Tiny voice

www.theunstitute.org

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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