hearing voices


By Ash Rowbin

[extract from A Long Deep Sleep (With You in My Arms), an unpublished text for performance]



in the dark, the immediate dark before her eyes adjust, like the empty sky where no star or sign is visible, she drifts and melts and has the slightest sensation of falling, falling away, collapsing. She knows it’s just the booze. Its dire effects. And as her eyes close of their own accord, heavy now, dense with the weight of countless hours, its effects send her spinning and moving once more. They don’t tell you, she thinks. There are warnings, but not of the suddenness, the change, the difference between years. It wasn’t like this before, she whispers, it wasn’t (Spinning inside her head) Calmness, bring me calm she begs and in so doing seems to conjure the voice of some long-forgotten lover

lie on your side, my darling

                                                                                                             its disembodied words. A command obeyed instantly. Reflex in muscle memory. And as she shifts her weight she imagines the shifting tectonic plates beneath her, the gradual formation and break up of continents, the temporariness of everything, and when was the last time someone came close to me, she asks, where did my friends go? And as she asks the question and her thoughts flit from one thing to the next she notices it. She can hear it or sense it. Something there. A voice. A transmission. Not the same as the voice conjured, not hers, not made in mind, something else. Distinct. Detached. She opens her eyes. Now adjusted they can perceive the collection of objects that surround her, merely shapes, outlines. Silent. Inanimate. It is not them that speak to her. This is not outside but in and between her thoughts. Once more her mind wanders back to the bar, but outside seems silent now and as she imagines her body there among others it remains prostrate and the image jars and pushes her away, back to her present resting place. No escape, she thinks. No without, no beyond, no outside. This is the escape she asked for, her errantry invited, and she knows now: it is happening again.

She doesn’t know when she first noticed them (and it is plural because they’re multiple). There isn’t a day or a month that could be identified as the beginning. There’s no history. Like most other things in her life one day they were just there (appeared). It was there. It happened (whatever it is) without warning. She doesn’t remember if the long nights with a bottle came first or if they were a form of response (made through action). Though she tells herself it might have been during the last spell, what her dad refers to as

a change in the weather

                                                                                                                                but she can’t remember, she couldn’t say for sure, so she’s probably making that up. But there was a start. Now lost. At some point there was the beginning of her wandering between two worlds.



Ash Rowbin (also, sometimes, Dilks) infrequently makes (and writes about) performance(s). He’s currently a student at Queen Mary University of London where he cofounded the performance group Life Insurance Company. His writing most often addresses contemporary conditions of capitalism and their affects on his (and others) mental health.