By Garry Abbott.
Graham can’t stand these warm nights clinging to him as he tries to sleep. Getting in around the back of his neck and behind his ears, under his armpits and forming ponds below the small of his back. He lies on his back in vest and boxers, the thin sheet over just one ankle (which for some reason feels just right) listening to the soft voices on his radio, waiting for sleep.
The production line presenter, tonsils crafted from treacle and dark wood, reads out the forecast.
‘Starting with the south west, then moving over the Midlands by mid afternoon, expect some light showers, perhaps breaking up that muggy feeling for a time…’
‘Muggy’ Graham mutters, he likes the sound of the word as it passes his lips.
‘Muggy, muggy, bloody muggy!’ he continues, realising he is thinking again, aware. ‘I’m muggy! I’m bloody muggy now!’ he protests to the radio, which becomes distorted and crackles back at him. Now it is just stuttered white noise that grows so loud it fills the room.
‘Not again. No, please’ whispers Graham, finding himself unable to move.
The radio continues to fizz sharp frequency spikes, random at first, then formed and shrill.
‘When does a crackle become a cackle? Zzzzzttt’ says the voice from the static. Graham closes his eyelids, the only thing he is able to do.
‘When does a cackle become a nightmare? Pzzzzt’ it continues.
It is only now that the terrible voice is shouting at him again that Graham remembers. This has happened almost every night for many years. He will lay and listen incapacitated to its taunts and threats until a smothering sleep comes over him, dragging him down into himself. And then, in the morning, he forgets.
‘How long can you resist? Pzzzt fzzz. How long? How long? How long?’ it continues, each repetition like a hammer at Graham’s sanity. For surely that’s what this is, his own mind turning. Becoming something of itself and angry at its captor. How can he fight what is him but is hidden? How long can he last? How long?
And then, as the terror inside of him grows, he feels the familiar lure of incomprehension and light as he stops plunging and begins to drift softly down and away from this world.
The next morning Graham is up early with new day ignorance. Soon later he is whistling as he waters the plants that frame his front lawn.
‘Graham?’ comes a voice from nearby. He looks up to see the new bloke who moved in next door. Graham silently squints back at him.
‘Would you mind turning your radio or TV or whatever it is down on a night? We can hear it through the wall.’
‘Oh yes, yes. Will do. Sorry, is it a bit loud?’
‘Yeah a little, but it’s more, well… It’s just that programme, whatever it is you have on, all that creepy cackling and shouting. It’s a bit much gone midnight.’