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Three weeks after her accident Laura started to notice a slight discomfort in the base of her spine. When she had slipped on the marble floor in the hotel lobby the staff had been most attentive. It wasn't her fault, the carpet in front of the check out desk was loose and insecure at the corner. Her shoe had caught under he edge and as she turned away she had lost her balance and stumbled and tripped awkwardly. Scared no doubt at the prospect of legal action, the manager had bustled round and supported her to the rest room and comforted her with coffee and a box of chocolate biscuits from the kitchen. Apart from the shock of the fall and a bruise on her elbow she had not noticed any pain at the time, but sitting in the plane home later that day, the soreness in her tailbone reminded her that she had taken the brunt of the fall on her back side.
The soreness had persisted and after a week, Doctor Kipp had referred her to a physiotherapist at the hospital. After an x ray, the physio. nurse had explained about a slight fracture to a small bone at the base of her coccyx. There was a simple procedure, she explained, a tiny hinged metal plate could be inserted and placed against the bone to give support and flexibility.
The procedure had been simple and straightforward. In the day surgery, a local anaesthetic had numbed the area and the tiny supporting plate had been inserted through an implement like an oversized syringe which the doctor had manipulated and steered into place from a screen next to the patient's bed.
Laura spent the day resting and returned home the same evening. There was no pain and the soreness had gone completely. The only side effect had been a slight muzziness and a mild headache. The doctor had explained that this was a normal reaction to the anaesthetic that would quickly fade.
The following morning, Laura was surprised that the headache persisted. It was not exactly painful, but to the left side of her head, there was a tingling - especially around her ear. If she concentrated, the tingling seemed faintly crackley, almost like the sound her old valve radio used to make when it was tuned from station to station. She remembered the old brown Bakelite radio set with affection, the warm yellow light of the glass window and the squeaks and whistles it emitted as you turned the milled tuning knob from Luxembourg to Budapest or Hilversun to Home Service.
The tingling did reduce over the next few days but she was aware that the crackling whine remained if she paused and listened hard. It wasn't worth complaining about. It would go in time she was sure. But then, stranding at the kitchen sink in the afternoon a week later, thinking of nothing in particular, she had become aware that the tune that had been running around her head was not something she had brought to mind as she sometimes did. She was not able to stop it. It seemed to have a life of its own, and it was such a sweet little tune. Soon she had leant it by heart and was humming along quietly. When the tune ended, the faint crackle was still there in the background, but if she didn't think about it she didn't hear it. The following day she tried listening for the tune, but all she could hear was the faint intermittent crackle. Was she imagining it, was that a voice she could make out, like somebody on a bad line from the other side of the world. ''This is Troy industries, is that Carter, Carter are you there'' that's what it sounded like, not once but, like the tune, over and over again. She found she could easily tune in and out of the repetitive voice. The next day she tried too tune in again and this time it was a woman's voice she heard through the distant electric crackle. It reminded her of Margaret Thatcher, who she had once seen on TV showing viewers how to make a sponge. ''Of course, the voice said, ''its just chemistry, all cooking is chemistry''. She listened over and over again until she grew bored and tuned out. Years ago she had heard of people who could listen to the radio through the metal fillings in their teeth and she remembered some nutty scientist claiming that if he attached a needle to an amplifier, through the static he could her voices from the ghostly world of 'the other side'. He had turned on the machine and claimed the squeaks and scratchy sounds that emerged were the disembodied voice of Adolf Hitler from beyond the grave, dominating the world of the passed and commanding them to do his will. Laura had put him and his machine in the same mental drawer as Ouidja boards and psychic visionaries. All very interesting, but not for her.
Over the weeks, Laura developed a cordial relationship with what she called 'the transmissions'. These had taken a more useful and clearer shape recently and had provided a successful recipe for a lemon cake and an accurate tip on yesterdays 3.20 at Sandown. Laura had a flutter. She rang the bookies, paid for her bet over the phone with her credit card and an hour later, saw to her delight that for her small bet she had won a hundred pounds. One particular transmission guided her to specific pages in her library books, pointing out relevant comforting words and passages. The recipe she overheard for parmesan and coriander soup had won first prize at the W.I. Summer Fair. However, over time the transmissions became less frequent. When she tried to tune in, the only sound would be a gentle hissing that would fade slowly away. When the transmissions had started she had considered going back to the hospital for the advice of the surgeon, but she had become absorbed and had completely forgotten to report what was happening. Now that the transmissions had ceased, it seemed completely, there was no point in even mentioning them. Nobody, she reflected, would believe her anyway.Read more ›