Whispering Time – Part 2 of The Old Ones
My husband is looking at me across the dinner table, and I know he wants me to talk about the meeting with Dr Pleasance. Since we came home I have talked about the weather, Matthew’s school work, and how the house is getting damp again.
“I’ll just see if Matthew’s ready for me to turn out his light.” I stand, and look to the sliver of light coming from under Matthew’s bedroom door. I can hear whispers from his room, but I don’t know if it is his voice or Ninny’s that I am hearing.
“Lisa. What happened?” Sam motions for me to sit.
“I don’t know,” I say. “This doctor was different. She listened to Matthew and she wasn’t put off by the story.” Something unspoken passed between us. The story. Ninny’s creaky voiced account of his sad life, how he murdered his family, and how he was killed in return. A story that no six year old boy should recount in the guise of his toy talking.
“So what did she say?” Sam looks tired. We have been here before. Matthew is hallucinating. Matthew needs medication. Matthew has problems with reality. Matthew is an ordinary boy making up games. We have heard it all.
“She wants us to go back tomorrow, and talk some more. She wants—” I see my hands are shaking. I can’t even feel it. I put them in my lap. “She wants to talk to Ninny.”
“Matthew.” Sam corrects, with an immediate frown. “Lisa, we’ve discussed this before. You can’t start buying into it. It’s just a game.”
“Can’t you hear that?” I grab Sam’s hands suddenly, and it takes us both by surprise. He knows what I’m talking about. The incessant whispering we hear from down the hallway every evening.
“It’s just a game,” he repeats, but his voice sounds softer.
“Do you think—” I stop myself and take a breath. This thing we cannot talk about.
“Do you think some part of Matthew knows?” I say it quickly, as if it can be unsaid just as fast if needed. “Maybe at some level he knows what he’s missing, and he’s compensating somehow? Like making Ninny a substitute for—”
“No. I don’t.” Sam cuts across me, and pulls his hands away. He looks angry. I’ve said too much. “Matty is just a little boy playing some games with his toy. You’ve taken this too far, with your psychoanalysing and labels. He has no idea what happened, and it stays that way.” He stands up to clear the table.
“I’ll turn off his light.” I swallow down a creeping scream that, if I let it out, feels as if it would never stop.
I pause at Matthew’s door, and the whispers stop. It’s like they—he—can hear me coming.
“Sleep time now, darling.” I pat the covers down around his little warm body. Ninny’s glass eye stares out at me from next to Matthew’s head.
“Mummy,” Matthew sits up. “Are we going back to that lady?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Do you want to talk to her again?”
He nods. “Ninny likes the lady. He said she listened to him.”
I nod too. “Yes, she did, didn’t she? We can go back to see Dr Pleasance tomorrow.”
“Good.” Matthew snuggles down in his bed, one arm crooked around Ninny, and the other rubbing the corner of his sheet against his face—a comfort that has lasted since he was a baby.
“Mummy,” he says again. I stroke his hair.
“Ninny told me that he once had a Ninny.”
“What do you mean?” My heart pauses for a moment.
“When he was a little boy. He had a toy that talked to him too. It wasn’t called Ninny though.” He closes his eyes, and I am glad that he cannot see my face.
“Mummy?” he says, eyes still shut. “Do you ever have a scared feeling, as if something bad is going to happen to us?”
I tell him no, and I tuck him in tighter, and turn out the light. Ninny’s eye shines in the moonlight as I leave the room.
You can read One of Nine – Part 1 of The Old Ones here.
You can read Babies in the Snow – Part 3 of The Old Ones here.