Parte 2

Have you ever met a person who was just … too much person? I’m talking about one single human who sucks the energy out of you as if they were an entire bustling, big city crowd somehow condensed into one body. I think we’ve all met at least one person like this before, the type that makes you wonder how they fit such a big attitude inside themselves without popping like a cheap dollar store balloon.

I met a guy like this. He’s sitting in the room with me right now. I’m sure you’re all here to read about the more … unusual things happening up here at the radio station, and believe me, I have some downright creepy shit to tell you about. But first, I need to introduce you to my new coworker who just started this morning. Today was his first day. Might be his last day too.

His name is Daniel. Daniel is a lot. He’s loud, full of motion, and may genuinely think he’s Bob Barker in the flesh. My boss dropped by during my second week here and noted that I looked ‘weary’. He knew why. I sleep four hours a night if I’m lucky and haven’t gone outside in three weeks.‘Dan will be your part-timer,’ my boss said. ‘Let him take a few responsibilities so that you can get a little fresh air. The folks in town will like a new voice.”

As hesitant as I was, I knew what he meant. I could use the extra help and those at home could use a little conversation to add spice to their listening experience. But I knew right away that Dan and I mix like oil and water. I decided to let him try his hand at announcing, but the first time he turned on his mic and heard him belt out ‘Gooooooooood morning, and would you look at that sunshine!”, I couldn’t help but give him a stare of both disbelief and the fear that if he keeps bellowing like that, he’ll give every old person in town a heart attack on the spot. He'd cut our population in half.

But as much as his over-the-top radio personality irks me, I kind of feel bad for the guy. Not because he tries too hard or because he seems to have some deep-seeded need for attention. That’s all true, but it’s not why I feel bad. I feel bad because … well, right now he’s sitting across the room from me in a fetal position, shivering with blood running out of both ears and one nostril. Weeping.

As far as first days go, Dan had a weird one. At eight o’clock in the morning, he arrived. I think he was surprised to see that he wasn’t getting some cute, spunky thing as his coworker, but rather my tired self with a messy braid and a hoodie filled with two warm granola bars I had forgotten about, but would be delighted to find later on. At nine o’clock, I let him give the weather forecast, and he did so with enthusiasm. Then at ten o’clock, I had to explain to him that the bird on the window with human-looking eyes has been hanging around for days now and probably isn’t up to anything. ‘It’s just ugly’, I reassured him. At eleven o’clock, he told me that there was some creepy human sobbing coming from inside the bathroom sink. I was a bit shaken that he hears it too … but shrugged it off by telling him that it doesn’t excuse him from washing his hands.

Then at noon, exactly on the hour, we got a caller. This was very, very unusual. Of all the things considered weird, the weirdest was the reminder that other people actually live here. I stared at the screen for the longest time, trying to figure out whether or not to answer the call, but ultimately decided that it would be ridiculous not to.

“Hello caller, we’ve got you on the line.” I spoke in a soft, mature ‘radio voice’. The line was quiet for a moment, but I could hear a soft bit of static and the slightest hint of a breath.

“Y-yes, Evelyn.” It was a woman’s voice, probably about seventy years old. She sounded as if she were shivering, which I assumed was just jitters from being live on air. “My name is Rose. I had something I’d like to tell you.”

“Of course, Rose. What’s on your mind today?”

“Well … I’ve had a bout of strange dreams, dear, and I’m wondering if anyone else has had the same. You see, last night, I had a dream in which the forest split in two. Like the parting of the Red Sea, dear. I hope you know the story of Moses, don’t you?”

I spared a glance towards Dan, my lips curved upward in a tiny smile mixed with a grimace, as if to say ‘oh boy, here we go’. He returned it with a witty grin of his own, glad that I was the lucky one to answer. “Um … sure I do, Rose. What happened next?”

“Well, the ground was open and something was rising out of it. It blocked out the whole sky, you see! I can’t even describe it. But it covered everything, the town and the sun - all that my eyes could see. The sound it made … a fearsome bellow that shook the whole earth. Then I woke up. Do you think that God lives in the forest, dear?”

Dan apparently saw the expression on my face, unwilling to answer for fear of … well, offending or encouraging any other very zealous callers, and so he finally did something good for me and answered in my place.

“That’s an interesting dream, ma’am, but I think if God lived in the forest, he wouldn’t give you a nightmare like that!” He laughed, but his laugh was cut off by a snappy tone from the woman on the line. Welp. He tried.

“We’re meant to be afraid of God, dear.” Her voice sounded like a slither, like a hiss. For an old woman, she almost struck a bit of fear in me with that tone. “Besides … I wasn’t talking to you.”

My grimace was gone, replaced by a furrowed brow of concern and very obvious discomfort. I didn’t like this conversation. It had gone from “oh boy” to “oh no” to “oh shit” very, very quickly. I had three weeks to get used to some of the weird mind tricks around this place, but this was different for me. This was real human conflict that I couldn’t just blame on the stress of isolation. Rose’s words and the way she said them bordered on malicious. That sweet, nervous, grandmotherly tone was gone and suddenly I felt as if I were on the phone with someone who genuinely had ill will towards us both.

“…I’m afraid it’s time for the weather, Rose, but feel free to call back should you keep having these very interesting dreams. Thank you for calling, ma’am, and have a wonderful afternoon.” I ended the call, then faced Dan with wide eyes while mouthing the words: block that number.

I wish I could say that the weirdness ended then and there, but we’re never so lucky. After the call from Rose, we had more calls. Two and then three, then seven by the time five o’clock rolled around. They were all very similar. People in town were recounting their dreams, but they weren’t all elderly people talking about God or whatever eldritch abomination they saw rising out of the woods. I heard all types of people, all types of voices. Young and old, some a little quirky and others who seemed more skeptical.

One caught me of guard. I still remember her words perfectly. It was a young woman, maybe my age, and she sounded as if she was hesitant but somehow still desperate to tell anyone about what she had seen.

“I saw a bird with human eyes.” She told me. Right away, I was curious, as this was something a little too ‘real’ on levels of weirdness.

“In a dream?”

“No.” The woman answered. There was a harsh intake of breath from the other side. “I don’t sleep anymore since it started perching at my windows. All of them. Windows that weren’t even there before … Sorry, I shouldn’t have called…”

Before I had a chance to say anything, she hung up the phone. It’s difficult trying to think of the best words to explain how I felt after that phone call. Regret, I think. I felt somehow responsible for the sorrow and hesitance in her voice, the way she saw some need to apologize for telling me what she saw. There was a deep pit of dread in my stomach. I hope she’s okay, whoever she is, and that she figures out where all those extra windows came from.

I’ll admit that I had to take a break from writing this in order to tend to my new coworker. I had said that he had a rough first day. ‘Rough’ is a bit lax of a word. At first, he was only a bit spooked about the general weirdness up here. But after what happened with our final phone call of the day, there was enough to warrant actual concern for his physical health.

I let Dan take over all the controls while I left just long enough to make a sandwich, realizing that it was almost nine o’clock at night and I had yet to feed my flesh prison that entire day. Human bodies: they’re obnoxiously needy. He had a call come in, which I realized only because I heard him answer it. I didn’t even hear it ring. It was late and a strange time for calls, but I figured if it was someone being a creep, at least it would be entertaining to see how he handled it. However, Dan was silent after that first initial greeting. Seconds ticked by and he said nothing.

Finally, when I stepped out of the tiny employee kitchen with a peanut butter sandwich in hand, I witnessed my coworker throwing the headphones off of his head and letting out a shriek as he covered his ears. His eyes were wide and impossibly bloodshot. Veins were popping in his forehead and neck, and his moppy dark hair flew back and forth as he shook his head before dropping to his knees. I could see blood dripping down from his nose over his top lip and his teeth, which were bared in a pained grimace. Through the hair at the sides of his head, I saw dark trickles of blood streaming over his hands as if something inside of his ears had burst.

I dropped my sandwich with a few cuss words exclaimed as I rushed over to him, grabbing one of his wrists in an attempt to see the damage. He didn’t want to move his hands, and I didn’t blame him. With that much blood, I’d be afraid too. His eyes blearily scanned over my face and I asked loudly if he could hear me. He simply gave me a dumbfounded expression and whimpered pathetically, as if even more upset over the fact that he could only read my lips. Oh god. His ears were totally shot.

The music continued to play. However, with the microphone still running and his screaming likely caught on the broadcast, I made the decision to keep the rest of his struggle private by marching over to the console and turning off both microphones. I let the music run automatically and returned to his side, where he had fallen over and was now lying with his legs curled up, shivering and traumatized. He looked at me, tried to mouth a few words, but didn’t get far before his eyes rolled back and he was out cold in a dead faint.

I sat across from him for a long time. My eyes glanced over at my sandwich, which was already being feasted upon by some very fortunate ants that probably thought a merciful god had reigned down this gift from the heavens. I left it there, not wanting to disappoint them. That’s when I found the granola bars in my pocket, half melted but still a very happy surprise. Maybe I was my own merciful god.

After a while of watching over Dan and writing up a bit of my day, I noticed him finally stir. He was startled, gasping for breath as if waking from a nightmare, eyes darting around the dark room until he saw me cross the space to approach him. I got down to his level, lying on my side so that he could see my face clearly and understand what I asked him. We were on the floor side-by-side like two kids at the shittiest slumber party ever, not even one pillow to spare.

“Your face is bloody. Think you can walk to the bathroom?”

He nodded.

“Wanna sleep on an actual mattress?”

He hesitated, then nodded again. I had already called an ambulance while he was unconscious, but I knew it would take a while to get here. Our town didn’t exactly have a hospital, and anyone who’s had to drive around the mountains knows the chore that trip is. Until then, he could rest on the mattress in my ‘employee apartment’ and sleep off whatever shit he was going through. I was surprised that he got up on his feet as easily as he did, that is to say, without falling over at all. Although, his balance was worse for wear. One would suspect as much with two newly-injured ears. I let him sit down on the toilet as I helped clean up his face and underneath his ears, letting him wash his own hands.

“Can you hear me at all?” I asked now that we were in a quiet, noise-free room.

It took him a moment before he finally spoke up, but his voice was a hoarse whisper that he probably couldn’t even pick up. “A little.” he said, then smirked with a sad excuse for a chuckle. “You’re friendlier when I can’t hear you well.”

I would have slugged him in the shoulder for that one, but I just laughed and let it slide. It felt … weird, taking care of someone else. I didn't think I was a maternal type of person, but I found myself being as gentle as possible with his bloodied face with genuine care for his comfort.

He was cleaned up, all except for his ears which were covered in what bandages we had on hand, and I helped him to the mattress so he could lie down and rest. Damn, as far as first days go, his was probably the worst I could imagine. I really felt for the guy then. First he was just annoying, but now that he was subdued (albeit, in a terrible way), he wasn’t so insufferable. As he laid down with a bit of a wince, I turned to leave, but not before he waved a hand towards me in a weak sort of attention-grabbing slap to the arm.

“I heard it.” He mumbled, the volume of his voice fluctuating but still difficult to make out. The color was drained from his face and he took in a breath, laced with an audible shiver. “A bellow. God in the woods…like Rose said.”

My brow crinkled and I turned away, grabbing a thin folded blanket from the top of a plastic shelving system and draping it over him.

“That wasn’t some fearsome God, Dan. Just … something really wrong with your headset. We’ll fix you up. Just get some rest.”

That’s where Dan spent the rest of the evening, at least until an ambulance came to pick him up. It took them damn long enough to get there. I decided to spend the night at my desk, watching the broadcast go without even putting my own headset on. After a while, it became a surreal experience, just watching the music play by itself and trying to imagine who out there was actually listening to it. Maybe I was the only one. It’s crazy how I went from hating Dan to suddenly missing his presence now that I was alone and completely uninterested in sleep. And yes, I know I lied to him. It wasn’t his headset. Whatever he heard was very real, but … I don’t know. He’s gone through enough without that to worry about too.

It’s after midnight now, and I heard a disturbing sound. The phone started ringing again. Someone was calling in. I took a deep, steady breath through my nose … and ignored it.

This is Evelyn from 104.6 F.M., and the strangest looking bird is still sitting at the edge of my window.

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