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by Jason Fischer

‘Take this. You’ll hear God,’ she said, and without pause he licked the bitter tab from her salty palm, then took another against her protests. And another.

Now she was saying something to him, but all he could hear was a metallic crashing sound every time she opened her lips, every syllable discordant, alien. It was just like a set of house keys thrown against a counter-top, and as she got agitated and clutched at his shoulders, shaking him, her voice became a hundred keys, a thousand.

Sonic, chronic Sonic, he thought, and tried to tell her that he was still off-tap, that rather than fading away, the audible hallucinations were getting stronger.

But even as his mouth moved, even as he formed the words, she looked at him, puzzled. He tried again, but whatever was coming out of his mouth made as much sense as what was coming into his ears.

We have our new Babel, he thought, and tried to pass on this wisdom with his stupid useless tongue.

Her Labrador was barking at him, yipping with excitement, but all that came out was the rolling laughter of a man. He pushed her aside, and nearly tripping over the leaping dog he got through the door and out into the night.

The squeal of the hinges was a wet licking sound, the door’s slam a phlegmatic cough. As he ran wildly along the sidewalk, feet pounding and sliding beneath him, each footstep was the ringing of a bicycle bell.

He went slower, but the ringing became drawn out, emphasised. If he ran, the rings were brisk, shrill. The lesser of two evils.

The cars went by, the city echoing with the snarling of these great cats. A zippy little hatch shot past with the yowling of a feral tom, while a fish-tailing muscle-car throbbed with a lion’s menace, an angry don’t-you-touch-my-kill warning roar.

Shortly after was an ambulance, the cacophony of its sirens the shrill cries of a terrified baby, and then two babies, and then more. It was time to get away from the roads.

The Sonic was stronger now, getting stronger by the second when the drug should have worn off hours ago. Had he taken too much?

Would he ever hear normal sounds again?

He already knew the answer.

Crying, driven to tears and madness (his own wretched sobbing translating into the sounds of breaking glass), he ran his bicycle-bell steps, stopping up his ears for all the good that did. After hours of this permanent disconnect from the world of rational sound, he went to the infamous Leap. These never-ending alien tongues drove him to the cliff’s edge, alone and trapped. Standing there, toe-tips on the edge of a steep eternity, a strong wind swept up to buffet him from the cold black sea.

He stood there in rapture as the roaring wind became clarity and language, and for the rest of his short life he had a direct and profound conversation with God.


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