Fiction: A Whisper from Before
By Justin Jones
You’re inside a ‘50s diner. There are leather-upholstered booths here. Red-topped tables, silver-trimmed. Linoleum floor with black-and-white checkers. Malt bar and mirrored backdrop. Old fashioned soda fountains. Jukebox in the middle of it all.
It’s abandoned. The clocks are stopped; the mirrors and booths rust-stained from years of disuse. Cobwebs on pictures of Elvis and Marilyn. Windows once sparkling with advertisements for Coca-Cola and 50-cent hamburgers now broken and clouded. The floor, covered in dried mud and broken from decay.
The sun settles now, and you feel you must leave. This one-time chapel of gossip, romance, and milkshakes is a chapel no more, and is most strangely situated in the middle of the woods, around nothing else. Around the diner there are no other ruins of bygone eras. No other clichés–no old-time gas stations or garages–nothing. Just trees. Hundred year-old trees. Trees that have been here longer than the lifetime of such a place as this.
There are no signs of a road having been outside. No indication as to why or how this place is.
How you came about here you can’t recall. The place is spooky, doubly so in the night. So you turn to wander toward from where you came and you hear an impossibly loud crash. The sound scares the hearing from your ears and replaces it with an excruciating, piercing whistle. You cover your ears and fall to your knees.
The whistle is too much. You lay into a fetal position and cry, but the sound does not subside. And you know somehow that here you will die, in this strange and out-of-place diner.
You wake in your bed, soaked in nighttime sweat, cognizant instantly that this was but a dream; but the nightmare left its mark. In your ear the whistle whispers still, softer than before, but present nonetheless.
This dream, and its haunting whistle, follow you this week and the next. And the next after that. For years it hangs around, a dream with no end.
You see finally a neurologist who can think of no explanation for the whistle, except for a constant migraine, maybe. So she orders for you an MRI. A cat scan. For months you are probed in hopes of finding why this whistle lingers.
Your ear drums are in fine order, as too are your tests. Medicine doesn’t work, nor do visits to a psychiatrist. Your doctors do nothing but drain your pockets. Your insurance company, too, wonders–in writing–whether your doctor visits are worthy of its consideration.
Your friends, those who once didn’t believe your story, grow now with concern. And through the years their concern ebbs and flows. There is nothing they can do except leave you out of visits to loud clubs and movies, and so from them you grow apart.
After several years more you grow finally accustomed to your whistle, an everlasting, mysterious companion, a guest who’s overstayed his welcome, a constance if ever there were.
And one day you find in an anthology a horror story, one with the description of a 50s-style diner whose origin is unknown, whose setting is unclear, whose existence haunts its patrons with a whistle-like noise. The author is “Anonymous,” so you search the Internet with the name of the anthology and find that it’s out of print and that its publisher shut its doors years ago. Chilling? Yes.
Shortly after finding this story, years after the whistle begins, the ghost in your head disappears.
And it’s all so strange, that dream of yours, and that ghost it left behind. But its story you will keep, and no matter how time distances it from you, the riddle will haunt you, a whisper–a dark memory resurrected–from before.
Justin Jones is a columnist for Lavender Magazine, Guy Magazine, and Florida Agenda Newspaper. He writes about things like being alive, being in love, and drinking too much. Facebook.com/JustinJonesWriter.
“Fruit plus hanging with my bestie, what’s not to love?”February 27, 2017
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