Standing on the edge of the rooftop, Benson had a melancholic look on his face; as if he did not care whether he lived or died. Overwhelmed with despair, he suddenly broke into a loud cry, “Stop it! Leave me alone, please!”
“Why? Feeling like a loser? Wait, you are! You’re pathetic!” the little voice in his head continued to spew vicious insults.
“No! I’m not a loser! I’m Benson, The Flying Fish! I’m the best!”
“The best? Then what happened today? You’ve failed everyone! You don’t deserve to live! You should die! DIE!”
A feeling of emptiness gripped Benson’s heart as floods of tears streamed down his face. He covered his ears with his hands to block off the sinister voice in his head but it only became louder, drowning his sanity.
Benson was a professional swimmer. By the age of 13, he had already won countless gold medals in various national swimming competitions. The Singapore Sports School saw his potential and recruited him with the aim to mould him into a world class swimmer. Benson knew how lucky he was to be given such a wonderful opportunity. His family, friends and coach had high hopes of him and he did not wish to let them down. Thus, he trained hard and long, spending up to 12 hours a day in the pool. His efforts finally paid off when he not only came in first but also broke the world record for the men’s 100-metre freestyle race at the Commonwealth Games.
Overnight, Benson became a sensation. He had exceeded all expectations and everyone loved him. The whole of Singapore celebrated his remarkable victory and he was aptly nicknamed “The Flying Fish” by the media. Everywhere Benson went, he was swamped by legions of ardent supporters. Everybody asked if he would break his own record. Unknown to them, their high expectations brought him tremendous stress. Soon, pressure built up and he was losing sleep and appetite. He also became depressed and kept to himself. His teammates would often see him alone in the changing room, facing the wall and talking to himself. However, not realising that these were the early signs of schizophrenia, they would leave him alone.
The long-awaited race finally arrived. It was the qualifying round for the Olympics Games and Benson had trained tirelessly for this moment. He desperately wanted to do Singapore proud and nothing must go wrong.
Benson stood on the plunge board, waiting for the referee to blow the whistle. Thousands of frightful thoughts flooded his mind and he was talking to himself again. Suddenly, he plunged into the pool. The spectators were flabbergasted. Lowering his head in mortification, Benson returned to his position. One more false start and he would be disqualified. Cold sweat trickled down his forehead as fear gripped him like a vice. He started to tremble violently, as if another person had entered his body. Once again, he dived into the pool before the whistle was heard. His family, friends and coach gasped in horror, unable to believe their eyes. A humiliated Benson emerged from the pool and immediately stormed out of the stadium. His loved ones chased after him and everyone ended up at the rooftop.
Benson was in a state of fluster. The voice in his head was making all kinds of nasty remarks about him and he could not shut it out.
“Look, you loser. Everyone is here to laugh at you! You’re the joke of the century!” the voice ridiculed him.
Benson turned around and looked at his loved ones. All of them were very concerned and anxiety was written all over their faces. Nevertheless, the troubled boy saw an entirely different picture. They were staring at him wide-eyed, trying to stifle their giggles.
“I’m sorry to fail all of you. I’m sorry for not living up to your expectations,” Benson spoke in a faint murmur, gulping back his tears.
Then, he spread his arms and threw himself off the building. A flicker of smile crossed his face as the voice in his head finally stopped.
Secondary 3, 2011, English Tuition