Radio Days (Flash Fiction)

I think I got everyone.

“I know you do.  You’ve already told me.  Maybe a thousand times just today.”

I think I got everyone.

The voice from the radio repeated its singular message as the old man set his soup bowl on the end table and began the long, slow process of rising from his chair.  His legs shook as they bore the weight of his frail frame.  It seemed to take more time each day to reach the stooped position that now passed for standing, but he honestly had no idea.  There was no one to provide him reference.  He had been alone now for more years than he could remember.

I think I got everyone.

“I know.  You took them all.  Just like you said you would.”  The old man shook his head.  “You’d think after all these years your kind would have come up with something else to say.  Feel free to mix it up a little.  I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

The old man laughed.  It was a wheezy, raspy sound that devolved into a phlegmy, racking cough, exchanging gallows humor for pain and swapping a moment of levity for a briefly paralyzing fear that had been creeping up on him in recent months.

Staring at the living room wall brought no answers.  It never did.  There was no comfort to be found in the faded blue wallpaper.  He was dying, and nothing would stop it.  It had just taken so damned long to get here.  He wished he could find relief in that final, inevitable release, but too much time had passed.  He’d outlived his faith, and now he dreaded the oblivion that awaited him.

I think I got everyone.

Those words, always present, ever invasive, got his feet moving again.  He shuffle-stepped his way into the kitchen for his afternoon medication.  Yellow one for the heart; pink one for the cholesterol.  Just as it had been before the invasion.  His meds arrived every month in the mail, though nothing else ever did.  And despite the fact that postal workers had long since become extinct.

“You’re a cruel people,” he said.  “Or whatever you are.”  He popped the pills into his mouth and washed them down with a swallow of water.  Just like the mail, the tap, electricity, gas, everything he needed to stay alive in his little hut of isolation, all still worked.  Even the food was delivered, though he didn’t know why or how.  He wondered if they watched him.  He was pretty sure they did.

The old man ran his hand over the backs of picture frames that lay face down on the kitchen counter.  In the end, it had been easier to stop looking at them.  The people in them weren’t coming back, and he preferred to let their faces fade in his memory rather than have a clear picture of what he’d lost.

That hadn’t always been the case.  There were piles of frames on the dining room table and even more in the bedroom down the hall, but these days he never ventured farther than the bathroom, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept in his own bed.  His chair served him just fine, and as he made his way back there, he promised himself he’d rinse the soup bowl later that evening.  Maybe tidy up a bit.  But at the moment, a nap sounded like a fine idea.  Sleep was a constant companion these days.

“Do you watch me?” He’d never asked them before and wasn’t sure why he did just then.

I think I got everyone.

“Are you sure?  I seem to be kicking along just fine.  Aren’t I part of the ‘everyone’?  Maybe there are others.  Maybe they bring me my food and my medication.  Maybe where there is one weed there are three or four or even twenty more.”

The old man slowly lowered himself to his chair, letting himself fall the last sixteen inches or so and landing with a small, whimpered grunt.

“Maybe there are others,” he said.

I think I got everyOne.

If the old man noticed the subtle change in message, he gave no sign.  He pulled an afghan from the back of the chair and wrapped it around his legs and then pulled the remainder up over his arms.  He closed his eyes and rested his temple against the padded cushion of the chair’s headrest.  “It would be nice if there were others,” he said.  His voice was soft; his words slurred.

I think I got everyOne.

The old man’s mouth hung open as his breathing slowed.  His body fought the processes that were telling it to wind down, but whatever energy it had left had long since been used up.

I think I got EveryoneThe radio’s voice was a whisper, both excited and reverent. 

The old man’s exhales became more rattle than respiration and eventually stopped altogether.

I think I got everyone.

His expression went slack as his body relaxed, and his facial features sagged against the bones of his skull.  An expectant silence filled the room, broken only by the ticking of the house as it settled on its foundation.  Minutes stretched into hours; night became day.  The old man was gone.

This is better than anything.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

1 Comment

  • Ted Boone says:

    This is a creepy story. Disembodied voices freak me out. Especially when you think they’re something mechanical and automatic, when in fact they’re not. Yikes.

    Thanks for sharing. I very much enjoyed this one.

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