Nobody broadcasts on the radio anymore, not really. For decades now the omnipresent use of satellites and digital bandwidth has left the old analog airwaves deserted. Heck, it’s even getting hard to find anyone who will still sell you a receiver, although you can always make them yourself with a little ingenuity.
I remember when I lost my last radio a couple of years ago, I had to trawl the secondhand shops for weeks before I found a suitable replacement. It sure is a beaut, though; a retro-styled AM/FM setup in sea foam green. By no means cheap, but worth every penny.
Now why, you must be wondering, would I go to such trouble and expense to get a receiver for a signal that no longer exists? Well, when I said that no one broadcasts, that was a slight exaggeration. Certainly no professional stations still operate, but there are the handful of pirate broadcasters who, like myself, maintain an affection for the old technology over the glossier modern equivalent.
After dinner, after the wife and kids have gone to bed (for they do not much like my radio, and would destroy it if they knew,) I like to sneak up to the attic and listen, turning the dial slowly across the band of frequencies as the beautiful static shifts subtly in a kind of eternal, aetheric music.
Occasionally, the fuzz is interrupted by snippet of recognizable sound, and then I stop and listen. Frequently, I will happen upon a sort of Evangelical preacher, urgently prophesying of some impending doom and barking instructions at me to prepare for what is to come. I do not much like this man — the way he addresses me by name and seems to know all my deepest, most secret thoughts is unsettling. But sometimes there is nothing else to listen to, and I find I cannot bring myself to turn the dial away from a human voice, however harrowing its message.
Other times, I tune in on what seem to be news bulletins detailing the casualties of some horrific and gruesome war. Neither the television nor the newspapers make any mention of this, however, and the names of the locations being bombed or razed are strange and unfamiliar to me.
Sometimes, though very rarely these days, I will hear music, far away and barely audible over the interference. These pieces are invariably works of immense scale, incorporating vast sections of horns whose sounds make Wagnerian tubas seem, by comparison, like small and pathetic toys. The deep and booming melodies they play captivate my mind, but they always fade into static before the end and there is no announcer to identify the title or composer.
And then the preacher comes back on and he tells me how I have sinned and what I must do to atone. I haven’t done it yet, but the sounds of war grow nearer and I am beginning to fear for my salvation. I haven’t done it yet, but the preacher keeps on preaching and the martial tones of that infernal music still echo in my ears.