As with so many things in our work, I came across this entirely by accident. I do expect postage reimbursement for this package because it includes a physical artifact. While making my way through the state of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia, I stopped one dark, rainy spring afternoon for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Upon entering I was enraptured by the pleasurable pulse between my ears created by the sound of the kitchen radio.
I wasn’t the only one – so was one of the line cooks. So much so that when his coworker, a much larger and older man, moved to change the station, the young man sprung into violence seemingly not of his own accord. This caused a commotion, and on his way down, the old man knocked a stack of plates that shattered on the floor, the young man pummeling him with a wild aggression. A waitress called the police, and families and those less morbid than I quickly left the diner. I took a seat in an empty booth.
At this point the old man was certainly unconscious, and I began to doubt he’d survive this bizarre encounter. Just as I heard distant police sirens, the aggressive young man let out a guttural yowl and fire began to lick down his arms, and soon he was engulfed in flames. He seemed to completely dissolve, falling to the ground black and brown like burned newsprint. The radio that had caused all this fuss was buzzing in a way far less heavenly than it had but a few moments before.
By the time the police had barged in, I’d grabbed the radio and I was turning out onto the highway. Certainly it couldn’t have been just the radio itself?
At this point, Baron, I did my best to recollect anything I had ever read about music causing violent psychosis or spontaneous combustion. I think we all know that feeling – like when Baba O’Riley comes on the AM radio early on a Saturday morning.
Aware that I might be taking something dangerous into my hotel room, but unaffected by that awareness, I examined the stolen radio on the plasticy floral bedspread. It had the telltale homespun, hurried repair jobs on its antennae that denote a truly beloved workplace radio, and the battery drawer was held in place by worn duct tape. I turned it on after a few drinks and any preliminary caution had been thrown to the wind. Initially it was tuned to static, but I fiddled with the dial and soon an intense religious radio program was proselytizing loud and clear.
The rabid pastor was angry about rock ‘n’ roll – how quaint, I thought – assigning a fantastical ability to convert the fundamentally good into the irreversibly bad to the top ten pop songs. Disgusted but sufficiently entertained, I turned the dial past plunky bluegrass, melodramatic country and onto bloated classic rock. “Sure, a hammy glam rock song can make a person want to commit murder,” I chuckled to myself as I nodded asleep.
I was thrown awake some time later, not so much by music but by the electrifying full body pin prick sensations it induced. The radio was seething with soft, full sounds that felt like physical substance, ingested through my ears. As I wrote down the station number, I forced myself to turn the dial ever so slightly askew to dull the overwhelming pleasurable intensity of the sound. The resulting static was abrasive, profoundly upsetting. I watched my annoyance blossom and boomerang in intensity before fading away.
Deciding that my next day travel plans could change, I started driving, the radio on my passenger’s seat. It had to be a local station – if anyone could pick up this intoxicating sound the country – the whole world — would be ablaze. I strategically checked the strength of the signal periodically as I made my way through the sleepy town so early in the pink morning.
Upon passing a particularly run down house sagging with vegetation and decay the signal burst forth in a brutally supreme blessedness, tipping the sweet sound towards violence. I stopped. Carrying the radio under my arm, the dial eschew ever so slightly from the mystical mark, I walked through the darkened front door. It opened into a compact room with a crumbling wooden spiral staircase crawling up the mildewed walls. I scaled the perilous steps, aware that the house did not appear to have a second level from outside. At the top of the stairs was a railed hallway and from under the door farthest away, I saw an undulating blue glow and felt a familiar pulsating, magnetic sensation.
Elaborate exit plans depending on a variety of incalculable factors knit themselves anxiously together in my mind, and I felt tendrils of my psyche weakening, giving into the seductive pull of the noise. I pulled open the door to find a small, maybe six or seven year old girl glowing neon blue – wearing globular headphones connected by curly chord to a little toy turntable. As the record spun, little cartoons of puppies in elaborate Victorian evening ware swung and cha cha-ed across its base.
The girl, seemingly sudden weightless, hovered off the ground, the turntable rotating in the air. Flames licked up the bottom of her tennis shoes, devouring her and filling the room with an unbearably bright and hot light. She disappeared in a rattling boom, bringing me to my knees with a distinct, painful inner ear humming accompanied by a profound nausea. My vision doubled and my vantage point now the dusty floor, a record, a LP, came slowly see-sawing down with a featherlike grace before landing softly.
The nausea subsided as soon as it had bubbled up, and I took the record (it was warm but quickly cooled down) and wrapped it in a newspaper in my car, placing the radio right on top of my new bundle.
Again, I reiterate that this was an expensive parcel to send, and that I expect reimbursement. I’m not even sure that I would recommend having the artifact analyzed. Perhaps just put it on the turntable some Saturday night and see what happens.