It began as sports commentary. Two commentators, one with a Brummie accent and one Southerner, giving updates on different games and sharing banter, as they do. They were not reporting on a single sport or a particular game, but rather commenting on all sports, across the board. This lasted about twenty minutes, and I knew that the sound of their voices was coming from the kitchen. I was sitting on the sofa in the front room, by the window, and the children were upstairs, sleeping.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly the radio station changed from sport to music but after some noise which can only be described as ‘fuzzy,’ the music was very soft, very calming classical piano. Over the course of the next two hours, I sat on the sofa reading a book and listening to the music that was drifting in from the radio in the kitchen. I heard some men outside, talking and laughing. I guessed they were from the pub down the road and opened the window to tell them to kindly shut the fuck up because it’s 2 a.m and this is a very quiet residential street, but there was nobody there.
The music changed every 8 minutes or so – blues to heavy rock, to chart-topping pop, to underground grime. I listened to all of it, just as background noise as I read my book. Plus I was feeling kinda lazy and didn’t want to venture into the kitchen to turn the radio off because the floorboards really creek and I was scared to wake the children. I heard more voices outside, and peered through the curtains. No one there? ‘Hm, I guess it’s just the plumbing making noises, water gurgling through the pipes or something. But their voices were so clear…’
Quite often the songs on the radio would be interrupted as if someone was fiddling with the aerial or tuning in and out of different frequencies – that fuzzy, muddled static interspersed with the occasional auto-tuned voice of the pop princess regurgitating impossibly cliché lyrics about heartbreak.
I could hear the songs so clearly, the bass, the drums, the guitar, the vocals – but I couldn’t decipher the exact words, the lyrics. Yet somehow I knew what the song was about, based on the tone and the tune. I could hear the words but, at the same time, I couldn’t hear the words.
I got up to get a glass of water and as I started towards the kitchen, tip-toeing over noisy floorboards, the sound of the music on the radio faded into nothingness, as if someone had turned the volume down from 20 to 0 in three seconds. This shocked me and I then got paranoid so I went back to the sofa and thought to do some breathing exercises and then check on the kids. As I shut my eyes and began my first deep breath, the radio started up again, a beautiful folk song, so clear, no static. I snapped open my eyes. The music continued to play. And so I listened.
After several hours of radio, some unknown force compelled me to search for the source of the noise. As soon as I walked toward the kitchen, again, it stopped. I scoured the house looking for the radio, a stray ipod, a mobile phone, a children’s toy, a laptop, something, anything that could be making the sounds. I ran into the garden to listen out for neighbours having a party: I was met with silence.
I sat at the bottom of the stairs and listened to the kids snoring softly. I wanted to cry but I was so tired and anxious that I couldn’t even bring the tears to the surface. I sat there for a long time, wondering if I was imagining the sounds of the children snoring and shifting about in bed.
I couldn’t find the radio because there wasn’t one. The radio doesn’t exist. It was then that I realised the source of the noise: my head. Which made this episode a lot worse – psychosis is worse when you know it’s not real.