On The Beach


IT IS something we all know; times are getting harsher. As a doctor, a man of science, I take no measure of the claims made by those with a more fundamental religiosity: that the four horsemen are riding. Nevertheless, global warming is allowing disease to spread rapidly, there is conflict over water, famine is ubiquitous and if one was inclined to such views then these clearly are three of the four.

What interests me are the people who are hearing the Voice. It begins as a susurration, like falling rain although with a rhythm, as if wave fronts of rain were rushing back and forth across a tin roof.

This is a common description, though others as often describe the Voice as beginning like the soft rumblings of distant thunder, waxing and waning rhythmically on the edge of perception. There exist no other descriptions of the start of the Voice.

What can we say about these people?  They are exceedingly average in life. Men and women, adults of all ages and walks of life. After interviews and a sifting of their lives, my colleagues and I have determined only one unifying factor: Not a single person who hears the Voice has a diet that includes the flesh of animals. There is one other thing unique to these people and this is the most enthralling; they are no longer with us.

From the descriptions of those who have heard we know that it is a singular voice, some who have heard call it, ‘the Voice’, why we who have not heard cannot say; and those who can are not telling. So how does the rumbling of thunder, the sound of rain, become the Voice? There are two main theories. The first and the one to which I conform, is that these people are hearing the sound of many conversations, a voice speaking to many individually at the same time and until they hear the voice speaking directly to them, all they are hearing is the sound of a room full of chatter or the rumble of talk from a distant hall. The second theory is that these people are, by some method, ‘tuning’ into the voice and the low rumble or high chatter are echoes or ‘scatter’ from the signal.  I disagree with this reading for various reasons that I shall not go into here.

What we do know, and what I have seen, is that this rain or thunder coalesces into a single voice and the person listening goes somewhere we do not know. Please do not misunderstand me, no one else but the person concerned can hear the Voice. They can describe what they are experiencing and here is an annoyance; it is common for those who attend their local doctor to be diagnosed with tinnitus and sent on their way, so we miss many of these people.

It must be extremely frustrating to hear a continuous rustling patter, or a rumbling like someone murmuring in your ear, but from a distance. When this becomes the Voice, it is transformatory. I have had the privilege of seeing this thrice, which is why I can make that assertion. Typically, we know that after about three months of the rain or thunder, the Voice appears. After three months of the noise, for it to clarify into the Voice lifts a stress, relieves a burden, an annoyance. More importantly, the Voice is apparently speaking a message, speaking directly to the person and something happens.

Again this is a frustration, not one person who has heard the Voice has ever told, or even hinted at, what the Voice is saying, what the message, or conversation, is. There is no indication if this is a discourse between them and the Voice or if they are only listening to instructions, learning, kennings, or words that speak directly to the soul. Then they go and we can never ask them again.

As I mentioned, I have seen this thrice. In the first instance, I was speaking with a woman in her home; for no reason I note that it was early winter, the air was crisp, cold and the view from her Mt Nelson abode more than I could afford, but she walked out of that house two days later. I was asking her to describe the patterning, or the beat, of the susurration. She was trying to frame an answer when she stopped, cocked her heard to the right and said, ‘Yes’. That is all. She looked at me and her demeanor had changed, it is difficult to describe but it sent a thrill through me. Her eyes had become pools of clearness and she seemed to read me, I felt that every movement I made, every word I spoke was a doorway for her to see into me, but she was full of love and calmness. I was transfixed and all I managed was to ask what had happened. Her only reply was, ‘I am hearing the Voice’, as if that said everything. She would answer no further questions and politely ushered me from her home. Two days later, she was gone, like the others.

The second was a man I interviewed last month in Glenorchy. He stopped speaking, and his eyes looked through me, in what I would call the ‘thousand yard stare’. He said two words, ‘I understand’, then stood and left the room. He has not been seen since. His look to me as he left, after he had spoken those two words, left me stunned. The peace and joy his eyes radiated and the depth of love in them literally shocked me, I do not have the words to describe the intensity of the gaze of this forklift driver. I have only met one other with such a gaze but I will not speak of them here.

This is the thing; everyone we know who has heard the Voice has gone. It can take hours, but no more than three days that we know so far. Some arrange their financials; others gift things to relatives and children. Some say nothing; others say they are going ‘away for a some time’. Then they vanish.

We do not know what the Voice says or how they vanish. The ones we know of go to popular places; shopping malls, department stores, markets. Surveillance images show them entering, say, Myers department store but they never leave. No search has ever found them. No analysis of camera footage has ever shown them leaving. Their cars are found where they were parked. However, some leave the car in the garage and walk, while others leave their wallets and mobile phones at home. Why crowded, public spaces? It seems that these areas are good places to blend in and lose any followers, as well, those around you are less observant, psychologically shutting out the crowd, you will remember the famous dancing gorilla video.

Therefore, somewhere, the people who have heard the Voice walk through a door, an opening. I think it is as mundane as that. Do they make the door? Does the Voice tell them where to find it? Does whatever the Voice is, make the opening for them? These are real people who hear an annoying sound that becomes a voice and then they vanish, in a clear and deliberate manner. They go somewhere after hearing a voice no one else does in these times of tension, scarcity, and suffering greater than any in history. The only thing that links them is being vegetarian, which led a colleague to remark, albeit ironically, ‘Wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat’.

Those of you who know me will know that I have been laid low, and been largely bedridden, by a severe influenza and bronchitis in the last two weeks. During a night sweat that drenched my pillow I had a dream. The question of the people who hear the Voice has consumed me and perhaps I was given an insight, perhaps a hint to assuage my fever, both literal and spiritual.

In my dream, or reality, I was in Melbourne. In Parliament Station during rush hour, a place I know well as it was my regular cross-connection to Monash University. The crowd was around me but distant, it seemed that that I was moving at a different pace, or rhythm, to them or they to me. At the knowing it seemed, or the prompting perhaps, of a voice I simply ‘turned’. Where I do not know, but I know I left here. In my dream, or reality, I stepped from the railway station onto a beach. A subtropical, warm, moonlit beach with a soft coral sand and low waves surging in the clear night light. In the sand there was a single set of footprints and I knew I had to go where they led because I knew who had made them. That is all. 

However, I do remember that there were other islands nearby and that there were many people close to me, but I could sense they were waiting for me to follow the footprints and be led to them. The islands and sea felt friendly, welcoming and bountiful; as if there was food everywhere and I had to but simply reach out to the nearest plant and find food. I knew that I was welcome, respected and loved, and the people I would meet were like me and I would give them the same respect. That was my dream, or reality; what it gives to the understanding of those who hear the Voice and then disappear, I cannot say.


Jon Sumby

Jon Sumby

What interests me are the people who are hearing the Voice. It begins as a susurration, like falling rain although with a rhythm, as if wave fronts of rain were rushing back and forth across a tin roof.

This is a common description, though others as often describe the Voice as beginning like the soft rumblings of distant thunder, waxing and waning rhythmically on the edge of perception. There exist no other descriptions of the start of the Voice.

What can we say about these people?  They are exceedingly average in life. Men and women, adults of all ages and walks of life. After interviews and a sifting of their lives, my colleagues and I have determined only one unifying factor: Not a single person who hears the Voice has a diet that includes the flesh of animals. There is one other thing unique to these people and this is the most enthralling; they are no longer with us…