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[SSFST] Midnight Radio

Midnight Radio
by Stewart Wilson

Gideon's car chewed up the asphalt and spat it out. Headlights lanced into the night, cones of white light through the dull orange glow of the street-lights. A late night drive, he's hoped to get to Edinburgh before anyone found him. His hand groped for the radio knob. He could never find the station he wanted in London's crowded airwaves, but away from the city he had no idea which stations were available. He slowly walked the dial of the old device through the medium wave range, pausing at every scrap of music. Something classical, no. Manufactured pop, no. Politics phone in, tempting to join in, but no.

He'd almost reached the end of the waveband thirty miles north of the Watford Gap, when a voice caught his ear.

"If there's anybody hearing this, please..." Static fizzed, and the voice continued, "..eed help."

He slowed, and pulled in to the hard shoulder, trying to get a clear signal.

"If there's anybody hearing this, please. My parents are already dead. I need help. All that's not been smashed is this radio. God, please help... please. I'm at Corely Farm."

Something in the voice gave him pause. Local radio stations still broadcast in this area, and he couldn't just ignore a call for help. But the chance of a farm girl broadcasting an SOS over the commercial airwaves was way too slim for his liking. He frowned and reached for his cell-phone. The car may be old fashioned, but Gideon himself was far fonder of modern technology. The facilities in the device still baffled him but he knew enough to get basic directions, and the online site had heard of the farm. He permitted himself a squeal of wheel-spin as he set off again, heading for the source of the midnight transmission as it repeated itself out of the car speakers.

If anyone had lived at Corely Farm, it hadn't been in the past twenty years. The pathway to the buildings was overgrown, so Gideon parked the car and took the tyre iron resting on the back seat. He was damn sure he had a soft spot for girls in trouble, but he certainly wasn't stupid. As he crept up the track, he noted that a lot of the glass in the windows was broken. There was the sound of static from inside as he eased the door open.

The farmhouse was dark and practically skeletal. Nothing had lived inside it for the last twenty years, and when it had been abandoned it had been smashed up. Random holes gaped in the lath and plaster interior walls. The skeletal remains of shattered light bulbs hung forlornly from unadorned fittings. There was the hiss of static in the background, the low-volume throb of a radio just out of tune. Hefting the tyre iron, Gideon pressed on. The kitchen was darker than the hallway, and reminded him of why some people were afraid of the dark. The static was somewhat louder through here. The smell of long-rotten food had permeated the walls, along with mildew and mould, making him gag.

As he bent down, a large rat reared up before skittering into the darkness. Heart racing, Gideon nearly collapsed. The rat had been unexpected, but he was acting like an amateur creeping around a dark house at night. That wasn't how he had been taught. A deep breath, then another. Listen for the sound of the static. Work out where it's coming from. Careful steps, so as not to freak anything else out. One step at a time. Prod the door open at arm's reach. Look before you leap.

The next room must have been the local studio, a focal point back when the local area was just farms. No tape deck or even a record player. Just a broadcasting set, microphone and speakers. Purely functional, but that's all it would have needed. The whole thing was given a somewhat ethereal quality by the missing roof tiles, causing moonlight to bathe the room. The static was coming out of the set. A step forward and the girl's voice rang out, much clearer than in the car. The tears in the voice. The desperate tone. It was like he was present for this final broadcast.

"If there's anybody hearing this, please. My parents are already dead. I need help. All that's not been smashed is this radio. God, please help... please. I'm at Corely Farm."

She hadn't intended to end the broadcast there. The set clearly picked up a wet thump before fading to static. A few seconds later the message started over again.

The message seemed to swim in and out of tune as Gideon walked around the set carefully. Just turning seemed to change it. Close in by the desk was a dark stain, something that no amount of weather could remove. He paused, turning. The static in the transmission rose and fell slightly, the tone of the girl's voice becoming more and less hopeful. He took three quick strides to another side of the room. The same thing happened as he turned, but at different angles. Carefully, he started walking, ears pricked.

Following his ears, he ended up back in the kitchen, face to face with a pile of debris. On impulse, he started to dig through it. Nothing, though he was careful to move everything. Standing, his foot brushed one of the floorboards. Which clunked. The tyre iron and a length of wooden lat helped him pry the board loose, and once it was out the next two followed suit easily. Mostly stripped by the hand of time, the bones were unmistakable. The broadcast was much louder in his ears. A plastic sheet caught his eye, and he made about placing the remains on the sheet. He couldn't remember much of his formal training in funerals, but he'd attended enough to have an idea of how these things should be, and it felt right to do something here.

With the bones gleaming in the pale moonlight at the back of the farmhouse, Gideon searched for a shovel. The hole he dug in the hard earth wasn't six feet, but it was low enough. He lowered in the remains carefully, remembering to leave them face up. A proper burial was somewhat of a rarity for an exorcist, but the more he thought about it the more seemed to come to him through gut feeling. He didn't have a speech or a eulogy for the girl. He hadn't known her, still didn't know her or what had happened. But he would certainly find out. He managed his way though a short prayer before filling the grave and fashioning a crude cross to serve as a burial marker.

As he finished, he heard the background noise of the radio fade away. It was almost sunrise, he'd spent a goodly amount of time at this house. But as the noise faded, Gideon fancied he could hear two words drifting on the early morning breeze.

"Thank you."

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Comments

( 9 informants — We want information! )
dj_rabid_angel
Dec. 12th, 2003 06:57 pm (UTC)
Sweet. Fucking. Story. You should record it and mail it to me, with that sexy Brittish voice of yours, for play on Corruption's Manifesto.
digitalraven
Dec. 12th, 2003 07:05 pm (UTC)
You know, I just might. Need to track down my real mike, the built-in one ain't good for recording.
dj_rabid_angel
Dec. 12th, 2003 07:07 pm (UTC)
That would fucking rock on toast. The story is right in tune with our show's motif, it's very well written and we could use some British class to mute our course American bluster. :-)
dj_rabid_angel
Dec. 12th, 2003 07:13 pm (UTC)
^ Coarse! COARSE! I m sow tipologikly chalnged twonite! Fuhk!

I actually deleted my first response to Kill's story because I had talked about reading your pice (sp).
eternalxwhisper
Dec. 12th, 2003 07:26 pm (UTC)
Awesome Story. Absolutely loved the twist. Also like the way you describe everything in it making the readers visulise whats happening!
everinward
Dec. 13th, 2003 06:25 am (UTC)
Two thoughts.
0)Best I've seen from you yet, chap.
1)You taught me to lj-cut, chap.
dj_rabid_angel
Dec. 13th, 2003 07:42 am (UTC)
Eh. I really don't mind when the short stories aren't cut. Other stuff, certainly, but the short stories are OK uncircumsized. It gives me more incentive to read them because I don't have to add an extra click to get to the goodies. Similary, I really wish they'd do away with wrapping gifts.

Me? Lazy? No!
digitalraven
Dec. 13th, 2003 08:17 am (UTC)
0) Strange how people say the stuff that they like more is the stuff that I like less.
1) Why break the habit of a lifetime?
everinward
Dec. 13th, 2003 08:03 pm (UTC)
0)You obviously have no taste in fiction. This felt, I'll grant, more narrative and significantly less evocative. Evocation is damned hard to do well, but perhaps it is the component of your own writing you most appreciate.
1)Break everything.
( 9 informants — We want information! )

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