My fifteen year old daughter had to write a short story for her English GCSE.
Here's what she came up with:
It was back.
After six years it was back.
Panic stopped me in my tracks.
I thought it had gone for good. Clearly not. There was no way it could be anything - or anyone - else. The voice was back.
I first heard it when I was a small child no more than four years old. A faint whispering in the background of my mind. A constant companion to the games I played, the television I watched, the songs I sang. It lulled me to sleep. It called me awake.
I thought everyone else had one too. A natural thing. Like breathing.
I was fifteen when I realised I was wrong.
Ryan Woodstock was the boy all the girls fancied. You know the type; tall, dark and handsome. This day I had just finished PE and was hurrying through the school towards me English class. I was suddenly aware of two people in front of me: Ryan and his mate, Harry Dean. They were talking, completely unaware of my presence just a few feet behind them.
"Yeah, she said she heard voices. How weird is that?" This was Ryan. I edged a bit closer. "It was all in this article, in one of my mum's magazines. This woman reckoned she'd heard voices in her head all her life. Telling her to do things. Steal things when she went shopping. Push people if they got in her way. Now she's been put into a funny farm - for nutters - coz she went crazy."
"She went into this shopping centre with a knife," continued Ryan. "Went up to random people and gently pressed the blade against their throats, giggling away. It was found out later that she'd slit the throats of her pet cats and buried them in her garden."
"Gross." Said Harry.
"Yeah - imagine that - hearing voices. well weird or what?"
That scared me. As soon as I got home that day I made my mum book me an appointment with our doctor: I said I needed something for my bad period pains. The next afternoon I was facing Dr Lucas across his desk.
Dr Lucas had been our family doctor for years. He'd known me as a baby, a small child, and now as a teenager. But he'd never known about my 'problem'. My voice.
So I told him.
"I'm not crazy though," I said. "It never tells me to do things, just sort of chatters away in the background."
"It's quite nice really. I never feel lonely. I thought everyone had one. A voice." I paused. "You don't believe me do you? You think I'm making it all up."
"No, I don't think you're making it up, I just think you're stressed." The doctor glanced at the computer screen before him. "I see you're fifteen." He looked at me. "You've exams coming up haven't you? GCSE's."
"I think this is your body's way of coping with the stress of your heavy load of school work." He pulled a small white pad towards him. "I'll write you out a prescription for some anti-depressants. Mild ones of course. Take two, twice a day."
He hadn't been listening. Not really.
I took the prescription and left.
Later in my bedroom I shook out two of the small round pills into my hand. They looked tiny and inoffensive. It wouldn't hurt to take them - would it? They might even make the voice go away.
But as I lifted my hand to my mouth, I began to shake uncontrollably; from the inside out. The pills danced on my palm then spilt to the bedroom carpet.
For the first time I heard the voice shout. A single word that echoed around the inside of my skull. Bouncing off the bony walls.
Four times I tried to take those pills. In the end I gave up.
I hid the bottle at the back of my underwear drawer. Away from my mother's prying eyes.
It was two weeks later that I tried agin.
The voice had been driving me crazy all day: chattering and chattering non-stop in the background. Ever since the evening I had tried taking the anti-depressants, its tone had changed, grown more agressive. This time I was determined to stop it once and for all.
My mum and dad were both still at work when I let myself into the house. all was still and quiet. I kicked off my shoes, plonked my bag onto the sofa, took an unopened carton of orange juice out of the fridge and went upstairs to my bedroom.
The small brown bottle was still where I had left it. I knew two pills would not be enough to quieten the voice. In a daze I tipped the entire contents into my hand. I expected something - some force - to stop me, but this time nothing did. One after one I popped the pills into my mouth, washing them down with orange juice. Almost straight away I felt dizzy. A feeling of confusion, relief and regret washed over me.
I passed out.
I was in hospital for three days. I refused to tell anybody why I had done what I did. In truth, I hardly knew myself. But the voice had gone. Finally the voice had gone. I thought it had gone for good.
But now it was back.
After six years it was back.
I'd had a good day - up until now - shopping. Spending my first ever wages. As I'd walked through the multi-storey car park, loaded down with carrier bags, looking for my car - the voice had come back.
It wasn't happy. For the first time it was controlling my thoughts, my actions.
Now, as I stood on the top floor of the multi-storey car park, I shut my eyes.
Something led me to the edge. Something with an angry little voice said: "Do it."