Updated: Aug 25
I took a moment to compose myself. My entire body had tensed up to the point where my muscles hurt, and I let out an embarrassed chuckle as I realised just how fast my heart was beating. I took a few long, deep breaths and felt the physical stress slowly ebb away, but my mind wouldn't stop racing; I was forced, since I fancied myself a man of reason, to come up with a logical explanation for what I had just experienced. I briefly entertained the possibility of having hallucinated the entire ordeal, but I promptly dismissed the notion - I was perfectly sane back then and I assure you I still am, despite everything that has transpired since. I refused to put my sanity into question, and so my mind moved swiftly on to other, less damning possibilities.
I poured myself a glass of vermouth and sat in my reading chair, facing the radio. I remember watching it intently, not quite daring to take my eyes off it while I drank, lost in thought. After a few moments, I settled upon what I believed at the time to be the least ridiculous explanation: a nigh-expended internal battery that had been damaged when the radio was discarded and was causing the artifact to act up. Me fiddling with the tuning knobs while cleaning it had probably dislodged whatever had been keeping it silent up until that point - congealed river mud, most likely - and as soon as it had dried, it had automatically turned on. It might even have been fitted with some sort of automatic tuning mechanism, which would explain why I'd seen the knob turn on its own.
I allowed myself a rather shaky, tight-lipped smile of satisfaction. While it was true that, during the time I'd spent cleaning the radio, I'd seen nothing to suggest that it had a rechargeable battery (or indeed any sign or indication that the back panel could be opened, save by somehow overcoming those damnably unyielding screws, the war against which I'd already lost), I also had to admit, albeit begrudgingly, that it was very possible that I simply lacked the knowledge or expertise to identify such things - this was, after all, a very old model, the intricacies of which were evidently beyond me. I resolved to take it to an expert as soon as I had some spare time, and let them subject it to a proper examination. Until then, a faulty, moribund battery was my best bet.
I nodded to myself, finished my drink, and placed the empty glass on the table next to the antique artifact. Almost as an afterthought, I dismissed the rather unsettling nature of what the radio had broadcast as some stray transmission it had fortuitously picked up - perhaps from a random horror fiction station or something of the sort. It had spooked me, there was no denying that, but there were a myriad reasons why it could have happened, all of them perfectly feasible - and therefore, bereft of any further ability to cause me concern. I smiled again, with a lot more confidence this time, and went to bed feeling satisfied that cold, steadfast reason had once more triumphed against mindless fear.
Fear, however, had other plans.
I was torn from sleep not two hours later by a blood-curdling scream of pure terror, the likes of which I had never heard before - a shriek so hideous it could not possibly have been achievable by a normal human throat. My hands shot up to cover my ears and I felt my heart squirm, as if the infernal wailing had turned my ribcage into a terrible prison of bone and flesh. The volume and intensity of the noise were such that it was all I could do to lay there, curled up in bed, writhing in pain and desperately hoping that the onslaught would abate soon.
It went on for what felt like hours.
It died out, eventually. By the time the ringing in my ears had subsided, I was reduced to a whimpering, shivering wreck, blood trickling between my fingers from ruptured eardrums. It was another hour before I felt strong enough to get out of bed.
I knew where the scream had come from. For some unfathomable reason, despite having been deafened by it, I was certain. I shambled through the pitch-black darkness of my flat's corridor and entered the living room.
Sure enough, there it was: the old radio, dials glowing, sputtering static that I couldn't hear but could somehow feel.
And all around it, glinting wickedly in the dim moonlight, lay the shattered remains of my vermouth glass.