Stories

It's In Our Heads


His heartbeat was slowing. At this point, it was almost imperceptible. But he was still alive - at least what could technically be called alive. Medically, he was alive. If EMTs got to him soon enough, he could be stabilized and taken to a hospital. There, they could bring him back.

But if they had, they would find the mind curiously empty. A blank slate. Not amnesia, but a return to an empty child state. That’s why he had made sure he was far away from anyone who could find him. No one would be able to bring his body back to life.

Still, he smiled. The music was playing. He’d heard stories that people heard heavenly music right before they died. The sounds of the gates of afterlife opening up. That’s not the music he heard right now.

He heard “It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo.




Battius nodded his head slowly along with the music. The egone pumped the music directly to his brain. It was soft and soothing, a perfect way to keep the day going. As a line worker in a reprocessing plant, he needed something to break up the monotony. The egone was the perfect choice.

Plus, it only played what he liked. So many of the other line workers liked the hard and heavy stuff. He could see some of them, with egones of their own, thrusting their heads back and forth and occasionally making sharp hand motions along with the music. He liked the softer stuff. The soft, almost-haunting vocal-and-piano tracks of Midna, or the light acoustic melodies of the Essences.

The hard stuff reminded him too much of the sounds of the plant. He wanted to forget the sounds of the factory.

That’s why it annoyed him so much when he started hearing heavy guitar, pounding drums, and screaming vocals. He frowned, sent a signal to cancel the song and rate it “never play again”, then went back to work.

A moment later, the same song started playing again. He wasn’t sure it was the same one at first, but after it started a third time, he was sure it was. He paused his egone and sent a message, asking what the song’s title was.

“It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo was the response. He told the egone not to play that song again, but as soon as he started it up again, he heard the opening chords of “It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo.

In frustration, Battius shut the egone down completely. He spent the last three hours of his shift listening only to the screams of the refining equipment.




“I know what I was hearing!” Battius groaned at the woman on the end of the comms line.

“I am sorry sir,” the woman answered in a thick Minmatar accent. “But our data shows that the song being played at the time you are reporting difficulties was ‘Embers’ by Restless Dawn, which falls completely in line with your preferences.”

“To Jita with your data!” Battius spat, actual spittle flying from his lips. He’d been at this for nearly an hour now, moving from customer support to tech support to marketing to management and finally apparently back to customer support. Each of them gave him the same answer. “I know what Restless Dawn sounds like and they do not sound like Starved Fedo, which is what I was hearing!”

“Our data shows that - ”

“Your damn data is wrong!” Battius yelled. “Look, stop telling me that your data tells you something different! My egone unit was playing Starved Fedo!”

“Please, sir,” the woman said. “Have you checked your egone since then?”

“Yes, it’s working fine,” he answered.

“Well, Egonics apologizes for any inconvenience suffered by you during the malfunction of your egone.” He sighed, because he knew this was the statement they made when they were tired of dealing with him. “As a sign of our apology, I will credit your account with a free day of - ”

“Yes, thank you very much,” he said and closed the link. He sunk back into his chair and flicked the egone on again.

This time, it was playing the music he liked. A soft, violin-based song that had easy transitions and a simple melody. A woman was singing (he liked that, hearing women sing. So much more soothing than a man’s voice) about love and joy. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

“Can you hear me?”

Battius sat up straight and his eyes shot open. He looked around, but didn’t see anyone in the room. “Hello?” he called out, but no one answered. He shook his head and rubbed his temple. The song had changed, to one he didn’t recognize but that fit his likes just perfectly. He figured he must have dozed off and dreamed something.

He closed his eyes again to listen. “Hey, can you hear me?”

He bolted up again. Once again, the song had changed. He wasn’t sure if it had been a sudden change or not. He looked at the clock. Several minutes had passed, enough for the song to have changed, but he only remembered the song just starting up.

He looked over at his comms equipment and double checked it was hung up. It was. “Man, I must have had a long day,” he muttered to himself, as much to hear his own voice as anything else.

He kept the egone playing and puttered around his apartment. Eventually, he poured himself a glass of milk and took out two chocolate cookies and began eating. As he was in the middle of taking a drink, he heard, “I know you can hear me.”

He spilled the milk all over the front of his shirt as he began choking on what winded up down the wrong pipe. “Hello? Who’s there?” he coughed out.

“Come on, you can hear me, right?”

He wheeled around, looking for any sign of a person. “Anyone? Is that you, Jessis?”

“Can you hear me?”

Battius suddenly realized that the music had stopped. He put his hand on the egone and waited. A moment later, it came again.

“Hey, can you - ”

He pulled the egone off his head and the voice cut off. He immediately threw the thing on the table and stared at it, as if it were going to start speaking to him again. But without it on his head, his head was empty.

Not willing to suffer through another hour with Egonics customer service, he stuck the egone into a drawer and went to clean himself off.




The next day, Battius chanced the egone and found it working normally. He wondered if he was suffering from some stress related hallucinations, but the only stress he’d had in months was the problem with the egone the night before. Beyond that, he was reasonably content with nearly everything in his life.

As he sat watching his line, making sure that nothing was going wrong, he suddenly heard a voice call out, “Hey! Can you hear me?”

“Son of a bitch!” he yelled, yanking the egone off his head. “What in the world is wrong with this piece of - ”

“HEY!” He suddenly realized that the voice was ringing in his ears, not from the egone. He turned to see his supervisor standing on a catwalk above him. “Battius! Can you hear me?”

Battius waved at him. “Yeah! What’s up?”

“Come to my office when you’re on break, ok?”

“Uh, yeah! Sure!” His supervisor nodded and turned away. Battius swallowed hard and put the egone back on his head.

When he did, “It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo started to play. Battius ripped the unit back off and rubbed his head. He looked at the clock; his break couldn’t come fast enough.




“Sit down, Battius,” his supervisor said.

“Yes, sir.” Battius sat down in the small chair. It wasn’t nearly large enough for him, and he wasn’t a large man either. He fidgeted a minute to get comfortable, but finally gave up. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“Well, Battius, it’s time for your yearly performance review.”

“I see, sir.”

“How do you think you’ve done over the past year?” His supervisor eyed him oddly.

“Well, sir, I think I’ve done a good enough job,” Battius answered.

“Oh, do you?” His supervisor sounded surprised. “Good enough, hmm?”

“Well, sir. I haven’t had any problems. I haven’t let any contaminants slip through when I’m on line duty. I’ve even caught a few times where someone else was about to let some go by.”

His supervisor nodded. “Mmmhmm, and you think that’s Can you hear me?”

Battius blinked and shook his head. “Um, excuse me sir?”

His supervisor frowned. “I said, you think that’s just good enough?”

“Oh, well, I thought so. If I need to do more, or I’m doing something wrong, I’ll - ”

His supervisor laughed, cutting him off. “No! My goodness, no. Battius, you’ve done much better than good enough. You’ve been one of the best employees we’ve had over this past year.”

Battius tried to contain his surprise. “Oh, well, sir, thank you. I’ve only been trying to do this job the best I could. I’d figured everyone would be doing what I’d do.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why I’ve decided to recommend you for a promotion to a supervisor role yourself. You’re clearly too good to be stuck working a line. Can you hear me?”

“Yes, sir, I can hear you fine.”

His supervisor paused. “What?”

“Hmm?”

“What do you mean, you can hear me fine?”

“You asked if I could hear you.”

His supervisor raised an eyebrow and squinted at him. “No, I said ‘How does that sound’?”

“Oh. Sorry, sir. Yes, it sounds great, sir. I’d love to be a supervisor. I think I’d be a good supervisor.”

“Are you feeling alright, Battius?”

“Yes, sir. I feel fine.”

He leaned back and tapped the side of his head. “Can you hear me?”

Battius didn’t say anything.

His supervisor leaned forward. “Battius?”

“Yes sir?”

“Can you hear me?”

“I’m sorry sir, I thought you asked if I could hear you again.”

“I did.”

“Oh, then yes, I can hear you fine.”

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you’re sure you can hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Still, I want you to get down to the doctor and have your hearing checked out. Take the rest of the day off and go get it done. If there’s something wrong with your hearing, better to find it out soon while we can still get it fixed, right?”

“That’s very generous, sir. I’ll head to my doctor as soon as I leave.”

“Good. Well, that’s all for now, Battius. You have a good day. And keep that supervisor job in mind. I’m sure my bosses will want to interview you about it soon.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.”

“Have a good day, Battius.”

“You too, sir.” Battius squeezed out of the chair and walked out.




Battius didn’t go right to the doctor like he said. First, he took his egone back to the dealer and told them about the problems he’d been having. They didn’t believe him at first, but he insisted they check it out. Neither the cashier nor the manager found any problems with it.

“Just keep listening to it. It happens intermittently.”

They promised to check it out while he was at the doctor’s, so he left and headed there. He had to wait for quite some time, listening to the music that was playing in the doctor’s office. It was all terrible pop tunes, warbled by singers who were known more for their looks and flash than their singing.

“The doctor will see you now.”

Battius walked into the office and sat down. “So, what’s the trouble?” the doctor said as he walked in.

“Well, nothing, really,” Battius told him. “But my boss thinks I might be developing hearing issues - I work in a reprocessing plant, you see - and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t having problems.”

“Hmm, and why does he think this?” the doctor asked as he reached for a odd tool that looked like a torque wrench.

“Well, I was in his office and he asked me something, but I thought he said ‘Can you hear me?’ And there was a problem with my egone last night where I kept hearing someone say that, so I asked him to repeat himself. And then he actually asked me that question later, but I didn’t answer him, because I thought I’d imagined it.”

The doctor frowned. “Hmm, I see. Well, let’s take a look at your ears, shall we?” The doctor stuck the end of the instrument into Battius’s ear. A moment later, he repeated it with the other one. “Well, there’s no structural damage. Let’s just make sure you’re hearing everything fine.”

He pulled out another tool and put it in Battius’s ear. “Tell me when you hear the tone.”

“Ok.” Battius waited a moment, until a very low tone sounded. “I heard it.”

“Good. And the next one.”

A moment later a slightly higher tone sounded. “Heard it.”

“And the next.”

A higher tone sounded. “Heard it.”

“Ok, now a continuous tone will sound. Tell me when it stops.”

A low tone began and slowly raised in pitch until it was almost painfully high, when it suddenly cut off. “It’s gone,” Battius said.

“Hmm… Well, let’s see with the other ear.” The doctor repeated the process with similar results. “Well, Battius, I have to say that you have excellent hearing. Better than most people, actually.”

“Thank you.”

“There’s no warning signs I can see. But if you have any more problems or keep hearing things, come back and let me know, ok?”

“Yes, I will. Thank you.”

“You can speak with my secretary about payment.”

“Right.”




When Battius returned to the Egonics store, the employees told him there was nothing wrong with the unit. “We listened to it the entire time you were gone and didn’t hear any strange songs or voices.”

“Are you sure?” Battius asked. “I mean, it would happen after only an hour or two. Was the same person listening to it the entire time?”

“Yes,” the manager said. “Then we had our tech guy check it out. He didn’t find any physical problems with it.”

“Well, I know I’ve been having problems with it. I don’t know what the problem is. Have you heard of anyone else having this problem?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we haven’t.”

Battius sighed and ran his hands through his hair.

“Look, how about we give you a replacement unit? Yours is still under warranty and even though we can’t find a problem with it, there might be something they’ll find at the shop.”

Battius lit up. “Yeah, that sounds great!”

The manager retrieved a replacement egone and Battius happily left with it. He had a big smile on his face.




That night, Battius put the egone on. Almost immediately, “It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo started playing. Battius screamed and tore the egone off.

“Someone has to be fucking with me,” he sighed after he calmed down. He put the egone back on and listened as “It’s In Our Heads” restarted. He bore it until the end of the song.

“Finally decided to let it go through, huh?” the voice asked him.

“Who is this?” Battius asked.

“That’s a good question,” the voice answered. “I’m someone inside your head.”

“Why are you doing this to me?”

“Also a good question. I wish I knew. You just seem to be the one that’s been… selected.”

“Selected by who?”

“Me, I suppose. I think I had this all planned out, but I can’t quite remember. I think it’s taken too
long.”

“What’s taken too long?”

“You finally listening to the entire song.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Hell if I know! Hey, it’s been a pleasure chatting to you. I think I’m going to send you back to the music.”

Almost immediately, “It’s In Our Heads” started playing again. Battius pulled the egone off his head just as fast. He was almost certain that the song kept playing for a few seconds even after the egone was on the table.




The next day, Battius called in to work sick. He hadn’t been able to sleep all night long. Every time he began to drift off, he heard the song again. It never got past the first verse before he bolted upright and grabbed at his head, trying to pull off an egone that wasn’t there.

He sat at home the entire day, with nothing on so the room was silent. He strained to listen for something, but didn’t hear anything. No song, no voices. He stared at the egone, waiting for it to do something.

Naturally, it did nothing. He was sure it would do something, but it didn’t.

Around eighteen-hundred hours, he finally dared put the egone on his head. “So, you’re back?” the voice said. “Enjoy the song.”

Battius didn’t even wait for the song to start before he pulled the egone off. Even so, he still heard about thirty seconds of “It’s In Our Heads.”




The next day Battius had to go to work. He couldn’t afford to miss two days in a row.

He wished he could. “It’s In Our Heads” was playing endlessly in his head on repeat. He had left the egone at home. Even when people talked to him, he could still hear it. Over and over. He knew the lyrics by heart, even though he could barely understand the lead singer’s growling.

He tried to ignore it and concentrate on his work. For the most part, he was able to, but the song was always in the back of his mind, playing on and on. Endlessly. By midday, it was becoming impossible for him to ignore it. He found himself bobbing his head along to the song and even muttering some of the lyrics to himself.

“Hey! Can you hear me!”

“For the last goddamn time, yes! I can hear you!” Battius shouted, before he realized that the Starved Fedo song was still playing and it was his supervisor who had been calling down to him again. He cringed and looked up at the shocked face of his boss, standing beside another man wearing a suit. “Sorry!” Battius said with obvious chagrin. “I… I thought you were someone else!”

His boss loosened his collar and cleared his throat vocally. “Yes, well… When you’re on break, come to my office.” The man in the business suit gave his supervisor a concerned frown and then walked away, with the supervisor animatedly trying to explain as he followed.

“Man, that was embarrassing,” the voice said. Battius didn’t respond. “It’s really me this time. I’m in your head.”

“Go away,” Battius growled.

“You know, if you just think it, I can hear it. No need to make yourself look crazy by talking out loud to a voice only you can hear.”

“What do you want?” Battius grumbled again, still out loud.

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough. I’ve started remembering. It helps to have an actual brain to help me piece things together. Thanks for that, by the way.”

Battius ignored him. The voice stayed quiet for a few minutes; it was the only quiet time Battius had had all day. Finally, the song started again.




He had no choice but to visit his supervisor’s office at break time, even though the song was playing louder than ever and Battius could barely think. His own thoughts were being drowned out by a song he didn’t want to hear and he couldn’t turn off.

“Sit down, Battius,” his supervisor said. The man in the suit was sitting behind the desk while his supervisor stood. Battius squeezed into the chair, which seemed even smaller than before.

“Yes, sir,” Battius said, louder than he anticipated. Both men’s eyes went wide. “Sorry, sirs,” Battius apologized. He wanted to tell them about the song, but he knew what they’d think if he did.

The man in the suit cleared his voice. “Well, your supervisor has been telling me a lot of good things about you,” he said. “He says you’re one of the best line employees he’s ever seen.”

“I do my best,” Battius answered.

“I’ve been reviewing your performance reviews for the past three years and I have to say… Quite impressive, quite impressive.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Hey, it’s almost time,” the voice in his head said, interrupting the music.

Battius ignored him. “Your supervisor has recommended you for an opening as a supervisor,” the man in the suit told him. “We may be taking his suggestion, but we wanted to speak with you first. First, why not tell me about…”

It seemed as if the man’s voice grew quieter until Battius couldn’t hear him. “Yeah, so, I’m almost ready there my man,” the voice in his head said. “I have to say, it’s been a real pleasure being with you and all. I know it’s only been a few days, but - ”

“Shut up!” Battius blurted out loud.

Again, both the supervisor and the man in the suit’s eyes went wide. “Excuse me?” the interviewer asked, his expression quite harsh.

“Uh, I mean, um…” Battius stammered. “I didn’t mean to say that, it’s just… um… Well, I’m a bit nervous, I’ve never been interviewed for a position like this, and I was sort of talking to my own thoughts and it just sorta popped out loud.”

The supervisor and the man in the suit exchanged looks of concern. Battius pressed on. “What I meant to say was I am a very hard worker. I expect nothing but a hundred percent from both myself and those around me. If I was a supervisor, I would be the exact same and expect the same thing of those under me.”

The man in the suit did seem pleased by this answer. Perhaps he was happy to put Battius’s odd behavior behind them. “Well, how about…”

Again, the man’s voice trailed off into silence. “Ok, now, that wasn’t very nice,” the voice said. “You should just cooperate, things will go much easier for you if you do.”

“Leave me alone,” Battius thought at the voice.

“Oh, so you’re speaking to me on my level now. How nice. Look, it’s too late for you to be nice to me. You tried ignoring me for days and then tell me to shut up once we finally do start talking! You think I’m going to just go away because you ask?”

“This interview is very important to me!”

“Not that it really matters, but you won’t be getting the job anyway. The two of them have been waiting for you to answer their question for like a minute now.”

“What?” Battius blurted out loud. “I mean, can you repeat the question?”

“Battius, are you alright?” the supervisor asked. “I thought you told me that the doctor said there was nothing wrong with your hearing.”

“I… I d… did,” Battius stuttered. “Maybe he missed something. I don’t know,” he answered lamely.

“If you are having difficulties, perhaps we should reschedule this interview for another day,” the interviewer said.

“No!” Battius cried, nearly coming out of his seat. The interviewed leaned back, nervousness etched on his face.

The supervisor put a hand on Battius’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Battius,” he said. “Go ahead back to the doctor. Have him check you out again. We’ll just pretend this day didn’t happen, ok?”

Battius grabbed the front of his head as the music started up again. “Yeah,” he managed to get out. He glanced at the interviewer, who was writing something down on a pad, and he knew that this day certainly did happen. “Yeah, I’d better go. Sorry,” he muttered before stumbling out of the office.

The song grew louder and louder. He didn’t even bother to get his things as he left the building. He wandered down the road, the song becoming more omnipresent in his mind. “It’s in our heads!” the singer screamed over and over. “It’s in our heads!”

Battius realized that he was screaming it too. People were staring at him, a few were pointing and laughing. He began to run down the street. He ran until he wasn’t sure where he was anymore. Still in the city, on a highway he knew. On an overpass, he realized. It was a long fall.

The song stopped. “Don’t do it,” the voice said.

Battius jumped. The landing was more painful that he thought it’d be. He thought he’d go into shock, or even just die instantly, but he was still alive. A few vehicles passed over him harmlessly, but others began to swerve out of their lane and away from him.

“Dammit, you ruined it,” the voice said. “Now I’ll have to start all over again. Thanks a lot.”

The voice went away. Battius tried to suck in a breath, but couldn’t. He could feel his heart stopping. Things were starting to go black. He smiled.

“It’s In Our Heads” by Starved Fedo started up.



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