(Penelope)

I walked quickly around the common room, avoiding the others standing around aimlessly, or sitting lifelessly on couches, in chairs, on the floor. They didn't seem to notice me, but neither did I notice them. They didn't care about anything, they didn't see. They were passive, so passive, when they should fight back, protect themselves. I pretended to be passive too when the time called for it, but really I wasn't, really my mind was always working, always waiting. You have to be alert and ready always, you can't be distracted, or you might not hear the voices. You might miss what they say, and that could be very, very bad. You might not hear something important you have to do, or you might make something awful happen.

I didn't always used to hear the voices, not until I was 25 or so I think. I was starting to date Anton, so I guess that's right. See, they talk to everyone, really quiet, but a lot of times they aren't heard by people because they do stuff that blocks them out. The voices knew my name, that first time, and even though I'd never heard them before, I wasn't afraid, I trusted them. They knew all about me, about everybody, all about the world. They explained everything to me and it made so much sense…

They didn't always just speak inside my head. Sometimes they used other things to talk, like clouds or bushes or even other people. It was kind of like God or Jesus or something. I even asked them if they were, but they said no, that there was no such thing. They never did tell me what they were, but I didn't mind. They told me the truth about everything, so it was all right.

I liked the voices. They didn't make me crazy, like people in the movies. They were nice and helpful, wise, kind of like Yoda or something. They made me feel safe, comfortable, because the never lied to me like people.

I only disobeyed them two times, and look what happened both times. The first time was the day I married Anton. They did it all day, kept talking to me through the clouds, the way they moved and talked. They were trying to tell me not to marry Anton, but I didn't, I pretended I couldn't understand, because I wanted to get married and have kids. I always liked babies and puppies and all. I didn't exactly love Anton, but he was good-looking and we might have pretty babies.

The voices didn't like him though, but I ignored them. And then later, when I saw how right they were, I was sorry. I began to listen to them instead, ignoring Anton. He was a bad man, they told me, and I must not talk to him, I must not let him touch me. And eventually they told me I must kill him…

But that was later. First I wouldn't believe the voices, I told them they were wrong, Anton was a good man. I told them a long time. That's why when Anton asked me after a while to have foster kids because we never had real kids, I said okay. I was relieved actually. I liked the idea of kids but I didn't want to get pregnant and have them. It would hurt and I'd get fat and not be able to run and exercise anymore. Sometimes I can hear the voices better when I walk around or move or exercise, see. They tell me it's purifying, that's why I can hear them. It's the same with not eating. I'm pure when I don't eat, when my body is empty, so I can hear them more. So I don't' as much as I can. It makes me light-headed and dizzy, but I can hear them so clearly when nothing else is clear.

But anyway, I didn't listen to them when they told me it wouldn't be a good idea to have foster kids. And we had a lot of them, a bunch of girls. But none were babies- the youngest was nine. And we didn't have any boys at all. I didn't really care, hardly noticed actually. I didn't pay much attention to them- I was too busy listening and looking for the voices in case they had something to say.

We had about six girls come and go before we got Alexandra, Doral, then Keegan and Nicaela. Or Mikayla, whatever her name was. It was when all of them lived with us that the voices got really insistent. Anton is a bad man, they told me over and over. He's evil. You should never have married him, we told you not to.

Over and over until finally I saw how right they were. Once I saw that I asked them what to do, and they said kill him.

So I did. Right before bed time, I put rat poison in his teas- lots of it. I knew he always had at least two cups before bed. He'd go to bed, I knew, and maybe he'd die in his sleep. I mean, rats die pretty quickly after being poisoned, but Anton was a lot bigger than a rat. With any luck, the voices told me, everyone would think he just died in his sleep. But if they didn't, it was okay, because he was bad and deserved to die. Nothing else I went to my bed in my room and I waited for morning, waited to see if Anton would die. And he was- but the thing was that he had like 20 stab marks.

I was confused- the voices had told me to poison him, so why would they say that if they knew he would die anyway? And they told me it was okay, everything had gone just as expected. They had been testing me and they were happy when I did as they said. To reward me they sent another to be punished instead of me. Keegan was a bad girl too, bad just like Anton, even if she was just a little girl, and she needed punished too.

So I was happy and everything was okay, until my other foster daughters screwed it all up and somehow I ended up punished too. That wasn't supposed to happen, the voices said so- I didn't understand. I tried to listen for them, tried to understand, but they do so much here to try to block the voices out. They don't let me exercise except for a lousy thirty minutes a day- they don't' even have treadmills or anything for me to run on. They don't' even let me wear shorts here, and they sit here and make me eat a few bites of everything. I've already gained weight, I know it. And they try to make me take medicine that will take the voices away, but you know what? Even though I don't hear the voices as much now, I still hear them faintly sometimes. So I eat as little as I can get away with, and I walk as much as I can to try to hear them. At night I can only sleep three hours- the rest of the time I walk, and listen.

They told me not to take the pills that they give me, not to trust them, and most of the time I don't. I hide it way back in my mouth and I spit it out later. I don't' think they know, and I still hear the voices, even if they're quiet.

"Penelope," came a voice, sounding kind of faded. I looked over, but it was only one of the aids. She took my arm, stopping me from walking anymore. "Let's sit down now. You have therapy soon, and you don't need to be exercising so much. You know that."

She kind of pushed me down into a chair. She wanted me to be useless, staring, to become like her, like all the others who could not hear the voices, who just would not listen. Well I wouldn't let her, I wouldn't listen. Today, just to be safe, I wouldn't' eat anything at all. If they made me, I'd throw it up in the bathroom. And tonight I wouldn't sleep at all. Instead I'd walk the whole time, all night, and I'd listen. They couldn't stop me, they couldn't make me sleep. They couldn't take them away, because we were too smart, the voices and me.

I sat there as the nurse watched me carefully, thinking this, smiling to myself. I was safe- no matter what happened, I was safe. We would not let them get the best of me, even if I had to be here. Nothing had truly changed, and I would make sure nothing ever did… or rather, the voices would.

Mercy Cross Hospital Date: June 22, 2007

Name: DEMARCO, Penelope S.

Progress Notes: The patient seems unresponsive to current medication. She still speaks of clouds and voices; if not closely monitored, eating disordered behaviors such as frequent exercise and refusing food occur. The patient has not gained weight since last month- at 5'8", she is only 110 pounds. The patient often seems dreamy and far away, not responding to person's addressals, and she often does not participate in group therapy. It is advised that the patient is watched closely and directed to less self-destructive and isolating behaviors. A physical examination and change in medication is also strongly advised.