A Forgotten Tape

It was only when I was cleaning out some old boxes I had shuffled from house to house that I found this tape. When I saw the writing scrawled on the side in Sharpie, it all came flooding back. All the guilt that I’d hidden for all these years oozed out. I felt a heaviness in my heart that I did so well to hide from myself.

I made a promise with them not to tell anyone what happened. I will honour that promise and keep their anonymity. However, I need to share this. They say a burden shared is a burden halved. It will take a lot more than that to wash myself of the guilt, but it’s a start.

The following is a transcript I have written from said tape. The names have been changed to protect both parties.

Dr Parker: Today is Wednesday, 4th February 1987. How are you today, Sally?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: That’s okay. You don’t need to talk if you don’t want to. <long pause> Do you know why you’re here?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: Your mummy and daddy wanted us to have a little chat; about the things you have been saying and doing, <long pause> and your behaviour at school?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: Do you like school, Sally? <long pause> Your mummy says you don’t want to go anymore. I understand that <small chuckle>, I never liked school either. I always wanted to play with my toys. I didn’t have many friends, do you have any friends?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: When the children ignored me, I wanted to hit them, so they’d know how I felt. Do you ever want to hit anyone, Sally?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: Fire is interesting, isn’t it. It’s very colourful and fun to look at. Is that why you started them?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: <deep sigh> Say, would you like to draw anything, Sally? <sound gets fainter> Here, I’ll show you. You can use any of these crayons and draw whatever you like. I’m going to get a drink. Would you like a lemonade or any ice cream? <pause> Great, a nod is good, ice cream? <pause> Brilliant. I’ll go get you some, I won’t be long.

<sound of a door closing>

Sally: Shhh, I don’t want to speak to you, I don’t know you. <pause> Go away, I’m not allowed to play with bigger boys. <long pause> Put down the crayons, you’ll get me into trouble. Stop it! STOP IT!

<sound of door opening>

Dr Parker: Is everything okay, Sally? I heard you shouting.

Sally: Sorry.

Dr Parker: You have nothing to be sorry about. Here’s your ice cream. <pause> Oh you’ve drawn me a picture. What is it?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: That looks like a grown up. Dark hair, blue shirt is it? Are those trousers or jeans? Who’s the little guy holding his hand? You’re a little artist aren’t you.

Sally: <upset> I didn’t draw it.

Dr Parker: Was it one of your friends in your head? Your mummy told me about them. It’s okay, you can tell me anything. <pause> Not one of them?

Sally: <quiet> no.

Dr Parker: Who did it? I don’t see anyone else here. <heartwarming chuckle>.

Sally: <quiet> Ben.

Dr Parker: I used to know a Ben. It’s a nice name isn’t it?

Sally: Yes

Dr Parker: Tell you what, why don’t you eat your ice cream and I’ll talk some more, and if you want to tell me anything, you can. <pause> I’ll take that as a yes.

Dr Parker: Your mummy tells me you don’t like the children in your school. Are they mean to you? <pause> They are? That’s not nice. What do they do, do they hurt you?

Sally: No.

Dr Parker: Do they say nasty things about you?

Sally: Yeah, really nasty.

Dr Parker: That’s nice ice cream, isn’t it? I can get you more if you like. <pause> What did they say to you?

Sally: I scare them.

Dr Parker: You scare them? How do you scare them?

Sally: I know what’s in them.

Dr Parker: What’s in them? I’m not sure I understand.

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: You make up things about them?

Sally: <upset and loud>NO. I know what they say and then they cry.

Dr Parker: Your mummy says you say bad things to them.

Sally: <upset> Only when they do it first!

Dr Parker: She says you shouted at your brother when he hasn’t said anything.

Sally: <upset> He was going to say horrible things, but hadn’t yet.

Dr Parker: Is it like you can hear their voice, but not out loud?

Sally: Uh huh.

Dr Parker: Is that why they’re scared of you?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: You’re a good girl, you’ve finished all your ice cream. Would you like me to get you that lemonade? <pause> Good. I won’t be gone long. Why don’t you draw something else.

<sound of door opening and closing>

Sally: I don’t like you. You got me into trouble. Go away. <pause> You tell him. I’m not talking to you anymore.

<sound of door opening>

Dr Parker: Here’s your lemonade. Oh good, you’re drawing again. <long pause> Do you know why you started the fire?

Sally: I didn’t do it, I told mummy that, but she didn’t believe me.

Dr Parker: Can you tell me what happened?

Sally: Mr Brown did it.

Dr Parker: Is Mr Brown your teacher?

Sally: He said he wanted to do bad things to me.

Dr Parker: Can you tell me what?

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: Your mummy tells me that you shouted at him. Did you do that?

Sally: Yes. He said he wanted to hurt me.

Dr Parker: Did you hear that before he said it too?

Sally: Yes. He said he was going to burn my bag, that would learn me. What does learn me mean?

Dr Parker: Did you tell your mummy that?

Sally: She says I tell lies.

Dr Parker: I don’t think you’re a liar.

Sally: <no response>

Dr Parker: Is that why you punctured his tyres?

Sally: He wanted to do bad things to me.

Dr Parker: You wanted to punish him?

Sally: He’s mean. He says horrible things about everyone.

Dr Parker: What else does he say?

Sally: He says mummy is a slug.

Dr Parker: A slug, or a slut?

Sally: That’s what I said.

Dr Parker: Did he say that out loud?

Sally: No.

Dr Parker: What else did he say?

Sally: I’d look good in a body bag. I don’t like bags. I never won a sack race, I always fall over. They itch and scratch.

Dr Parker: Have you told your mummy this?

Sally: No, she slapped me. She says she wishes I was never born. Daddy says he wanted a boy.

Dr Parker: <no response>

Sally: Why does Ben say he’s cold?

Dr Parker: Ben?

Sally: He says you put him in the hole and he’s really cold. Can you get him a jacket or something? That always warms me up.

Dr Parker: I don’t know a Ben.

Sally: <giggles> Yes you do, he says you’re his daddy. I hate being cold. <small pause> Can I have some more ice cream? I really liked the last one.

Dr Parker: Uh, I’m not sure.

Sally: Why are you worried someone will find him? He’s scared and he wants to see you. He drew you this picture.

Dr Parker: You drew that.

Sally: No, he said it was for you. He misses you.

Dr Parker: You know what, I am going to see him right after I’ve finished with you. Can I ask you a little favour?

Sally: Yes.

Dr Parker: I’ll tell your mummy what a great girl you are. I can make the voices stop if you don’t tell her about Ben? Do we have a deal?

Sally: Yes.

Dr Parker: Do you promise?

Sally: I promise.

I don’t know why I stole the tape. I hid it from my mother and myself for years.

Today, when listening to it, and being older, I now understood why Ben was cold. I’ve stopped taking my tablets. I’m now hearing many voices crying out for help, but I’m waiting for Ben’s. I owe him that.

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