The antique radio pops with static, breaking the previously silence. I breath in the familiar stale dusty air and let the trapdoor bang shut behind me. The old radio whirls, dial twisting, rocking back and forth between stations.
The floorboards creak and groan under my weight, and for a moment my steps falter, an echo of childish fear arcing electric down my spine, but then the radio stops its search, and the room fills with the sound of an old gentle love song, so different from todays loud and unemotional noise.
A smile pulls at my lips and I chuckle, feet moving without prompt to the sweet melody; I dance. Twirling and shuffling across the wood I’d spent hours cleaning and clearing of jagged edges and loose splinters. The volume rises as the song fades, and I mime a curtsy before whipping my sweaty palms down my jeans. Brushing the hair from my face, I plop down onto the swivel chair I’d dragged up here, fingertips reaching out and brushing a dial, the sound dropping as the song came to an end.
“Well, Mr. Radio Man,” I whisper, dropping my chin into my palm. “What have you got to say today?”
Click. Click. Whirl.
“Well, well my dear,” Comes the voice, that gentle baritone pocketed with static, distorted by such old recording equipment. How I love that voice. “Eager today, aren’t we?” He chuckles, dial whirling again.
“Come on,” I groan, falling back, watching the dust swirl upside down in the light. I frown, rolling back, head falling with a dull thunk against the old oak desk. “It’s been nearly a week already.” I groan, giving the radio a look. “A stressful week.” I add, reaching out and caressing a dial. I stare, memory flickering to when that hand had been so pale and small.
(“Can you tell me a story, Mr. Radio Man?” I whisper, lips trembling. “Please?” I whimper.
A bubble of static ridden laughter bursts from the ragged speakers. I hold my breath, eyes darting back to the hatch, my tiny sweaty hands pressed against my mouth. I listen for the familiar heavy steps, and breath again when nothing comes.
“Not so loud.” I whisper-shout. Pouting at the radio half-hidden by shadow.
“Well, well, well,” The voice cackles, attempting in vain to sound menacing. “To what do I owe the repeat performance, little Miss?”
“I can’t sleep.” I breathe, eyes prickling. I sniff, refusing to let the tears fall. Not tonight, not in front of my only friend.
“…Your parents again?” He asks, quieter, voice –for once– entirely devoid of static. I start, then nod, sniffing again. He hisses, the speakers screeching and bursting with static. I start, scrambling forward to press my hands against the worn speakers.
“Please.” I beg. “Don’t wake them.”
“…You can’t sleep?” He asks, voice devoid of life and tense, like my Father before he starts yelling and swinging his hands. I shiver and sit back down against the desk, and wait. Thankfully, he never keeps me waiting long.
“How am I supposed to ignore such a sweet and innocent request.” He hums, softly, softer than he had been moments ago. “What story would you like to hear, dear listener?”
“It doesn’t matter.” I mumble, pulling my knees to my chest, dropping my chin onto them. “Just… a story with a good ending.
“A happy one?” The voice questions, something questionable lurking
“Yes, please.” I squeak, settling against the desk, eyes trained on the trapdoor as he began. A tradition forming between us.)
“Tell me a story, Mr. Radio Man.” I breathe, my voice, old and new seeming to overlap, as I pillow my head against my arms, lids fluttering, gazing at the old antique that had become the most important object in my life. The most important person in my life.
“Very well, my dear.” He sighs, voice dare I say — fond? I grin, lean back in my chair, and get comfortable, knees tucked, arms curled around, fingers tugging at the cuffs of my jeans.
“One day, a long time ago….”
“…The end.” The radio finishes the fifth story with a crackle. Soft snores fill the air after, his listener long gone to dreamland, a gentle smile on her face.
“Maybe one day…” He trails off with a distorted sigh. “I’ll tell you who I really am. What I really am.” He whispers, volume lowering until a sharp click sounds. The radio goes dark, and from the stretching shadows rise twin hands blacker than the deepest void, and though tipped with jagged claws, they are nothing but gentle as the pick up and the young woman, drawing her against a chest covered with a white pristine dress shirt and a crimson vest.
The silver light of the moon fails to rise to his face, but it is impossible not to notice the flash of inhuman pearly teeth, nor the horns curling above pointed ears. He sighs, crimson gaze soft, and turns, clawed feet clacking against the wood as he marches impossibly deeper into the shadows of the room.
He emerges, settles his cargo on her bed, and covers her, smoothing down the blankets with the ease of a loved one. He grin falters for a moment, remembering his charges lack of proper guardians. Then he remembers what happened to them. His grin returns, brighter than before and he pivots on his heel, disappearing, shadowed form returning to the antique radio.
Click. Click. Whirl.
Static sounds, only to fade to the gentle jazz of an era long passed, an ancient baritone voice humming along.