The man who heard too much

©Doctor Howett looked through the small general observation panel at the patient. He was hunched up on his bed with face turned to the wall, his voice a soft whisper barely audible.

“Has there been any change?”

The nurse beside Howett shook her head. “No, he just keeps talking and talking – even in his sleep.”

Howett’s lips tightened. “It’s been four months. I think we can assume now that short of a miracle, this man is not going to recover. Have admin make a request to the next of kin for authorisation for committal proceedings to commence. Send a copy to our lawyers.”

***

Tim Blake was just over six feet tall and his muscular frame and short cropped black hair gave the impression he was a marine or college football player. In fact, he was a farmer on land that his family worked for several generations. After dropping out of college, something his parents were in two minds about – cost against a bright future – he settled down to work the potato and root crops on the 250 acres small-holding in Minnesota. With his parents in failing health and being an only son, Tim hired several men to help work on the farm, particularly at harvest and spring time.

It had been one night during his second year of working the farm that a field hand helping Tim put equipment away at the end of a long day saved his life. Rain started to fall accompanied by thunder and lightning. As he walked into the large garage that housed the tractor, a bolt of lightning hit the metal roof, dismantling an iron weather vane and sending it crashing to the ground. The field hand had pulled Tim out of the way just in time as the heavy metalwork crashed onto the ground. Tim remembered a brilliant flash before blacking out and then regaining consciousness in his bed.  

Later, during November, while plowing an old fallow field, another odd occurrence bothered Tim. After coming to the end of a furrow and while turning the tractor to make the return, he heard someone call above the noise of the diesel engine. He let the engine idle and listened again. Two voices, in a strange language he did not recognize, could be heard in conversation. He shrugged the matter off, believing it was imagination through tiredness.

When the voices came a second time, they were clearly audible above the noise of machinery and while he wore protective earphones. Tim said nothing, fearing there was something wrong with his hearing or indeed, his sanity. He lay sleeping lightly that night when he was woken by loud voices. A woman was screaming.

“No, no, leave me alone! Don’t touch me, leave me alone!”

The woman’s screams were so terrifying that Tim began to shake. He put his hands over his ears and screwed his eyes up, trying to block the woman from his mind but the screaming continued. A conversation started between two people again in the foreign tongue but he couldn’t tell if they were men or women. Tim jumped out of bed.

I wonder if they can hear me,’ he reasoned. ‘After all, I can hear them.’

The woman was still screaming as he left his room and walked along the passage and past his parents bedroom door. They were fast asleep. The conversation between the two strangers still continued above the screaming.

Outside the house, Tim crossed the yard and entered the barn. He stood in the center and in a quiet voice, started to talk.

“Hi there, I don’t know who you are but I can hear your conversation and the screams of a lady who is terrified of you. If you can hear me, please leave her alone.”

By the time he had finished talking the voices had gone but he could hear what sounded like the woman sobbing. He waited a minute and tried talking again.

“If you can hear me, say something.”

There was an immediate loud cracking and sizzling sound followed by complete silence. He tried talking several more times but nothing happened. Annoyed but relieved, he went back to bed.

In the morning, he woke and was pleased to see a clear sky as the dawn broke. Downstairs his father was laughing at a news item on the television.

“Hey, Dotty, listen to this stupid woman here. She reckons she went for a ride on a spaceship.” He burst into laughter. “Says she was operated on.”

Tim stopped at the top of the stairs, confused and apprehensive. He decided not to talk about the voices but at breakfast, he quizzed his father.

“What was that about the woman? What did they do to her?”

“She reckons she went for a ride up there,” he said, smiling, emphasizing the point by pointing his fork at the ceiling. “Says she had these strange aliens operate on her. Opened her up, they did, and put something inside of her.”

“Did she say how she got on the spaceship?” asked Tim.

His father stopped eating and sat back in his chair. “What in hell’s name why do you want to know all that, boy?”

“Just interested,” said Tim.

“Well,” continued his father, “she says her car broke down and then there were a bright light and the next thing she knew she was inside a spaceship. Darndest thing, that.”

“So how did she get back?”

“Woke up in bed this morning.” Tim’s father began to laugh. “Load of bull, if you ask me.”

“Don’t listen to him. I was abducted.”

Tim eyed his father and without replying, stopped eating and rose out of the chair. “I just remembered I have to turn one of the generators on in the barn,” he said, excusing himself. “I’ll be back shortly.”

Excited, he hurried to the barn. The voice was female and hopefully the woman on the newscast. After reaching the barn, he stopped at the door and felt a hot and cold flush ripple through his body. ‘They operated on her. So if that’s how she can hear me – how can I hear her?’ He shuddered and stepped inside the barn. No one had operated on him, he reasoned, so there wasn’t any reason to get worked up about things. Besides, perhaps it was nothing more than a special gift – ‘like those people with ESP abilities.’

“Hi there, can you hear me?”

“No need to shout.”

Tims’ heart raced. “You’re the woman on TV this morning.”

“Yes.”

“I heard you last night. Must have been when they operated on you. By the way, my name is Tim and I live in Minnesota.”

“Tim, listen – you don’t have to talk out loud. If you think of what you want to say in your head, I can hear you. Think what you do when you read a book. That’s what I’m doing at the moment. By the way, I’m Laura and I live in Houston.”

Tim closed his eyes. “Laura, I guess I heard you because I have the gift of ESP so I can verify your story to the press.”

There was a pause. “Tim, I hate to be the one to tell you but the reason we are talking is because you have been operated on as well. This is nothing to do with ESP.”

Tim flushed again and leaned against the tractor. “But when? I don’t remember anything like that happening to me.”

“Well if you get pain or an itch in your left ear you know you have an implant.”

Tim rubbed his forehead. “You seem very knowledgeable about all this.”

“I’m head of a research laboratory for a pharmaceutical company. How about we meet and see about writing a joint report and having x-rays done to find the implants?”

Tim stared at the ground, trying to make sense of the situation. If these people had already abducted him without him knowing, they could easily do it again. And if they did, what would they do?

“Tim, are you there. I know you can hear me.”

Tim felt an overwhelming desire to vomit. What if he started hearing other people? Should he speak to them? He coughed and breathed deeply.

“Tim?”

“Yes, I’m here, Laura. I can’t leave the farm to travel that distance but if you could come here, we could arrange something. I’ve gotta’ say I’m pretty scared right now.”

“Don’t be, Tim. That’s the worst thing to be. Besides, if you look at this logically, these people have technology that is streets ahead of ours. They could be nice people although last night was pretty scary for me.”

Tim remembered her screaming. “Okay.”

“I’ll be in touch, Tim. See you soon and in the meantime here’s a good piece of advice. Don’t think about me and you won’t hear me. You could eavesdrop on conversation you are not supposed to listen in on.”

Comments

Oh my goodness. This is a terrific story....believable and unbelievable all at once. So well told and well crafted. Congratulations Ray. Only one thought...you don't need to have him say 'I have the gift of ESP so I can verify...' By the time we get to that stage of the story we'll believe anything! Fabulous!