10-02-09 – Other Voices, Other Rooms

There are voices that you never forget.

They don’t come often but when they do, they implant on your memory like a soft, invisible polyp. You might not hear the voice for years and years but when you hear it again, your mind sparkles to life, activates, and the voice becomes as real as a warm stone in your palm.

Your mom, your dad, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Dick Clark, Bono…

My dad died when I was young, really young. I shouldn’t remember his voice; I didn’t even get to know him really. But I can conjure the sound of his laugh, the way he made a soft hmm’ing sound when he thought easily, with just a skip into memories. I can hear him, I remember him. He will always be with me.

There’s a new voice now, a voice I know I will never forget. It may as well be God, or Buddha or a great, unknowable deity too gentle and perfect to perceive…

The radio is working. And someone is out there.

The Lord’s light will carry you past harm…

Maybe you’re right, Rev. Brown. After all, believers find God’s touch, His work in every infinitesimal thing. And now there’s a new light for us to cling to, something to strive for, to use as a shield against the daily doubts, the pessimism, the fear. Maybe it isn’t religion, maybe it isn’t God, but it’s something good and beautiful to believe in.

91.7 is the magical number. I found it in the dark, thick time of night when you know morning is still far off and you crave rest, but you know too that you won’t be getting back to sleep. It’s the kind of lonely, empty time when you need something, anything to occupy your mind. I started fiddling with the radio, keeping the volume very soft so as not to disturb the others. Dapper stirred at the fizzling, constant static, wriggling his way over to me across the valley of irretrievably wrinkled bedsheets. His head was resting on my calves as the little line indicator went up and down, up and down, searching across the bleak airwaves until finally, after an hour of idle tuning and flipping between AM and FM, twiddling the antenna in different directions, the voice crackled to life.

“- down to us, if you can manage it, we have food, shelter and limited medicine. We have nurses and volunteers at the ready to help you if you are injured. I repeat: The University campus is open. We have gathered in the gymnasium. If you can get down to us we have some food, shelter and limited medicine.”

I scooted closer to the window, breathless, euphoric, and stuck the antenna as close to the glass as possible. The message repeated, this time more slowly. I wondered if perhaps it was a recording, but then, as if reading my thoughts, he said something else:

“I don’t know how many of you are listening, or how many of you are still trying desperately to survive, but I want you to know this: All hope is not lost. You have somewhere to go, somewhere to seek. It’s late and you feel afraid, hopeless, but don’t despair. Just today a woman came to us. She was starving, injured, terrified, but she crossed ten miles to get here. She heard us, she persevered, and she arrived in one piece. Her name is Melissa, she came with her two-month-old daughter and she told me that the radio, the broadcast, inspired her to continue. And so to honor Melissa and her courage, I’ve chosen to read from her favorite book this evening. So dear listeners, close your eyes, let the worry drain away and listen.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was hallucinating, I just had to be. It wasn’t possible. The University is only ten blocks away, a ten to fifteen minute walk at a leisurely pace. But to go out – to risk it… That ten blocks would be dangerous, filled with undead. The University was at the heart of the city, a populated place. It could be absolutely crawling with those things…

There would be time to worry about that in the coming days, discussions to start, arguments to endure… For now, I wanted to stop worrying, fretting, and just follow directions. And so I did as the voice said, I sat back against the pillow, put my hand on Dapper’s head, closed my eyes and listened:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

There are voices that you never forget.

Sleep tight Seattle V, Reverend… There are voices in the darkness, sweet beacons of radiant possibility, and they offer the chance to each and everyone of us for survival.


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