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A Host Without An Audience by Micah Castle

A Host Without An Audience
by Micah Castle

Am I live?
The digital readout says it’s working, generator’s half-full…
Ah… Yes, I’m live.
Hello to the listeners who can still understand me!
Ah, shit, hold on… Have to… turn up speakers… Wish I could see how much battery is left, doesn’t matter… Just have to make sure I can’t hear that damn song… Okay, okay… Ah, Tchaikovsky, can’t get enough.

Sorry, I’m back and ready.

I’ve spoken to you before about my life: my flat, my pets, my childhood and parents — everything that I once had but now stolen, destroyed by the disease, that song… But today, I’m going to talk about history… Now, you might be thinking actual history, like the World Wars or the Cold War or Russia and Germany and Japan and— no, nothing of the sort. I’m going to be talking about recent history, the origins of that damn song that caused it all, the song that pours from seemingly every radio in the world, from every tele, from every goddamn iPod from sea to shining-fucking-sea… And, I’ll be talking about that damn metal band who just had to read that damn book — what was its name, it wasn’t in English… Let me check my notes… Gloria furor Domini…? Yeah, something like that. — and wrote that bloody song, which spread like wildfire.

Well, let’s begin.

The band, Dead, Dead, Gone, had gotten their hands on the book from some bloke outta’ town. Apparently bought it on the cheap, real cheap. The book itself is an old fucking book with sheets of string music, played back when fiddles and violins and such were played for kings and queens in massive feasting halls in castles… I don’t think it was meant to be played by electric guitars, or tuned down instruments, or whatever the hell metal bands do these days…
Anyway, they jotted some notes down from the book and wrote a song, the Song, “Waves of Razorblades,” and released it digitally soon afterwards as a single.
No one listened to it. Not a damn soul gave it the time of day. Hell, I don’t even think the band even listened to it, because if they had, they would’ve been the first with the disease… But that’s neither here nor there, because eventually someone stumbled upon it online, probably some bloke crawling down the Internet rabbit hole in the middle of the night, looking for something to have a good wank to, and lo’ and behold, discovered the song. He listened to it, liked it quite a bit, and shared it.
Then, the next bloke listened, enjoyed it, shared it; then the next, then the next…
The song gained so much fucking traction that radios started playing it, then some movies started featuring it, then there were the covers, and the band signing a record deal, and… Yeah, you get the bloody picture.
That all sounds well and good, doesn’t it? An unknown metal band rising through the societal echelon, breaking into the mainstream, raking in piles and piles of cash from only one goddamn song!
Yeah… No.
Not too long after, the aneurysms began and people, their listeners, began to drop like flies.
The doctors hadn’t a bloody clue what to do. It was unheard of. People just started dying left and right. In hindsight, it’s obvious that it was the song that caused it, though I haven’t a spit of real medical evidence to prove the connection, so I can’t really blame the doctors. Up until then, music couldn’t cause death, not like that at least.
And… unlike flies, they started coming back.
Time’s a fickle thing. Maybe it was a month later, a week later, or a day or two; honestly can’t remember. All I know one moment the new channels are babbling on about the massive death count from an unknown disease, and the next they’re losing their goddamn minds about those who died coming back.
But they didn’t return the same.
Oh, no listener, not at all. Their eyes were glassy and pearly, like a misty, murky sea… Their skin was rippled, brittle, yellowed like old pages from a book… They had burn marks covering their skin, and if anyone had taken a history class about Sweden, they could say the marks looked a lot like archaic Norse runes, but a wee bit off.
The government tried to contain it. Quarantined a lot of them in some parts of the country, Ireland, Italy, Germany, but you can’t contain music — music is free; free to listen, free flowing, like air. You just try to keep a music fan away from a new hit song. Go on, try it, see how that works out for you.
Like music, those affected couldn’t be contained.
They got through.
The song got through.
And spread and spread and spread until there was hardly a soul left who hadn’t been affected, hardly anyone left — if at all — now to listen to me ramble on about that damn song…
In my neck of the woods, there weren’t many cases of the disease. The deaths and rebirths were far removed, just shit coming from the tele, but when it did hit, it was like a bloody train tearing through a toddler. One minute I’m on my way to work, the next, BOOM! People losing their fucking minds! Zombies — I call them that because that’s what they remind me of, probably not the actual term, but fuck it. — were barreling out from shops and cars and alleys, leaping and jumping onto old ladies and children and anyone they can get their gnarled, yellowed hands on! They tore through necks and vomited black blood into mouths as that damn song played in the distance from car radios… It was like the zombies had switched the song on themselves, as if it was a party and they had just the perfect song to set the mood.

Call me coward, I don’t give a shit, but I covered my ears and fucking ran.
I barged into a nearby office buildings, which was in the same state as the outside. I sprinted past the secretary's desk, three zombies behind it, digging their fingers into some poor woman’s chest, their foggy eyes wide and open, their mouths gaping with blood dripping, blackened teeth… I closed my eyes and continued…
I tripped through the emergency stairwell and fell down the stairs into the basement, into the darkness. When I could manage to get up, I did, and found far in the back, under a burnt-out lightbulb, was a small office or, maybe, a closet… Doesn’t really matter now, does it?
And, that’s where I’m holed up now.
As I toiled away in the darkness, keeping quiet, I used my wits to make the connection from song to the zombies. I tore my shirt up and used parts of it to plug up my ears.
It’s like the American dream, honestly. First started out with nothing, but gradually, slowly, I ventured out into the buildings to gather supplies and food…
I was luckier than I imagined.
The building was once filled with a lot of blokes who loved technology. Radios, computers, CDs; snacks, bottled water, and so on… But there wasn’t any electricity, no water or plumbing either… But I did find a generator in the basement, must’ve been their back-up, and discovered some batteries in another closet upstairs—
—actually, on that note… let me check the generator…
Almost out…
Batteries, I think, too…
Ah, shit.
C’mon Tchaikovsky, keep it going, keep playing until I can find some more… Not under the garbage… Not under the wrappers… the empty cases of batteries… Shit, shit, shit!
Don’t stop Tchaikovsky, for the love of fucking Christ… None behind the radio, or the speakers, or the player or in my pockets…
Uh, I—ah…. Earplugs!
Must… make… more…

The CD stopped…
I can hear a radio playing somewhere in the building…
That song…
That damn song…
My arms… are numb, legs too…
Can’t see anymore, everything foggy…
Can’t hear anymore! Can’t hear that song anymore… but, there’s something else in the distance…
Guttural, phlegmy… Spitting sentences… Gibberish I can’t fucking understand, but I’m enchanted, must keep listening… It needs to be louder, clearer, too… Ah, there it goes… Didn’t think I’d hear anything better than Tchaikovsky ever again…
It’s radiating through me like a damn earthquake…
Damn song isn’t a song, it’s a bloody opening to an even better, bigger one… Magical, entrancing… Like those damn kid movies… Can’t help but to stop and listen…  
God, I’m starving…
My head’s aching… Right behind my damn eyes…
Jesus Christ.
This is how the disease starts…

Ah, shit

This story was originally included in Issue #6. You can get the print issue here:

You can see more of Michah Castle's writing and work here:


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