01 Feb My father punished me when I talked to ghosts
I’ve been blind since I was born. As I grew up everything was described to me in such vivid detail, I didn’t even realise why it was that important to see, especially having no reference point to compare it. We lived on a single floor ranch house, that’s what father told me. In my mind, I could see of course, although unlike how a sighted person could. I had spatial awareness. I knew where my bedroom was, the bathroom, the living room and the kitchen. Each wall had its own texture. I don’t know if that was done on purpose, or that I could feel things others never noticed.
I rarely fell over. Only if father, or one of the visitors put something somewhere they shouldn’t. It was usually the visitors and dad would shout.
They visited infrequently, though not for long. Father said I shouldn’t speak to them, that it unsettled him. He’d worry when I saw something he didn’t, saw it with my ears or by touch.
Ellie was the first. She seemed very sweet. She asked me my name and why my face was so messed up. She was in the living room. I could hear where she sat from her breaths. Harsh nasal sounds, as if her nose was blocked. When father had a cold, he’d always breath through his mouth, big laboured breaths, as he wasn’t used to it.
When people mentioned my face, I always touched it, trying to work out why it was so strange to them. When I asked if I could touch theirs, there was always a pause, I guessed sighted people never did that, why would they need to.
When I asked Ellie if I could touch her face, she reluctantly agreed, but moments later father entered the room and asked me who I was speaking to. I told him nobody. He would always punish me when I spoke about them. I think it scared him. He’d take my arm and march me off. I’d be knocked off balance and disoriented, to the point where when he finally set me down, my hands would frantically search my surroundings until I knew where I was. It was usually my bedroom.
Every now and then he’d leave me outside, in the middle of nowhere. That was the worst. I would be lost and scared. He told me about the road that ran in front of the house, and the sounds I heard were cars, they’d kill me if they touched me. Those sounds were all I had to know where I was. I waited to hear, then I knew which way to run back to the house.
I heard Ellie that evening, she whispered to me, saying she was scared. I’d whisper back, but she didn’t hear.
I asked father about Ellie. He didn’t want to talk about her. I asked him why. He didn’t reply. When I told him that she asked about my face, he asked me what I did. I told him I wanted to touch hers. He laughed, though I knew he wasn’t happy. I could hear the difference. When you laugh for pleasure, your mouth is wide open. When you pretend, your mouth is almost closed. To me, the difference is obvious.
It wasn’t until I was older that he explained.
He said we lived in a special place, connected to the other world. That sometimes, dead people slip through, people who died in pain and wanted to reach the living. He explained that because I couldn’t see, I was able to tune in to that. That they knew I was listening when others weren’t. He said I had to ignore it. Otherwise they’d latch onto me and never leave me, that all the dead want is to be alive again, it was dangerous, they would trick me. He said he knew how to deal with them, but he couldn’t help me if they became attached to me.
Alex appeared to me a few years later. She told me she was lost and didn’t know where she was. I told her I wasn’t allowed to speak to her. But she pleaded for help. I kept quiet, knowing what would happen if I said anything. Did you speak to them? father asked. Though I was upset, I told him no. I wished I could help her. I knew what it was like to be lost, and it scared me.
Alex didn’t whisper to me at all. I’d ignored her, and she ignored me. Father saved me. I was thankful.
After Alex, I knew what I needed to do, so I did it. They stopped bothering me after that, for a very long time. That was until Sarah appeared.
Sarah didn’t give me a chance to be quiet. I was on my own, sitting in the living room and listening to the television. Help, she said, I need to find a way out. I stayed silent. You can hear me, can’t you, she said surprised. I’m not allowed to speak to you, I told her. Please, she begged, I’m scared, I’m lost, I want to see my daddy. I gripped the arms of the chair, telling her I wasn’t allowed.
He’s dead, she said. And I didn’t answer. Your father is dead, she said again. I wasn’t going to fall for it. I heard banging from around the room as things began to fly, and the shelves began to shake. STOP IT, I shouted. And it did. Please help me leave, she said. I wasn’t going to talk to her. I did the only thing I thought would help. I unlocked the front door, hoping she’d run out and get lost, just like I would do. When I heard from her no more, I locked the door and sat back down. I listened intently for any signs she was still there. Except for the sounds of the TV, it was silent.
I hated when my heart raced, I became all too aware of the tick-tock feeling rise and fall within my chest, like it was about to explode. When I heard my father’s voice, I screamed.
Son, he said, I need your help, I think I’m dying. I did what he told me to do, I didn’t speak. If he did die, he’d never leave me. Instead, I raced out into the open air and shouted for help. I shouted until my voice was hoarse. I heard the sounds of cars that raced along the road in front of my house. I shouted until I heard someone respond. It was a woman.
What’s wrong, they asked. I told them I think my father was dying. They asked what had happened to my face. I pleaded with them for help, and they promised they would.
Sometime later, the woman returned to me. I was sitting on the grass. She asked if she could hold my hand. I’m so sorry, she told me. I heard the sounds of sirens, and the sounds of people rushing. I asked what was going on. The woman said she was there for me.
As the noise died down, a man asked me a question. I’m a paramedic, he said, what happened to your face? I told him I was fine. He asked if I was sure, and I told him I was. He asked if I minded him touching my face. I said it was okay. I screamed and asked what he was doing. He told me everything was going to be okay, and the woman squeezed my hand, saying to be brave. I felt a pressure release from around my forehead and the air felt cold against my skin. It sounded as if he were peeling an orange. I imagined that in my head and worried he’d expose my insides.
I didn’t know what it was I was experiencing. I felt a tight pain within my head, like when you kick your shin against something hard. And then something I’ve come to understand as bright. It hurt so much. I began to cry.
What happened to your eyes? The paramedic asked. I said I was blind. He asked to check them. The pain returned when he examined them.
Do you know him? He asked. The woman told him I was screaming for help and she came, she didn’t know me.
How long have you had the eye injury? He asked. I told him I was blind from birth. He asked me if I could see his fingers. I told him no. He asked if I could open my eyes. I said, I didn’t know what he meant. He asked if he could open them. I didn’t respond. I felt his fingers on my face, fingers covered in something rubbery. Then the brightness again. I screamed.
He tried to calm me. The woman squeezed my hand again. I didn’t know what was going on. Things I couldn’t describe came to me. It was like it always was, but a hundred-fold, so much more real. I carried on screaming as a fuzzy form came into view.
Just breath, okay, everything will be fine. When was the last time you saw? The paramedic asked. As my heart began to calm and my breathing slowed, I was distracted by what I was experiencing. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to cry and I did. How long has it been? He asked again. I’ve never seen anything before, I told him.
I was told to keep the eye mask on for most of the day, only taking it off at night at first, to allow my eyes to adjust. I had been staying with my Uncle and Aunt I didn’t even know I had. They were shocked at what happened to me, and that I hadn’t been to school.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride. The doctors said I may never get perfect vision, though I will take what little vision I have, it’s a God send. I’ve been learning to read and write the past few years. Sorry if my English isn’t brilliant. It’s the best I can do.
I’ve been asking my Aunt what happened to my father, but all she says is he died of a heart attack. I asked what type of man he was. She says he was her brother and she’ll love him no matter what. My uncle doesn’t want to talk about him at all.
I’ve been using the computer a lot recently, and really enjoying the internet. I can’t believe there is such a thing. After being so lonely for so long, I can talk to whoever I want, when I want, though, I’m wary of that. How do I know if who I’m speaking to is alive? No one seems to worry about that, like father did.
Someone asked me today who I was. I was on a forum talking about the spirit world. I was so happy to find people who I could relate to. They sent me a link. They asked if I was the same person. It was an article on a true crime website. It was about my dad. They mentioned me by name. That I was bound so I couldn’t see. That my mother had gone missing soon after my birth. That my father always wanted a daughter.
They found fourteen bodies in the basement. They said one got away, a girl by the name Sarah Frank, she was the one to call the police. They supposed he parked the car around the back of the house, that’s where they found it. He carried them into the basement via the storm entrance, where he’d leave them. Sarah had managed to get away after she agreed to be his daughter following four days of sustained torture. She then stabbed him with a kitchen knife he’d placed on the counter to butter some toast.
I didn’t want to believe it. And I am not sure I would have, if it weren’t for the names of the victims., two stuck out – Ellie Farmer, Alex Riddle. But I’d spoken to them in the living room.
To this day, I wonder if my father was honest with me about one thing in his life. Did I speak to them before or after he killed them?