Hey, wake up.
Shush. Don’t say anything. The walls have ears. And they talk to each other.
Well, of course, the walls don’t actually talk or hear. That would be silly. No, they’re telepathic. How do I know? Because I can hear them. Because I’m telepathic too.
I don’t need telepathy to know what you’re thinking, do I? Your expression says it all.
I hear them when they tell their sordid little tales to each other. But those stories do not belong to them. They’ve stolen those stories from us. The walls are thieves.
I’ve heard the secrets the walls have stolen from you.
Are you aware that our lives are dominated by our secrets? That our secrets are a manifestation of who we truly are. That our secrets are mirrors that inform us about ourselves. And what if I tell you the walls are stealing our true selves, disseminating them? Can you see the implications of what I’m telling you? The walls steal our secrets and share them, circulate them around the neighbourhood.
Do you want to know what I worry about? I worry that there might be someone else like me who is telepathic and can listen to what the walls are saying to each other. That someone else is learning my secrets, your secrets, the secrets of the lady at number fifty-seven. I’m terrified. I don’t want people to learn my secrets. So, I listen to make sure they are not talking about me, you know? And when I listen, I can’t help but learn other people’s secrets. That’s how I know things that I really shouldn’t.
I know that Mr Henderson at number fifty-nine likes to slap Mrs Henderson to excite himself before sex. I know that Mrs Henderson seems to like it. I know that Mrs Clark is having an illicit affair: every Wednesday when Mr Clark leaves for Rotary Club, a young gentleman arrives at number sixty-one, carrying flowers or champagne or both. Mr Clark knows about it, and sometimes he likes to watch when they think he is gone. I know the Watson’s at number fifty-five are planning a surprise birthday party for Mr Watson. He’ll be fifty this year, and he has no clue. He thinks they have forgotten and he is contemplating leaving by suicide. I know that when Ms Brown at number sixty-three goes out every Saturday night, her teenage son invites his friends around. They drink beer and watch unsuitable movies.
I knew the most about the lady at number fifty-seven. The walls told me where she grew up, where she went to school, and who she had her first kiss with. I knew that she liked to sleep on her side and liked to masturbate with a small vibrator. She had disowned her parents: her mother was a domineering bitch and her father was so inattentive he might as well not exist.
Her most treasured secret? She was telepathic: just like the walls, just like me.
She had learned all my secrets while I had been learning hers.
That’s why I listen, for just this eventuality. My secrets need to be kept, well, secret. She lived across the street from me and I don’t know why she didn’t do anything with the information she’d learned. We knew each other more completely than we’d known anyone else in our entire lives. I knew her so deeply that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. I fell in love with the true reflection of her revealed to me by her secrets.
She had been told my secrets, my dark mirror had reflected my true nature to her. And still, she did nothing. And I had to wonder why. Perhaps my love at number fifty-seven had fallen for me too?
I had to know what she felt, what she had planned, what she was going to do with the awful knowledge of my secrets.
I had to know and I had to act quickly.
I prepared the spare room, the chloroform and the cosh without delay.
I could not allow the walls the time to tell her.
When I marched straight through her front door, I expected her to be waiting for me, prepared. She was not in the hallway. When I entered the living room, her cry of alarmed surprise was genuine and loud. I hit her with the cosh as gently as I could and still render her unconscious. The chloroformed swab stilled her groggy movements and mutterings.
There was a shift in the air. An attentiveness. They were watching.
I wrapped her in the living room rug and lifted her with care onto my shoulder. I waited at the door as a car drove past, and then I took her with me across the street. Nobody saw us. I tied her loosely but diligently to the bed in the spare room. I did not want to cut off her circulation. I wanted my love to be as comfortable as possible.
As I watched she let out a low moan, and her head moved from one side to the other. A line of blood that ran out of one nostril and down the side of her cheek became smeared against the white linen of the pillow. A small injection put her back to sleep.
The walls concentrated attention felt oppressive. Here was another secret, becoming ripe and ready to harvest.
I realised just how easy it had been. She should have known, been prepared, or gone. Somehow, I had caught her completely by surprise. I found this hard to believe. The only way this could happen was if the walls had decided not to tell her about my plan. They wanted it to succeed. They wanted us together under the same roof. They wanted a new story to tell.
I sat on the chair beside the bed and watched her sleep.
She looked relaxed, peaceful and content. The smear of blood on her cheek only accentuated her beauty. I could barely believe that she was here, in my house. But here she was, the lady from number fifty-seven that I had fallen in love with.
Should I have abducted her? Yes. I had to know how she felt and if she was going to tell on me. My secrets could not be told. Whenever I think about it I begin to perspire.
Look. I’m perspiring now.
Anyway, when she awoke she was groggy and disoriented. The injection and the chloroform will do that, but I don’t need to tell you, do I? But when her eyes cleared? There was a moment, before the fear and hatred, when her eyes focused on mine and she knew. A moment when she saw in my eyes something that convinced her that her life was irrevocably changed forever. Maybe I’m romanticising it. She probably just read my mind and knew that we’d be bound together forever. The moment passed. Fear and hatred lit her eyes. I saw those bright eyes and a shiver ran the length of my spine. If I was not already seated I would have had to sit down.
Hey! Stop struggling, okay? You can’t escape those straps. Oh, that’s it. That’s exactly the look she gave me. The tingles down my spine are back.
With that one look, I knew. She didn’t love me. You don’t love me.
The walls knew she was here in my spare room, and before long someone else would telepathically listen to their prattle and they would know too. I couldn’t conceal the fact of another person living in my house. Someone would notice eventually, regardless of what the walls said.
I was demoralised to see her weep and hear her shout and scream and call me awful names. I explained to her, with utmost patience, why she was tied up. That the walls had told me all about her, and her all about me. She laughed, called me crazy, and denied knowing about anything I was talking about. I proved it when I recited all the secrets I knew about her because of what the walls had said. At first, she was shocked, and then defiant. She said that anyone could have learned those things about her. I told her that I loved her. The harsh disbelief I heard in her laughter nearly shattered my sanity. She spat at me and wished me dead. I had to gag her perfect mouth so that she couldn’t hurt me with her words or anger me further.
The walls began to work on me. They told me that I had to stop her from talking, stop her for good. See how much she loves to talk, they said. See how much she hates you, they said. She never loved you, they said, how could she when your stories are so very wicked.
For days the walls yabbered and cajoled straight into my brain.
They wore me down. Whether it was from lack of sleep or from the realisation that they were right, I do not know. I would grant the lady from number fifty-seven permission to leave my company. I had to do it.
And the walls would have one more secret to tell.
I took my tools from the bedside cabinet. I unrolled them on the bedside table. Bright, shiny and clean are my Secret Keepers.
The walls were impatient. They were eager for me to start hacking away, but now that I’d begun I had to do it my way. My love deserved nothing less. Besides, it would make a more interesting story if I took my time, the walls would appreciate the artistry along with the anticipation.
I took a scalpel from the roll. It slid out with the rasp of steel against canvas. A musical sound.
She was sleeping so I stabbed the scalpel into her thigh. She woke up immediately. She tried to scream but the wadded gag in her mouth made it difficult. The muffled screams were music too. My love made these beautiful, angelic sounds because of me, for me. It didn’t matter how much she denied everything, I knew, listening to her, that she loved me after all. I almost stopped and apologised for what I had done. I almost untied her, let her go. If she loved me then she deserved to live.
The walls roared their amusement into my skull and told me to get on with it. I couldn’t trust her, they said. She would tell, they said. Eventually, she would tell.
I believed them.
And so I killed her as quickly and as painlessly as I felt was necessary for the walls to leave me alone.
I’m not saying I did not enjoy what I did. I gave her my love in the best way I knew how. There is nothing quite like the subtle sound of steel cutting through flesh and sinew.
Now the walls knew another secret about me. But it would keep them sated for quite some time.
Now you understand why I have to listen to what the walls say, and how I despise them. I have to know what they are saying about me and I have to know who they are saying it to.
They told me that you listen to them sometimes. That you have the gift. The walls told me this secret about you.
And now that I know you don’t love me then you’ll have to become another secret the walls will steal from me. Just like the lady at number fifty-seven. Just like the other five secrets the walls have stolen. They are all around us those secrets.
Of course, you know this already. The walls have told you, haven’t they?
The walls have told you where I keep my secrets, haven’t they?
Of course they have. The walls. They can’t keep secrets.