Can we ask him a question?
Yes, like before with the others, but let’s keep it simple. We don’t want to frighten him too soon.
How about the time? It’s simple enough to ask someone the time of day. Unless the person you’re asking is a stranger. Then, they might not give the answer as freely.
We’ll likely always be strange to him. It can't be helped. And the things we’ll show him stranger still. He won’t keep much of us, or them. No more than the whiff of decaying leaves he’d take from a walk in an autumn wood.
No, but we’ll remember, and we'll learn from him. We always do. Let’s ask him as if he were a friend. Perhaps it will help him accept us. The time, Jonas. Can you tell us what time it is?
They’re just voices. What else could they be? God? A devil? Or an angel and a devil? Those cartoon appeals to conscience perched on his shoulders? Ridiculous. Too ridiculous. But more ridiculous than hearing these voices, hearing them for the first time, now, on this train? Hearing them indistinctly yes, but still hearing them.
Jonas, half-asleep, heard them. There’s no doubting he heard them now, for the first time, when it all starts and ends. This moment of a single movement: when his head, once so deadly heavy, jerks alive with a backward nod, as if it were taking back a “yes.”
Voices, but whose voices? And what would they want? What could they want from him, Jonas? Were they real? They could be. But they could be the remnants of a dream he had in that moment. A dream that retreated back to the depths without him when he woke.
Or they could be the trailed-off fragments of a conversation. A conversation he’s misremembered, or mostly forgotten. A conversation, perhaps half-taken from the television he left on at home, the night before, as he fell-asleep.
No, to Jonas these voices sound much more, much more like something from inside. From inside but also far away. They sound. They sound like a voice he’d hear. A voice he’d hear while reading a story. The kind of story he reads, but doesn’t like. The kind of story that troubles him with the details, and the uncertainties of others’ lives.
But this is his life. It’s Jonas’ life, and he thought he already knew all of its details. He thought there weren’t any more surprises in his story. He thought. He thought, his story was writing itself now. Writing itself in expected ways. Uninspiring, but certain, and expected, and not comfortable, but not disturbing ways either.
These voices are disturbing. Very disturbing. If they’re real. Are they real?
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