His speech was slow. Measured. I could almost hear a smile when he spoke. "Okaaaay, whatever makes you tingle, boy wonder. So what's on your mind? I take it you're ready to whine about gay rights too, huh?"
"Whine? No. Not hardly." He said. "I just happen to like the sound of your voice...on the radio that is."
"Meaning, I've heard it before. It sounds...'different' in person."
It looked like I had myself a real winner here! Especially with the whole creepy talking thing, it's ratings GOLD! "I think you must have me mistaken me for one of your little party friends, darling. You've never seen me in person."
"Oh, but I have. I'm certain of it." He told me. "I can hear it. Clearly. The sound of you is unmistakable. I guess you could say that vocal patterns are my...specialty."
"Really, now? That's ALMOST fascinating."
"It's just something that I was reborn with. Call it a 'gift'."
"Doesn't even sound like you were reborn all that long ago. Aren't you up a little late, junior?" I said, trying to get a reaction out of him.
"Believe me, I'm much older than you think I am." He said, and it was followed by a strangely chilling grin, and some more deep breathing.
"So, do you have an OPINION on anything that I've said tonight, Midnight Caller? Or, are you just calling in to get your rocks off?"
"Hehehe, far from it, my friend." The voice said, a sinister tone in its delivery. "I've actually been listening for quite a few months now. Hearing you talk about this and that. It's been rather entertaining. A lesson in extreme hypocrisy that I doubt I could have gotten anywhere else, honestly."
"Hypocrisy? You might want to back up the trailer on that one, buddy boy! I tell it straight, I tell it fair. It's not my fault if somebody else can't take the joke?"
"The joke?" The voice hissed with a smile. "You bully everyone with your harsh words and your stuck up, elitist, viewpoints without apology, pretending to be blissfully unaware of the damage you cause. But you know all about the pain that you cause other people, don't you? You know...but you do it anyway. Hoping that someone will pay you any mind at all, just to satisfy your ego. But the attention you get is stale. False emotions based on lies and hollow anger, derived from your emptiness inside. I've decided that it was time to call your bluff, Mr. Workman. I've decided that you're not allowed to hide from the demons within you any longer."
"Call my bluff, eh? Well bring it on, kid. I'm just getting fired up tonight." I said with a smile. After all the years I've been on the air, I haven't had one person debate me yet and win. Never once, have they rattled my cage to the point of getting me to change my mind. It's MY world, fuckers! MY game! He's lucky I even let him play! "So, gay pride? What's your take? I suppose you're a fairy too, or maybe know someone who is?" That's it. Keep the insults fresh. Weaken him from within. Get him to argue without thinking. Get him angry.
"A fairy? Hehehe, yes. If you want to call me that." He said. "Me and my 'fairy' friends are gathering to join in the festivities this weekend. Should be fun."
"Ah, so you′re from the city? Is that where you are?"
There was a pause, and a calm grin spread across the caller's lips. "...I am very close. Yes."
"So...Midnight Caller, what made you wanna be a fag? Hmm? All that tasty female love out there, and you chose the salami. What's the deal? Never been with a female before?"
"As a matter of fact, I have." He said.
"Really? Well, now that's a first. I half expected you to tell me girls were 'yucky'. Heh!"
"It was a long time ago. I was trying, desperately, to fit in. To be 'normal'. I was only 16 at the time, and hoping to cure myself by getting a girlfriend. Needless to say, it didn't work."
"Maybe you weren't doing it right? Maybe you needed a little more stroke in your backside. A little spin in your hips."
"Now, Mel...I thought you of all people would give my sexual abilities more credit than that."
"Me of all people?" I asked, and he waved off the comment with another subtle grin.
"My girlfriend and I didn't work out, so we split up. Unfortunately, it was too late. She was pregnant."
"Whoops. Listen up people, we've got a gay daddy on the line. How festive." I said. "So, did you stick around? I'm guessing not, since you're out there prancing in the streets and polishing every knob you can get your lips around now."
"No. I felt very lost back then. It's hard when your a teenage boy, trying to fight against what seems like the whole world when you're seen as an abomination. To be bullied, and hurt, and teased to the point of tears. When I came out to my parents, I was kicked out of my house. In the rain, no less. To this day, I still don't know if they'll ever forgive me."
"Oh, boo hoo! You know, you pansies always baffle me. You KNOW it's wrong! You KNOW it's dirty! And yet when you 'come out' as being a pervert, you just expect the rest of us to rejoice and understand and cuddle you while you go make whoopee with some buff bodied construction worker. What did you THINK your parents were going to do? Huh? Serves you right. Honestly, I applaud them for getting a handle on things and teaching you a much needed lesson. It's too bad you haven't learned anything since then." I said taking another sip from my cup.
"Oh, I've learned much since then. Believe me." I set down my cup, and then I heard the voice say, "Careful, Mel. The alcohol is already beginning to take effect. I can hear the subtle changes in every word you speak. Whiskey, I'm guessing?"
I stopped and stared at the microphone for a second. Then I looked back at the booth to see if anyone was in there. No windows to peek in through, no open doors.
"Are you still there, Mr. Workman?" The voice asked.
"I'm..." I looked at the door again, just to make sure no one was standing outside of it. Was this a joke? "...I'm right here."
"Good." The voice said, breathing deeply. "As I was saying, I was thrown out of my house for being gay. For being something that other people didn't accept or understand. Instead of love and understanding, I got the same mistreatment from my family as I got from a faceless society who didn't know me at all. I was forced out into the streets, and experienced some truly dark times until I found someone who was willing to love me for me. Someone who could...'help' me see things more clearly."
"Please! Spare me the details, sweetheart. I'd like to keep a little bit of my lunch down." I told him. "So, you got yourself a partner in sin, and left your preggy girlfriend with the check, is that right?"
"You have such a talented way of putting things, Mr. Workman." The voice said. "True, I wasn't ready for a child at such a young age. But despite that, I vowed to take care of my son the best way that I could. I've been keeping my promise ever since."
"Too bad your son's dad is a sissy. Otherwise, I'd say you sticking around would be a good thing."
"My son is actually a homosexual, himself. So, I doubt he would mind."
"Zing! TWO in a row! What, are you passing down a family CURSE or something?" I laughed. This guy really WAS entertaining! I could do a whole show on him alone. "What the hell did you do to turn your son gay? Did you molest him when he was in his formative years? I mean what are the odds? Let me ask you, do you blame yourself, or do you blame God? Hey, maybe the Almighty is trying to tell you something."
There was another short silence, but I could tell this caller was smiling. Almost as if he was taking great joy out of my answers tonight. "Did you know that your heart is working overtime, just trying to keep you alive, Mr. Workman?"
"What?" I asked confused.
"Your heart. I can hear it when you breath into the microphone. Your blood pressure is awfully high. I'd say you weren't many years away from your first heart attack. If it weren't for the alcohol, your blood flow might have thickened up and your heart might have come to a complete stop months ago."
I frowned a bit, wondering what the heck this guy's problem was. "Is that what you do, Midnight Caller? You get off topic and switch to something else whenever you feel cornered to answer a simple question?"
"It's been many years since I've felt 'cornered' by much of anything, Mr. Workman. It was simply something that I thought you should know. Not that it will matter much...after tonight."
"Yada yada yada! You wanna answer me now, or what? If you want to play games, I can move on to somebody else. You wanted to make a comment, so make one and get off of my show."
"My comment is, that my son now lives in a different era. A different time with different opportunities. He can be who he wants to be now, without fear of persecution from people like you, Mr. Workman. Thankfully, my son is growing up in a time when homosexuals are being accepted, and embraced, more and more every day, for what they're attracted to. Where they don't have to hide, and run scared, and fear being lynched in the street for who they are and who they love. The world still has a VERY long way to go, yes. But between the years that I was growing up and now, I have seen a major improvement in the civilized world taking a few steps forward." The voice said. "Eventually, the intelligence of our children will lead the way towards driving your stubborn and antiquated beliefs right out of the window. And THAT, is a world I look forward to seeing in the future. A world where 'gay pride' will be more than just a parade, it will be a way of life. Something that will one day go unnoticed...because there will be no need for an excuse to hate and fear it anymore."
I gave a loud, sarcastic, applause for my listening audience. "Well spoken, kid. Well spoken, indeed. Now, let me tell you what *I* think!" I took a deep breath as I stood up from my chair, raised the mic, and flew into rant mode. "*I* think that you're ideas of being free and liberated to go poking your nose in the crotch of some cowboy's blue jeans is a crock. I think you use this big 'gay pride' banner to somehow justify the same sickening acts that, just one or two generations back, were ILLEGAL in this country, as well as many others. I think most of the queer community is a bunch of disco dancing, potential pedophiles, rapists, and predators, looking to take your little boy over their knee and give him a sensual spanking after his classes in junior high. And I think your argument for 'tolerance' of your lifestyle is both weak and misguided! How confused could you possibly be about the ideas of right and wrong? You come on MY show and talk about all the hardships and hard times you've been through, because of your CHOICE to be a queer, and then you say you're proud of your own SON for making the same mistake? What kind of man ARE you? Oops, I'm sorry. I forgot. You're no kind of man at all." I said angrily, my adrenaline boosted by the idea that I got to challenge this fucker's ideas in the most abrasive way possible.
"Say what you want about me, Mr. Workman, but the fact of the matter is, times are changing. And they're changing without your permission. You cannot control it. You can't predict its outcome. And that terrifies you, doesn't it?"
"We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one, babycakes."
"Name calling won't stop progress. It won't stop society from growing up and evolving beyond your antiquated ideas. And soon, my son will have a chance to be truly happy in a way that I have never known." The voice said, slightly increasing in volume. "He won't have to HATE himself for his own feelings. He won't grow up to be a bitter old man, constantly spewing hate out of his every pore, hoping to make everyone as miserable as he is for never living the life he so desperately wanted to have. Now he badgers and bashes everyone who has a fighting chance at being true to themselves. Now, he roams the parks at night, looking for random boys to satisfy his lustful urges, coming home to his wife, who tries desperately to pretend not to smell the telling scent of anal sex on him when he climbs into bed." At that moment, my breath got caught in my throat. I felt a tremble in my hands as I reached out for my chair, and sat down in silence. "Does it ever work for you, Mel? That so-called infinite disdain for homosexuals? Does it help to secure the mask you wear around your co-workers? Around your family? Does the healthy dose of alcohol you mix with your soda before your show somehow make it easier to deal with the overwhelming sensation that you have to turn your head when you see a teenage couple, two boys, holding hands in the street? Boys you wish you could have. Boys you wish you could BE."
"Well, now you're just babbling." I told him, and felt a cold shiver run through me as I looked over at the booth for Vonetta. She STILL wasn't back yet! Neither was Peter. Fuck! Do I have to do EVERYTHING myself. "Thanks so much for your sugar coated offering, Midnight Caller. But I'm afraid you're way off base with this one."
"Goodnight. And don't choke on any hot rods this weekend. Breathe through your nose, sweetheart." I said, and quickly hit the button to hang up on him. What does he know about me? NOTHING! Fucking nothing! Goddamn queers and they're fantasies.
I had to take a quick commercial break, and had to walk out to operate the switches myself before opening the door to look out into the hallway. But the hallway was completely dark, except for one flickering ceiling light up ahead. I stared down the long hallway, holding on to the door frame, hearing only silence.
"Vonetta?" I called out.
I got no reply.
"Vonetta??? Peter???" I shouted a bit louder.
I got no reply.
"If either ONE of you wants to keep your job, you'll get your assess back in here and run these fucking boards!" I said.
I got...no reply.
I felt a slightly cool wind breeze through the hallway, and I could have sworn that I heard the ever so faint sound of 'breathing'.
My heartbeat began to slightly pick up in its pace, and I nearly stumbled backward as the breathing got louder. Echoing off the walls around me. It was as if the walls themselves were breathing. With a sudden rush of fear, I went back in the room and shut the door. Backing away from it as I tried to calm my nerves.
It was so illogical. So strange. What the hell was I doing? It's a dark hallway for crying out loud. It's not like the friggin' BOOGEY MAN was going to jump out of the shadows. Get it together, Mel. We've got work to do.
I heard the last radio ad coming to an end, and quickly went to the boards to accept all calls so that I could choose from them at will. There was a moment of dead silence as I took a heavy gulp of my drink and fumbled to put my earphones back on.
"Alright, we're back with 'Say It Straight' on WVMP. This is Mel Workman, your host. And tonight we're talking about the ridiculousness of this so-called 'gay pride' weekend." I pressed one of the blinking buttons at random "Alright caller, you're on with Mel. Where are you from and what are your thoughts?"
"Funny, we must have 'accidentally' gotten disconnected." Came the voice again, the same sinister grin translated through his voice alone. "And we were having so much fun."
"Look, I don't know who you are, but this is a LIVE radio show! All of this is being recorded, so..."
"Good. I'm sure people would love to hear what I have to say about their favorite radio host." He said. There was another silence as I fought to find the right words. To maybe piss him off enough to get the spotlight off of me and back where it belongs. I won't lose control. This is MY world! In here...I'M the king! But after a few seconds, the voice asked, "Are you there, Mr. Workman?"
"Oh, I'm not going anywhere, cupcake. Believe me. Ok, you want to tangle, let's tangle. FACT...you destroyed your family by choosing to be gay. FACT...you destroyed ANOTHER family in the making, by abandoning your own child for a homosexual lifestyle. FACT...you screwed your son up by failing to step in and teach him right from wrong! So now you've left him to get the same treatment that you had growing up. Probably some kind of punishment. A form of torture that pleases you because, when it's all said and done, you want everyone in your life to burn in hell right next to you."
"You know...your false confidence doesn't work on me, Mr. Workman. You know that, right? You are so transparent." The voice said. "Your vocal patterns tell me when you're lying." I puffed my chest out a bit more, but he continued. "Your larynx contracts, muscles strain, body temperature rises, gently heating the hot air coming out of your mouth. Your tone changes, your pitch changes...the oncoming panic has shifted your patterns completely. I can detect it in every breath you take. You know, when you practice for a decade or two, vocal recognition is almost as good as mind reading. So you can yell and you can shout and you can pace around the room...but you can't hide, Mr. Workman. Not from me." Then the voice lowered to a whisper, and he chanted, "I seeeeeeeee youuuuuuuuu..."
"I've had about enough of this game! You know what, kid? The next time you call back here, I'm tracing your call to the police!" I said, and slammed my fist down on the button. "VONETTA??? PETER???" I yelled, hoping they could hear me through the door. But I got nothing. Angrily, I hit another one of the buttons on the phone. "NEXT CALLER!!!" I said, a lot louder than I meant to.
"You having trouble with them faggots, Mel?" I recognized the voice, and it was Frank that had called in earlier from Georgia. Thank God. I instantly stood back up out of my chair and began to get my composure back.
"Is that you, Frank? It's good to hear that good old American voice back on the line. I tell you, these freaks get weirder and weirder every year."
"Yeah, those queers are a wild bunch, let me tell ya!" He said. "But I'm still riding with ya! You keep doing what you're doing, and don't let them rattle ya none!"
"You're damn RIGHT I'm gonna keep doing what I'm doing! Because my listeners need to know that it is NOT ok to be a flaming homosexual! It never has been, and it NEVER WILL BE! I don't care WHAT they tell me about political correctness! They've got everybody running around scared! Afraid to hurt somebody's feelings. But I want my listeners to know that I'm not afraid to say what we're all thinking!"
"Damn right! Woo hoo!!!" Frank cheered, chuckling a bit afterwards. "Hey, let me ask you something, Mel! And give it to me straight!"
"You know I will."
"Do the people listening to your show know that you used to tongue kiss little Jimmy Warner in his sleep up at summer camp?"
My heart immediately dropped down into my stomach. My entire body began to shake violently, as a queasy sensation washed over me. "Wh-what...?" I whimpered softly.
"Little Jimmy Warner. You was 14 years old, and he was almost 12. You shared that two man tent together up at boy scout camp, remember? Nice little curly blond angel. Slim hips. Soft lips. You'd drink hot cocoa before going to bed, hoping the caffeine would keep you awake until after he fell asleep. Hard sleeper, that Jimmy Warner."
I fell back into my chair...my mind paralyzed with the memory of it. "What are you...what are you talking about...?"
Frank's voice sounded as though it was melting back into the sinister voice that I had heard before. The Midnight Caller. "You remember that, don't you? Mmmm...you enjoyed the pleasure of kissing him soooo much. Feeling those goosebumps rise as his soft, sleeping, breath blew against your cheek. It was such a pain for you, having to wait until bedtime. THIRSTY for another few hours of passion at his side. Such a fragile beauty."
"Stop it..." I said. I meant for my voice to say it louder, but it came out barely above a whisper.
"You miss him, don't you? In fact, throughout your entire life, even in marriage, you've never been able to find a young pair of sweet ruby lips that could compete with the soft lush taste of good ol' Jimmy Warner. But it wasn′t for lack of trying, was it?" I LUNGED forward and hung up the phone, picking up another line, and looking at the clock to see how far it was to my next commercial break. I swear, dark hallway or NO dark hallway, I'm gonna get my staff back in here and MAKE them do their FUCKING JOB, screening these calls!
"Freaks! They want everybody to be gay! Crazy, ain't it?" I said, switching over to the next line. "Next...n-n-next caller! You're on with, Mel..."
"I certainly hope our little 'talk' isn't over, Mr. Workman. We've still got a whole lifetime of lies and hypocrisy to expose." Said the voice again. He was literally on EVERY line! And then...flawlessly...in my OWN voice, he said, "We've got to tell it like it is! I say it straight, and you choke it down! The truth is a bitch, isn't it?" I gasped and pushed away from the table as the voice giggled happily at my sudden recoil. "I told you...voices are my specialty."
"Get off my show!"
"Are you getting angry, Mel? Ohhhh, I certainly hope not. You hear that people? He's getting himself all worked up. Just like one of those sensitive little sissies he talks so boldly about..."
"SHUT UP!!! GET THE FUCK OFF OF MY PHONE LINE!!!" I screamed into the mic.
The voice suddenly got a bit more serious, and told me, "Are you sure? You should really try to stretch this conversation out for as loooonnng as you can, Mel. Because...when it's over...hehehehe..." The voice left the comment open, and I heard him breathing deeply again. There was an extended silence, and then he said, "I am sooooo very hungry tonight, Mr. Workman. Sooooo very close."
"You don't know me. You don't know anything about me," I said, feeling tears well up in my eyes as the voice penetrated my every thought. My deepest, darkest, secrets and broadcasted them live on the radio.
"I know a lot about you, Mel. Your mind was an open book, that night we met in the park. Do you remember that?" It said, and that is when the first few tears slid down my cheek. "I was quite young. There was no mistaking that. You offered me money, but I was looking for something more,'satisfying' that evening. You just didn't know it. I simply decided to let you go on living. I gave you a blessing, and you didn't even realize it." The voice told me. "You see, my son...he always wanted to get into radio. Had a passion for it ever since he was young. Had to start at the bottom, work his way up. Just finishing up the last few years of college now. You know my son, right? Peter?" I sat back in horror and found myself speechless. "Are you THERE, Mr. Workman?" Said the voice, more demanding. Now almost with a hint of anger. "If you don't answer me...this conversation is going to get VERY dark, VERY fast."
"Smart choice!″ The voice said. ″You see, I'd do anything in the world for my son. I love him very much. And the world he lives in now will be good enough, fulfilling enough, for him to not have to make the same tragic choices that I made 20 years ago. His humanity is a special and precious thing. I'd do almost anything to preserve that. Anything. Am I making myself clear, Mr. Workman? As long as he's happy in daylight...he won't ever have to trade it in for a life in darkness."
"Who are you?" I sniffled.
"Do your listeners know that you once gay bashed your own college roommate? Even though he was straight, you wanted him. And when you couldn't have him you spread rumors and had your friends throw him down the university steps..."
"WHO ARE YOU????"
"Do your listeners know that you have to struggle not to watch my son while you work? That you can barely lift your eyes to look at him when he's there?" The voice said. "He's awfully 'pretty' isn't he? And you like that. You want to hold him up against you, and feel him tremble in your arms. And you hate him for being such a brazen temptation, don't you? I imagine it's hard to go back to your wife after spending your nights with someone sooooo appealing to your youthful tastes."
"VONETTA??? DAMMIT!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!"
"You can save your breath, Mr. Workman. Both Vonetta and Peter are sleeping peacefully. I happen to have a good friend that can keep them safe and sound while we finish our little...'chat'. She'll be sure to wake them when we're finished."
"You...what the hell did you do???"
"It's a creepy feeling, isn't it, Mel? Being all alone?" The voice said with a grin. "I'm willing to bet your listeners didn't know that you like picking up teenage boys for random sex in the park. You forgot to tell them that part of your weekend entertainment plans, didn't you?"
"Afraid not, Mel. I know, because I was one of the boys you propositioned. Or have you forgotten me? Is that it? Have you forgotten our short time together?" The voice laughed at me as I sat still. "That night...my 'fairy' boyfriend was able to put just a hint of a suggestion in your mind. A little something to help my son succeed in getting started on his dream job. So for that bit of help, I am grateful. But...alas, it appears that your assistance is no longer needed. And frankly...I'm getting rather bored of your entire act, as well as this friendly little talk of ours. Shall we...'end it' now, Mr. Workman?" The way he said it sent shards of ice into my spine. The creepiness of it all left me numb from head to toe.
"I'm...I'm tracing your call to the police. They'll...they'll be here any minute..."
"No, Mr. Workman. You're not." The voice told me. "And even if you could...they wouldn't arrive in time. I told you, Mel...I'm very close. We all are. Hehehehe!"
Without another moment's hesitation, I tossed my headphones to the floor, the dark echo of laughter vibrating throughout the entire studio. I headed for the door, taking my jacket and keys with me. Fuck this! I'm out of here!
I rushed out into the hallway, seeing the one working light down at the end. And the shadow of three or four teenagers, mostly boys and one girl...standing there...waiting. Even from this distance, I could see a bright crimson glow in their eyes...
They didn't speak.
They didn't move.
They just STOOD there.
And the breathing continued.
And when I finally found the courage to turn around on weak knees and try to run, they sped towards me at what looked like the speed of LIGHT! They covered the entire distance between us in the blink of an eye with a screech and a howl! As my hand reached out for the door, my body frozen in its position, I felt four sets of teeth sink into me from different angles. Sharp fangs, piercing my flesh, and drinking heavily of my essence. My body got numb. And then cold. Something in the air...a scent...kept me from struggling. Not that it would have done me much good. They were too strong. Too fast. Too many in number.
I fell to my knees, unable to scream, being drained of my life's energy. And as my vision began to fade to black...I thought back to the times I watched Peter's slim hips and soft features while I worked. I remembered the boys in the park that I paid to do 'favors' for me, taking advantage of the homeless teens in the area, undernourished and alone. I thought about the nights when I would quietly masturbate to fantasies of my college roommate lying naked on top of me. Wishing that I could sink, deeply, into those firm round cheeks of his just ONCE. And yes...I even thought about kissing little Jimmy Warner in his sleep. I'll never find a pair of lips that sweet again. Ever.
Death isn't so bad. It's the intense fear of letting it all go dark that hurts most of all. But maybe...if I'm allowed to come back in another life, I'll be a part of this 'better world' the Midnight Caller spoke of. Maybe next time...I'll get it right. Maybe next time...I'll be free.
Strange. It doesn't even hurt anymore. The bites. Do I have any regrets? Would it matter at this point? My time is up. That was my very last show. I'm sure it'll be a doozy of a farewell episode. At least...I hope it will be. It's all I have left to leave behind.
That's it. That's all there is. Tune in next week when I'm sure to have a capable replacement take over for me, and give you the goods the way I once did. K?
This is Mel Workman...WVMP...
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