The light flickered. Fluorescent tubes hidden behind a translucent false ceiling. Excellently timed: Madeleine, the friendly psychiatrist, had just said of me hearing voices. Then, before I’d yet said a word, there came the reverberating crack of thunder. And now the heavens would open and down come the rain, probably in torrents. I didn’t want to talk; I wanted to watch out the window—not that I could see very much, the window screened by Venetian blinds. Meanwhile, Madeleine was waiting.
“Do you have problems with thunder? I know many people do,” she said.
I shook my head. “It’s the rain. Dad has three fields of standing grain. If the wind gets up too, it all could be ruined.” I flicked another look at the window.
“Ah,” she said. “Failans Farm, of course. And I ought to have asked: Is it arable, fruit, dairy . . .?”
“Organic,” I said. “Free-range stock, mostly. We do some veg—for the local market—but it’s mostly pigs, hens and eggs. The grain’s part of the winter fodder.”
She nodded as if she understood but which I knew she did not. “So, these voices. You want to tell me about them?”
“They’re not voices,” I said. “Not like Joan of Arc or . . . I hear people’s thoughts.”
The first drops were falling. Great fat beasties that splattered the window. I prayed the wind wouldn’t come. I guessed Dad would be praying, too, to whatever the warlocks’ god.
“All right,” she said. “So these thoughts that you hear, how do you know they belong to others; that they’re not your own thoughts?”
“Content,” I said, half my attention still on the window.
Those fat drops were slithering down the window like slugs on speed. But that didn’t stop me catching her thoughts.
“I’m not delusional,” I said.
I’d already noticed, she had a thing, while listening, of holding her hand—the left—loosely to her chin. With that same hand she signed me to chill.
I ignored it. “I am not!” I said, pouring concrete into the delivery.
She nodded, and smiled. “So tell me, what is it of the content that cannot be yours?”
I started to say, several times, but couldn’t find the words, couldn’t order my thoughts. In the end I said, somewhat weakly, “They’re inappropriate.”
And, yea, I knew what she’d make of that: Inappropriate thoughts, must be denied so blame them on others. Like I wouldn’t know about that. Like I don’t read book and don’t watch TV.
“Please, I’ll explain,” I said. “Like, we’ve this teacher at school, yea, who takes us for Geography. He’s getting on a bit but . . . well anyway, he has the hots for our English Lit teacher. And it’s not just me who knows it; it’s common knowledge. But I hear his thoughts. And feel his feelings. I’m a girl of sixteen who’s never been kissed yet alone had that. You think I’d be thinking those kind of thoughts? Man-thoughts? Intimate thoughts? Detailed? Like a porn movie going off in his head? And before you ask, no, it doesn’t excite me.”
I spared a glance at the window. The rain was coming down properly now, but it was coming down almost straight. As long as the wind didn’t change . . . it was the wind did the damage, laying flat the rain-sodden crops.
Meanwhile Madeleine, hand still loosely to chin, was softly nodding.
“Go on,” she prompted.
“It’s the same with my father. I couldn’t think the thoughts that he thinks every time he watches those gyrating dancers on some of those music videos. And he does that with Mum in the room.”
“Is it only men’s thoughts you hear?”
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said. Hadn’t I just told her that? “These are not my thoughts projected on others.”
“What other thoughts do you hear?”
I took a mighty inhale. I wanted to tap on her head and say, Hello, are you listening in there? Or are you too busy finding a label for me?
“I hear my mother’s thoughts all the time. Not that they’re interesting. Wondering what to feed us, what to buy, and can we afford a new washing machine. Mundane drivel. She complains about Dad, that he doesn’t wash-up outside, though we’ve got the facilities. But, no, he comes and splatters muck all over her kitchen. She once had the hots for one of their coven. She used to be always daydreaming of them kissing. Unlike Dad’s thoughts, it never went further. And even then she’d justify it. ‘But, Lady, don’t you bid us to love all Creation?’ You think I’d think those things? And even if I did, why would I deny it and project onto her. I am not psychotic,” I said. “I’m telepathic, is all.”
And there came the word delusional again. Followed by attention seeking, and distortion of self-experience. And there was me, thinking she was different.
I said, “I don’t want to be known for this-this trait. I don’t want to go help researchers prove once and for all that telepathy is possible and that it exists. I certainly don’t want to make a career out of it.” So let her stuff that up her conventional theories. It was her in denial, not me. Just like Dr Snide, the GP.
“When did you first hear these thoughts?” she asked. “How long ago? Or how old were you?”
I shrugged. I didn’t know. They seemed always to be there. “But I can tell you, I was about seven when I realised others didn’t hear the thoughts too.”
She nodded—and leaked puzzlement. She was also concerned at my exhibited anger. But it wasn’t anger, it was fucking frustration.
“And how does this of hearing thoughts impinge on your life—your social life, your school-work . . .?”
“It’s bloody distracting is how. How can you concentrate on, say, trigonometry, when you’re hearing thoughts from all around you? And no, I don’t use them to cheat in exams. That would be silly cos how would I know if they were right. And that’s why Dad wants this sorted. Before I go to college.”
Again she nodded, now leaking understanding—though I wasn’t sure if that was understanding of my problem, or my father’s motivation.
“And socially?” she asked. “How does it affect you socially.”
I pulled a face. “You get to know who you friends are. But at home, at least of late, I’ve learned to block it.”
“And how’d you do that?”
A single eyebrow rose in query.
“Mostly bits from my mother’s music,” I said.
“Not your own?”
“Mostly the music I’m into don’t have words.”
Again the raised brow.
“Techno,” I said. “Drum-an-Bass. Instrumental. And before you ask, I like the beat—boom- boom- boom- boom.”
“Are your friends into ‘Drum and Bass’ too?”
She didn’t fool me with her roundabout questions. There was that bit on the GP’s report of me being socially isolated.
“My parents are witches,” I said. “A multicultural society, but there’s still stigma on that. Witches are still misunderstood. So there’s not many parents will encourage a friendship with me. Add to that our pigs out in the fields, stinking to high-heaven, and I’m not the most welcome of persons.”
“You don’t have friends,” she said. Statement.
“Nah, I have some. I have one at school and two over at Aunt Maggie’s.”
“Aunt Maggie?” she asked.
“My father’s sister. Lives up by the Agricultural College. I’ll be staying with her come September. Mum takes me there every full moon, and Aunt Maggie brings me back the next day.”
I could hear the unvoiced why loud in my head.
“Full moon,” I explained. “The coven meets. My father won’t have me there. Says we should all come to our own beliefs in our own time. He doesn’t want to influence me. Well, that’s what he says, but it’s not what he thinks. He’s dead scared he’ll be accused of child abuse.”
“Ah, the mass panic in the 80’s: Satanic Ritual Abuse. Of course,” she said. “Wise man. So you do have friends. What are their names?”
“At school. Hermione Potter. Yea, don’t laugh. Guess it’s because of our names we gravitated. And Rachel and Donovan, Aunt Maggie’s neighbours.”
She nodded again. “And what about Gillan?”
“Your mother reported several angry one-sided exchanges with this person called Gillan.”
“But I don’t know no Gillan.”
Chuffing ‘ell! Where in her glorified world did my mother find that name? I could feel my eyes literally popping out of my head! My mother really was trying to stitch me. But why?
“No, not even someone at school in another year that I don’t even speak to. Not any of the teachers. Nobody in the village. Not even the guy at the Coop checkout who’s kinda cute—though if I’m having angry words with him I suppose he’d more likely be a nasty bully.”
And to cap it, outside the rain now was torrenching.
Next episode, Lord of the Dance