Saturday, 1 October 2016

Likewise Hearing

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

‘They recognised the voices which, a little while ago, had accorded and sung in cadence with their own. But they were familiar voices no more . . .’ Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

Marjorie Rice Behan and Bellamy Regence were the first out for ward 16’s regular six a.m. coffees, Bellamy having just finished his second cigarette of the day. Marjorie and Bellamy were often patients at ward 16, Rozella Psychiatric Hospital, and tended to socialise with each other, despite the decades difference in their ages. They were both comfortable enough with each other to sometimes sit silently together for a long while, mutually sharing with each other their private fears and dreams.
     This intimacy, though, they did not at all expect to result in both of them hearing the same disembodied, androgynous voice. They looked at each other, seated side by side.
     ‘Did you hear something?’ asked Marjorie. ‘A quiet voice, with no-one there?’
     ‘Yeah. Which is more disturbing than we realise.’
     ‘Well, at least you heard it too. I’m not senile yet.’
     ‘Could you make out what it said?’ asked Bellamy.
     ‘Nope. Could you?’
     ‘No. But I really do think this is serious. We’ve both technically witnessed some psychic event.’ Their discovery though was both boon and bane. Boon, because it meant that each of their own inner voices were indeed real, objectively apparent to each other; yet bane because they only had each other’s word to support their story of having undoubtedly experienced the same type of telepathic moment. The question soon became whether they should tell the nurses of what they had both clearly witnessed. Yet, really, it was a moot point, as lacking any evidence whatsoever the nurses would have no choice but to believe they were each again entering psychosis. Their enforced residence in hospital would then most probably be a good stretch longer. No, they quickly decided, they wouldn’t reveal their discovery. Instead they would move into Marjorie’s two bedroom rent controlled flat when they were discharged (a grateful Godsend to Bellamy who had somehow found himself homeless for the past two months. Neither was he able to get safe, reasonably priced housing in Sydney’s tight renter market, being thus forced to sleep on friends’ couches) and hope to attract that voice again, this time maybe being able to record it with their phones, or otherwise establish its reality. They were both looking forward to residing together but each had to wait about two weeks before they could be sent home. The time passed quickly, both of them practicing having their phone’s recorder only a thumb press away. It was only a matter of time.

*

Their first night together under their own roof proved successful, but terrifying too: both were awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a long, sustained, keening, coming from the kitchen. Both listened to it, petrified, each suddenly wide awake, able to feel the blood drain quickly from their faces. Then the house returned to silence again, but this time seeming to possess a sinister timbre.
     It was Bellamy who broke the sudden pall, opening his bedroom door - slowly creaking, and then apparently listening attentively. He soon knocked on Marjorie’s door.
     ‘Is that you Bellamy?’ she asked.
     ‘Yes. Did you hear that scream?’
     ‘Yep. Wait, I’ll be out in a minute.’ Bellamy then went to the kitchen to make some coffee for them both. Sleep was without doubt foregone this night.
     Over the coffees they both compared notes and were now entirely sure that both were witnessing some strange psychic phenomena, for equally strange reasons. It was more likely though, that there simply were no reasons and they were both just random targets. After all, they were just two ordinary people, albeit with serious mental illnesses that entitled them to federal government welfare pensions. But for what ultimate purpose? For what gain? Why was the spirit world asserting itself to them two in particular? The only rational explanation, they decided, was that their respective mental illnesses had probably taken a very threatening twist, and they should really go back to Rozella before the sun arose in order to have the nurses and doctors examine the phenomenon.
     They ran into the old problem however; they had no proof for the spirit they’d repeatedly clearly heard and the staff at the hospital would just lock them up for another six weeks, without affecting the voice in any way. Then they would be at the mercy of the voice if it turned nasty, hounding them while they were completely trapped in the luscious grounds of Rozella Hospital. Sure, they could flee the hospital if that voice sought to persecute them, but they would just be brought back again against their will. And even if they somehow weren’t brought back, the voice would hound them wherever they were. But seeing as how it was proof that would solve all their problems, they decided to both take turns at night, staying awake until the morning, fingers at the ready on their phone’s recorder like they had practiced, listening as best they could for the voice’s reappearance in order to record it. Whoever was on the day shift would also listen attentively in order to record the voice. It seemed like a good idea. In fact, the only viable idea.
     Their success in attracting the spirit stayed with them, for, four nights later, while both were unexpectedly partying on a bottle of good Irish whiskey, Bellamy was able to record the voice. In fact he had just opened its recorder function and had settled more into what promised to be a very pleasant, toasty evening. They heard the voice again while Marjorie brought back a fresh bottle of cola from the fridge. But Bellamy only managed to get the last word.
     ‘Ware! Beckoning Charon!’
     ‘I heard it clearly this time, clear as day,’ said Bellamy, after checking the failed recording. ‘Did you?’
     ‘Yep. And with a good education like yours you should know who Charon is.’
     ‘The Ferryman, guiding people across the river Styx into the next life.’
     ‘What did it mean though? Are we to beware Charon’s beckoning, or to beckon him?’
     ‘Don’t know. But we have to get this recording to some sort of authority. Something in the recording might cause some interest. And then they can’t call us crazy anymore, or anyone else that hears bodiless voices.’
     ‘We might be the next level of humanity.’
     ‘Perhaps. But police or hospital? To whom do we go for help?’
     They decided, quickly once again, to take their slim evidence to the local police as, after all, both Marjorie and Bellamy were under somewhat of a continued assault by this spirit.
But since fools rush in where angels fear to tread they resolved to see the police the next day. They wound up the party a little later and retired for the night, sleeping peacefully and undisturbed.

*

Marjorie was surprised to be the first up and about the next morning at six, as Bellamy was usually up around five a.m. She knocked on his door. Something didn’t feel right. She knocked again. No answer.
     She opened the door. There was Bellamy, in his pyjamas, sprawled across his dishevelled bed, his right hand frozen in a fist over his heart. She took his pulse. And then closed his eyes after feeling no beating. She rang for the ambulance who confirmed Marjorie’s horror. Dead from a heart attack. One of the paramedics pointed to the packet of cigarettes on Bellamy’s bedside table and said she wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were what caused the attack. Filthy smokes, she further averred, and an even more filthy endless string of hypocritical governments for allowing that poison into everyone’s faces, willingly or otherwise.
     When the ambulance had taken Bellamy away she suddenly realised why she was feeling so peculiar. She was sure there was something that she was missing, even though Bellamy’s death could be the only thing amiss (and that had just been taken care of): she could no longer hear her voices. For the first time in over forty years she now had her own thoughts completely at her disposal, no longer able to be hijacked from voices that were simply not real. It was an unusual feeling. It was also a good feeling, her mind so very calm and peaceful. To celebrate she headed out for a large breakfast at a nearby cafĂ©, tentatively sure that her voices had vanished forever. She felt sure that Bellamy wouldn’t mind the sudden extravagance so soon after his passing, after all, his death seemed to have brought her tranquillity. He always was a good bloke.
     ‘Thanks, mate,’ she said to his ghost, closing the front door behind her. ‘Yep, you’ve been a real Godsend.’
    

    ~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing and you can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com 

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