Sam thinks he’s the only one that sees things and hears voices with his doctors from the TV and relatives on the radio. He also thinks that no one else knows about it all, that he’s just feeling crazy all alone. He’s wrong. Sometimes it makes Gene want to smack him and shout in his face because they are all like that here. It’s not just Sam but all of them. It’s just different for each person.
Phyllis hears everyone’s voice in a different language. Ray is German; Annie is Portuguese; Chris is Arabic; Gene is French. Sometimes Gene likes to mess her about a little.
“Ça va, tu amore?”
“Don’t you start with me, you bloody div. You can’t even use the correct conjunctions when you actually try!” She snaps at him which only makes him grin.
“Sound better now, do I?”
Apparently when Sam came it took her a week to figure out he was Russian. Gene doesn’t know how she understands them all but she does. She told him once that the more languages come out of people’s mouths the more she sees the similarities; half the time she doesn’t need to know exactly what someone says but tells by their faces or how the people around her react to learn what they mean.
Gene’s pretty sure though that by now she should at least be fluent in French.
Chris sees rips. He calls them rips at least and Gene’s never quite understood what he means. Chris said that sometimes he will see out of the corner of his eyes a rip in the air, like a hole into another place. He’ll see people through it, like it’s another world in there. Whenever he tries to look at them straight on they disappear or close up.
“I saw me mum though one once,” Chris told him. “Only she were my age, laughing and running about with her mates.”
Gene didn’t know what to say.
“It drives me mad sometimes that I can’t really look at them, only just the glimpses.” He always paused after and said the same thing. “I reckon it’s the past I’m seeing.”
Chris also hears his father when he turns out lights.
“What?” Gene said.
“Every time I turn out a light I hear him talking. It’s always in the middle of some conversation, right? Never just a ‘hello’ or anything but right in the middle of something as if he’d been talkin’ for ages already.”
Gene turned out the light.
“No, Gov,” Chris said. “Only when I do it.”
Gene turned the light back on.
It certainly explained why Chris would never turn off the light at his desk when he left for the day. Gene always does it now, sometimes even before Chris leaves. He’s caught the looks of gratitude on Chris’ face which he can never actually say.
Ray won’t tell Gene his. Gene has tired to get it out of him because he knows there is something. He hides it a lot better than Sam does for sure and even better than Phyllis who has perfected hers to an art. Still, Gene knows its there. Ray acts loud and crass and tries to craft himself in Gene’s image. Gene figures it’s got to be because Ray’s trying to run away from what it is here for him.
Gene thinks it's something he sees. Sometimes he’ll catch Ray starting at a blank space on the wall. His face is always horrified. Mostly, however, it’s mirrors. Gene is sure that when ever Ray looks in a mirror it’s not his own face that he sees back. He just doesn’t know what it is that Ray sees.
“They’re all dead… just look at them…”
Ray was staring in a mirror in the bathroom when Gene heard him say it and as soon at he noticed Gene standing in the door he closed up. No matter what Gene does, how he tires in little ways, Ray doesn’t say a thing about it.
Annie hears music. He just learned this recently, since Sam arrived. Gene had never really taken much notice of the plunk before. Since Sam arrived though she’d been around more and he’d caught her at it, dancing. Sometimes she’d just be swaying slightly, easily mistaken for a bird trying to show off her hips in a way that no one would object to. But then he’s also caught her arms waving and whole body moving in time to a silent room.
She said, “It's all different sorts. Stuff you’d not hear now and even stuff I’d never heard before anywhere.”
She’s heard ‘Boogie woogie bugle boy,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ ‘Bobby Magee,’ and even things like Opera, ‘When I am Laid in Earth,’ ‘Il mio bel foco,’ and classic stuff, Mozart’s Requiem. She’s heard ‘Silent Night’ every single Christmas Eve in various styles from different singers. Then she’s heard things that Gene knows haven’t been written yet with titles like ‘White Wedding’ sung by a man with a growling voice, ‘Toxic,’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
“What’s playin’, high skirt?” he asks.
Annie rolls her eyes but answers him anyhow. “London Calling, sir.”
He scrunches up his face, “Wha?”
“New one, comes out ’79.”
“And how do you know that?” he asks.
She looks away, “I just do.”
Sam thinks he's the only one, thinks no one else shouts at nothing or answers the phone when it's not ringing or stares at walls seeing something else or hears things just for them. It’s not just Sam.
Of course, only Gene knows all this. He doesn’t tell the others about their coworker’s private battles, the things they see and hear. Maybe it would help them to know they are not alone but Gene thinks it’s more likely to make things worse, to make them all spiral down into real insanity. Sometimes he thinks some of them suspect, especially with the way Sam acts but Gene doesn’t encourage or help in that regard. Instead Gene listens to them and keeps up the mantel of the strong and rash chief. He leads them on, loudly and quickly, hoping to keep all their minds on him and the job, away from the things lurking in the corners and just out of sight. So, this way he can protect them.
Sam needed to wise up as well. Did he really think that when Gene pulled him away from the radio or noticed him pick up the phone with that half frightened look on his face that he didn't realize something was off?
“So?” Gene says.
Sam sits in the chair across the desk from Gene. They just stare at each other.
“The girl with the clown is the worst,” Sam says not looking at Gene. “I never realized a little girl could be so terrible... and terrifying.”
Gene doesn't say anything.
“She only comes in my apartment though, at least there is that.”
Sam chews at his finger nails then looks straight at Gene.
“What do you see?”
Gene blinks and scoffs slightly. None of them had ever asked him and he wonders for a moment how Sam knows now that he’s not the only one. Gene’s eyes involuntarily flick to the corner of his office briefly but he quickly turns them back to look steadily at Sam.
“I see a man all in white.”
Gene won't look in the corner again where the man stands, just at Sam. Sam shifts uncomfortably under Gene's steady gaze.
“What does he say?” Sam asks.
Gene sees a shift of white in the corner but still does not look over.
“I don't listen to him anymore,” Gene replies. “But he used to tell me to keep hope.”
Sam nods and looks a bit comforted. Gene decides then not to tell him about the others despite his own confession. He'd thought about it but it isn't right. Gene knows what's good for his team. For all the rips and languages and music and voices and things in the mirror and girls in red Gene will keep them all going. He knows that it's just how it is here.
Sam is smiling now, thinking about something far away and Gene has an urge to call him Dorothy and tell him to come back over the rainbow but resists.
“A man in white...” Sam mutters looking back at Gene.
Gene just raises his eyebrows quickly and doesn't tell Sam that while the man used to talk about hope now he doesn't speak at all which is so much worse. Sometimes it makes Gene really fear that they are all going to be stuck like this forever but he sure as hell won’t tell any of them that.