• J. M. Aznárez

Curtain Call

Updated: Nov 1, 2020

The radio has been behaving erratically of late. After the death of my colleague a full two weeks ago now, I was interviewed by the police, as his one and only professional partner. I of course withheld certain rather specific fragments of information which I am sure you, my dear reader, understand had very little to do with the murder, but which would, if disclosed, inevitably nudge the investigation down the wrong path. I did however decide to mention how my colleague had, in the days leading up to his death, displayed clear signs of stress, anxiety and slight paranoia, as if haunted by a particularly unsettling thought, feeling, or presence. I humbly suggested that perhaps he was somehow already aware that someone was after him, though I confessed that I knew very little about his personal life and thus could not, in truth, be of much more help. The policemen seemed to agree, for they troubled me no further.

Through all this, the radio remained as silent as a freshly sealed tomb. I actually decided to move it out of my apartment and into the bookstore with me - the owner showed up a few times and inquired about it, so I had to explain that it helped fill the void that my colleague had left. He winced, as if realising that he should have expected such an answer, and apologised for his lack of tact, making it very clear that he was, of course, quite happy with me having the device there to keep me company. I smiled and thanked him, and that might have been the end of it, save for the fact that I could very easily tell that he had reservations about it - I assured him that I would only turn it on whenever there were no customers in the store, and this seemed to satisfy him somewhat. I am glad that the radio kept quiet through the owner’s visits - listening to people die has inevitably lost much of its initial emotional impact for me, so I would have been forced to put on quite the remarkable performance to try and appear as perplexed and horrified as I was the first time that I heard it broadcast.

I kept it there with me for a few days, half-hoping for, and half-dreading the beginning of its next transmission, but it never came. It did break its silence, however - the same day that the owner’s visits stopped, as if it knew it was safe for it to begin speaking again. It never did so when customers were around, which helped me keep my frankly ridiculous promise, but it did not broadcast anything intelligible anyway - it limited itself to rather dramatic fits of whining and screeching, as if it was struggling to tune in to wherever it pulled its morbid material from. I did not mind it at first - in fact, I found it quite relaxing to have a backdrop of white noise while I worked; it lent the already antique shop an added layer of vintage atmosphere. Unfortunately, every new outburst was a little louder than the last, to the point where it got quite irritating - exceedingly so, eventually. Of course, the dial that supposedly regulated broadcast volume refused to work as it should, and thus I was forced to take the cursed thing back home - something which it seemed to genuinely appreciate, for its fits subsided within a matter of days. I was relieved.

I should have known better.

I had just come back from work and I was taking my shoes off; my socks and trousers were soaked through, and I was shivering. The cold, miserable early-Autumn Madrid rains were finally here, and I had been caught unprepared, halfway back from the bookshop with only a small pocket umbrella at my disposal. The same umbrella now lay discarded in a public trash bin near my apartment building’s main entrance, broken beyond repair - to my chagrin, I must admit, for I have always held a sizeable measure of disdain towards people who seem utterly incapable of keeping their umbrellas from getting ruined during storms. Needless to say, I was in a positively foul mood, and quite preoccupied with wallowing in a lamentable mixture of self-pity and self-loathing, cursing both my bad luck and my own lack of foresight. I was so immersed in my brooding, so focused on the struggle to undo my waterlogged shoelaces, that when I heard the radio begin to broadcast, I almost jumped out of my own skin. I resisted the urge to run to the living room, and instead forced myself to finish taking off my shoes while I attempted to discern whether or not I recognised the voice I was hearing. It took me a few moments, but eventually I realised.

I knew that voice.

It was my own.

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