Mr. Jackson was born an anxious human. His mother was a neurotic and had passed the relevant genes on to him; the sensitive gene, the nervous gene, the overthinking gene, the obsessive gene and various other genes that provided the perfect cocktail for what his shrink called, ‘being on the spectrum’.
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There had been various treatments.
Mostly, the drugs masked things rather than cured the problems. The electric shock treatment had failed to leave any lasting mark other than some skin burns, which were, apparently, associated risks. And the talking, the Cognitive Behavioural Therapies, were frankly part of the latest problem. The shrink had an annoying voice and she would interject unexpectedly and too often.
‘You see, it’s the noise, Doctor,’ said Mr. Jackson, grimacing with a hand holding his head in despair.
‘It’s just everywhere, it’s so very loud.’
This Doctor seemed empathetic and his voice more bearable.
‘Today,’ Mr. Jackson continued, ‘when I left the house, the door slammed behind me and it was so loud it hurt my head. Then there was the weather, the wind and the rain. I couldn’t hear myself think, why, I almost went back inside.
Then, as I approached the main road, the traffic seemed to target me, as if the noise was mine and mine alone. As if the cars were revving their engines and beeping their horns especially for me, in front of me, next to me. It was an orchestra out of tune and out of time. There was no rhythm or tone, only dissonance and off beats.’
‘Have you tried earplugs?’ asked the doctor.
‘Well I had them in already,’ said Mr Jackson. ‘They don’t work at all anymore. Not like they did at first.’
‘How often are you wearing them?’ asked the doctor.
‘Oh,’ said Mr Jackson, ‘all the time, I can’t possibly be without them now. My head would burst with the pain of it all.'
‘And work, how is work?’ asked the doctor, looking more concerned.
Mr. Jackson looked forlorn. ‘It’s not good Doctor. I find the chattering unbearable. It’s a gnawing in my head, like a rodent chewing at my cerebral cortex. Especially the laughing; the laughing and the shouts are like stabbing in my eardrums, like they are jumping on my skull.’
‘And when you are home, what happens there?’ asked the Doctor.
‘Well, I have stopped dating because of the shrillness. They all sounded like a bad opera with the endless chit chat and that siren chanson. And when they hoovered and clattered, it felt they were trying to kill me.’
The Doctor nodded in sympathy asking, ‘have you tried turning off appliances? The TV and your phone?’
‘Yes of course Doctor, but then I hear the neighbours, every movement, and the heating thunders, then the walls start.’
The Doctor looked quizzical.
‘The walls?’ he asked.
Mr. Jackson tried to explain. ‘I think it may be the electrics. There is a buzz, and this white noise. But it is a black noise, I know it’s black.’
‘So,’ said the Doctor, ‘have you heard of the new Silence Plugs?
‘Yes,’ said Mr. Jackson, excitedly, ‘I saw them in a magazine. Will they help, Doctor?’
The Doctor got some leaflets and a 3D model from the cupboard of a cross-section of an ear.
‘The plugs block out all sound and have been most successful in trials. The procedure is fairly straight forward. The cavity, here,’ the Doctor pointed, ‘is filled with expandable resin. No sound will ever get through, not a bomb blast even. We guarantee complete silence.’
Mr. Jackson looked delighted.
‘Oh, how wonderful, why, this is exactly what have been looking for Doctor.’
The three week wait till surgery had been excruciating.
The bus journeys were the worst. A living hell of screaming babies, the incessant chatter of busy mothers, old ladies gossiping. Why do women make so much noise wondered Mr. Jackson? He counted days till the quiet came, and finally, it was here.
After the surgery, Mr. Jackson woke to a beautiful silence the like of which he had never known. There was nothing, absolutely nothing. The silence was omnipresent and encompassing. It enveloped his every minute, hour and day. It was the silence of sleep.
Mr.Jackson had been learning sign language and had a notepad for important communications, but to be honest, he did not need to speak or to be spoken to. His work was computer-dependent and the Silence Plugs, for which he wore the logo badge, generally stopped most people annoyingly trying to disturb him by talking.
For nearly a week the silence was golden. Mr. Jackson was in a land of solitary quiet and it was blissful.
But then he started to hear something.
At first, Mr. Jackson was unable to pinpoint what these sounds in his head were. But, after a few days, when these new sounds became more regular and increased in volume, to the point of annoyance, he began to realize.
There was the swishing, an annoying sea of frothiness that ebbed and flowed. It was, of course, his blood as it rushed past his inner ear to and from his heart.
Then there was his actual heart. It was so loud sometimes, like a gong in the night. And if he thought about it, or became anxious, the booming worsened, got quicker and louder, like a battlefield, Tchaikovsky on loudspeaker!
But worse than these things, much worse by far, was the inner voice.
Mr. Jackson had no idea from whence or where it came. He had never heard it before.
The voice went on and on, all hours, annoying him, nagging him. Do this! Do that! You should have done this, why didn't you do that? It was never-ending. It would surely send him quite mad.
‘Doctor,’ said Mr. Jackson, ‘I need the plugs removed. They simply haven’t worked out for me I’m afraid. They have made everything much worse. I want things back as they were.’
The Doctor looked surprised shaking his head. He took out his notebook from the desk drawer and wrote slowly and in determined fashion using non-cursive capital letters, ......
'I AM SO SORRY MR. JACKSON, DID NO ONE TELL YOU? THE SURGERY IS COMPLETELY IRREVERSABLE.'
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