No parent ever expects their child to go crazy.
But she had, undoubtedly. Their beautiful eight year old tomboy daughter had started hearing whispers, just lightly at first, so barely there that they though it might be her very active imagination. She told them it was like the wind was telling her something, and she had to be very quiet to hear.
But the whispers were not what made her crazy.
As she got older, they caught her flinching, or twitching, or covering her ears when she didn't think they were looking. In completely silent places she spoke loudly, as if trying to speak over something. She started looking tired; her schoolwork suffered, and she didn't want to do anything but lie her head on the table and stare with open eyes at the grain of the wood. They asked her what was wrong.
The whispers had stopped being whispers.
Every day, when she got up, the whispers had gotten a little louder, just enough, she said, that she barely noticed. She'd thought she was just getting better at listening, but no. There were thousands of voices now, she said, that talked constantly, saying things that made no sense and repeating themselves and randomly coming and going. It was a sea of noise, and she had no way of stopping it.
She woke up screaming when she was twelve. They asked her why. She said she'd been murdered, and then she'd been the murderer. She said the body was in a dumpster two blocks down.
That was where the police found it.
She didn't want to sleep anymore, but her body fought her until she lost. The visions were always terrible, more realistic than any dream, feeling pain and pleasure as if she really were there. She woke up staggeringly drunk one morning, and it took a few minutes for her to return to normal. Another day she woke up asking what cocaine was, and why it made her see such strange things in the dream. Her parents worried, but she never left the house at night. She began stuttering, repeating entire words and phrases, going off on wild tangents as she struggled to think clearly. She could barely go to school, she was so exhausted, and her classmates were not kind.
They decided to move, thinking the change might do her good. A little town called Springfield seemed like a good choice at the time—her father got a job fixing computers, and her mother substituted at the elementary school. They were sure, that without the depravity surrounding them in the city, their daughter would get better—the dreams were surely subconscious wonderings, and the voices the product of stress and fear. It would get better.
It got worse.
There was no doubt, now, that she was insane. She refused to see the doctor, screaming about the noises the voices made around him, fighting and thrashing until she escaped the office. There was scarcely a day that the school did not call home to ask about her, if she'd been sleeping, if everything was alright at home. The stuttering got worse. The psychiatrist said she was schizophrenic, and gave them some medication. Nothing got better—the dreams consumed her in her waking hours now, too, freezing her in place as she watched something they couldn't see with wild blue eyes. They had to check, every day, if she'd taken the medication. They caught her throwing it away or flushing it down the sink more often than not. Her father had to sit on her, once, so that she would stop flailing long enough for her mother to force it down her throat.
It wasn't like she hadn't fought for her sanity. Every waking moment was dedicated to making sense of her world, and the results stretched out in newspaper clippings and scribbled dreams across every wall and surface of her room, connected with a web of twine and bright blue yarn. She theorized, trying to think clearly through the wild tangle of voices, trying to come up with something, anything, that would explain her misery.
No parent ever expects their child to go crazy.
Not many know how to deal with it when it happens.
Her mother clung to her husband, turning to him as her rock as her dreams for her daughter's future unraveled before her eyes. He stopped looking at his daughter, seeing straight through her when she had an episode, shutting his emotions off when she broke down screaming, looking away when she huddled on the floor sobbing. They were not a happy family anymore.
They came home one day to a silent house. Her backpack sat in the hallway, but there were no sobs, no screams, no nonsensical ramblings. Her mother assumed the worst, and ran to her room, with her father following close behind.
And they found her there, curled up in a ball on top of the sheets, with tinfoil wrapped around her head, completely silent, and for once, for the first time since she was eight, completely at peace.
“It makes the voices stop,” she'd said, without stuttering at all. “I can't hear any of them—it's quiet now. I like it.”
They'd looked at each other, unsure of how to respond. She was quiet, still, happy, sane, for the first time in years. But neither dared let down their defenses; they'd been guarded for so long that they'd almost forgotten how to love her.
They bought her hats, and sewed tinfoil into them. She wore them to school, and her grades improved immediately. The teachers stopped calling home. The medication wasn't an issue anymore. She didn't wake up screaming, or stutter, or freeze for minutes on end. Her father could look at her, her mother could smile.
They were almost happy.
They should have known it wouldn't last.