It wasn't quite the present I'd hoped for for my 16th birthday, but I'll never forget my first time hearing animals speak.
It had been a long 10 hours at school, with the usual timetable, plus supplementary consultations, project work discussions, and club meetings. I don't remember what subjects I had to deal with that day, but I know they were those I disliked. Except lab. Lab that day was mildly exciting. There might have been a couple of unintended explosions. I was trudging through the living room, ready to collapse.
Ey, Dipshit is back.
I jumped so high I was surprised I didn't crash into our home's low ceiling. I was alone at home. Mom and dad were away at a convention, my brother Al was in a college dorm two states up north, and my sister Anne in France for a school trip. Plus, I've had my fair share of siblings calling me rude names, but dipshit was never one of them.
I heard chuckling as I recovered from the huge shock. Like the voice before, it was soft, but clear, and raspy, as if the person it belonged to had years of phlegm stored in his throat. And it came from the wall right next to me.
I dashed to the kitchen, just a few steps away, and yanked a long, sharp knife from the wooden block. With my arm outstretched and muscles wound up, I walked back towards the wall.
The chuckling, meanwhile, had erupted into full roaring laughter, which confused, irritated and scared me all at once.
"Stop laughing who the fuck are you?!" I yelled out. My voice cracked right at end. Ugh. Good job me.
The silence that followed threatened to suffocate me. That and the fact that I had unconsciously held my breath for the last 10 seconds.
The voices continued, but this time they were hushed.
Did he just-
Yeah, was he talking to us?
"Yeah I am," I shouted, the adrenaline now pumping way too much bravado into my system. "You better step out here now because if I have to come and find you I will make you bleed."
More silence. More adrenaline. More bravado that I didn't need.
"You wanna play? Fine." I strode back to the kitchen, switching the long knife to my left hand, and drawing the heavy cleaver out of the knife block with force and flourish. I made sure the house knew a large blade had been unsheathed.
"I'm gonna cut your fucking head in two if you don't show yourself right now. You have till the count of three. ONE," I announced, with the full spirit of Leonidas. If I had paid more attention at school, I might have been more familiar with the phrase "bringing a knife to a gun fight".
"TWO," I roared, more confident than ever.
Ey, Dipshit. Up here, on the wall.
I flinched, and froze where I stood. The adrenaline dissipated as quickly as it had gathered, and like the statue of a forgotten warrior, the cold feeling of dread and fear rushed back into my body, pinning me to the spot.
An' put away those knives 'fore you trip and stab yousself with it.
Would be funny though, gasped a second voice.
Shut up, Chak, we'd have to move out if that happens. We just got used to this damn place.
I looked up, straight into the beady eyes of two spotted house geckos.