Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hearing Voices

After lunch it is customary to sit quietly in the messroom and listen to the slow tock . . . tock . . . tock of the old brown clock, enjoy the comforting aroma of Bert Klaxon's pipe and take a sip or two of strong tea prior to dozing off for a couple of hours in one's favourite armchair. The afternoon is a time set aside for peace and quiet, when nothing is allowed to disturb the tranquillity of the station, except, perhaps, the faint and soothing lullaby of gentle, rhythmical snoring emanating from Nobby Harris's office down the hall. We take the phone off the hook and no one speaks as each man drifts off, contented and serene, upon the privacy of his thoughts, towards the soothing softness of sleep.

I am startled awake to find myself alone in a strange place. A new world full of shiny machines. Machines that talk. "Attach pads firmly to patient's chest! Begin CPR! Do not touch the patient! Stand clear! Stand clear! STAND CLEAR!"

I turn to run and the voice of a mad woman shrieks in my ear. "At the roundabout take the third exit! If possible make a U-turn! The destination is outside the digitized map area! You have arrived! You have arrived! YOU HAVE ARRIVED!"

Terrified now, I try to open the door. I'm in some sort of new-fangled craft, with buttons and screens everywhere. Another voice delivers a stern warning. "Caution! Diesel fuel only! Caution! Diesel fuel only! At the roundabout make a U-turn! Preparing to shock! You have arrived! Do not touch the patient! STAND CLEAR! STAND CLEAR!"

Running, running, getting nowhere. The Voices, they're everywhere, shouting at me, reaching for me, grabbing me, shaking me . . the Voices . . . please . . . somebody . . . help me . . .

"Come on, son, wake up. It's time to knock off." Nobby. I could have kissed him.

"Nobby," I splutter with relief, rubbing my eyes. "I had the most terrible nightmare. Voices, Nobby . . . voices made of electricity . . they were everywhere, Nobby. Oh, God, it was awful."

“It’s okay, son, don’t worry. Everything’s all right, it was just a bad dream." He gave a wry chuckle. "Things like that can't happen in real life."