Daniel [Short Story]

Everybody is different; we all have something that separates us from our peers, but mostly we can deal with it. Mostly, we can put our differences aside and move on. In Daniel’s case, he couldn’t put it aside, because it was a difference no one shared. It was a difference no one could put aside – because they didn’t know about it. He had always been shy, Daniel, which was why nobody noticed. I was the only one, I suppose, and that was why he confided in me.

He’d sometimes just get up from his chair and walk out of class, when it got too much. I would sometimes slip out after him, to make sure he was okay, and most of the time he’d be shaking, but sometimes he’d just be staring at a wall, non-responsive. I didn’t mind though; I knew what it was like to freak out. I’d had my fair share of issues in the past, but I was better now, and I had decided that my mission was to help someone else face their issues too. Daniel was grateful, he told me often, but he told me that his condition was irreparable. I beg to differ, though this was before he told me. After that, I knew I could not argue.

He heard voices sometimes, he said, so I suggested schizophrenia and he said that, no, they weren’t imaginary, and I said that was what he’d think if he had schizophrenia, but he insisted it was something else. I didn’t quite believe him and I suggested he should go to a psychiatrist or something. He refused, saying they would only behave how everybody else does. He told me events happening right across the world and what people were saying, how scared they were. He could tell me, word-for-word, documentaries – before they happened. And it was then that I began to realise this was not schizophrenia. It was more of a… hearing issue.

He never told me about the other stuff though; the way he could alter sounds. It was only sounds, but sometimes it could break stuff. He didn’t think I’d still want to be friends with him if I heard that. I suppose, in a way, he might’ve been right. Things like that don’t exist, was what I thought, and he could not possibly have such a skill. He hardly spoke about it; not until it was too late, anyway.

It was a firework showing when things got really bad – like criminal bad. He couldn’t cope with the voices; he told me that someone was dying and that they were in France so he could not help them. He told me that he could hear so much but not change a thing. I now realise he hadn’t been telling the truth; he could change stuff, just not the kind of stuff you’d think of. He got agitated that night, crying and shaking, and people kept coming over and asking if he was okay. I had insisted he was fine but then the fireworks popped, like a balloon, and they were so loud I clawed at my ears for them to stop. Daniel wasn’t doing the same. I yelled at him, that it was too loud, but he was not listening. He was concentrating.

Fourteen people were deafened, for life, from that incident. I am surprised it wasn’t more. Several have phobias of fireworks. Others live a quiet life by themselves; they don’t want much noise at all. Although I was shaken by the incident, it didn’t give any permanent issues to me. It just made me and Daniel closer, I thought, that we had both been through such a disaster and that we were both fine. Little did I know that Daniel’s issues were far brighter and bigger than some fireworks. Daniel kept saying how it was his fault and I’d laughed and told him he was being stupid. Turns out, he wasn’t being stupid. He was being human. He’d told me numerous times that he couldn’t control it but I never quite understood what he meant.

Then, one night, a TV exploded in his house and he rung me. That was the night I realised; he wasn’t feeling guilty because he’d been there, he was feeling guilty because he’d done bad things. Not on purpose, of course, but he said that when he was angry things tended to go pop. He never told me about the sound altering but I figured it out, from all the clues he left lying around. You can only have so many broken TVs before it gets suspicious.

I think he might have been my best friend, Daniel, but he slipped out of my fingers before I could officially declare it. He told me that he had experienced war more times than most soldiers; that he could hear several wars at once. The bullets, grenades, screams; he could hear it all, and he didn’t like it. He told me he usually centred in on one incident at a time, to avoid confusion, but he could only seem to centre in on bad things. The good events were hidden, mostly. He knew instantly when I was in trouble though, and he’d always come running. I loved him for that. He didn’t have to come but he always did, except when he disappeared.

Daniel went missing on the 21st of October, two days after his seventeenth birthday. He had left one note, addressed to me, stating only that he could not cope and that he was sorry. That was all it said. I didn’t know whether he was dead, alive, or somewhere in-between. And the day I got stabbed, almost died, I knew he would not be there to help me this time. He would not avenge me like he used to. I had lost so much blood by the time they got there, they thought I wouldn’t survive. I thought I wouldn’t survive. One night though (I have no clue how true this is, because I was sedated), I woke up and I saw him at the window. I heard my heart thumping, and I heard my brain whirling, and then I heard a voice, his voice, saying “I might not have saved you then, but I can save you now.” That was the last time I saw him; I’m sure. I know, deep in my heart, that he had saved me once again. He might have left my life but he did not leave my ears. It might have been the last time I saw him but it was definitely not the last time I heard him.

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