The Murmurings

It is a long interminable path my feet tire to tread on. It has been a long lengthy escape from forces my mind tires to remember. Gustavo, Ernesto and I keep delving into the enveloping darkness. We delve into it aimlessly, with the vain hope that we will free ourselves from our oppressors.
    My mind is a wreck; I remember little. All I know is that the forces I tire to remember raped and murdered my wife, set my house on fire and called for my head. When we first escaped we hated our oppressors and cried for vengeance; now, with the endless wearing of the days, we have become numb to our ordeal.
    We see a house in the distance. Through our animal instinct we realise that this means warmth, food and somewhere to spend the night. We hurriedly scamper to it.
    We knock on the door and find no response. Out of frustration I kick it open. A wooden table is placed in the middle, a perpendicular mirror stands on the left, a stove lies in corner and a window looks out onto the permissive moonless night. All this is brightly lit by a monochromatic light. The three of us walk in and inspect every corner of the room, looking for leftovers. Ernesto grabs a stale piece of bread and devours it.
    A ghastly silence dominates. I quietly intone “Is... Is anybody here?”
    We notice a room on the left side of the house, which emanates a bright light. I knock on the door, continuing to ask “Is anybody here?” Nothing is said; faint footsteps can be heard. I turn aside to my companions. “We should just spend the night here...” Gustavo says.
Accustomed to sleeping in barracks and groves, a night spent in these quarters is a welcome proposition. Gustavo takes the bed and Ernesto and I, without any arguments, sleep on the floor.
     Last night was curious. I recall dreams of a lush nature interspersed with unsettling moments. I recall taking the form of a child and chasing my childhood sweetheart in a vast meadow. She and I chuckled in this infantile game. At the same time I recall hearing anguished whimpers coming from the clouds. These whimpers became more and more vivid the closer I got to my childhood sweetheart and, once I caught her, we broke out in tears.
    When we wake up in the morning we discuss the usual – what to eat and where to go next. Both Gustavo and Ernesto agree to leave in search of food while I keep guard of the house.
     I sit down on the table, twiddling my thumbs. To keep myself occupied I decide to examine the house in closer detail.
     I open up two Chester draws. An abundance of dresses and shawls take up most of the space. Two notebooks strike my attention. I withdraw them.
    It suddenly occurs to me that this house must be occupied. The number of clothes contained herein, and the stove lit the previous night, confirm that someone resides here. To prove the authenticity of this thought, I decide to read through these notebooks.   
Ana was brought into this ward the previous autumn. She has suffered a series of acute psychotic episodes throughout her entire life. These receded once her husband, Antonio Lopez, minded her. He kept care of her through most of her adult life, but once he was drafted to the war he had to place her here in the event of a relapse.
    Ana’s behaviour has been unpredictable and erratic during her stay thus far. At first she was reserved and emotionally reticent, passing most of her time in the dorm. Later she became very amicable and proved to be a very mentally stable and sane woman. However, during the course of six weeks she locked herself in cupboards, rooms, kitchenettes and enclosed spaces to murmur endlessly.
    This upset the rest of the patients. Her behaviour unsettled them; even though none of these murmurings were decipherable, most of the patients acted strangely and made all sorts of accusations against her.
    At first there was very little credence to these accusations. Many of the patients reported abnormal dreams that were at once a composite of a pleasant dream and a nightmare. They claimed to be dreaming something sublime and pleasant and this was constantly stifled by the sound of Ana’s murmuring.
     As I wrote before, we did not take these allegations at all seriously. Through the course of my career I have encountered a variety of eccentric remarks from patients and I immediately assumed this to be that.
    The rate of unusual behaviour increased amongst our patients; several people woke up in the middle of the night scolding Ana. It reached the stage where our patients became uncontrollable, hyperactively shrieking and jumping across all corners of the ward.
     We tried to attribute a reason using science and logic. The reasons given by our patients would obviously be wayward and unreliable. Though the recurrent mention of dreams gave us pause for thought, I was not fully equipped to handle the problem, my field of study being psychiatry. That’s why we brought in someone from a newly emerging discipline who could disentangle an answer out of all this – a psychologist.
     Dr. Gomez diligently analysed our patients’ behaviour and noted that it is perfectly feasible for dreams to be collectively influenced by the behaviour of another person. He asked if Ana murmured at night; the nurses with night shifts asserted this to be true.
     No matter how much medication we force-fed her, and no matter how many lobotomies we performed, Ana’s case did not improve. We tried keeping her in open spaces, but she even continued to murmur there. The patients tried staying as far away from the living room as possible, where the perennial murmuring continued.
I cease reading and turn back to the bathroom. I walk closer to it, hover around it and hear nothing. Total silence. I cannot dispel the thought that Ana lives there, that she is beyond this door right now, not murmuring, but sitting silently in a corner, perhaps sleeping and doing a little dreaming of her own.
    Gustavo and Ernesto return, with a sack full of food. They retrieve a dead rabbit, a couple of dead birds and a basket full of berries.
    They seem downtrodden. Without greeting me, they sit down on the table with disquieted expressions. I ask what’s wrong.
    As taciturn as before, they still do not answer. Gustavo rolls a berry across the table, which lands on the floor and splodges against it. “What’s afoot?” I ask.
     Gustavo arches his head and looks at me. “Nightmares. Horrible nightmares.”
     “Sweet-and-sour nightmares,” Ernesto interjects. “Nightmares with moments of beauty and moments of... misery.”
     Silence resounds.
      “I, too, experienced a nightmare... As you say, a sweet-and-sour nightmare... It was beautifully fulfilling yet... shatteringly disturbing.”
     “Come on!” Ernesto exclaims. “We are fleeing execution, fighting for our lives, and yet, like little school girls, we whimper about our nightmares! Let’s get our act together! Let’s get focused!”
     Silence resounds.
   “The constant fright and turmoil is weighing over our minds...” Gustavo says. “The constant flight from the persecutors has... produced these horrid images. We fool ourselves into believing that that we will escape death when... you know as perfectly well as I do that... we are doomed. These nightmares are a reminder of that.”
     Silence resounds.
    “Listen,” I say... “I know the real cause of the nightmares.”
      They both turn their eyes onto me. “Did you both hear murmurs last night?” They seem stricken by my words and confirm that they did.
      Ernesto covers his arms on his brow. “By God...”
     “There are indeed complex psychological reasons, but they are not as immediate obvious as Gustavo’s. Gustavo, Ernesto... Read these notes I found in the draw...”
     Over five or so minutes, they pore over the psychiatric report.
    “She must... She must be somewhere in the house,” Ernesto cries. “That... That room. She must be there!”
     Ernesto and Gustavo dash over to the door and start slamming it forcefully. It won’t budge. “Open up! Open up!” Ernesto screams.
    I crush onto the door with all my strength and it tumbles over. A bathroom comes to view. No-one is there.
    Silence resounds.
     We turn back and sit down on the table. “Have you heard the persecutors nearby?”
    “Yes,” they both answer.
    “Listen,” I say, “whether this house is or isn’t haunted... it is a good idea to remain here. Remember, we had to climb quite a mountainous landscape and... this house is well-hidden. No matter how many set-backs this entails, the most sensible course of action is to remain here.”
     After talking it over, they both agree with my proposal.
The entire room is shrouded in darkness; small crosses dangle from the ceiling. I walk over the porcelain path and reach a chair my deceased wife sits on. She holds her hands towards me; I eagerly walk toward her, anxious to feel the contact of her pure silken skin.
     Taking my hand, she kisses it, caressing my arm with lavish attention. “Julia, Julia, Julia... You have come back.... Light of my fire, fire of my loins...”
     She continues to kiss me. “Oh, you’ve been reading too many books, dear... You speak what you read.”
     “Oh, Julia, art thou my nuptial princess...” I undo her top, revealing her breasts, which I caress. Her hand fixes onto my back, her nails dig in, stiffening my cock.
    Suddenly, loud breathing is audible. We both cease to touch and schmooze each other. Jerking around, we see a repellent vampire – Dracula himself – breathing heavily, his limp hands suspended in the air. His fangs glimmer amidst the pervasive darkness. Julia shrieks with all her force.
      Now I begin to shriek, but fortunately I wake up. It is stark darkness outside; Ernesto and Gustavo are sat on the table, drinking herbal tea. “Bad nightmares, eh?” Gustavo asks. “It’s the same old story. Ernesto woke me up with his hollering and now you have woken yourself up... Come on up, help yourself to some tea and bread we managed to find.”

At the set of dawn, Ernesto and Gustavo once more set off for food supplies and information on the persecutor’s whereabouts. I stay in the house to guard it.
      I decide to rummage through the draws again. Beneath a red top I find another notebook. Blowing off the soot I see the title DIARIES OF ANA LOPEZ. I read it.

9th of September
What do I murmur about? Does anyone care about my murmurings?

11th of September
I murmur for the return of my husband, for the end to this brutal civil war. I murmur for the return of my good health; I murmur for God himself to come down and walk on this here earth and to show me the light...
13th of September
I want someone to love me... Since my husband left, I have not been able to find love and care from anybody else... Oh, I wish I could have that care... Then I would cease to murmur and I... would be a mentally healthy women; I’d have children and... I would walk through the meadow and sing lovely songs... and there would be no more war and there would be no more strife and
The murmuring suddenly returns. I shut the book; I start to tremble; my throat knots up. I swivel the chair around. I walk closer to the bathroom; the murmuring becomes more and more pronounced. I even discern a few words – “Love,” “Hope,” “Dream,” “Beloved.”
     Placing my hand on the door knob, I turn it. The door opens up and there, in the corner of the room, Ana murmurs. Her head convex, her hair drooping over, covering her face, she murmurs.
     Walking closer, I make my presence felt by grunting. She arches her head and we make eye contact; she alarmingly yells “God! Oh my God!”
     I turn my back to her. She has her hand on her mouth, her eyes are wide open, staring at me with a neurotic countenance. “Don’t... Don’t kill me, you scoundrel! Don’t kill me!” She falls to the ground, shedding tears.
    “I won’t kill you, Ana.”
     “How do you know my name, you thief! You murderer, sodomite, rapist, deviant, crook!” She gets up from her crouching position and wields her hands. Her eyes are scorching red, brimming with tears.
     “Ana... Listen. I am fleeing the authorities. They murdered my wife, killed my children, set my house on fire, destroyed my crops... I have been fleeing for months now – perhaps years, I’ve grown oblivious to the passage of time – and, along with my two friends, we have taken refuge in your home...”
    Darting around, her red fuming eyes stare into mine. Still looking alarmed, she whispers “Did you... did you hear my murmurings?”
     “We’ve all had vividly disturbing nightmares as a result of your murmurings, Ana...”
     “Christ!” She shouts with all her force. “Jesus fucking Christ!” I jump up, alarmed.
    “Listen, Ana...”
     “Shut up, you fuck!” She turns aside, leaning her entire weight onto the wall. Agonised, she cries, the tears dampening her worn linen smock. “All I want,” she utters, “is for someone to understand me... I seem to have such a negative effect on others –  but I swear it isn’t my fault, I swear! My husband... When I was married to my husband, I never murmured... Since he left... It’s all I do; I hardly sleep... Oh, he’s probably dead now...”
     She continues to lean on the tiled wall. I walk over to her and place my hand on her back, caressing it. I move my hand onto her dishevelled black hair, once more caressing it. Upon sliding my hand onto her neck, she utters “You pervert... you filthy fucking pervert.”
     Moving back, I see the complexion of her face – gaunt, with a finely-shaped nose and brown eyes. She scrutinizes my face, saying “You filthy fucking pervert.” She kisses my mouth, moving her hand ceaselessly across my body. I keep my hands on her buttocks.
     We fall to the ground and start making love. I push my cock into her damp cunt whilst we continue to kiss. She parts her mouth from my own and begins to breathe heavily, just like Dracula in last night’s nightmare. I hit a spot and she lets out a prolonged scream until I eventually ejaculate.

Holding hands, Ana now never ceases to talk. She practically tells me her entire life story which, due to the lack of modulation and the hastiness of her delivery, I am unable to process. I try interjecting something about myself, but she brushes it aside. This still does not work to her detriment; somehow this belligerency and ruthlessness is endearing.
     Ernesto and Gustavo can be heard walking into the house. For some reason this alarms Ana, who now says “Don’t let them see me, don’t let them see me!” Retrieving my hand from hers, I walk onto the threshold.
     Smirks cover their faces. “The persecutors have vanished!” Ernesto cries.
     “How sure are you of this?”
    “A battle has broken out in a nearby province. The troops have turned their attention to that sector,” Gustavo says
     “Our best bet is to stay here!” Ernesto says.
      The bathroom door creaks. “Nightmares aside,” he hastens to add.
The sun casts itself onto the surrounding fields. Ana runs away from me, singing lullabies at the top of her voice. The same words recur again and again: “I would walk through the meadow and sing lovely songs.”
     Once I catch her, we both tumble onto the ground, rolling around, chuckling. A butterfly reaches her hand; it swerves around her forefinger. Whilst I continuously kiss her, the butterfly continues to hover around her hand.
     Lurching up, she walks toward a nearby tree, taking berries. Lying on the ground I tell her, “None of us have had any nightmares recently.” She smiles. “You should present yourself to Ernesto and Gustavo, they’d be very keen to meet you. I don’t know why you’re so shy about meeting them. The way you continue to shut yourself in that bedroom is most alarming, Ana... Surely you should have got past that by now...”
     Brushing her hair, she smiles. She sings:
I will love you, dear.
But stop acting queer.
Take my hand,
But don’t take a stand.
You can fight for your life,
Or you can choose to be my wife...
She sits down, caressing my arm, smiling.
     Gun shots suddenly flare to our direction. The bullets mutilate the tree Ana leant on; they turn left-ward and hit Ana six times on the skull. She collapses to the ground.
     Tears stream down my face; I hold Ana’s dead body, the blood dampening my ankles. “Ana... Ana... Ana.”
    My head hunched over her body, I anxiously cry out her name. Footsteps approach, accompanied by laughter. “Senor Hernandez, enemy of the people... You are arrested.”
    As the tears continue to pour down my face, I turn aside and see a group of short robust men clenching guns and laughing malignantly.
 Confined within a small room, I can do nothing but pity myself. I cannot contrive any feeling of anger or contempt; I cry relentlessly for the loss of Ana. I pity myself and despair over the loss of such a bright and remarkable woman.
     From afar, guffawing can be heard. Footsteps resonate across the hall. “Senor Hernandez, you are about to be executed. We grant you one last wish.” Without giving it any thought, I immediately ask for Ana’s private notes.
    I read through them:
8th of December
Julio Hernandez... All I hope is that I will live to love him; all I hope is that I don’t lose him as the cause of this brutal war...
     There’s no doubt about it, my husband has left this world... But Julio came at just the right time, christening my life with such gracious wit... His articulacy and quick-wittedness make him special.
     I do not and will not ever murmur ever again. I no longer fear death.
“Okay, that’s enough Hernandez!” one of the guerrilla men says, snatching the paper from my grip. The entire group of men laugh relentlessly.
    They seize my body and drag me over to a guillotine. Out of panic, I murmur indecipherable words.
     “What on earth are you murmuring about, you sissy?” the executors cry out. They continue to laugh.
     Now I understand why Ana murmured.

Bulk of it written in January 2012
Ending written on 26th of February 2012

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