3: 13 a.m. by Chris Green
Not so long ago, it was recognised that at 3:13 a.m. each morning, everyone heard something disturbing caused the heart to skip a beat. For some, the rogue sound was the tolling of a distant bell, for others a mournful foghorn, while yet others might hear an air-raid siren or find a freight train running through their head. It was believed no-one was immune. No matter where you found yourself in the world, at whatever time of year, you were likely to hear something that disturbed you. Whether you were asleep or awake, there was no escaping it. At exactly 3:13, your state of grace would be interrupted. Jonny Bisco would be woken by the pounding of horses’ hooves on tarmac. Brady Ness would hear the blast of an air horn. Jack and Vera would hear bagpipes playing Mull of Kintyre.
In normal waking life, each of the senses is distinguishable from the others. But, in the 3:13 disturbances, hearing could become inseparable from the other senses. The unsettling sounds you heard might be tinged with a taste, for instance, or a smell. Sometimes you could see and touch the sounds. The blood-curdling scream that Emma-Jane heard smelt like a rotting corpse, Lorenzo’s dental drill tasted of cabbage, and the minor chord on the cello I heard emitted an eerie glow.
Some people were in denial. Tiffany Golden, for instance, was in denial. She maintained that at 3:13, she heard nothing. She was not disturbed by the sudden creak of footfall on the stairs or the howling of a wolf. She did not hear distant drums or the chant of a rampaging mob. Her heartbeat, she said, was always regular. She slept the sleep of the just. Walter Ego, too, was in denial. This was the time, he said, that he usually walked his dog after finishing his shift at the nightclub. He claimed the albatross he heard circling overhead was a natural occurrence.
Denial was nothing new, even for those who acknowledged the nocturnal disturbances. The debate centred around whether the inexplicable night-time sounds they were hearing were real or not. There were many interpretations of what constituted reality. Einstein posited that reality was an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. Jed Boozy, my philosopher friend from The Goat and Bicycle, subscribed to the John Lennon view that nothing was real. Perhaps there were degrees of reality on a sliding scale. Or were the sounds, while not fantasy exactly, a phenomenon akin to dreaming? They occurred in the middle of the night when, more often than not, people were asleep or trying to sleep. And we had been aware since time immemorial that the night harboured all manner of mysteries. By its very nature, darkness triggered a whirlpool of shadowy possibilities. Might we be getting clandestine messages from the depths of the unconscious, spiritual guru, Lars Wimoweh wondered? A crude form of communication from the collective unconscious. To describe them, he coined the phrase spontaneous textural phantasms. Some felt that there could be a sinister motive behind the sounds, although they remained puzzled what this motive might be. Scare tactics on behalf of a consortium? A leftfield advertising strategy for a new product launch? Were they part of a Lefty plot, asked the Daily Mail? Or perhaps just mass paranoia? Auditory hallucinations? With so many explanations, it was perhaps unrealistic to expect consensus or closure.
While the world over, whole families, whole streets, whole towns and cities appeared to be experiencing these sinister night-time sounds, they were seldom, if ever, discussed. Discussions that there were tended to be short.
‘I heard a helicopter circling overhead in the night. At about three o’clock,’ I might have said to Patti. ‘It smelt of burning rubber.’
‘I heard the sound of breaking glass again,’ Patti might have said. ‘Shall we go and see the new Danny Boyle film at the Empire later?’
I might have said, ‘yes, that’s a good idea. We could go for some supper afterwards at that new Mexican place.’ In all probability, there would have been no further reference the helicopter or the breaking glass.
I’m fairly sure Emma-Jane and Lorenzo never talked about their night-time disturbances. They were too busy looking after their parrots. Being a public figure, Brady Ness was afraid of ridicule. Jack and Vera didn’t speak to each other much anyway. Jed Boozy was busy watching the wheels go round.
Last year, there was a breakthrough. A number of people in different locations were recorded simultaneously waking at 3:13 a.m. to a momentary discordant rendition of Ace of Spades. Unusual that so many people in different places should hear the same unexpected ruckus. Suspicious too. Synchronisation of nocturnal sounds had not been obvious before. And why Ace of Spades? A publicity stunt for Motorhead? A cyber punk trying to make a name for himself? Whatever! It drew attention to the phenomenon. The clip went viral on social media. People began to examine their own night-time disturbances. They began to share these with others. 3:13 became the subject on everyone’s lips.
The product life-cycle of viral clips on the internet is, alas, all too brief. Interest quickly faded, and the subject was once again forgotten. But, when you consider it, the position can’t have changed that much. People the world over must surely still be hearing Lars Winoweh’s spontaneous textural phantasms. Every night, their consciousness is, in all likelihood, still receiving an unwelcome jolt. Yet, because no-one is talking about it, no one is investigaing it, and the mystery remains unresolved.
Meanwhile, at exactly 3:13 tonight, along with all the others, your state of grace will be interrupted. Jonny Bisco will be woken by the pounding of horses’ hooves on tarmac. Brady Ness will hear the blast of an air horn. Jack and Vera will both hear bagpipes playing Mull of Kintyre. Senses may once again become confused. The blood-curdling scream that Emma-Jane hears will smell like a rotting corpse, Lorenzo’s dental drill will taste of cabbage, and the minor chord on the cello I hear will emit an eerie glow.
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