Dorsett had always known he was quite mad. It was a fact of life, like the sun coming up in the morning, or that buttered bread, when dropped, would always land butter-side down. It was something he could identify, but did not think of overmuch, and he tended to let friends of his know sooner or later.
I hear voices, he would say. His friends would be concerned, or interested, and then get over it and it usually wouldn’t be mentioned much again. Being self-aware was crucial, Dorsett felt, in making sure you didn’t descend any further.
And for the most part, the voices had seemed harmless. They were hard to hear, barely a murmur in the back of his mind, though they tended to grow stronger in the presence of books. They never spoke directly to him- that would be concerning. Instead they babbled on, and he caught wisps of phrases like dust on the wind.
“-In autumns that there were-“
“-would not rather have stayed there-“
He always assumed, vaguely, that what he could hear were snatches of books he had once read and since forgotten. It was soothing, in a way. Sometimes they changed with his mood, and the passages became distraught or angry, but for the most part they acted almost as a separate entity, as though merely sharing his head-space.
Very rarely did he remember any of his dreams, and if he did, they were akin to fever dreams; oddly alarming, and the trickle of words had turned into a rushing river, too overwhelming to stay in for long. He would wake up sweating, and when he returned to sleep, there would be nothing.
It had seemed to him, in the back of his mind, that something had been a while in coming. He could hear the words more clearly, identify individual strands more easily. He had been pondering these changes, wondering if they were coming with age, or if he was going just a little madder still.
And then Atanamir left him, and it seemed to give the words the kick they needed.
He couldn’t well remember the first few weeks after he had returned to his flat in Bree, alone save for his cat. The days were a blur, but always there were the voices.
Not the voices, just a voice. And not a proper voice, not like a person speaking. If words could read themselves, that was what it sounded like. For the very first time, it seemed to be addressing him, more or less. Breathing life back into him. Making him eat, feed the cat, take a walk.
It didn’t speak to him. It spoke of him, and kept him safe, and he did all he could ever do, which was listen.
As he came out of his haze, he realized two things. Firstly, that the voices had only ever been one voice, over and over again, overlaying in his mind, talking of nothing and everything, and that it was indeed separate from him somehow, as though resident in his head.
And secondly, that he had finished grieving. He felt… better. Just tired, as if he had finished doing something strenuous and almost satisfying, like a hard day’s work.
Jade had come by later that day to check up on him, and though he was still a little lost, he felt immensely better for seeing her, and knowing that life could go on.
And the words quieted down.
That night, Dorsett dreamed not of words, but of Atanamir, and all of his progress went out the window.
Break ups, it turns out, are not always made better by words. Nor are they helped by sorcerers.