squeaking, nails scouring along the rough surface on the inside of the wall. At night they seem to favour a place under the floor boards directly under my mattress; they must feel the warmth. At first I only needed to tap my foot a little or knock gently on the floor and the noise would stop. Actually, I didn’t mind either way- I rather liked their presence.

But soon the volume became much bolder and they stopped responding to my taps – in fact completely ignoring them. What mendacity! Now they didn’t mind to be noticed, they rather enjoyed it there on the other side.

Though soon after that, my attention was taken over by the neighbours in the flat above retaliating to my hard knocks by moving and purposely dropping furniture all night. Yet, even despite all of this racket, the squeaking came through no less audible, if not even more persistent: it seemed to be closer now and it was no longer localised- in fact it was all around me, the chorus reaching me from each corner of the room.

My room was also appearing to me much smaller, as if the squeaking collapsed the walls inwards, consistently shrinking space. I was now boxed-in by what measured only a couple of steps in each direction. My room was taking over me, expanding onto me, congealing me with its roughness; it was now scratching at my insides, my soul, tickling my tongue, tearing my nostrils, grating ears, irritating the vocal cords, making them squeak…My instrument was malfunctioning.

I could hear myself making unfamiliar sounds, animal-like and whenever I wanted to speak, to say something in my own voice, it was impossible; no sound would come out at all. I have lost all the ability to modulate my vocal cords to produce sounds. Only the reprehensible squeaking would come out of its own accord.

I decided to see a doctor. My doctor ran his practice from his own house- it was a normal occurrence in this central area of town. There wasn’t much space to accommodate any offices, the flats were too large, so households often shared space with business.

The doctor’s living room served many purposes and was divided by several partitions: there was a reception and an administration room, an operating theatre near the fire place, an A&E hospital next to the windows. The living room was also where the family took their meals; one could often see them sitting around the operating-dining table.

The doctor greeted me, lead me through to his enormously long and heavy desk made out of rough planks of wood, and asked me to take a seat. He asked me to talk, and did so in a tired voice, occasionally yawning, burping and excusing himself. He himself didn’t look well at all. He had a sort of gray parlour…but I couldn’t talk and to explain to him my problem I could only squeak like a mouse. It was very frustrating; the pressure of the situation was driving me mad, my head ached as if it was to burst and be shattered into millions of pieces.

The doctor looked at me inquisitively for a long time and said that perhaps I need constant care, but of course he was confident that he can help me get better. Moreover, he suggested that if I wanted I could stay in his attic. He was very kind. The offer really pleased me- it should do me a world of good to get away from the house.

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The Lake

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There is a new living quarter in the outskirts of our town called Fountain Side, taking its name from a gigantic fountain sculpture that used to adorn the central square. The sculpture has been taken down a while ago- the square is now a large, bare expanse, which has a peculiar upward curve around the edge, forming some sort of a shallow basin, which is rumoured to be turned into a lake. Around the square there stands a tightly packed cluster of high rise buildings which in spite of the short amount of time since their completion, has already started looking run down due to the rather fragile quality of the material -mud and straw and which, in our tempestuous climate of intense heat and blustery winds must aid their further ruination. Corners of the houses have become smoothed out, deformed, plaster crumbling and falling down constantly, smashing onto the pavements, doors are hanging at weird angles so that from a short distance away they don’t resemble houses but appear rather like towering heaps of precariously piled up dusty rubbish. I suppose they were originally bright and colourful- at close examination one can still see the remains of the original paint between the crumbled pieces of plaster: in shadows, in places sheltered by balconies, under stairs and porches the colour is even luminous- pinks, yellows, ultramarines and lime greens.

I should mention some decorative elements of these blocks: dotted along the facades and the rooftops are the disassembled parts of the original fountain sculpture that used to stand on the central square. The houses near the square bear quite large chunks of it: one of the blocks directly facing the square has two huge hands moulded into the portico and a halved head with eyes sits like a strange cupola on the top of it. Another block’s facade is dominated by a gigantic toe overhanging the entrance way, another has two enormous ears jutting out from its sides. But as you walk away from the square these sculptural elements become more and more fragmented and small broken off parts such as noses, ears and fingers have been set into whirly patterns around doors and balconies; along the roofs there are a selection of alternating head parts, legs and torsos producing a weird castellated effect.

Due to the constantly falling plaster from the buildings, multicoloured dust collects in piles and lines the narrow passages between the buildings. These walkways are overhung by numerous balconies which extend as far as the ones on the opposite side of the street; some of the buildings from the opposite sides even share balconies, like a vessel. No windows can be seen anywhere, just the numerous balconies piled up high with dust.

Along the street passages there is constant traffic of people, a never seizing flow of people with buckets; they are the council employees, most of them are the residents of the blocks. What is really striking about the workers is that they are themselves completely covered in the multicolour plaster dust which they stir from the ground as they move. It is impossible to identify any of them: thick dust cakes over their faces forming bizarre, featureless masks. These plaster face-masks crack when the bearer grimaces or tries to speak and pale skin shows underneath them, glistening with sweat, though the moisture quickly soaks up the new particles of dust which move around with them forming and reforming new skins over the masks.

The residents are involved in the activity of moving water to the basin in the square but of course when they arrive there is only crumbled plaster in their buckets which they pile up in the middle of the lake; the wind then takes the dust up again and disperses it at a whim.