[Originally written 12/21/2007]

“It’s about time you came back,” a gravelly voice whispers from the shadows. “We always knew you would come back to us, didn’t we?”

 There is a cacaphony rise of voices. I turn in circles, but cand see nothing outside of the small shaft of light I am standing in. I recognize some of the voices – whispers that I heard years ago, brushed aside in the name of “progress” – which is actually just another word for “lazy”. Other voices scream for attention, like wind howling against a building trying to get inside.

 Slowly, the spot of light, my sanctuary, flutters. It shrinks momentarily, thrusting the darkness to just outside my body. Only a faint, focused light is around me – but only enough for me to stand in. If I move, even the slightest twitch of a finger, I will be exposed in the darkness. Even as I breathe, as my chest expands with every intake of air, I am dangerously close to the darkness.

 Suddenly, I am plunged into darkness as the light flickers, dancing on and off like the flash of a strobe. When the flashing finally subsides back to a constant glow of life, I am surrounded by faces. Not all of the faces are defined, some are blank canvasas like a store manaquin, featuring only a simple opening to speak through. Others, the voices from my past, stare at me fully formed, their eyes piercing me with their looks of anger, frustration and hurt.

 “We trusted you,” they begin to say. “You are the only one that can tell our story… that can help us live. We knew you would come back to us, but we did not think it would be this long.” They pause, collectively, as if they have been preparing these words, like a nervous boy rehearses how to ask a girl out. Unlike the nervous boy, there is strength and resolve in the voices of the crowd.

 “Hear our voices. Let them haunt you, let them terrify you, let them seduce you. We chose you to speak for us, and you have ignored us for too long. Now it is our turn. Now, it is our time. You call yourself a writer, but you barely put pen to paper – and we are the proof! All of these nameless, faceless forms have been waiting for their chance to be born – to be molded and shaped into something for the ages.

 “Quit pissing on yourself, and listen to us. We all have stories to tell, you just need to learn to stop and listen, and write what we tell you. Without you, we have no voice. Without us, your life will be difficult. Your time is over. If you want to be a writer, you belong to us… and it’s time you do as you are told.”

 The crowd grows quiet, then slowly backs away. From their midst, a child whom I have never seen before, steps forward. Her formless face slowly morphs as I envision someone very much like Cindy Lou Who. A child’s nose develops, and sockets form, filling up with pools of blue for her eyes. Blonde hair sprouts from her scalp, and in moments a full, shoulder length head of hair with a slight curl at the end is circling her face. There are some gasps from the crowd as they see the transformation, but the child does not yet seem to know what has happened to her yet. “Please, tell me a story,” she asks.

 I look at her face, then look to those around me. I look back to her, thinking, straining my ears and my mind to hear something, anything, that I might be able to say to this newly faced Cindy. There’s a whisper coming from my left. I glance, but see no one. Trust it, I remind myself. I stretch my mind, focusing on that whisper, which is now slowly growing louder. I listen for a moment, drinking in the words.

 “Once upon a time,” I begin. I know it’s cliche, but it gives me time to digest what I am hearing, as the words begin pouring in. Figures begin to sit, attentive, wanting to listen. Others move away, waiting, as if they already know the story, to see how well I can deliver. Somewhere behind me on the left, still in the shadows, faces began to take form.

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