There are empires of sound beyond our hearing.
Bram Stoker never put many words in the mouth of Lucy Westenra, the poor little rich girl who made a perfect match in Dracula, only to be claimed as the Count’s bride. But when Frances Ford Cuppola got hold of the novel – and took outrageous liberties with it – he ended up with something that was not Bram Stoker’s, but something which stood in its own right.
Some of the words from the 1992 film have endured. And the strangest snippets: that moment when Lucy tells Dr Jack Seward how new and unsettling changes are overtaking her against her will.
“I’m changing,” she tells Jack. “I can feel it. I can hear everything. I hear the servants at the other end of the house whispering. I hear mice in the attic stomping like elephants.”
It’s a neat twist, the idea that a vampire might develop acute hearing. Perhaps we have plundered it from the territory of the superhero and merged stories to suit our thirst for the reworking of the myths that surround the bloodthirsty count and his terrifying abilities.
The weather has been unusually dry and hot here in England. We are all taking out clothes we have not worn for ten years, since the last warm spell. And my son, who was born in the last year we hit 32 degrees just outside London, is experiencing problems he has never encountered before.
At eleven last night, he appeared at the bedroom door, his face crumpled.
Because he could hear everything.
“I can’t sleep,” he told us, distraught. “I keep hearing the mosquitos flying around the room.”
It is many years since I actually heard a mosquito’s tiny insistent airborne wail. I have grown less sensitive to that frequency with age and it lies beyond me forever now. Felix has acute hearing, and he hears them loud and clear. Maybe he is a superhero in waiting.
We made a bed on the middle floor, far from the buzzing creatures who live life at a frequency which is inaudible to most of us, but raucous to Felix.
At least my son can relocate himself away from the sound.
Not so, Julie Redfern, a 47 year old mother from Lancashire.
For Julie, reports the Daily Mail, it all started when she was playing Tetris, the classic computer game. She heard a strange squeaking noise and couldn’t pinpoint its source. And then, in consteration, she began to realise it was the squeaking of her own eyeballs.
Gradually, Julie began to hear everything: her heartbeat thundering, her brain wobbling in her skull and the rush of the blood in her veins.
Was this normal? She questioned, just as Lucy Westenra did once in a story, and she asked her husband, and then others. Did everyone hear sounds in this way?
No, it transpired, they did not. And after much convincing of General Practitioners and consultants, Julie was diagnosed with superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS) – a honeycombing of the bone in the ear.
She has had an operation on one ear, and expects one on the other shortly; and then she will no longer have super-acute hearing and the world of sounds we never hear will fade once more into the background.
All that vast empire of sound beyond us; a raucous cacophony silent to our ears.
What other sounds must mask themselves, there beyond our range, living a life unheard?