Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman, deaf since childhood. She’s on her way to Tokyo to undergo revolutionary ear surgery, though she isn’t quite aware of what’s in store for her.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I’ve been living in Ripton, Ordshaw, since I was born; it’s not the most glamourous part of the city but there’s a lot of people, so it’s never boring. Sure, it’s too far to walk into the centre, and we don’t have major cultural spots like the New Thornton galleries, or big parks, but we’ve got shops and good tube connections and the Gabber Market once a month. There’s also an abandoned railway line they say is haunted; we used to dare each other to run down it. But mostly people go there to do drugs.
Anyway, now that places like Ten Gardens are getting too popular, and prices are going up, it’s all going to swing back to Ripton, and we’ll be the next up-and-coming place to be!
You would have to say that, don’t you work on the Ripton Council?
Well, I’m not a politician, promotion isn’t in my job description – I mostly make sure other people’s numbers add up. But I see the work that goes into the neighbourhood, so I do have a little pride in it.
Then, I also see the where work doesn’t get done. If I was responsible, you’d definitely hear about Ripton’s greatness! We’d change the name to Tova Town.
What’s stopping you?
Um. Besides being a world class mediocrity? Probably the fact that everyone treats me like a charity case, even if I’m better at my job than most people in the office.
They treat you that way because you can’t hear?
That and because I make really bad jokes.
But the hearing, at least, might change soon. What can you tell us about your upcoming adventure?
Now that is an interesting thing. I won a lottery run by Mogami Industries; I’m flying to Japan and they’re going to scramble my brain or something. Miracle Surgery, You Too Can Hear! I wasn’t going to enter, it sounds unreal and there’s negativity about it in Deaf Club, but I missed my bus on a wet Tuesday and filled in this form on my phone while I was waiting, and here we are!
Of course no one really believes the surgery will work.
No? Haven’t this company already had some success with restoring hearing?
Sure, if you believe the dozens of Japanese kids quoted on their website, who all look suspiciously like Stock Photo Models. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled at the opportunity, it’s just hard to imagine.
Are you scared about the surgery?
Scared about them accidentally jamming a needle through my brain? A little. Scared that I might actually be able to hear again: much more. I mean, right now I’ve got an excuse for not being the Mayor of Tova Town. If I could hear, the same as everyone else, how do I explain my failings?!
It sounds like you’re eager for some change.
Did I mention I’ve been living in Ripton all my life? I love the place, but it’s kind of grey. Also, it’d be nice to step outside the council offices. Bless my colleagues, I can’t even hear them and I *know* they all talk in a monotone.
So what’s the first thing you’re going to do once the surgery’s complete?
Freak. The Hell. Out. Seriously, if I’m not a giggling wreck I’ll be standing on a rooftop screaming into an abyss of Overwhelm. Fixed physically and broken mentally.
Just as well no one I know is gonna be around to see it.
Won’t your friends or family be with you?
Double nope. But I’ve got my phone and tablet hooked up for international calls at, like, every available opportunity. There’s a time difference, but Ethan and my best friend Ren, they’ll do night shifts waiting up on me. Ren’s amazing, she’s always got my back and knows the right things to say, so I’ll get by on her messages. She was going to come but got a last-minute job offer, working on a film, which is awesome.
Mum and Dad will be online, too, so I won’t really be alone, will I? There’s always someone looking out for me!
Ethan is your boyfriend? What’s his excuse?
He’s poor, and also not exactly what we’d call adventurous. I’m gonna take a chance on him not reading this and say: I’m thankful he’s not coming. Tokyo will be easier to handle without him worrying about the price of water or the etiquette of crossing roads!
Sounds like trouble in paradise! Perhaps you’ll find some romance abroad?
Are you kidding? One, I won’t know how to talk to anyone out there, they’ve got a whole other sign language. Two, I’m too tall here in the UK, I’ll loom over the Japanese men! Oh and I suppose three, I am already attached, that should count too.
Speaking of the language barrier, how do you plan on getting by? Do you see any big obstacles?
Besides the usual deafness? I’ve got all my emergency contacts prepared, so I’ll pretty much be going in a bubble-wrap suit, but considering I don’t know what people in the UK are saying most of the time, I don’t see it making much difference that they’ll be speaking Japanese. As long as they have menus translated to English. Everyone does that these days, don’t they? I’ll be fine.
Sure – what’s the worst that could happen?
Sex trafficking, I guess. Or murder? Which is worse?
It was a rhetorical question.
Or the surgery goes wrong and I grow a new head? Or instead of being able to hear again I develop some brand new sense, but it’s a horrible one, like those people who feel colour as pain.
Is that a thing? Wait, let’s get back on track. Tell us about your favourite pastime. Is it true you’re a fan of the pop sensation Natalie Reid?
Is anyone not? But I wouldn’t really call her pop; in Ordshaw we have a pretty good idea of where she grew up, and her music reflects that.
Isn’t being a music fan a little unusual, considering your situation?
I can’t hear and I like music? What manner of trickery is this?! No, seriously, we poor deaf folk appreciate music too. Especially from someone like Natalie Reid, her tunes speak to everyone.
And you have a unique opportunity to meet her.
Ah ha. God, I keep forgetting – or trying to forget. Sure, I get to meet the superstar if the surgery goes well. Big IF. And another fear to dwell on, what on earth do I say to her? I’ll end up embarrassing myself, for sure. Thanks for reminding me.
You’re welcome. Are there any other plans you’ve made for afterwards?
I’m going to go to a park and just listen to the birds. If I can. Normal stuff like that. Just soak it all up. Enjoy the ordinary. Provided it doesn’t annoy me too much. But unlike you other feeble mortals, I’ll be able to switch the sound off again!
Look at me, acting like it’s a cert. The important thing is I get a madcap holiday and waste a lot of important people’s time and money.
Finally: can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
My lack of hearing heightened my other senses to the degree that I can see people’s auras. Most people are brown.
(That’s a joke by the way; I said it to a guy in a bar once and he threatened to punch me unless I admitted his aura was gold. Men.)
Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy, dystopian fiction and English education guides. He lives by the sea where he escapes a pleasant life by staring into the distance imagining terrible things.
You can find Tova on the pages of The City Screams.
Join us this Friday to hear from two adventurers from a universe where science and magic intermix by music. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.