I experienced chronic audio hallucinations as a child, and this is why.
My parents were both uneducated, working-class folk themselves and were conditioning me to become an overachiever to break the cycle. They always made sure I was busy during the day, whether I was at school, the library, basketball, karate, boy scouts or piano practice. My life was completely routinized. No questions asked. My mom was my chauffeur all day – I’d wake up at 8AM, be home by 8 and into bed by 9, exhausted after a typical day in my innocent six-year-old life. I’d fall asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, but not before the hallucinations began.
How can I begin to describe the sensation of hearing things that don’t exist? I’d hear blood curdling moans, and screams full of pain and anguish. I can’t remember exactly when they started but I could only hear them when I was alone. They would pierce through the silence of my pitch black room, resonating through my bones and into the floorboards. They’d stop and start randomly. Sometimes it was a woman, sometimes a man, sometimes it was children. Sometimes they were quiet, sometimes they roared. For hours they haunted me, inconsistently and relentlessly.
I felt psychotic. How does a child being to handle insanity? As for all humans alike, getting into bed and falling asleep is when the hectic world finally slows down, a break from reality. But for me, it became the most dreaded part of my day. It got to the point where I was afraid to go to sleep, or even go into my room for that matter. I’d call out for my mom when I couldn’t take the torment anymore.
I was particularly close with my mom my whole life, I became an extreme momma’s boy from spending so much time with her. She just knew exactly how to ease the storm in my mind.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s okay. It’s all just a dream,” she’d reassure me and sleep in my bed for the rest of the night.
I knew it wasn’t a dream but still her gentle words always brought this inexplicable peace to my soul. I would tell her about the hallucinations loud and often, but she was just a simple homemaker from a small town with a huge heart. She didn’t know how to handle mental illness but sure tried her best to.
“Here. Drink up.” She passed me a cup of warm tea and stroked my head. If it wasn’t her soft voice, tea always helped me relax.
Everything’s been great since; I stayed an overachiever and got a job at a great investment firm after finishing my MBA. I moved from the states to the UK, married a hot dancer I met at Benihana and had two bouncing baby boys. Life’s virtually perfect. My parents got their wish; I’ve grown into everything they wanted me to be… but I very rarely get to see them anymore. Every now and then, I wonder what they’re up to.
I sit at the kitchen table with my morning jalapeño-cream cheese bagel. The smell of sausage fills the air as my wife works away flipping pancakes on the stove. I take a quick glance at the pink and indigo sky, and pull up the daily newspaper on my tablet.
The top headline:
The Tea Party Killer: Incarnate of Evil
Below was a photo of the convicted; a greying, middle-aged man with thin lips curled into a tired smile. My dad.
After 15 years of tireless investigation and thousands of tips, Marcus Gables was finally arrested in his Albuquerque home following a joint effort by local authorities and the FBI. Inside, authorities also found over 200 mason jars full of blood that they believe was extracted from his estimated 150+ victims. Gables managed to stay under the radar for 40 years.
The reason it is believed that he was able to evade detection for so long is because of the random selection of his victims, varying in race, age and gender. He’s called ‘The Tea Party Killer’ because he would sip on the blood from ceramic cups like tea as it drained from his still living victims. His last victim was his wife who went “willingly”, as he confessed to officers, “after [they] knew authorities were onto him.”
They’re going to execute him. My mom was his last victim because that’s how she wanted to go. They were both in on it. That’s why they tried their hardest to keep me busy and out of the house basically until I moved out. That’s what the moaning noises were… the hallucinations I thought I was having… everything.
What did they think I was, a little potato who had no idea about what happened inside his own house? I figured it out not too long after my 12th birthday on one of the rare days I was completely home alone. Usually my mom was always home, but my aunt happened to have a baby that day so she left the house for several hours to go visit her. And I was sick in bed with a bad cold.
To be fair, it happened completely innocently. I didn’t mean to find them; I’d been watching cartoons all day and my mind was naturally wandering in a thousand directions as I laid lazily on the living room sofa. I had the sudden realization that I’d never been to my basement before. I’d been told growing up that there was just a storage room there for my dad’s car stuff, so I never really bothered to go down. My life was on the surface anyway. But that day, I went, young and curious.
I lived in a bungalow and the entrance to the basement was detached, I went outside my house, around the side and down a grimy flight of stairs. I opened the door only to enter an empty room. In the corner I noticed a smaller door that you had to crouch to get through.
The lock on it was already unlocked so I swung open the door. The putrid odor of rotting flesh and urine sunk into my lungs and made me puke instantly. Inside I saw a circular table with two chairs around it, and a stack of dirty cups to the side of it. Three naked bodies hung from the ceiling on metal hooks like pigs for slaughter. One was a child no older than five. Thick ropes suspended them from their ankles, their lanky arms dangling below them, ropes around their necks to keep them from moving around, and clear plastic tubes forced into their wrists. Blood was only being drawn from two people of the three body, the ones that were still alive. One was a child sobbing quietly and the other, an elderly man, who looked like he was just hanging on to his final moments of consciousness. The third body was a middle-aged woman hanging idly, her skin turned ice blue and eyes blood-shot red swelling out of the sockets from the pressure of the blood settling in her head.
I couldn’t push the memory of them out of my system no matter how hard I tried. The police estimated 150+ victims… try 1500+. But that’s just a rough guess.
I know I should’ve said something, I should’ve told someone, but I loved my parents too much and they loved me. I needed them and I couldn’t risk having them taken away from me so I kept their twisted secret locked inside my mind.
I put down my tablet after reading the article, still trying to reel myself back from the shock that he finally got caught and also that he killed my mom. My lovely, darling mom.
I sit back in my chair, forlorn and trying to deal with the flurry of thoughts racing through my head. I take another bite of my jalapeño bagel as my three-year-old hugs onto my leg asking for a bite of my food. I give him a tiny bite and then some of my tea to wash it down with. He loves tea just as much as I do.
I take a big gulp of the tea to calm my nerves. The bitter tinge of copper mingles with my tastebuds.
Despite everything, the taste of it has never grown old on me.