Whispers by Joanna Benitez
What will you do when you are alone and stumble across us? Will you listen like a good little girl or boy? Will you follow the voice that whispers… whispers… whispers so desperately? Will you if we whisper in your ear gently? Oh, so gently. Will you come? We’d love for you to come. Come. Come, come, come.
Sara lived in a beautiful little land where tales of the supernatural were a pastime for the ancient elders.
One day when the sun was high, and a wail traveled the house as it always did when the sun reached its peak, Sara and her brother looked at the clock hanging on the wall. As their mother fed the infant her naked breast, Sara tilted her head at the door for she knew that her gluttonous sibling wouldn’t release her mother’s nipple until rendered of all its milk.
With a quick glance at their mother to make sure they remained unseen, Sara and her brother snuck into the stable stationed beside their house. Only one horse was available.
Sable was old and in the fields he tired much too easily, but he was sweet-tempered enough for the children. Angelo, taller and older by three years, lifted Sara onto the horse.
To allow the space Angelo needed to sit at the curve of Sable’s back, Sara scooted to sit at the horse’s rump. Sable didn’t buck as another horse might have. He was accustomed to the children riding double. Once on, Angelo gripped Sable’s mane, then led the horse at a brisk pace into the waiting sun.
Blanco, Sara’s white dog, waited for them at the gate.
What will you do when you are alone, and we are near? So near we can breathe on your neck? Will you run? No… no, for we are hiding.
Sara and Angelo made their way into a wild field where a tree grew at the center.
Sara found the tree and its pod encased fruit three years ago when she ignored her mother’s warning and took a left at the forked road. It was a shortcut, but she went too far because she was tired and wasn’t paying attention. She backtracked and found a small path that should have led her back home; instead, she came across the meadow.
Angelo was the first person she told about her find and together they kept it a secret from searching mouths attached to void-like stomachs.
When they were under the tree’s casting shade Angelo helped Sara dismount.
Once her feet touched the ground, Sara turned to face the tree. She looked at the dark leaves and searched for the slight hint of yellow among green.
“There,” Sara said and pointed up at the ripening fruit. Blanco stood next to her, his small body heavy and warm against her leg. She tugged his ear gently, something she did often for she loved the silky soft texture of it. Blanco leaned against her hand.
Angelo gazed up at the tree; he noted the delicate leaves, the hanging fruit, and the extended limbs. “You go for the higher ones and I’ll get those,” he said. With his index finger he indicated the much lower and thicker branch.
Sara went up first. She climbed as only a child of her land could. Near the top, she straddled a branch and picked three long pods. By the time Sara descended, Angelo had a pile of seeds, black and green, growing beside him.
Sara found a spot and sat with her back to the bark. She sunk her nail into the fuzzy green casing of the ice-cream bean and pried it open with both hands. Once the pod proudly displayed its sweetness, Sara grabbed one fruit segment and popped it into her mouth. She sucked the white cotton flesh and savored the slight vanilla taste, then took another segment and worked it over with her hands. Fingers coated in translucent fruit juice; she extended the now seedless flesh to Blanco who swallowed the fruit. He licked his black nose, then inched closer; patiently waiting for another.
What will you do, what can you do, when we see but are unseen? Do you hear our whispers… our whispers? Come.
Two hours later, with full bellies and sticky fingers, Sara and Angelo decided it was time to leave.
Sara watched as Angelo placed two fingers into his mouth and whistled as father taught him. The gelding’s ears twitched at the piercing sound, but he did not move.
“You should have tied him to the tree,” she said.
“Sable,” he called harshly, then whistled again. The horse imitated stone, not a single muscle twitched, not even to dislodge the biting flies that crawled up his nostrils.
Angelo stomped through the grass. Sara followed.
“Blanco,” Sara called over her brother’s grumbling. She looked over her shoulder and after a second, Blanco’s white face appeared above the long grass, then disappeared, only to reappear again. Sara laughed.
They were within arm’s length of the horse when Blanco stopped leaping and burst into barks. The horse responded with a jittery dance. It was then that they heard it; Whispers.
Sara looked around but only saw yellow grass as tall as her chest. She tilted her head to listen.
Come, it said.
Come to us.
Sara stepped forward, her intent to follow the voice but Angelo grabbed her wrist and squeezed.
Come. Come, come.
Sara struggled against Angelo’s punishing grip. His body jerked, but not from the way Sara twisted his little finger to pry his hand loose. She stopped.
“What is it?”
Angelo walked backwards, taking Sara with him. He reached for the horse. “Get on,” he breathed.
Frightened, she clawed at Sable’s flesh.
The creature crouched low in the grass held Angelo’s gaze. Angelo did not look away; he did not blink. It inched closer, anticipating his next step, and whispered.
Blanco growled and his hackles rose to reveal the pink flesh beneath. Angelo held his breath.
With one hand clutched around the horse’s thick mane and a swing of his leg, Angelo mounted and almost kicked Sara off. The paralyzing gaze which held the whispering creatures at bay broke.
Sable took off.
Blanco ran at the horse’s heels.
Sara did not see Blanco fall behind to confront the whispers when they came close, much too close. She did not hear the dog fight behind their fleeing backs. She didn’t hear his yelp.
What will you do when you are alone, and we whisper? What will you do?
The horse’s powerful lungs expanded with relief when Sara and Angelo dismounted. They ran into the house and startled their mother as they rushed in screaming. It was three in the afternoon and their mother was lifting her breast. Hungry, the infant brought the nipple to its waiting mouth.
“What is with this noise?” A deep voice asked.
“A monster!” Sara yelled at the same time that Angelo said, “I saw something. The eyes––“
“It has teeth the size of my arm!” Sara interrupted bringing up her forearm. “And it was as big as you papa.”
“It was. It was,” Sara chanted.
“Shut up!” Angelo looked at his father. “It had red eyes, and it crouched on the grass. And it wasn’t just one.”
“There were a hundred!” Sara added though she had not seen.
“No, there wasn’t!”
“There was! And it chased us. Didn’t they, Angelo?”
Timidly, Angelo nodded.
Their father took a long swig from his beer, then hooked his thumb into his jeans. The gun he always carried, unless in bed, was strapped to his belt. “I am not interested in your made up stories. I want to know why you took the horse without permission and why you went God knows where when I told you to stay in the house and help your mother with the baby. Hm? That is what I want to know.”
Angelo recognized his father’s tone; Sara did not. “But, it was there! It was going to eat our faces. There were a hundred!”
“Sara,” warned her father.
“It was,” she whined. “Right, Angelo?” Angelo’s head tipped down. Not to be deterred Sara continued, “I heard the whispers. And Blanco heard it too because he was barking and––“
“What is with this noise?” A man with a limp entered the house. Their mother burped the baby, then handed the sleepy child to the man. Cradling the child to his chest, he looked at Angelo and Sara’s demure faces. “What is this?”
“Go on,” their father ordered as he took another swallow from his beer and went to grab another for his brother. “Tell your uncle what you told me.”
Sara repeated her tale.
“I don’t know, maybe you should check it out,” the uncle said as he handed the squirming baby over to its mother.
“They are making it up. They always make up stupid stuff like that. It’s an excuse.” Their father said. He looked at Angelo’s down-turned head. “Besides, I’ve been working all day.”
“Shit happens here.”
“It was probably a snake.”
“Yeah, I guess,” said the uncle. He looked around as his hand went to his thigh. “Brother, where is the dog?”
What will you do when you hear our whispers? Will you walk backwards until you die? What will you do? Just be good… and come.
Days passed and they began to question. On the third day, as Sara cried against her mother’s deflated breasts, her father and uncle spoke in hushed voices.
“You know what happened to me, brother.” The uncle, visiting again, looked down at his leg and touched the ugly scar on his thigh. “You were there when I returned.”
“Yes, but this… we don’t know what it is,” the father returned. “You heard them. They made no sense.”
Both men stood in silence.
What. Will. You. Do.
Sara’s father and uncle were there to search, to prove that what the children saw was a trick of the light, their imagination.
Sara had to stay with her mother though she desperately wanted to help search for Blanco and Angelo, as the guide, had to break their promise and reveal the tree’s secret location. He did. He pointed to the tree.
The two men shared a look. The uncle moved toward Angelo, close enough to grasp Sable’s reins. The father nodded, then approached the tree on his horse. A noise was soon heard.
Gun in hand, Angelo’s father dismounted and made his way through the tall grass on foot. He followed the sound.
When he heard a whimper under him, he parted the grass. And flinched.
What. Can. You. Do.
Blanco was on the ground; Broken and sprawled. He lay on his belly, his limbs spread wide like a spider. The mangled bones of his legs poked and bent in horrible ways. Dirt coated his tongue and snout as he tried to eat a rotten, ant infested fruit pod. He trembled from the pain.
Taking a blanket from his horse’s back, Sara’s father came forward. Blanco’s eyes widened at his approach and in a panic, he bit. Sara’s father threw the blanket over the dog’s head and ignored the scratch on his arm. Before he lifted Blanco he made sure the fabric covered his eyes. The dog screamed its agony.
“Maybe it’s best if you put it down,” the uncle said.
The father mounted his horse. He tried to be gentle, but even then, tear tracks dampened the fur around Blanco’s eyes and stained the fur a rotten brown.
We are Whispers… come.
Come, come… COME!
When the moon was high, and a wail traveled the house, Sara and Angelo woke to the deafening sound of a gunshot piercing the night.
They cried out and ran from their room and into the kitchen where hours before their mother helped set up a nest of blankets.
Sara’s heart fluttered in her chest for she saw her father’s face when they laid Blanco on the makeshift bed. Her father watched as the dog yelped and whined when it tried for the bowl, desperate for water. But Sara had cried and promised. She promised to clean up after Blanco soiled himself. She promised to feed him, to bring water to his lips. Her father contemplated the gun at his side. Sara begged. She grabbed his hand, careful of the bandage on his forearm and begged so hard she made herself sick. And so her father went to bed.
Sara feared the worst. She turned the corner with her brother at her side. And there she saw Blanco, sheltered in the corner under blankets. A small smile spread her lips, but it soon died away when she noticed how Blanco’s eyes, a piercing red, shined in the dark.
He tilted his head, the movement eerie in its unnaturalness. Blanco opened his mouth. Tongue darting between teeth, he inched forward. Angelo ran.
On mangled legs, Blanco dragged himself toward Sara. The click of his nails on the hard floor was sharp and loud.
She did not move. She did not breathe. Closer, he came, until he clawed at her clothes. She fell to her knees.
Blanco’s hot sour breath brushed her face and it was only then that Sara heard the impossible whispers that escaped his throat. A second gunshot rang out.
Sara stared as Blanco’s white fur became red. Her mother pulled her to her feet. Angelo stood beside them and his arms cradled the crying infant. Swallowing, Sara looked at the gun in her mother’s hand.
Come. Come. Come. Comecomecome. Comecomecome. Comecomecomecomecome…
About the Author
Joanna Benitez is a storyteller living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing currently revolves around folklore, mythology, and fairytales. Some of her short stories have been published in the Northridge Review, Body Part Magazine, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Les Cabinets des Polythéistes, and Gingerbread House Lit. Magazine. When she is not writing or reading she can be found walking her dog, Luna.