July 17, 1987
7:43 PM (MST)
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Mule Mountain Mixer. I am your host, Steve Richards; with me as always, is my long-suffering producer, Carol. Say ‘hello’ to the listeners, Carol. Carol sends her regards but, even if she wanted to say ‘hello,’ she can’t since the only microphone in her booth feeds directly into my ear. You’ll just have to trust me.
“Speaking of trust, I have a few words for our infallible meteorologist, Mister Pete Marcus. Ole Pete promised us a weekend of sun and yours truly planned a trip to Roper Lake; I’ve packed my truck and I’m ready to go. I’m so jazzed that I’ve even contemplated leaving after the show this evening and driving straight up. Now, as many of you have likely noticed, an enormous thunderhead has set up shop in the Northeast; big, nasty son of a gun, spitting off heat lightning left and right.
“Me being me, I called Pete up, asked him about it, and, according to him, it just showed up on the radar about ninety minutes ago. He called me back just before I came on air and said two more popped up: one in Hereford, the other over near McNeal so, if you had plans, you may want to reschedule. Thus concludes my weather rant; we’ll be taking your calls when we get back.”
Steve eased back in his chair and rubbed his forehead, hoping to stave off a burgeoning headache. “Have any big aspirations for the weekend, Carol?”
“Tim’s supposed to take me up to Tucson; dinner and a movie.”
“Damn, if that’s not a beautiful sentiment. You two spoken anymore about setting a date?”
Her right eyebrow raised, settling at an odd angle. “Jesus, Steve, I told you last week that we’re set for next March.”
“You sure did, didn’t you? I’m off my game this evening; damned callers are going to eat me alive.”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”
He cocked his head; Carol nodded. Summers could be a little slow around here, but no calls on a Friday night? That was damn near unheard of. The thought lingered on Steve’s mind as the lights flickered, drawing his eyes upward.
“What the hell?” he asked, turning back to Carol. “Are we still good?”
She shot him a thumbs-up and grinned. “Looks like we’ve got a call, too; you’re back in ten.”
The red light came on and all seemed well. “Welcome back, at least to those of you who can still hear us. It seems the grim storm that’s brewing wrought a little havoc on our equipment. The intrepid Carol tells me we’ve got a caller on the line who’s had their own little outage; Billy in Bisbee, you’re on Mule Mountain Mixer.”
“Hey, Steve; you looked outside the last little while?”
“No, sir, they didn’t afford us the luxury of windows here at the studio.”
“That cloud is still up there, flashing with lightning every few seconds, caused the power to flicker out at my place too.”
“Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what storms do, right Billy?”
“See, that’s the thing; there no wind, no rain, and—despite all that lightning—no thunder. I’ve been on earth for sixty-two years, and I’ve never seen anything that rivals this.”
“Appreciate the call, Billy. Take it easy. Well, folks, I’m not sure what’s going on outside at the moment, but I am sure that if you’re looking for a new car, truck, or van, you need to get over to Shep Ward’s for his Summer Sales Marathon. With rebates up to—”
The lights flickered and dimmed, pulsing weakly before going out entirely. After a minute, Carol stepped out of the booth, her muted footfalls the only sound.
“Where are you going?” Steve asked.
“The generator should have kicked in by now.”
“Hold up, I’ll go with you, just let me grab a flashlight.”
She didn’t hold up, but she didn’t go very far; he caught up with her at the front door; her head tilted upward, her arms dangling by her side. He saw why she stood dumbfounded. The sky glowed a brilliant shade of purple; it wasn’t due to lightning or dwindling sunlight. It was the thunderhead.
The surrounding air was pitch black however, the cloud emanated an ethereal luminescence. Just as Billy described, there was no wind, no rain, no thunder. There were no random cars on the road, no sound whatsoever; it felt like the storm encased the entire town inside a vacuum. Veins of light flickered through the cloud, turning it into a coke-fueled Tesla coil.
Carol turned towards Steve, her eyes a sea of confusion. “What the hell’s going on around here?”
“Beats the shit out of me; whatever it is, I don’t like it. Let’s hurry and check that generator. I don’t want to be out here any longer than we have to.”
“Aw, are you scared, Steve?”
“You go ahead and joke. I’ll be just as happy to go back inside and let you handle this.” He turned, catching sight of an old pickup that sat on the shoulder of the service road behind the station. The damned thing had been there for a week; Steve figured the ground would swallow it whole before the owner moved it.
They reached the small shed that housed the generator, finding it intact. After some trial and error, the duo reset the unit, bringing it humming back to life. Steve looked around the corner and saw the two yellow bulbs by the station’s door glowing. “We did it, Carol!”
“I mean, I held the light.”
She shot him a sly grin, one that could be mirthful but could also show that she stood prepared to bash in his skull. He never could read Carol, not really; even after five years working together, she remained an enigma. They reached the front step when something urged Steve to look back. The light show—which had died down—exploded back to life, illuminating an area that stretched from the shed to the side road. Immediately, he realized the truck was gone.
“What the hell?”
Carol turned, concerned at his tone. “What’s wrong?”
“That old truck’s gone.”
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random synapse misfire, vol. one
A light September fog was rolling in off of the Hatteras Inlet, oozing up and swallowing the few cars that waited to board the last ferry of the night from Ocracoke to Hatteras. The crew was busy prepping the boat, a noble workhorse christened as Frisco, for the midnight crossing.
random synapse misfire, vol. two
Delmar Greene slapped himself across the face. He had too many miles to go and too little money for lodging. The monotonous scenery that lined the two-lane road did little to stimulate his mind. His mind continuously wandered, rehashing every mistake he’d made in his thirty years.
the last cigarette
Walter Regin sat on the edge of his tattered couch, staring through a thick haze of smoke at the flat panel Sony that was mounted neatly on the wall. He had no idea how long he had been transfixed, though the numbness in his ass suggested that it had been a considerable amount of time. Moving to stand, a burning pain seared into the webbing between his left middle and forefinger.