One busy morning a few years ago in Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, a man in his early twenties called Simon, was standing among the swarming crowds of rail travellers and commuters, with his hands cupped over his ears. He might as well have been invisible, because most people rushed past him as if he wasn’t there, and those that did notice the scruffily dressed young man with the uncombed hair and stubbly face soon hurried around him and away from him. For the past 5 years, Simon had been suffering from a form of schizophrenia. He had been a heavy cannabis smoker, and one day at his bedsit on Lark Lane, he was awakened by a room mate. ‘Come on Simon, get up mate, you’re late for college.’ He said.
Simon yawned and opened his eyes and looked around. There was no one there.
He heard laughter.
This scared the young loafer, and he looked around nervously then said, ‘Who’s there?’
‘Me,’ said a voice from nowhere.
‘Where are you?’ Simon asked.
‘In your head mate, in your noggin,’ said the voice. And everywhere Simon went, so did the voice, night and day. Simon was so frightened he eventually went to see a psychiatrist, and was told he was schizophrenic. The condition might have been caused by smoking too much marijuana. So he gave the weed up, but the voices stayed with him. Simon’s social life was destroyed by the endless chattering in his head. A girl he had dated for a year abandoned him because the voices even distracted him as he tried to make love. They would laugh, and jeer, and come out with obscenities. One day Simon was almost beaten to death when he went to a cinema on Edge Lane. The voices started arguing among themselves until he couldn’t hear the film and so he told them to shut up, and two men thought Simon was telling them to be quiet and they jumped him outside and kicked him across the car park.
And now, 5 years on, he was homeless, and he slumped into a corner in Lime Street Station and pleaded for the voices to go away as the normal sane people got on with their lives and went to work. Then all of a sudden, a new voice was heard among the usual accents of the invisible persecuters. The voice got stronger and stronger until it actually drowned out the evil voices. A man’s well spoken voice said, ‘Simon, I can help you.’
‘Go away, leave me alone!’ Simon said.
‘No Simon you must listen to me please, I can save you!’ said the voice.
‘How can you save me?’ Simon asked. People passing by sneered at the man sitting on the floor of the station, talking to himself.
‘Look over there at that woman, quickly!’ the voice urged him.
‘Where?’ Simon took his hands from his ears and looked about.
‘Walking towards the escalator, the blonde woman, do you see her?’ the voice sounded heartbroken.
Simon saw the woman, heading for the escalator leading to the underground. She was about forty years of age. ‘Yeah I see her so what?’
‘She was my wife,’ the voice told him, ‘I was married to her for fifteen years. Then I died. Stomach cancer.’
‘Why are you telling me this?’ Simon asked. He thought it might be one of the bad voices playing a trick.
‘I want you to give her a message,’ the voice said.
‘It’s too late now she’s gone down to the underground,’ Simon told him.
‘She comes back tonight after work. Then you can give her the message.’ The voice said and Simon sensed deep sad emotions from the voice.
‘If I give her the message, how will you help me?’ Simon was more curious to know.
The voice said: ‘I know how the other spirits get into your mind, and I know how to close the way in. They want to drive you to suicide because they want to try and get you to join them.’
‘You don’t even exist, you’re all in my mind, I’m schizophrenic, that’s all.’ Simon cupped his hands round his ears again, and then two policemen moved him on out of the station into Lime Street. But the new voice stuck with him.
The voice spoke from his left side, saying: ‘Simon, please believe me, my name is Frank Hughes, I died in, let me see, when was it? Three years ago. There’s no time here so it’s confusing. Anyway, when five o’clock comes I want you to go to my wife – her name is Hannah – and I want you to tell her something.’
A bus on Lime Street sounded its horn and a woman screamed. A man grabbed Simon by the arm and pulled him onto the pavement in the nick of time. Simon had been so distracted he’d drifted blindly into the road.
He swore and cursed the new voice, but it somehow calmed him down and told him to go into a red telephone box, which Simon did. It was quieter in there and the voice said, “when you see my wife say, ‘Hannah Hughes, your husband Frank still loves you, but you have to move on. He wants you to be happy, go to David, he loves you so much.’ “
Simon borrowed a pen and a piece of paper from a student and wrote down the words the spirit of Frank Hughes told him. Then the voice said, ‘Simon, the other spirits are very angry, and they’re forcing their way back in, but hold on, and don’t let them distract you. When I come back they’ll never bother you again.’
And sure enough all the same old malevolent, evil, sinister voices came back with a vengeance. ‘Throw away that paper now, pretty please,’ said a childish voice. ‘I’ll kill you in your sleep Simon, unless you tear up that paper!’ said another invisible speaker.
Simon wandered around the town, into cafés, through St John’s Gardens, and at a quarter to five he arrived back at Lime Street Station, where he was moved on twice by the police. He returned just after five o’clock, and his heart skipped a beat when he saw the blonde woman. He looked at the paper, and tried to read the words, but the voices in his head sounded like the roaring crowd at a football match. He cursed at them and read the scrap of paper, then started to follow the blonde woman. He shouted: ‘Hannah!’
She glanced back, but when she saw Simon, and the state of his appearance, she hurried on.
‘Hannah! Hannah Hughes!’ shouted the down and out.
This time she slowed down and halted, and looked at Simon.
He hurried to her, and scanned the piece of paper, then said: ‘Hannah Hughes, your husband Frank still loves you, but you have to move on. He wants you to be happy, so go to David, he loves you so much.’
Hannah was speechless. ‘How do you know my name? Who are you?’ she asked Simon.
Simon was suddenly overcome with the strangest sensation he had ever experienced. All of the voices stopped as if someone had thrown a switch in his head. He felt spasms in his mouth, and a creeping numbness in his tongue as if it had been injected with cocaine. Something was taking him over. His mouth and tongue moved and he spoke in a voice that wasn’t his. He said, ‘Hannah it’s me, I love you. I missed you so much.’
Hannah was engrossed yet obviously a bit scared.
Simon was talking now and yet he didn’t know what he was saying. And he found himself all choked up with sadness with his arms around Hannah. Then he found himself kissing her. She pushed him back and screamed, and ran away into the crowds. He fell on the floor, with tears in his eyes, yet they didn’t feel like his tears. Two policemen arrived on the scene and restrained the vagrant, yet he couldn’t hear what they were saying. All he could feel was terrible sorrow, and the feeling of lost love. The voice of Frank Hughes said, ‘Simon, thank you for letting me hold my wife for a moment, thanks for letting me kiss her, thanks for letting me tell her how much I missed her. All that released love has sent those evil voices scurrying away. They’ll never come back, I promise they won’t.’
And the voice faded away. And as Simon was led to a police van, he started to laugh, because the voices had all gone. They never did come back, and Simon is now living a peaceful life in Chester.