Leighgendary Shorts: Whispers by Ian Garner

Welcome to the sixth edition of Leighgendary Shorts.

This week we will be discussing Whispers by Ian Garner.

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Bruce hears voices. Whispers reminding him of death and betrayal. Now he must face the mistakes of his past so he can secure peace in his future.

I first found out about Ian Garner through his Dad, Hank Garner.  Hank Garner is one of my favorite indie authors around.  This set the bar high for when I read Ian Garner’s American Son (you can read my review of that here).

This is my first time reading this story.

How about we jump right into it?

***SPOILERS BELOW***

The story starts off with Bruce who is standing on the edge of a cliff.  He looks down and only sees mist.  In front of him is a bridge that looks like it is made of ice, but it is really made of thick glass.  The bridge is only wide enough for you to walk with one foot in front of the other.  He starts to walk on the bridge.  He cannot tell where the bridge goes because of the mist, it looks like the bridge disappears into the mist.

As he is walking he wonders how he got there and where is Charlie?  He remembers a car crash, but not how he got here.  He is not sure what part of the day it is because you cannot see the sun, moon, or stars, there is only the mist.  Bruce can hear voices and begins to realize he is not alone.

“Bruce…You shouldn’t be here, Bruce…”

“Go away…Bruce…”

“You deserve to die…Bruce…”

Bruce is starting to get a little scared, his knees are trembling and his heart is racing.  He talks back to the voices.

“Whoever you are, I can hear you!”

“We know, Bruce.  We all know…”

“Who are you?”

“You know who we are…”

The voices tell Bruce that he went to school with them, he loved them, and he betrayed them.  He tells them to show themselves.  A wind begins to blow and the mist starts to take shape and ten figures float around him, one of the figures is his son, Charlie.

“What do you want with me?”

“We want our freedom.”

Bruce isn’t sure how to give them their freedom.  But just as fast as they come, the figures are gone and Bruce is standing alone on the bridge.

“He took another step.  And another.  And another.  And he remembered the early days of his life, before the car crash.  Before Charlie.  Before his world ended.

***

Larry was a quiet child and kept to himself, until he met Bruce in college.  They met in the cafeteria.  Larry was being pelted by mashed potato globs.  Bruce told the kids to go pick on someone else.  the leader asked what he would do if they didn’t.  Bruce told them that he would kick their butt.  Larry looked at the bully, who was taller and bigger than Bruce, and then to Bruce and he laughed and said, “Yeah, and I’m the king of England!”  This surprised both Bruce and the bully.  The bully told Larry that he hope he didn’t take it personal, they did that to all the new kids.  Larry tells him it is ok as long as he doesn’t take this personal, Larry punches the bully in his mouth and knocks out three of his teeth.

Bruce and Larry became best friends after that.  Larry was Bruce’s best man at his wedding, the wedding where Larry met Suzie Jenkins and one year later Bruce was Larry’s best man.

Both Larry and Bruce moved on with their lives but remained good friends.  Bruce had told Larry that he would always be there for him no matter what.  Larry told him the same.  One night at 3:00 am Bruce’s phone rings and it is Larry, he is panicking. He tells Bruce that he came home and found his wife in bed with her yoga instructor .  Bruce asks him what he did and Larry says that he shot them both, he didn’t even think about it.

Larry tells Bruce he knows the neighbors heard the shots and that he cops will be there soon.  Bruce tells him to let the cops take him in for questioning, tell them it was a crime of passion.  He tells Larry that he will leave soon and get there when he can.  Larry tells him that he has nothing to live for now.  In the background you can hear the police pull up.  Bruce hears the police bang on the door.  “Goodbye, Bruce.  You were always good to me.  I wish you were here now.  See you on the other side.”

Bruce hears the cops break through the door, “Sir, put the gun down.”

“LARRY! DON”T YOU DARE!”

The next sound Bruce hears is a gun shot and the police chief announcing Larry dead.

“Bruce was never the same.”

***

Bruce and his wife, Veronica, attended the double funeral for Larry and his wife.  After the funeral Bruce didn’t talk…to anyone.  Veronica drove them home and when they got there Bruce went upstairs.  Veronica went and made them a small dinner.  She brought the food upstairs and placed it on the desk.  She laid next to Bruce and rubbed his hair.  She kissed him and he returned the kiss.  Nine months later Charlie was born.

Life slowly began to get back to normal.  One day Bruce notices something odd.  Veronica and him have separate work hours and don’t get to see each other much.  One day after Bruce showers, he sees some steam, but it looks a little different.  It almost has a human shape.  As he shaves he hears his name.  He looks around and then goes and checks on Charlie.  No one is there.  It must be his imagination.  He decides he must be tired and he should go to bed.  He looks at the mist one more time and it looks like Larry.  It can’t be.  He has been dead for almost four years.

Bruce and his wife continue to have opposite works schedules and they rarely see each other.  Bruce is some kind of therapist so he listens to people and their problems.  “The change didn’t happen overnight.  It was gradual.”  One of his clients is Katie, she is young, blonde and very pretty.  She sees Bruce every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours a session.  At first he just listens to her, then they exchange numbers, then they go to dinner when Veronica is working.  Now they aren’t really therapy sessions…well not normal therapy sessions.

One day Bruce’s phone goes off, while he is with Katie, and it is Veronica.  She tells him to come home.  She needs him now.  He asks what is going on and she tells him that the house is on fire and her and Charlie are trapped upstairs.  Bruce is closer to the house than the fire department is, he gets there before any fire trucks.  Veronica sees Bruce and calls him to the side of the house she is on.  She tosses Charlie down to Bruce and tells him to take Charlie and go be happy.  Bruce is telling Veronica that they will get her out, the fire department is almost there.

BOOM!!!!  The house explodes and so does his heart.

***

Bruce ignored his practice for three weeks after Veronica’s death.  Katie called quite often but he ignored the calls until Charlie and himself moved into an apartment (they had been living with Veronica’s parents).  Then on this night he answered the phone.  Katie wants to know what is going on with him.  That upsets him and he reminds her that his wife just died and his house burned to the ground.  His entire world is just crumbling around him.  She convinces him to come over, she will help him get through this.

Bruce calls his former mother-in-law and asks her to come over and watch Charlie.  He tells her he has an emergency across town and that the key is under the flower pot.  He is out the door in five minutes, leaving Charlie asleep in the bed.

Bruce arrives at Katie’s place at 2:18 am.  She answers the door in a loose fitting robe and it is obvious that she has something else in mind.  He is not in the mood for it and tells her that he releases her from his care and their relationship is over.  He starts walking back to his car to leave and Katie follows.  She is upset at him and keeps saying he can’t leave her like this.

Katie lives on a busy street that cars are constantly driving on and tonight is no different.  Katie stands in the street as Bruce goes to get in his car.  She doesn’t hear the truck coming.  Bruce keeps telling her to go inside and she won’t listen.  It is too late, the road is wet and the driver can not stop in time, he hits her and kills her.  Bruce starts the car and leaves.

***

Bruce gets home and packs a suitcase for himself and Charlie.  He tells his former mother-in-law that they are leaving.  She tries to convince him to stay.  He will have none if it.  He wants to leave this awful place.

He puts Charlie in the back seat and starts driving.  He can’t find anything on the radio except for static, that is when he hears the voices.

“Bruce…Bruce…where are you going, Bruce?”

“You can’t hide, Bruce.  There’s nowhere you can go…”

He turns the radio off thinking that his mind is playing tricks on him.  Then he sees the mist shaped like people, Larry, Veronica, and Katie.  Then he sees a smaller shape, one that looks like Charlie.

Bruce looks in the back seat and Charlie is waking up.

“Daddy, when are we going over the bridge?”

Bruce tells him there is no bridge that he knows of.

“Mommy told me in my dream.  She told me that you can’t go to the other side.”

Bruce doesn’t see the lights coming.  The truck slams into their car and it flips six times before finally coming to a stop.  “Not a single person inside was breathing.”

***

Bruce is back on the bridge.  He realized what he had to do.  He called Veronica and Charlie.  He apologized to them both.  Next he apologized to Larry and to Katie.  He then realizes something.

“If I cross the bridge to the other side, you all stay here forever, don’t you.  And you’ll never be able to rest, will you?”

“No, Bruce.  You have to choose.  Cross the bridge and spend eternity wondering what happens to us or fall.  Fall, and we will be free to cross the bridge to a new, better life.”

Charlie tells Bruce to stay with them.  Bruce tells Charlie that he can’t right now.  He tells Charlie to remember the good times they had and he will always be with him.

The figures then go across the bridge.  Once they do Bruce leans back and starts to fall.  He isn’t sure what is going to happen.  Will he fall forever?

He then wakes up in a small bed and it is 10:40 am.  The calendar on the wall says October 1987.  Larry is asleep on the fold out couch and is hung over from the party last night.  Bruce laughs and heads to shave and shower.  He swears he sees a beautiful woman with a child  and wonders what they are doing in his room.  He turns around and no one is there.  As he steps in the shower he swears he hears a woman calling his name.

“Bruce smiled then.  Everything was going to be okay.”

*****

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did.  Ian must get his writing skill from his dad because this story is amazing.  I love how the end is completely open to your imagination.

Did the events really happen?

Has he been given a second chance at life and now he can fix all of his mistakes?

What do you think happened?

What were the themes of the book? Do you feel they were adequately explored? Were they brought to life in a cliche or in a unique manner?

What scene resonated most with you personally in either a positive or negative way? Why?

What surprised you the most about the book?

Have you read any other books by this author? Were they comparable to your level of enjoyment to this one?

What did you learn from, take away from, or get out of this book?

*****

Don’t forget you can still vote for the story we will be discussing next week.  The poll will close on Thursday morning at 8:00 am (est).  You can vote every twelve hours.


What should be the eighth Leighgendary Shorts?
(polls)

If you like this you might like
Leighgendary Shorts: The Dark Age by Jason Gurley
Ripples In The Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis – The Time Traveler’s Almanac
Leighgendary Shorts: The Soul Collector: Borrowed Souls: Book 1

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13 thoughts on “Leighgendary Shorts: Whispers by Ian Garner

  1. Quite a ride in such a short amount of time and space. Not sure why he was on the couch, but knowing why he was might give insight into his story. At first, I thought he’s dreaming of what’s happened, then thought they came to release him, then that maybe the family never existed and this was only one possible outcome of his life and he could now choose which way to live his life. Hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was sitting in the living room last summer reading Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline.” (Fantastic book, great movie, I’m totally hooked.) One particular scene struck me, in which Coraline travels through a secret passage in her apartment into a parallel reality. On the way, she hears the wind moaning, like people whispering to her from afar. I thought, “There’s a story there. It’s practically begging to be written.”

    So I set the book down, fired up the computer, and worked out a rough draft.

    The story is considerably darker than I first imagined it. I was an 18 year old kid, just out of high school, writing this story of death and betrayal. I was afraid that perhaps I was delving a little too deep, a little too dark for someone of my youth. As you can see, I didn’t let that stop me.

    I left the ending up to interpretation on purpose, because once we’ve shed this mortal coil, we really have no clue as to what happens next. For people of faith, we believe there’s somewhere glorious awaiting us. For people without faith, death is the end of the line. And for those of us that don’t know where we stand, there’s a limbo state.

    I don’t see Bruce as a man of faith, but I don’t exactly see him as someone who hates the notion of an afterlife. I believe that Bruce thinks that our actions in life have repercussions after death, and we see that belief unfold when he is tormented by the spirits of his loved ones at the beginning of the story. We see a man that has royally messed up, regrets it, and now has to pay the price. For Bruce, the bridge in the fog is his own Hell. This environment is even more terrible for him when he realizes that his loved ones will forever remain in the fog if he crosses the bridge to an unseen Paradise. Here Bruce, a man without clear knowledge or understanding of life after death, is faced with a horrible decision: cross over to a better world, one without his family and friends, or fall into seemingly eternal darkness to spare his companions.

    I see Whispers as a story of grace, love, and redemption. By choosing to fall, Bruce is giving the ultimate sacrifice to ensure peace for those he failed. When he falls, Bruce doesn’t know if he’ll ever stop. He doesn’t know what awaits him, and fear of the unknown is a terrifying thing. But he falls anyway, because his love for his wife, son, and friends is that strong.

    When Bruce wakes up as a young man, back in college with Larry, I believe he has been given a second chance, one with the memories and experiences of his first go-round. Whether these memories are vivid, or fleeting, or hardly noticeable without certain triggers is unclear. But because Bruce was willing to sacrifice his eternity for his family, I believe he was recipient of a divine grace. You can call it an act of God, karma, fate, whatever works for you. But for me, that’s the moral of Whispers: Grace.

    Of course, that’s merely my interpretation. If you were to ask Bruce, he might have an entirely different answer. 😉 I hope this isn’t too long-winded or anything, but that’s just how I see it. If you have a different opinion, I’m all ears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. That is awesome. Thanks for the insight on the story. I love this behind the scenes on the story and what was going through your mind. I have a new appreciation for the story and love it even more. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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