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I'll be right back after... (an extract from It might as well be string theory)

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Cal Gulliver gets more than he bargained for when he picks up the mike

Scifi / Horror
Chris Troman
Age Rating:

Chapter 21

I’ll be right back after...

“Goooood evening all you ghouls and monsters out there. And welcome to the Cal Gulliver show, broadcasting at 905am on W.A.L.M. It’s five past midnight, and I hope you’re having a fine Halloween evening out there. So let’s get the party started with Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran.” Cal leaned back on his chair, and did a thumbs up to his producer Bezoomy Horn, as the man on the other side of the glass flashed Cal a grin.

There was never a dull moment at the only radio station serving Little Moscow, the remote settlement that had sprung up almost over night, when the founding fathers of this little community had fled persecution under Stalin’s regime, and found themselves unwanted guests of the Australian government. The powers that be had shipped the boatload of them off to a repossessed sheep ranch, in the back of beyond in Western Australia, and told them to learn the lingo. That they did, and they managed to scape a living to boot, but the heart and soul of their motherland could never be quelled. Which was why Cal’s prank calls and joke news items were always a firm favourite with his loyal listeners; it was in their blood to pull legs.

Bezoomy was chatting animatedly on the phone when the track faded out, so with one eye on Keeshkas Lomtick the sound engineer, as he hovered over Cal’s mike button, and his other on the small yellow light on his own desk that would confirm he was on the air, Cal drew breath for his next link. “What a great track to get this evening’s festivities going. But I think it’s time to phone a Muscovite.” Keeshkas gave Cal a thumbs up, and in seconds the ring tone being broadcast over the airwaves was replaced by “Hello this is the Vanadiy residence, Yuri speaking. How can I help you?”

Stifling a smirk Cal put on a friendly Nigerian accent. “Hello Mr Vanadiy, I am George Mootoobootoolazy, and I am from your bank.” “From my bank?” “Yes from your bank. We need to confirm some details, if you can give me all the information needed to withdraw money from your account.” “I’m sorry, which bank did you say you were calling from?” “Your Bank Mr Vanadiy”, but now Cal’s voice was cracking up, and Keeshkas had faded in the production booth’s mike too, so the hysterical laughter of Cal’s team flooded the airwaves as well. Mr Vanadiy didn’t seem to appreciate the joke though, as the sound of a phone slamming down was swiftly ensued by Cal’s upbeat tone again. “I tell you it’s the only way I’ll get paid this month, but don’t you worry folks, the tracks will keep coming anyway. Here’s Temptation by Heaven Seventeen.” Then he sat back and clutched his side in mirth.

By now Bezoomy was off the phone, and he cut in to Cal’s headphones. “Looks like we might have a real Halloween story. Old man Azot just called in, and said a meteor crashed on his farm. Apparently it squashed his prized sow.” Cal’s face broke in to a grin; he was getting the inkling of a fake story he could weave out of this. You just couldn’t buy this sort of news; it was like gold to him. “You’ll send out Litso strait away won’t you?” A few sound-bites from Nikoly Azot about his pig, and a bit of creative licence; Cal almost forgot to look out for his mike light when the track faded out, but just in time he took up the audio slack, as he broke straight in to a newly thought up fake news story.

“Listeners I have some grave news. Even as I speak the world is under attack; after an exclusive exposé to W.A.L.M. we have been informed of an extra Terrestrial U.F.O. landing at the Azot farm. There have been fatalities; I repeat a resident of Little Moscow has been killed. Do not panic, do not turn off this station, for even now with scant concern for his safely, our intrepid reporter Litso Creech is speeding his way towards ground zero, to give us an on the spot report of the doom we face.” Then as if he had flipped a switch in himself, Cal’s imposing tone became his usual jubilant self. “We’ll be right back after Black Sabbath with War Pigs.”

The light went off on his desk, and Cal quickly turned to Bezoomy. He was on the phone still. Was he getting that useless Litso out of some bar? Cal felt the tension of the moment rising in him. He had to have something to keep the story going until their roving reporter could get out to the Azot place. Then Bezoomy turned face on to Cal. The producers face seemed odd, as if he’s had a shock. Was there a problem with Litso? Thinking quick, Cal decided he could switch to that if needed. Our roving reporter involved in an accident on his way to keep you the listeners informed. Cal rolled the idea around in his head, he liked it. Then Bezoomy’s voice cut through his musings.

“Something’s happened on the way to the story.” Cal leaned forward expectant of his new scoop about Litso’s accident. With a sickened tone of someone describing a horror beyond comprehension, Bezoomy carried on. “Litso was just driving down Grozny Street when he saw Vladimir Myshyak hunched over his dog. So he stopped to see if he could help, when he saw”, he hesitated over his words “He saw Myshyak was eating the poor thing, as it lay there whimpering. And then Myshyak saw Litso’s car.” Bezoomy gulped. “And he came for him.” Hanging on Bezoomy’s every word Cal almost child like asked, “He attacked Litso?”

Bezoomy shook himself. “No, Litso gunned the engine and shot off down Grozny Street like a bomb. But not before he got a good look at Myshyak’s face. He said it looked distorted with rage, but at the same time his eyes were vacant. As if he were some kind of zombie or something.” Bezoomy let the words fall from his lips, as if they seemed too unreal to be trusted; and Cal’s mind raced with what it could mean. Had Myshyak gone mad? Was it anything to do with the meteor crash? Could he weave it in? Then the track ended, and he was back on the air.

“And that was War Pigs by Black Sabbath. Have you ever had one of those night listeners, when you felt the world was ending? Well hang on to your seats, as it’s all going down tonight. Our roving reporter has just now encountered resistance on his way out to the alien-landing site; by evil forces that may just be turning our own town folk against us. With his own eyes, our intrepid reporter Litso Creech saw a zombie attack on Grozny Street, raising higher the death toll in this war”, he hesitated almost choking on his words, “of the worlds.” Unable to carry on, he waved his hand under his throat signalling to Keeshkas to cut his mike, and the next track began; A view to a kill by Duran Duran.

Cal almost leapt at the window between him and the engineer’s booth. “Bezoomy, what’s going on out there? Has the world gone crazy?” But Bezoomy was on the phone again, nodding furiously as if he was getting more grotesque news. The look on his face when he turned once more to Cal, had he D.J. gripping his seat with tension. “I’ve just heard that there’s been reports of meteor strikes all over Australia, they’re raining down like bullets. And reports of zombie like attacks have been coming in too.” Cal’s lips twitched as he tried to take in what he was hearing. Just then a crash broke in to his thoughts; as the door between the outside world and the engineer’s booth flew open, and a figure burst in. It was Groody Brooko, another of radio W.A.L.M’s disc jockeys. But he wasn’t due until mid morning.

Then Cal noticed the look of horror on his face, the wide staring eyes, and his torn clothes hanging like rags. He had slammed the door shut the instant he was though it. “Help me dam it, those things are everywhere.” He turned to the shocked men in the booth. And like an order to fight, both Bezoomy and Keeshkas began helping him in his desperate attempt, to bar the only entrance to their bolthole. Finally with the job completed, Groody turned his haggard face to the room once more and lunged at the control board, rolling his finger at Cal as if to say get going. Cal realised his light was on and the track had just finished; but it took him a second to get his brain moving.

“And I’m back folks with more shocking news. Barricade yourselves in, I repeat barricade yourselves in. The zombie forces are not just confined to our sleepy little town. This is a countrywide phenomenon; it may even be worldwide. We can only guess. So bolt your door and keep tuned to this station. Meanwhile here’s Is it a Dream by The Dammed.” Cal’s mike light went out, and he turned to the control booth. Apparently Bezoomy had just finished telling Groody about Litso, and the rest of the horrific events, when Groody cut in.

“Yea like I’d just left Boris Magniy’s place when I saw a mob coming down the street”, he glanced over at Cal “There faces, they were distorted, grotesque, like snarling beasts, but it was their eyes.” Groody gave a sob and turned once more to Cal, as if the glass between them could protect him from the truth. “Their eyes were dead, sunken and lifeless”, he stiffened, “and then they saw me. It was terrible, I just ran knocking in to whatever blocked my path.” Groody’s eyes reflected the horror in his voice. “How I made it here I don’t know, just instinct I guess.” He ended, but his words were punctuated by a thud at the door, causing everyone in the booth to flinch, and rush to bolster the defences.

But they seemed to hold as the dull thud continued, like a jungle drum. Cal took his headphones off, and was relieved to hear just the peace and quiet of his own beating heart. That was when he noticed the small light on his desk. How long had it been on? The enormity of his crime hit him, to have left dead air on his show, depriving his listeners of the vital link with civilisation. But Keeshkas didn’t seem perturbed by the silence; perhaps it had only been a heartbeat since the track had stopped.

“That was Is it a Dream?” he gulped, “By The Dammed. If you’ve only just tuned in, barricade yourself in I implore you, because a plague of zombies, possibly created by extra terrestrial means has the whole world in its grips, this is not a joke believe me. If we get any more information we will pass it on to you, but for the present stay clam, and stay locked in. We are ourselves under siege from these foul creatures, but despite the provocation from without we will continue; here’s Mudhoney with Here Comes Sickness.”

The light on Cal’s desk went out, and he put his headphone back on; that evil racket still beat out on the door, but it was less pronounced now. Could it be that even the undead could grow weary in their pursuit of the living? Bezoomy held up his phone, “Cal we’ve got officer Med on the line. He’s holed up with Guff Bratchny down at the station, and he’s got some advice for any survivors.” Cal was up on his feet, “Well get him on line, I’ll do an intro and then he can tell everyone his news on air. It’ll help to have a voice of authority, might bring some calm.” By now Cal was half talking to himself, he knew he could do with some calm, and then the track ended.

With a steady voice Cal began, “Welcome back listeners. We can now bring you some news from officer Alexander Med, you know Alexander, who else could bring us hope in the darkness than smart sensible officer Med. He’s taken up a defensive position, and allied himself with our own morning disc jockey Guff Bratchny. Hello officer Med.” There was a pause, but the voice that came back was not the officer, it was that of Guff; he sounded scared.

“Alexander is at the defences, there are some of those zombies trying to get in. But he knows how to kill them. He told me you have to shoot them in the head.” There was a sudden commotion, followed by a rapid banging on the other end of the line. “My god, they’re breaking in, there’s just too many of them.” A loud bang went off, and Cal almost fell off his chair, as the noise resounded through his headphones. “They’ve got him” Guff sobbed, then there was a choking sound as Guff’s terrified voice continued. “They’re dragging him out. Mercy they’re coming in, no Stanislav no”, there was a scream and a gurgling noise, then the sound like flesh being torn apart.

Cal did a cut the feed motion, and sickened looking Keeshkas stabbed at a button on his desk like it was a poisonous insect to be squashed quickly. “That was Stanislav Palladiy” Groody sobbed, “He owed me ten dollars.” Bezoomy gave him a look that could kill, then he nodded to Cal who realised something must be said. “And here’s another track to keep you going through this night of Halloween festivities. Its Alphapville with I die for you today.” Then his desk light went out as Cal sank down with his head in his hands. It was the end of the world, and he was stuck in this rat hole bearing witness to the horrors as they unfolded.

They were defenceless in here, if the hordes of the undead managed to break through that outer door. Would he go out to help his co-workers if that happened? Cal stared out on them and wondered. And then the phone rang. Bezoomy snatched it up, “Litso, where are you? You’re where?” The tension in the room made Cal’s heart ache in desperation, then Bezoomy turned to him. “Litso’s on the roof. We must have missed the sound of him climbing up there with all that noise from the door. I’ll patch him through.” Cal held up his hand, “Wait, the listeners will want to hear this. When the track ends I’ll introduce him”, and Bezoomy nodded.

As the track faded out and Keeshkas put Cal’s mike back on, the D.J. was ready with the intro. “It looks like we may be the only island of sanity left in the world. But if anyone out there is still alive to listen to us, I have a live link to our intrepid reporter, as he stands on the roof of our very radio station, and give us a blow by blow account of the siege that befalls us. I know you will be under attack too, but maybe our account of the invaders from beyond the grave, will help you in your struggle to hold back these forces of evil. We have already heard how they can be stopped by a direct shot to the head, thanks to the brave actions of officer Alexander Med and our own Guff Bratchny, both now deceased. And now I hand you over to Litso Creech, as he holds off the hordes of monsters surrounding our station.” Litso cut in then, and Cal sat horrified at this account of what was happening just outside.

“The masses of these creatures stretch back in to the distance, I don’t know what’s drawn them to this spot, but they seem to be waiting for something. Is it the dawn, or some orders to attack? I simply don’t know. I see some familiar faces down there, grotesquely distorted, there’s Grigori Alyuminiy. He seems to be dragging a dismembered leg like a club. And near to him is Anatoli Tsement; is that some recognition I see in his features, he seems to be pointing at me. I don’t know if they can get up here, but I stand no chance of escaping anyway. I only hope if they do attack, I will die quickly.

Oh I see Alexey Kremniy waving to get my attention. It’s the most animated movement I’ve seen in these creatures. Has he retained a vestige of intelligence? Or is he some sort of conduit for the force that controls these savages. I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. Wait a minute; It’s bring the voice of the radio. Is he demanding to be given our own radio W.A.L.M’s top D.J. Cal Gulliver?

There seems to be a ripple of movement passing through the crowd. Could it be that they have heard my words broadcast over the airwaves?” Cal looked at the men on the other side of the glass, as wide-eyed they stared back. “You can’t do this” Cal whimpered, but the three men were busy pulling the boxes and debris away from the door, and letting the light of the dawn pour in.

As Cal sat rigid, unable to move in transfixed horror; the outline of a figure stepped in to the doorway, as the final track started up; it was Black Sabbath’s Am I Going Insane. And then Cal’s eyes focused on the figure as he stepped in to the studio, it was Litso. But he was grinning like a Cheshire cat, untouched in any way; and what’s more Guff Bratchny followed him in, laughing as he lifted Cal yielding body out of his seat.

“Make way little Droog, I’ve got the morning show to host. Not to mention all your listeners to let in on the joke.” Then Litso led the shocked Cal from the booth, and out in to the light. Blinking Cal looked round for the ravening hordes of zombies, but all he saw was the usual dawn look of his town, and then it hit him. “You bastard Litso, you made it all up, you and those shit heads in there. You had me going all night, thinking it was the end of the world. You made it all up.” LIsto chuckled “Well most of it.” Then Cal began to laugh as well; he had to admit he’d been had royally. “Let’s go for a drink”, he suggested. And they staggered off to find some vodka.

Old man Azot was still fuming though. He had finally managed to drag the metal sphere off Betsy; it’s shiny round body catching the dawn’s rays. Why hadn’t those useless radio people come out to talk to him? Well he’d just have to haul the dam thing on to the back of his truck, and take it in to town, He only hoped it was safe, probably one of those satellites they say wiz round the Earth, funny thing though, with it’s flashing light and beeping noises.

Meanwhile way out in the Ionosphere the command crew of the star ship Velazquez had just finished listening to the damaged probe’s broadcast. The second in command turned to his captain. “I know the probe was damaged on impact, leading to it only being able to monitor native radio broadcasts, but I think the translation proves conclusively that this world to be a dangerous planet to land on. What with some form of undead infestation recently overcoming the population.” The captain mulled over his second in command’s heart felt analysis of the situation, and had to concur. “You absolutely right number one, it’s a pity we got here just too late to save them, but it can’t be helped. We’ll just have to share our advanced technological skills with the next intelligent life forms we meet.” And the glittering craft warped the very space about it, as it departed.

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