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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ghost In The Radio

I woke up dead . . . again. It happens. I reanimate a body and move it far from home. I create a life. Eventually, something happens and the host quits on me. The cycle repeats, but usually not so soon. I looked down. There was no getting away from it . . . I was a ghost again. I don’t, by-the-by, believe in ghosts.
     I was sitting up, nude, in the body I’d been using for the past few months. My first glance told me I wouldn’t be using that body again. Reanimation requires a continuity of the neural net; one no longer likely following a blow to the head that resulted in that much blood. Someone had killed “me” and I wanted to know why. I stepped out of the host of my recent perambulations and looked around the semi-dark room. I could make out wires in bundles and tangles, the back panels of what appeared to be computers as well as scattered dim lights and LEDs. I was in the maintenance space behind a familiar but unrecognized electronics layout.
Memories of me stuttered in. I’d been the entire IT department for WAKI Radio, one thousand puny watts of whatever you asked for (87.3 on your FM dial). We’d play music from whatever genre, whatever century and talk about whatever you brought to the table. I also played David, the geek everybody tried to stump. I was there when I was there. Listeners waited for the announcement, “David is in th’ house!” then flooded the switchboard with arcane knowledge and astounding ignorance. I’d lived through much of it back when things were made to happen by swinging something heavy or sharp from a strong right arm. It wasn’t hard to set them straight or confirm their knowledge.
David wouldn’t be in th’ house ever again. The clock read 2307. The midnight shift had just started and the afternoon shift was still in the house. I dived into the system and depowered the electric locks. The deadbolts slammed home simultaneously
I waded through the computer stuff to the room beyond. A lighted overhead “ON AIR” sign told me I was in a radio station broadcast studio. Sandra, the night DJ was there, and through a window to the side I could see Paul, her call-screener/producer. I showed a flickering upon occasion as I traversed the studio. Neither seemed to notice. Someone had offed "me." Time to find out who. 
     I opened the PA and announced in a classic computer voice, “Emergency meeting in the Conference Room, except Paul and Sandra! Now people!” Sandra toggled her microphone to the producer only and asked, “What’s up?” Paul responded that the station couldn’t afford dead air, so they’d have to wait to find out what was up.
     I headed for the conference room. 
“Let’s go, people!” It was the night manger on the PA. “Let’s figure this out. Get into the conference room, and do it now!”
     I went into the conference room and watched with the night manager as they all straggled in. They each looked nervous and scared and some looked confused. The night manager looked pissed. He was looking at a list of names, checking them off as people entered. Finally, “Sit down everyone,” he said. “Has anyone seen Alice?”
     “She called in sick,” a voice from the rear, “but David was working in Studio Two when we came in tonight. He’s not here.”
     “He didn’t sign out.” The night manager looked up. “Look, I didn’t call this meeting to begin with. And I didn’t throw those doorlocks. I tried an outside door before I came in here – it wouldn’t budge. Go find David, somebody. He knows those computers as if he could go inside them, and I want to know who pulled this stunt. Find him and bring him here! Teams of two.”
     I trailed a team out. At the door to Studio Two the woman halted. “George and Tim were already here!”
     “C’mon, I’m betting they never checked in the maintenance space.”
     “OK, but I don’t really want to either.” She was more than reluctant.
     The man pulled a small black flash from his pocket. “A thousand watts. That’ll blind anybody.” We headed into the maintenance space. A quick sweep of the flash showed no body in that space, and no sign of a struggle. 
In the main broadcast room, James and Kim were having the same discussion. I didn’t wait for them. Neither of them wanted to go into the maintenance space behind the computers. I slid through walls and electronics into the back space. Then I groaned...loudly.  No one came to investigate. No one was in the main room when I came back out. I left for Studio One.
Sandra, the night shift DJ and Paul, her producer were there. Paul was insistent, “I saw what I saw. Just before the doors locked, I saw a guy moving around the room. Just in flickers, but he was there!”
Sandra was less than interested. “Nonsense! There was no guy!” She squeezed through the narrow opening into the maintenance space... and screamed. Paul charged into the space, knocking miscellaneous equipment out of the stack and nearly tripping over “my” body.
“Well, David wo... hello? What’s this?” He bent over and picked something up. He checked my pulse, then played his light over cabinets. “Ah-ha!” He pointed to the object in his hand. “An ice cream scooper!” He motioned at a shelf hard by. “David laid it down when he’d finished it,” – he lighted up a blob of melted ice cream –“but it rolled off. He tried to pick it up and it rolled underfoot. He fell and hit his head on the corner of a steel cabinet. Go get the night manager.”
I left through a locked door. I was gonna need a new body. I planned to be much more careful of the next one.