by Shane Migliavacca
I've been at WHNT (The Heart of Upstate New York!) for the last twelve years. For the last five I've been the Broadcast Assistant. I don't know about other radio stations but at WHNT it's basically do the shit nobody above me wants to do. Mostly being the in-between for our producer Monica "Mo" Foster. I worked mainly on our late night call in show: The Mad Man Marks Show. It was a chilly August night when I got to the station. I take a look at the lights from town. We're on the outskirts here. It's only a ten minute walk from here to town. But tonight it feels so distant.
Sam our technical assistant and Mo were grabbing a quick smoke by the door. Mo looked at her watch.
"Pushing the envelope." Mo says. "Again."
Sam smiles and Mo gives her a dirty look. Mo drops her cigarette and crushes it under her sneaker.
"Show's starting soon." Mo says. She pulls open the door. "So keep it in your pants." She goes in. Letting the heavy glass door slam shut. No doubt for our benefit.
"Hey." Sam says.
Sam Kimbrough was fresh from collage last year when she got a job at the station. A local girl. It's funny I never recall seeing her in town till she got the job. The fact that we've been sleeping together for the last five months is probably the worst kept secret at the station. She takes one last drag on her cigarette.
"Thought you were vaping?"
"I am. Forgot to charge the fucker."
She puts the cigarette out. "Had to bum one off of Mo."
"Want to come over later?"
"We actually gonna do more than fall asleep on the couch watching cartoons?"
"Sure. I promise we won't fall asleep."
"Good. We better get in there."
"No doubt. She already wants to hit me."
"Our topic tonight: The disappearance of Molly Garvin." Says Tommy Marks our late night host. Molly Garvin was from Castle. A couple towns away from here. She went missing a few days ago before Fourth of July. Her car was found still running with its doors open. Her cell phone in the passenger's seat and the radio playing. She'd been headed to her friend's cabin for the long weekend. Search parties have come up with nothing. A three thousand dollar reward is offered to anyone with information leading to her being found.
Stevie. Tommy's on air sidekick pressed a button on his console. "We've got our first caller." He says.
"The fun begins." Tommy says. "So, what are you thinking about this disappearance?"
A man's voice comes through the speakers. "I think it might be a stunt Tommy."
"A stunt? What kind of stunt?"
"A publicity stunt man. They're talking on the news how LeAnn Rimes is her favorite singer. And they're trying to get her to come up here for a charity event."
"I've heard about this Tommy." Stevie adds. "Molly's parents have been talking to her over the phone."
"Okay. That's all good and all guys." Tommy says. "But to what end? Say Molly shows up all of a sudden with some crazy story. What does she get?"
"A reality show." The caller answered. "Everything is about having your own show now."
"Our maybe she gets a book deal. Goes on Ellen." Stevie says.
"Good points guys. Definitely something to think about."
"We got another caller Tommy."
"Thanks for your call sir. Who we got next? What's your take on this missing girl?"
A woman's voice answers him. "She's a sinner Mr. Marks."
"A sinner this Garvin girl. I've seen the way they flaunt their little bodies on the street. Barely wearing anything. Sleeping with whomever they want. They have children out of wedlock Mr. Marks. No souls. Sin. Sin. Sin. All of the sinners! The devil-"
Stevie quickly cut her off. Dropping her call.
"Well that was interesting." Tommy says. "I'm sure it's all downhill from here."
After the show went to commercial break I made my way to the break room. I needed something cold. Sam was already there eating some chips. Without saying a word she offered me some chips. I took a big greasy handful of chips.
"This is what I love about our relationship." I say.
"The junk food?"
"Not the great sex?"
"Well that’s kind of one sided ain't it? I get the great sex with the twenty something and you get to ride an old guy."
"I never thought about it like that. You gonna drop dead on me old man?"
"If I'm lucky. That's one hell of a way to go."
"Why are we seeing one another?"
Mo looked a little pissed when we got back. I was starting to wonder if she had the break room bugged. "Enjoy your break?" She asked. Not sounding too sarcastic.
Before I could answer Stevie put on a new caller.
"So what's your opinion caller?" Tommy asks.
There's just dead silence on the line. He looks at Stevie who just shrugs. Then at us.
"Hang we got another caller on the next line."
Stevie puts it on.
Nothing. Dead silence again.
"I's going to be one of those nights." Stevie says. "Well we got one on line three."
"Third times the charm. Who do we got on line three?"
A loud metallic hum answers Tommy. The hum gets louder and louder till Stevie cuts it off.
"Guess three's not the one."
Stevie tried line four. Silence. But at least it wasn't that noise again.
"Sam, everything's working like it should, right?" I ask.
She looks up at me a little frustrated and nods.
"Well, line five just lit up." Stevie says. "Shall we."
"Maybe five is the charm." Tommy answers. "Hello, please be a caller?"
Nothing. It was going to be more of the same. Then, a monotone male voice answered. "There are those among you who know the true of this. There are parallel realities. The walls of which touch ours. These realities are overseen by the Agharti."
As I listened it felt like someone was running nails of a chalkboard. My body shuddered.
The voice continued. None of us wanting or unable to interrupt it.
"There are areas that are weaker than others. Where one may cross over. Some get stuck in-between. In the timeless void. They become shadows. They are all around us. If you become aware of them they become aware of you. This is what happened to the girl. She is one of them now."
The line went dead. There was dead air for almost a minute as we were all frozen in our spots.
"Go to a commercial." Mo says. Finally breaking the eerie silence left in the calls wake.
Tommy announces the commercial break. His voice shaky.
"What the hell was that?" He finally says.
"Sam, bring up that skit from a few months ago. We'll play that so we can take a breather after that." Mo says. "I need a smoke."
Sam bummed another smoke off of Mo. They went outside for a quick smoke while I stayed inside the studio with Stevie to keep an eye on everything.
"Man...That guy's voice." Stevie says. Cracking his knuckles. "It was fucking intense."
"You got that right."
As we talked a not so funny call in skit with Tommy and Stevie played.
"I've never wanted to go home and get drunk off my ass more." He says.
I laugh. "Yeah. I'd have to agree with you."
"What-What do think all that shit was man?"
"I'd say just another nut if it wasn't for all the crap that happened around it. The other lines. The effect it had on all of us."
"You think he's right about Molly Garvin?"
"I hope not."
Mo comes back. She looks a little better then when she'd left. She was pale white and looked nervous. Her hands had been shaking. The color had returned to her face. And she seemed a bit calmer.
"Go calm down your girlfriend." She says to me.
Stevie makes a face like he wants to laugh.
"Where's Marks." Mo asks. "Get him back here."
"Taking a piss I think." I say before leaving.
"Snorting something white is more like it." I hear Mo say as the door closes behind me.
I stop by the bathroom first. Tommy is splashing some water on his face. He doesn't look high. Not that I have much experience there. But I don't think he'd look like he just looked like he'd just been crying.
"Come to collect me?"
"Yeah, Mo want you back."
He splashes his face once more before turning off the water.
"That voice." Tommy says. "Cut my heart out."
"You gonna be okay?"
"I guess. Can't go home. No show without the Mad Man right? She'd kill me if I bailed."
"I can't deny, she would. Then she'd come after the rest of us."
We both laugh.
"Duty calls bro."
He walks past me, patting me on the shoulder. The bathroom door creaks shut, leaving me alone. Suddenly the bathroom took on an eerie presence. The empty stalls seemed threatening. The shadows deeper, darker. I felt my pulse quicken. I rushed out of the bathroom.
By the time I found Sam, standing outside by the front door, I felt foolish. I was letting that weirdo caller get to me too. I walk outside. The night was cool. The smell of cigarettes hung heavy in the air. Sam sat on the corner of the brick flower arrangement by the entrance.
"Hey. Back to work?" She asks.
"Can we get drunk after work? Or failing that just fuck like crazy?"
"Don't see why we can't do both."
I look off in the distance at town. Between us and the edge of town is a small fenced in building, almost like a concrete shack. Lit up by two large lights mounted on its sides. I'm not quite sure what it's there for. But I'm struck by how lonely it looks. How all alone it feels out here at the station. As if the rest of the world had been wiped away by some great cataclysmic event.
"How are you feeling?" She asks. "Everyone else is going mental."
"I'm okay. What's your status?"
That gets a smirk out of her. When we first met, Sam said I was a robot. Mainly because I never showed any emotion during any kind of crisis. She also thought I moved like a machine when I was working. One day I started talking like a robot to her. Asking about her "status." She laughed thinking about it all day. Not long after we started seeing each other.
"Fine I guess."
She flicks her cigarette into the night. It hits the sidewalk in front of the station. Sending out bright little embers that quickly fade away into the darkness.
During our break the phone lines started lighting up. Almost every call reported the same thing: a weird reaction to that last call. Some got nausea from the call. Others say their heart started racing. People with pets say their pets started acting weird. The rest of the show turned into a discussion about that weird caller and what it could have been. A few of the callers, brave souls I'm guessing, wanted us to play the call again. After a few more callers asked to hear it. Ones that had missed it, Mo decided to play it.
As the playback starts I can feel the hairs on my arms stand up. When the caller said. "They are all around us." All hell broke loose.
The power clicked off. Everything went black. I hear Mo swear. Tommy laughs somewhere in the darkness. I hear Stevie bang into something and yelp in pain. Sam grabs my arm. I'd was standing next to her when the power died.
After what seemed like minutes before the emergency lights kicked on.
"Shit." Mo says. "Shit."
"Well, that worked well huh?" Tommy says.
"Is it just us?" Sam asks.
"I'll go look." I say. Already headed for the door.
The emergency lights didn't help dispel the feeling of dread creeping up my spine. The shadows seemed alive as I made my way towards the front door.
I walked outside. Everything was a lot darker now. The lights at the entrance and the station sign where both out.
I looked towards the town. Everything was out, including the lights on that little fenced in building. I could hear dogs barking in the distance. And what sounded like every car alarm in town going off. Including the ones in our parking lot.
I went back inside. As I walked down the hallway I became aware of movement of to my left. A person standing there. I turned, thinking it was one of my coworkers. But there was only shadows. It had looked human. My heart started beating faster. I felt sweat beading up on my forehead. I was starting to freak out. I couldn't lose it. Not now. Not with this crazy shit happening tonight. I heard Sam screaming in the studio and started running.
Only to be knocked down as Tommy came running out of the studio, Sam right behind him.
Sam and Tommy grab nearly run me over in their panic. Until they realized it was me they were trampling. They grab me, pulling me to my feet.
"Run!" Tommy says. His face white.
"The fuck? What's wrong?"
"It-It got Mo and Stevie!" Sam says.
"A-A man. Came out of the shadows." Tommy answers.
"He was a shadow!" Sam cuts him off.
"Just go goddamn it!" Tommy says starting down the hall. Sam and I follow as he runs.
We get outside just as the street lights are starting to flicker on. The car alarms are still going. Tommy pulls out his car keys, fumbling with them as he tries to turn his alarm off.
Sam nods frantically.
Tommy gets in to his car.
"C'mon!" He says. He starts the car.
Sam pulls me towards the car. I still couldn't wrap my head around what they'd told me. My legs felt like they were weighed down by concrete.
"We can't help them." Sam pleads. "Let's go please."
I follow her towards Tommy's car. I see Tommy look in the rear-view mirror, just as a large shadow man took form in the back seat.
"Tommy!" We both scream. But he never had a chance as it reaches out with long wispy fingers. Its fingers seem to burrow into Tommy. Tommy starts to...The only thing that comes to mind, the only thing I can think of is dry up. You know the sound a straw makes when you get to that last bit of Milkshake? The sound of nothingness. That's what it sounded like as Tommy seemed to dry up. Becoming almost skeletal until he faded away. His remaining body folded into the Shadow Man's form.
I didn't realize that we were running down the street. We make it to the first street light. I look back and see the Shadow Man standing there in front of the station's sign. I turn and look at that small shack. So brightly lit. Could that stop him? I turn back and look at the Shadow Man. He's much closer now. Half way between us and the station. He couldn't could have cleared that much distance in only a couple seconds.
"That little shack. We got to get to that. Stick to the lights. And don't look back."
I start running, pulling Sam along with me. We run, hand in hand. Like lovers running on the beach in some cheesy movie. Hold hands you love birds.
Behind us the darkness looms. The light from the street lights behind us goes out, one at a time. I hear them pop. Maybe they’re not strong enough to withstand him. We're almost there. And we go down. Both of us falling to our knees. I'm not sure what caused it, just that we have to get back up.
Sam screams. Terror and pain rushing out of her mouth. I feel her grip on my hand go slack. She looked. She looked and it got her. I hear that noise. The sound of nothingness. I want to see her one last time. But I know the horror that would greet me. Instead I picture her smiling as I get to my feet and run. With all my strength I run towards those bright lights. Trying to outrace the darkness gaining behind me.
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