Death has ever been at the forefront of the Human agenda for one very simple reason: it is, undeniably and unequivocally, a remarkably useful tool. It also represents, unfortunately, a rather inconvenient obstacle; for everything that ever lived is dead, and everything alive will eventually die. Thus, from the subject of Death stem two main fields of study for Mankind: how to inflict it, and how to avoid it. The former has proven to be significantly less complicated to master than the latter, and so we have become exceptionally proficient at it, perfecting and refining it with morbid enthusiasm to the point where it could be considered a grotesque art form. This does not mean, however, that we have neglected the pursuit of life everlasting, or at the very least the search for ways to circumvent life’s only true constant - indeed, although the answer to that particular question still eludes us, it is certainly not for lack of trying.
Of course, after centuries - if not millennia - of failed attempts, it was just a matter of time before a threshold was crossed. A threshold to which I believe I now hold the key, by virtue of nothing but pure, callous, indifferent chance. Someone, somehow, succeeded - after a fashion - in dragging Humanity one step closer to solving its oldest problem, but I say dragging because I do not think everyone would take such a step without reluctance. In fact, given that I found the aforementioned key to avoiding an untimely death discarded and half-buried in the muck of an ailing river, it is clear to me that its previous owner was ultimately willing to forgo possession of this knowledge in exchange for, I assume, their already frayed sanity. I do not blame them, but I do pity them, for it is my firm belief that such knowledge is a gift, however unsettling.
I speak in this way of the radio (which, for the purposes of keeping an accurate and rigorous account, I wish to note that I acquired exactly three weeks ago today) because something happened recently - yesterday, in fact - that shed some much-needed light on what it can do, which in turn proves useful in deciphering what it was meant to do. I am not certain that I will ever be privy to the full extent of its capabilities, but the longer I spend listening to it (whenever it decides to speak, that is - some days it broadcasts nothing at all), the more I learn. There are times, while I’m at work, that I can somehow feel it turn on - I have thought about bringing it to the bookshop with me on more than one occasion, but have as of yet not gathered the courage to do so. In these cases, by the time I return home and sit in front of it with a glass of vermouth in my hand, it has already turned off, and will remain silent for the rest of the evening. Yesterday, however, it was not so.
I had gotten that inexplicable feeling, that unnerving certainty that the radio had started broadcasting by itself, earlier that day while I was at work helping my colleague re-arrange the contents of one of the shelves. As such, it came as no small surprise when it turned on again as soon as I walked back into my flat that evening. Usually the broadcasts are preceded by a few minutes of white noise and a fair amount of squeaking as the radio apparently struggles to tune in to wherever it pulls people’s last words from, but this time it began transmitting immediately. I heard a voice coming from the living room; it sounded like a man weeping. I walked over, and realised that the voice, albeit muffled and at times drowned by gurgling and sobbing, felt singularly familiar - a fact that made my heart sink instantly. I sat down, trembling, trying to discern whose death I was bearing witness to. I listened to the man whimper, beg for his life, choke on his own blood, cough uncontrollably and then curse in helpless anger, in a cycle that repeated for a few minutes. All the while my mind struggled to ascertain why I had the overpowering sensation that I knew this person, until at last, as I heard him finally expire, it bore down on me like the monstrous shadow of a soundless, malevolent bird of prey.
I had just sat for the last ten minutes listening to my co-worker die.