“I hate you--you worthless scum. You ought to die. I don’t even know why you’re here. You never accomplish anything. All you do is sit there, sniveling, whimpering. What are you a dog? Well why don’t you say anything. Piece of crap!”
The acerbic voice yanked me from my dreams. What was going on. I tried to gather myself. I turned to the right looking for my alarm clock. Couldn’t find it. Turned left, oh there it is. That’s right. I wasn’t in the Missionary Training Center anymore. I was in Marietta Ohio, my first night in the mission field. I glanced over at Elder Goodwin, my companion. He was still asleep. I wasn’t surprised. He hardly seemed to be the type that’d say such things. Maybe I’d just dreamt, it. No, that can’t be. I’d been dreaming of my dog Spartacus, a fearless Pomeranian, jut before I’d woken up. Man I missed Spartacus. He’d always come and wake me up in the morning by pulling the socks off my feet, then barking in my ear until I got out of bed and took him to relieve himself.
Speaking of which I could use some relief. I got out of bed, stubbing my toe on Elder Goodwin’s barbell. “Bananas,” I cursed under my breath. Glad to see I’d broken my habit of using harsher words and continued to the business room. I didn’t hear the voice anymore that night, and quickly fell back to sleep.
The next morning over a bowl of Luck Charms, I spoke with Elder Goodwin. “Dude, I heard this crazy voice last night.”
“Elder, Don’t you mean Elder.”
“Well I don’t think it was an elder, you were asleep.”
“No, I mean we aren’t dudes out here. We’re elders.”
“Whatever. So tell me did the good Elder Goodwin happen to hear any voices whilst the elder slept on the elder’s bed? Sir Elder.
He snorted his Fruit Loops. “You’re such a dork.”
“Oh, so we can be dorks, but not dudes. I don’t get it.”
I told him about it. He hadn’t heard it and passed it off as a nervous greenie. We went through the day, spent most of it tracting. But we did have a dinner appointment with Bill, the member that lived in the house above our basement apartment. Bill was a bachelor, fresh out of college. I was excited when I saw the pizza; Elder Goodwin didn’t see quite so excited.
“So what do you do Bill?” I asked. Elder Goodwin kicked me under the table.
“Oh I’m looking for a job right now. The economy is pretty tight right now. Its been hard to find anything. Hope I do soon or I’ll have to move back into my parents. Like anyone wants to do that.”
We moved on to other topics. Elder Goodwin made me provide the thought. I shared Ether 12:27 and we left.
Training with Elder Goodwin went very well. He was a good elder with a strange sense of humor. He never really talked about home, in fact whenever I would bring up my home, he’d just get quiet.
About four weeks later I was awoken with a thud. I groped for my clock. It was 1 am. I was sure the thud came from upstairs, Bill’s Apartment.
“You’re pathetic!” Piece of Crap. You don’t do anything right.” The venom poured down the air vent into our bedroom. “Be a man. Do something with your life.”
Then there was a second voice, answering the first. It was weak, pleading, almost at the breaking point. “Leave me alone. I’m a good person. Shut Up!”
“You, a good person? You don’t have a job, you don’t have a girl friend; you’re going to live with mommy and daddy. What value do you have? No one cares about you. No one likes you. You’re a worm, a sick little worm writhing on the sidewalk after a storm. You have no shelter. You are worse than nothing. You suck the goodness out of things.”
“Shut up, people like me. I have friends, I make people happy.”
“Oh really. You must be talking about the old people at the bingo hall. You really thing they care? You really think they would notice if you were gone. Can’t old Bob Wodskow just go back to calling the numbers, or is that why you have the degree? Four years in school so you can give old ladies with crooked teeth a candy bar for blackout. They can’t even eat it. “
I barely heard the next voice. “I hate you. I hate you so much.” There was a thundering cacophony. It sounded like miniature horses pounding in the ground. It only lasted a few seconds. Then things were quiet.
I looked over at Elder Goodwin. He was sitting up in his bed. “We need to go up there.”
The door was locked, but Elder Goodwin quickly jimmied it with his debit card. The lights were out as we crept into Bill’s apartment. My heart was pumping. Elder Goodwin was massaging his knuckles. We worked our way through the house. Entry way, study, kitchen. Then we saw Bill. Curled up in a ball at the bottom of the stairs. His muscles were convulsing. I didn’t see any blood but his arm had an extra bend in it between the elbow and wrist. We ran over to him. “Bill are you ok?” All he did was whimper. I touched his shoulder, and he jumped. Each breath shook his entire body.
“Who did this too you,” Elder Goodwin asked?
Bill just looked at us. He wanted to say something, but couldn’t get it out. Finally after stuttering he said, “Its kind of bad isn’t it”
“Yeah, we heard you yelling with the guy who was it? Is he still here?”
“Sounded like he knew you? What was he doing here?”
Bill looked away. “ It was me. I’ve been feeling really down lately, not being able to get a job and all. My brother told me I must not be motivated enough. That I just needed to try harder. I started to believe him. So I’d try to get motivated by pointing out all the bad thing I’d done that day. All the time I wasted. All the mistakes I made talking to potential employers. At first it seemed to help. I used my time better. But then I started finding more and more things that I was screwing up. I thought I just needed more motivation, so I stated yelling. When I started hitting myself I knew it was wrong, but I just couldn’t stop. The dark voice in my head took on a life of its own. Seeking out weaknesses from years ago. Even turning the good things I did into insults. I wanted to stop it, but it is just so strong. Its insidious. It pops up just at the times I need confidence. I don’t know how many opportunities I’ve thrown away because of this voice. But I can’t stop it. Whenever I’m alone, it is there.”
We gave Bill a blessing and got him a ride to the hospital. After Bill got back he’d come down to our apartment for scripture study. We didn’t hear any more voices in the night and Bill slowly got better. By the time I left Mariettta six months later he had a job, sure it was at Wal Mart, but he seemed happy.