Radio Free Nowhere
A Short Story by M.
"… that's it for today folks, catch you next time on Fort Haven Radio." Roland flicked the switch that turned off his transmitting equipment. The low hum of the electronics slowly bled off into the lonely silence. "Another day, another disappointment." He muttered to himself. He looked up at his receiver, 'No Signal.' He heaved himself from his chair and wound his way out of the labyrinth of wires that formed the brain of Fort Haven Radio. The antique clock that Roland had hung on the wall over the front door struck 5 o'clock. "Tick tock, time for the lock." Roland sang to himself. He strode past the sandbagged windows to the double doors that formed the portal to the outside world. Roland glared at it as he threw the heavy bolt on the steel doors to. "Quit mocking me, damnable emptiness." Roland growled at the cracked and overgrown parking lot. He turned his back on the setting sun. He went about his preparations for the long night. He tugged on the sandbags to make sure they were well secured, flicked on the parking lot flood lights, and opened up his gun locker. "Hmm, what will it be today?" he ran his hands over the array of weapons, each one familiar as an old friend. His hand settled on the stock of his favorite rifle, a bolt action .22 he had personally assembled from spare components. "Ah, Shelly, you up for another round, hmm?" he took the weapon out of the cabinet lovingly. He took the gun over to his work bench. He broke it down and reassembled it from memory, oiling and cleaning each part with equal and intense care. Finally he slung it over his shoulder and grabbed two of the 200 round drums he had built. He tucked these under his arm and ran a quick lap around the inside of the building, checking the slit windows left in his barricades. "Aha! Our first customers." he whispered. He climbed the ladder to the roof. He strolled past the hand painted sign that marked the old National Guard armoury as habitable, friendly, and free. Roland flumped down in his well worn deck chair at the edge of the roof and peered over to get a good look at the ground below. The floodlights illuminated the overgrown parking lot all the way out to the dilapidated chain-link fence. Shapes moved at the edge of the glowing radius, slowly they shuffled towards the source of light in the fast-developing gloom. Roland sighted his rifle to the furthest bright orange flag stuck into a fissure near the perimeter of the fence. He drew a bead on the nearest shambling form. "Gotcha." He yelled as he put a round through its eye. The thing went down like store mannequin, its limbs stiff and stuck out at odd angles. At this report more of the things flocked into the circle of light. They moaned. A moan so deep and terrible it would have torn away Roland's wits away if he hadn't heard it every night for the last five years. "I'm louder!" he spat down at the advancing shamblers. He jammed the big red button next to him. Speakers on the corners of the squat building crackled to life, stuttering at first but soon they boomed with loud music. "Mmm, Metallica, shuffle know its stuff." He muttered in response to the caterwauling. "Well, to business!"
The morning sun shed golden beams of light down on the old armoury. Roland sat snoozing in his chair as the last of the shamblers retreated from the baleful eye in the sky that scorched them so. The sunlight woke Roland from his doze. "Bhhrr, fell asleep again." He shook himself free of the last of the drowsiness and rolled to his feet. Five empty magazines clattered to the ground around his feet. He stooped to collect them and threw them into the large duffel that had been ever-present since that fateful day. Roland thought back to the day and it stood out as clear as it had the week after it happened, clear in fact, as years of brooding had stuck every last second of it to the fore of his mind. His parents had franticly been packing their bags. His father hadn't believed a word of what the news anchor had just gravely told them, yet he packed the most urgently of all of them. The drive to the evacuation site, a nearby police station, had been subdued. The station itself was anything but. Droves of people had flocked there; abandoned cars formed a radiating circle that completely surrounded the milling crowd of people. The soldiers had been there too. A nervous looking bunch of privates, guns moving constantly back and forth. Then there had been screaming. Those nervous privates became frightened rabbits, spraying the area with lead, regardless of who or what was in their path. Roland had been hit in the face with a shower of chipped brick. He remembered running, running without end for at least an hour. When he finally stopped, he found himself alone in front of the small towns National Guard post.
Roland awoke later that day to the antique clock chiming 12. He rolled out of bed and padded over to the makeshift shower he had rigged from one of the emergency sprinklers. He went about his tasks with the dull cadence of routine. He checked the generator, checked the barricades, and checked the radio receiver. 'No signal' After his midday chores, he poured himself some of the high energy but utterly disgusting gruel that he always had large quantities of in the fridge and heated it over a small camping stove. He took the resulting soup and slumped into his radio den. He flicked the switch on the old police transmitter and pulled the microphone closer. "Howdy survivors, this is your man Roland at Fort Haven Radio, coming to you live from the National Guard Depot in lovely Mashall, New Hampshire. How's it going today, 'cos I just have to tell you that I am A OK here in Haven, so why don't you come on down." He took a deep sip of his soup. "Anyway, it's time for your survival tip of the day; this one comes from the Boy Scout Handbook, listen close…..
….. you were just listening to Enigma. And that's all we have time for today, tune in tomorrow, Folks." Roland turned off the radio equipment and slumped back into the chair. He let out a long sigh and rubbed at his temples. He looked up at the burning red 'No Signal' light. "No one's coming" he whispered to himself. He spent the next two hours staring at the red light, willing it to change, wanting so badly for at least the flicker of another radio somewhere out there. He got none. The clock began tolling from where it sat atop the doors. "Shit." Roland leapt from his chair and hastily locked the doors. He had just finished when he saw the first shambler stumble into the parking lot. Roland didn't bother going up on the roof that night. He lay curled in his bed until morning. His sleep was unrestful, he awoke the next morning with his sheet strewn about the floor around him. He set about his morning chores in a foul mood. While pouring himself his breakfast ration, the pot fell to the floor and spilled its contents far and wide. Roland swore loudly and kicked the pot. It rolled mournfully across the concrete floor before eventually coming to rest under one of the windows. Roland muttered angrily as he mopped up the soup. After the gruel had been cleared, Roland shuffled over to the pot. His boot crunched on broken glass. His heart stopped. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead as he approached the window. A cold breeze blew in through shattered glass and picked up a fine dust from the torn sandbags. Roland slapped at his side in a vain search for his sidearm. He spotted it on the kitchen counter and made a dash for it. The unseen shamble lurched from behind a set of shelves. Roland was knocked to his side, his attacker grabbed onto him in an unbreakable vice grip. "Fucking zombie! Gerroff!" Roland swung with all his might at the shambler's head, It did little to faze the mobile corpse. The thing went for Roland's neck, trying to bring its jaws down on flesh. Roland held it at bay with one arm while his other arm scrabbled about the ground, looking for some kind of weapon. He alighted on a shard of plate glass. He grabbed ahold of it, driving its edges into his palm. He shoved the shard into the thing's empty eye socket and twisted. The shard bit deep into his own hand and he screamed in anguish as he was finally able to reach the shambler's brain. It fell limb to the floor beside him. Roland lay alone in silence.
Roland drove the last nail into the board that covered his breached barricade. His freshly bandaged hand complained about the work, but he knew if he was to last another night it need to be done. "Who am I kidding, I won't last another hour." He finished his daily routine in a fugue. Night was already falling outside the blackout curtains. Roland sat down beside his radio equipment with his favorite rifle. He leaned in close to the mike and spoke in a quiet, even tone. "Hello. I realize that there is no one out there to hear this, but I just want to give my regards to the wasteland. For years I have ministered to the empty air, and I regret to inform you that this will be my last broadcast. Thanks for listening. This is Fort Haven Radio, signing off." Roland sat back in the chair, and calmly placed the rifle neatly under his chin. He calmly set his jaw, closed his eyes, and readied to make his peace with oblivion. As he readied to end the struggle that had begun all those years ago, a female voice rang out from near the big double doors.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
Roland dropped the rifle.