My name is Priscilla and I am six years old. Not that I could tell anyone that, since I was born without vocal cords, but I can think it just fine. If I could talk, maybe things could have turned out differently.
Tommy’s my brother. He’s four. He can talk. Mommy and Daddy thought he was special, but they were wrong. He’s in the hospital now because of that.
Not having a voice isn’t my only problem. I don’t feel pain. Daddy said it’s cause my brain is wired funny. Mostly that’s a bad thing, but right now it’s good, else I could never go through with this. I feel the pressure and the pulling, and it’s creepy, but my eyes are closed and it’ll be over soon. I wish I could close my ears, but you can’t have everything you want. The doggie makes sounds that are really gross.
I’m the special one, not Tommy. But there was no way to tell anybody. I can draw pictures, but I can’t write. Can’t read either. I wish I could have learned it. But I was too dumb.
Rex is the doggie’s name, and I guess it all started when Daddy brought him home about six weeks ago. Mom about had a conniption and told Daddy it had to go, then Daddy said Pitt Bulls were good for home defense and he was keeping it, so shut up.
Tommy was on the floor, and Rex growled and lunged, jerking the leash out of Daddy’s hand, running across the floor towards Tommy and Tommy looked up and his eyes got wide and his face screwed up like he was gonna cry but the dog didn’t care he was thinking bad hungry thoughts and I said, “Stop.”
Not out loud, ‘cause I couldn’t, but in the doggie’s head.
Rex’s legs locked up and he slid the rest of the way across the floor to Tommy. I made him close his mouth and told him to play nice with my brother. Told him Tommy was family. Tommy was pack. Then I told Tommy everything was okay, and Tommy heard me, though it was getting harder for him by then. Soon he would be deaf to me like Mommy and Daddy and every other person I know. But Tommy heard me then and looked at me and smiled, then reached out to Rex and Rex licked his hand. Good doggie. Pit Bulls aren’t so bad.
Mommy and Daddy thought something weird had happened, and talked about it most of the evening. I sat on the back porch, listening to them only a little. Mostly I talked to the rabbits and told them to leave Mom’s garden alone, and they finally said okay, but they didn’t understand why she would put such good eats out in the open if nobody was allowed to eat them.
Mommy came outside with Tommy and they sat beside me. Mommy said the Cicada were really loud tonight and Tommy thought it was way too much noise, so I told them to be quiet, and they did. Tommy giggled and said, “Quiet, quiet.” Mom turned pale and picked Tommy up and went back inside.
I told the Cicada they could start singing again, and they did.
Then Mommy came out again with Tommy, and this time Daddy was with her. Mommy said, “John, watch this.” Then she turned Tommy’s face towards her. “Tommy, can you make the bugs be quiet again?”
“Christ, Amanda, this is ridiculous.”
Tommy yelled, “Quiet, buggies. Quiet!”
When nothing happened Tommy looked at me. His thoughts were strong, begging me to do it again. I didn’t want to, it was like I had a feeling deep down that something bad was gonna happen if I did. But Tommy screwed up his face again and I hate to hear him cry so I told the Cicadas to hush, and the twilight became silent.
“Make them buzz again, Tommy,” said Mom.
“Noise, noise, noise!” said Tommy. I sighed and told the Cicadas to sing.
“Jesus H. Christ,” said Daddy. His voice was barely audible over the insect noise. He stared out at the back yard, studying the grass, the shrubs, the garden, the trees, as if his eyes could somehow explain what his ears were hearing.
Things got pretty bad over the next few weeks.
Like when Daddy made a bucket of sugar water, then painted it all over Tommy and me, and made us sit in the back yard in just our underclothes. The bees came to check us out, and the ants. I didn’t notice them, other than the buzzing from the bees. But Tommy jumped up, and Daddy yelled at him to sit down, and Tommy said the bugs were biting him. I told the bees and ants to leave Tommy alone about the same time Daddy yelled at Tommy to say the same thing and to sit back down or else he’d get a beating.
Mom came running out of the house, angry as a swarm of hornets from a kicked nest, asking Daddy what the hell was he doing, and then just ignoring him while she came and picked up Tommy, who was crying, but I don’t think it was because of the bugs, I think it was Daddy’s yelling.
Mommy asked why Tommy was all sticky and Daddy said it’s a test and Mommy said “Bastard” and examined my brother’s legs while Daddy walked over to her.
“See? No bites. The kid has powers, Mandy. Dominion over animals and insects. We’ll be famous. Rich.”
Then Daddy walked over to me, yanked me up by the arm and frowned. “Not Priscilla, though. Girl’s covered with bites.”
I must have forgotten to tell the bugs to leave me alone. Without a sense of pain, I just didn’t feel them. Mom told me to get in the house, that she’d be in momentarily to put some salve on the bites. But she had to say some words to Daddy first.
I don’t think the words did much good, because Daddy kept coming up with new tests to put Tommy through, tests that would have scared Mom, except that he always did them when she was at work, and Daddy didn’t work as much now. He told Mom he was laid off while the company was restructuring, and they could save money over the next few weeks by stopping the daycare service since he was home.
The tests scared me, too, ‘cause what if Daddy did one without me there? Tommy could get hurt, which of course was exactly what did happen, but I was dumb enough to think maybe everything would turn out okay. Sooner or later Daddy would run out of tests, and life would be normal again. Besides, Daddy always tested Tommy and me together. He would pat me on the head and say, “It’s a good thing you can’t feel pain, little Miss Pris, ‘cause you make a perfect control for these experiments.”
Then today Daddy wrote a note for Mom, and drove off with Tommy about an hour before Mom got home from work. I wanted to go with him, but he said no, and pried my fingers off his legs. He was strong, and couldn’t hear my voice. He locked me in my room.
I called Rex, who came running to the door, and he tried to break it down, tried to claw it down, but it was too strong a door. Rex was sad, but I told him he had done his best.
When Mommy arrived, I banged and banged on my bedroom door, and she came running up the stairs, saying “Where is your father? Where’s Tommy?” And of course I couldn’t answer, but I took her hand and led her to the kitchen, then pointed to the note on the refrigerator.
I don’t know what it said, but Mommy cursed and rushed into the living room. She glanced at the note again, and at her watch, and put the TV on channel five.
There was a woman news reporter at the city zoo, talking about a deranged man who had scaled the wall to the lion habitat using a rope ladder. The man had a little boy with him, and was claiming that the boy had divine power over animals. The picture changed to show my Daddy swinging a stick at two lions, and screaming at Tommy, who was crying and cowering behind Daddy’s legs. Tommy’s face and hands were red, but his clothes were not torn. Daddy’s pants were shredded and wet. The arm not holding the stick hung limply at his side, pumping out blood.
Mommy screamed and dropped to her knees in from of the screen.
I shouted at the lions, shouted as loud as I could, but they were too far away. They couldn’t hear me.
One lion bit the stick and held on, while the second lion rushed in at Daddy.
The camera switched back to the newscaster, who talked about security personnel armed with tranquilizer guns, and police armed with handguns and shotguns. She looked pale.
Mommy was on the floor, saying, “John, John, John,” very softly. Then she said, “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy.” Over and over, one name, then the other. I don’t think Mommy even knew I was there with her. Or how sorry I was.
The camera was back at the lion den, where one lion lay on the ground, bleeding and not moving. The other lion had moved off out of sight. They said it was tranquilized. Daddy was on the ground, and he wasn’t moving either, and the camera wasn’t working right because most of his body was blurred so bad you couldn’t see anything. Two men dressed in heavy clothes climbed into the den and hurried towards Daddy. When they got close, one of the men turned aside and threw up. The second man reached down behind Daddy and picked up Tommy. One of Tommy’s legs was mangled and didn’t move, but his other leg and both arms were moving. There was a glimpse of his face, and he was crying. No, he was screaming.
I touched Mommy’s shoulder, but she kept staring at the television and crying.
It was my fault. It was all my fault. And Daddy wasn’t here to punish me.
I walked to the kitchen, lay down on the floor, and called Rex. Daddy was dead because of me. Tommy might die because of me. Mom was crying because of me. All because I’m a freak. A dumb freak. Well, no one else would suffer because of me.
Dinner time, Rex.
I’m glad I can’t feel pain. And the munching, crunching sound isn’t so bad anymore. In fact, everything is silent now, and dark, and peaceful.
When I don’t have to breathe anymore, I say goodbye to Rex, and hello to the beings waiting just beyond the light which has appeared in the darkness.
My name is Priscilla.