In Two Minds
Part One - Guilt and Need are Never in The Same Room
Chapter One - Into two Minds
The fundamental flaw with fatalism is that if life is predetermined why can’t we figure out what’s going to happen to us? It is, after all, easier to look forwards than backwards. I do have good reason for thinking this, because today my life will be irrevocably changed. Had I known that, I would never have hit Tommy Trenton with a bucket, which was the action that set this change in motion. That’s the question I ask myself as I come to, on my back, in a dark railway tunnel in the outskirts of Stockton, Massachusetts. I don’t have time to think that it’s an odd question for me to ask, and way beyond my usual perceptiveness, because I am amazed that I am alive, given that the last thing I remember thinking was that I’ll never see Marisa again. That was just before I was hit by a train. As if all that isn’t weird enough, my shock turns to horror.
‘I’m hungry,’ whispers a voice, in my head, in the dark. It’s like a voice in a dream, a nightmare voice. I do nothing. I don’t even breath. There is absolute silence, which would normally freak me out, instead I feel relief because it suggests that I must have imagined the voice, so I slowly begin to breath again.
‘I’m hungry,’ the same voice, this time loud, in my head.
‘Agvghhhffuukkc,’ I scream with surprise. The scream echoes along the tunnel, bouncing off the walls, slowly disappearing into silence. The silence stays, I stay still, listening to the silence.
Empty, dark, cold. I breath slowly…
Silence again brings relief, and I relax, well, I relax as much as I can in a dark tunnel after being hit by a train.
‘Yo Jamie!’ Loud speaker loud inside my head, and I jump.
‘Who the fuck are you?’ I shout in terror, outside head. My voice reverberates down the tunnel.
‘Who the fuck are you?’ Voice shouts that, inside head. It sounds really weird, as there is, despite its volume, no echo, no evidence at all of where that voice came from.
The voice roars in amusement. A voice I don’t recognize. A voice that doesn’t recognize me. Silence returns for just enough time to make me think, again, that I imagined the voice.
‘I’m still hungry,’ it whispers, as if it is teasing me, playing with me.
I jump again.
A voice complaining of hunger. A voice in my head, yet I don’t feel hungry. Why is a voice asking me for nutrition? A hunger that I don’t feel, nor feel able to feed. ‘Go to McDonalds, I’ve just been hit by a train,’ I shout.
‘McWho?’ it says.
I know that I’m dreaming… or I’m dead.
‘Sorry,’ it says. ‘Wrong, and, well ….. wrongish.’
He says it like it’s inside my head, taking over the whole thing. ‘Fuck off,’ I shout. I bang head with my hand to knock it out.
‘Oh, ouch, oh, oh,’ taunts the voice. ‘That won’t work,’ he says.
I scramble up from the dirt, jumpy like a disturbed rattle snake, the noise I make reverberates down the tunnel. I stumble, steady myself, listen…silence.
‘Helloooooo, Jamie Johnson. I’m so very glad to be of your acquaintance.’ Right inside my head. I note again that it’s not outside, everything echoes down here, except that voice.
Everyone has a voice in their heads, don’t they? In a fraction of a second I mentally list the important facts about that statement:-
Yet no friends.
Me and my voice…Til death do us part.
For the first time in my life I think about my inner voice, the ever present monologue that I know so well. I wonder for a moment whether everyone has an inner voice. If they do, they know their own voice, each of us, just like I know mine. It niggles away, telling me things, nagging about daily dull duties, like brush your teeth, wipe your ass, don’t pee on the seat, wash your hands, pick your nose, don’t pick your nose, as well as special things like ‘she’s sexy’ or ‘I fancy your mum’, and clever things like answering quadratic equations, and weird facts like Stephen Hawking’s dad kept bees, and survival things like don’t say boo to a bear, and that plank isn’t going to hold your weight, and such like.
Your inner voice is akin to a bodyguard to the mind, and soul, it’s your firewall, your bow tied bouncer, your mind’s protector, regulator and psychologist. In the tightest most terrible of prisons, your own voice is sacrosanct, impregnable, the thing that kept Nelson Mandela sane, powerful, and in control, during his long lonely prison term, the voice is all powerful, and untouchable.
It’s a survival filter, too, preventing dangerous or offensive comments, from leaving your mouth. It has prevented me from calling Tommy Trenton the bully, a tacky faced fuckturnip, despite the words drifting towards my tongue on many occasion. Though, I remind myself, that it didn’t stop me from hitting him with a bucket.
Your voice is your moral compass, so you know when it’s appropriate to assist Franky Four Wheels across the road, or to help old Mrs Wilson home with her bags of groceries, it also tells you not to pocket the hundred dollar bill that falls out of her purse, or that it would be wrong for me to finish Tommy Trenton off with an axe, even after all he has done to make my life cruel and painful.
Your voice defines your own insecurities, gives or takes confidence, tells you that you are crap at something, even when you might actually be able to do it, but it also tells you to give something difficult a go, encourages you to make something of your life. It defines the level of your confidence. Your confidence defines where you will go in life. In life, ambition, is driven by your voice.
Your voice defines your tastes, yummy or yuck, sexy or gross, it gives your heart words to say I love or I hate, your spine to speak of fear, stomach to speak of hunger, tells you horny thoughts to make your hormones bounce.
You spend so much time in the company of this inner person talking to you that you gotta be able to live with it, gotta be happy with it, amused with it, otherwise it would drive you crazy, wouldn’t it? I look at nasty people and wonder what their voice sounds like, maybe they act that way because they hate their voice, or love it too much. Who knows? Whatever, fact is if you think that your voice is a wanker then you’re in trouble. If you wake every morning and think, oh God not him again, or her of course, then it’s going to be a long day ahead, every day.
Your voice is your driving force, and your best and life long loyal friend that never falters or fails you, the voice is you. Faithful, ever present, trusting and trustworthy.
Now, let’s return to ‘a’ voice. The crucial two things about your voice is that it is so obviously yours and yours alone. Funnily enough, the second characteristic of your voice is that it is alone.
I know this.
You know this.
The whole world and his goat knows this.
You don’t have two voices, ever.
So it’s a horrifying, disarming, violating and a million other other ‘ings’ when another voice turns up to talk to your voice, so totally different to your own that you clearly just aren’t making an error, so different that you can feel a presence within you, so different that you know that there is a stranger in your head fucking with all your moral ideals, increasing your danger levels, telling you shit you never wanted to hear, and making you do things you would never think about, an imposter, a thief and a conman installed in your head. It’s the biological equivalent of a Trojan Horse in your Mac, and also, terrifyingly, the quickest way to the Cuckoo’s nest.
I know, the knowledge of which appears in front of me as obvious as if an elephant had just walked down that tunnel wearing a pink condom on its trunk, that the inner voice is also the thing that tells selfish disturbed teenagers to go get their dad’s AK47 to blast their class mates away, the same thing that tells duped religious fuckwits to blow themselves up in a market full of pregnant pram pushing mothers buying fish, the same voice that told, Bundy, Bahmer, Hitler, Pol Pot, Popkov, Pichuskin, and Podkopaev, and the endless stream of other selfish nut-jobs, that brutally murdering innocent, happy people, at a whim is a good thing, but I don’t dwell on all that, because a new voice is talking in my head asking me for food and I am freaking out.
So when I hear ‘I’m hungry,’ in my head, in a never heard before, deep southern drawl voice, I jump like someone just shoved a nuke up my ass.
‘Yo, Jamie Johnson,’ it calls. ‘I’m soooooo hungry, get up of your backside, and let’s go get me some tucker. My guts believe that your throat must have been cut some time ago.’
The voice laughs a lot about that. I can feel his happiness, overbearing happiness, like the voice’s happiness is a living force within me. I feel something else too; relief, deep seated relief, the sort of feeling Robinson Crusoe would have felt had a helicopter suddenly turned up and took him, and his good pal Friday, off that island of his. These feelings aren’t important for me yet, because I have more urgent concerns, such as, this voice knows my name. Who told him? It calls my name, so it has plainly differentiated himself as someone other than me. Am I dead? Am I mad?
It’s pitch black, no light, I’ve never seen darkness so dark before, so I know that looking around is a totally pointless gesture due to the plain fact that there is nothing to see but black. Nevertheless, I look about me hoping to see someone, so proving that the voice didn’t come from within. I ponder briefly which is worse; a monster in the dark tunnel or a monster in my mind.
I stand still, listen to where the voice comes from. The air is damp and thick with the smell of tar, moss and oil. It’s cold and silent.
‘Coowweeeeeeee,’ followed by a laugh that goes nowhere.
‘Aggghrggghhh!’ I jump. My scream bounces in repetition down the tunnel rebounding off the walls filling the void with unmistakable terror. The voice is definitely in my head, but disbelief and worry make me look around again anyway, just to see more darkness, the effort makes me lose whatever small sense of direction I had.
I’m alone. In the dark.
‘You are not alone,’ he whispers.
‘Fuck!’ I shout.
‘I’m in here.’
I jump again. ‘Arragghhhhh’ I scream, only to be deafened by laughter.
‘I’m in your head, Jamie, my lad. Right here inside your bonce.’
It’s a deep voice, surprisingly friendly, calm, with a cheeky edge, and an Arkansas drawl. It whispers slowly, ‘I’m gonna take care of you.’
‘Fuck!’ I shout again. Everyone knows what ‘take care of you’ means.
Laughter in my head, as loud as someone shouting into my ear through a megaphone. So I run, hard straight, fast and powerful, as fast as I can go, right into the side wall of the tunnel.
I bounce like a hard ball, off a hard wall.
I crash to the floor. Head pain. Face pain.
‘Ouch, Jamie, you didn’t wanna be doing a darn silly thaaang like that, going an’ running into a wall, I could have told you, it’s gotta hurt some. Here, let me.’
Immediately the pain eases, it evaporates as if a door has just been opened letting it all out, as if it was never there.
Panic takes over, again. I can’t control my breathing and run in a different direction, feeling for the sleepers with my feet.
‘Wrong way,’ says the voice. It’s calm, teasing, mischievous, irritating, terrible. ‘You’re as skitty as a blue assed fly, Jamie Johnson. I’m sure glad to see you an’ all, but I wish a cool, calm customer had come down into the dark instead. It’s not that I’m complaining or nothing, just stating facts.’
I keep sprinting. I run as fast as I can to get rid of that voice. I run until I fall.
Silence. I listen carefully while I lie on the ground in the dirt. Have I lost it?
Then it speaks. ‘Other way, Jamie.’
‘Ahhhrughhgghhg,’ I yell again.
‘Another train will be coming through this tunnel, soon, Jamie,’ it says. ‘You’d better get some compass points in your head, or start taking heed of what I’m trying to tell you. You and me are both goners if you don’t manage one of those two things.’
Both? I should think about that. The wrongs of that, the strangeness of that, but I am too freaked out to think about anything.
‘Jamie. I’ll tell you why I’m so glad to see ya, I’ve been down here for what seems like longer than never, so long that I know the way to everywhere and nowhere, so long that I have forgotten how fresh fresh air feels, so long that color is a stranger to me, so long that history will have been made in my absence, so long that at times time stopped ticking. Oh yes, it’s sure has been a long, long time since I’ve been out of this here dang tunnel. Now the opportunity has come along to escape from this terrible place, I’m a tad eager to get going,’ he says.
There are too many creepy things to compute.
Down here for so long.
Simple unthreatening words create terror deep within my spine, a terror mellowed by the cheerfulness of this jaunty, rhythmic voice.
‘You worry way too much, Jamie Johnson. There should be only one concern for you right this very moment; that’s the five-zero-three to Boston. Now, I don’t own me a timepiece or nothing, not that such a thing would be of any use down here in the dark an’all, anyways. I just know, out of the habit of things, that time is closing in like a Pinkerton, and that particular train has a special meaning for me, a story I hope to tell you someday. Someday in the future. That future will be destroyed by the next train so, if you ever wanna hear it, or indeed hear anything else again, you need to be getting the two of us out of this here dark tunnel like, just as soon as possible. I don’t wanna to go rushing nobody or nothing, just today, right now, is sort of a good time for haste.’
The voice seems to answer my own thoughts.
‘Yep, I sure can do that,’ he says. ‘Your thoughts are my thoughts, and my thoughts are your’s. Your head is now my home, and I am right here giving you some skills, and talent, that you have long forgotten, or that you never had before you dropped into my tunnel. That requires me to listen to your gentle pleasant babbling, just like you are listening to mine.’
I stand up, which is difficult as it is so dark that I feel unsteady, I reach out for the sleepers, so as to find the running direction of the tracks and begin to follow them.
‘That’s the way, Jamie Johnson, that’s just the ticket. Good lad, well done,’ the voice congratulates me and confirms that I have taken the right direction, though I am yet to be convinced that I should heed anything he says. ‘He says’ I have to think how odd that sounds.
I think back to what happened to put me into this predicament. I remember, Tommy Trenton set fire to Janie-lee Leveson’s coat while she was still in it, I threw a bucket of water over her, and hit him with the bucket. Big mistake. He waited for me after school, a punch on the nose, the others coming out of the trees, a chase, falling off the bridge onto the tracks, terror, running into the tunnel. Noise behind. I turned. The noise growing in volume, then a huge light. Roaring… ‘oh shit.’ Then nothing. Not even darkness. Nothing at all except a train with a red smudge on the front, and a driver taking happy passengers home to Fitchburg, unconcerned about anything, except what’s in the oven at home.
How did I get here? I should be dead. It was a question for myself, I wasn’t expecting an answer.
‘I can tell you the answer to that conundrum, Jamie Johnson. When a person gets hit full on by a fast moving express train they tend to move some distance, cause trains don’t have much in the way of give in them, if you know what I mean? Mean and all as your friends were to chase you down here, you were lucky that I was here to save your ass,’ he says.
Again I say, ‘he says’, because the voice is deep, gravely, cool, laid back sort of Leonard Cohen, but much deeper and real old southern Arkansas drawl. On top of that, I have never heard this voice before, ever.
‘Keep going that a way,’ he says.
‘I can’t see anything.’
‘Well, I can, Jamie Johnson, I can see everything, so don’t worry a shade. This is the right way to go, as certain as onions makes hard men cry, this is the route out. I sure can’t wait to see where you live and all. From what I’ve seen from your thoughts the world has mightily changed since I last experienced thaaangs.’
He’s in control.
He wants to see my house.
The world has changed.
A voice in my head is controlling me.
He doesn’t answer so I know I am right, and I know I’m right to be afraid.
I see a pin prick of light ahead.
‘I told you so,’ he says.
Nigh on a hundred steps left to go, one hundred sleepers, I am out.
‘I hate to go correcting you an all, like a snarky school master, but the correct terminology is, ‘we’ are out. Yeah, we’re out, and I gotta thank you for this new life of promise and longevity that you have gifted me. It sure feels good to be out, and about, Jamie Johnson.’
‘We are out? We?’
I feel a nod.
‘Why, does it feel so good to you, you are just a voice in my head?’ I ask whilst wondering whether head voices come about as a result of head injuries caused by a bad reaction to the trauma I’ve just suffered. Yeah it’s definitely that, just a bang on the head, the effects of which will go away if I ignore it.
‘Unfortunately that’s not a solution that’ll work for you Jamie. You see, part of this here deal between you, and me, is that you gotta heed my needs. I’ve been down that dreadful dark place for so long, so long it seems like forever. My last host had a grey horse, VD (a condition that I warned him about, though he wouldn’t listen, just fired on in there without a care), a broken heart, a bullet in his leg and a Colt six shooter. He died in that there damned tunnel, the year it was built. I have to say - and no disrespect to you Jamie Johnson - that I sure do miss him, given our long period of partner and friendship’
I wonder which one of those things killed him. New voice doesn’t answer.
It says 1886 in Roman numerals on the side of that bridge, I don’t even have to look, I read it every time I walked past. He’s been there for over one hundred and thirty years. I wonder at the detail, his descriptions and new feelings that I am now experiencing, are these too much to have been fabricated by me?
‘Yeah, no wonder I was desperate to get out, no wonder I’m starving, no wonder I am so stoked to see ya, Jamie? ’Tis no surprise either that I’m as hungry as a Boston Lawman. Let’s go, we’ve got things to do. What’s been happening in the world? My little bit of tinkering inside your skull suggests that there’s some excitement for us two to be having, like what’s a Ferrari? and an airplane, you gotta to be kidding me.’
‘Wait til you hear about moon landings and mobile phones,’ I say. I don’t actually say that, I think it, purposefully to answer his excitement. It’s only been a few minutes, and I’m already talking to a voice in my head. I begin to worry, but the voice is so excited that it’s distracting.
‘Moon landings, now you are just jessing with me,’ he says. ‘Ohhhh air, feel that breath,’ he sighs with pleasure as we exit the tunnel into daylight. He’s talking like an overexcited kid, and I let him get on with it, because I feel it too. Not only do I feel his excitement, but I also feel and see everything myself, like never before, like I have new eyes. Every tiny detail. This alone makes me smile, it’s been a while since my senses were capable of sensing anything much, and although I feel released and liberated with this return to full vision, and new clarity of thoughts. I can still feel from within an even bigger feeling of freedom, though I feel it, I can’t comprehend it in any way whatsoever.
I hear, too, my inner voice changing, no longer stilted and disjointed, but free flowing and articulate. Smell too, maybe I’m just noticing things, perhaps they were there all the time, nevertheless, my nostrils fill with the damp smell of Massachusetts fall, new and rotting leaves, mushrooms, deer, a complex cocktail of scents, yet each one distinct.
There’s an itch with all this good feeling, a strange tingling, like a little paper cut leaking blood, slowly, but certain, instead of blood, memories appear in my brain as if he is stealing my thoughts, downloading them like a spy, leaking from me to him.
He doesn’t answer my worries.
I am too distracted by the new detailed beauty of the world exposed by the sudden restoration, nigh improvement of my senses, to give a whole lot of thought to this right now. Though once I have sniffed at a few flowers, wondered at the beauty of the local trees, seen the details on the wings of a butterfly, and studied the fauna, the questions remain.
Maybe, I think, he is God and is sifting for sins, evil deeds to decide whether I sleep with white angels or burn with black. ‘Am I dead?’ I ask.
He doesn’t reply. I don’t know what part of that thought he didn’t like.
Voices always have minds behind them, and I wonder too, what kind of mind just directed me out of that terrifying pitch dark tunnel, where does he want to take me and, given that he keeps telling me that he is hungry, what does he want to eat? I ask myself this question because I have a growing yearning to satisfy his hunger combined with a reluctance to do so, the two feelings seem to be at odds with each other, a conflict yet to arise that niggles deep within.
The obvious conclusion is that by banging my head in the tunnel I have sustained an injury, whilst at the same time restored some function to the broken parts of my head. The voice is just a byproduct of that, and it will go away.
Whatever the cause, I feel different, I feel great, healthy, strong, free, optimistic.
All new and amazing feelings, like tasting chocolate for the first time, though a thought itches in query, that just perhaps these feelings aren’t my own.