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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Monday, 10 October 2011 16:34

2X2L Calling PQ

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“Is there anyone there?  Come in…”

The dusty ham radio crackled in the darkness as Eli kicked his feet in the air, sitting on the edge of the broken wooden chair his father had thrown out months earlier.  Both of Eli’s parents were long asleep as he tried to reach PQ.  He huddled down in the small garage all by himself just as he did almost every night since he’d found the abandoned radio buried beneath a pile of old tools and muddy tarp.

“This is 2X2L calling PQ.  Come in.  Is there anyone there?  The monsters have attacked and I’m the only one left.  I’m waiting to be rescued.  Is there anyone there?  The monsters will be here again soon.  Come in PQ…”

The radio hissed and Eli could hear distant voices through the static, but couldn’t quite make them out.

“PQ this is 2X2L.  Come in…”

After an hour or two in the garage, Eli made his way to the TV in the living room as he always did.  He sat his tiny self on the musty couch and watched black and white episodes of the Twilight Zone until he fell asleep.  Sometimes, if he was lucky, he’d be able to stay awake long enough to catch Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but usually he fell asleep before that.

“Eli!  Get up!  You’ve got school today!  What the hell is wrong with you?”

It was nearly the same every day.  Eli’s mother’s rude voice punctured whatever nightmare he was having and woke him to the familiar bad dream he lived almost every day.  Sometimes his mother smacked him in the ear or hit him on the head to emphasize a point, but mostly her words injured enough that she wouldn’t bother.  He got through the day however he could until he was able to return to the solace of the television shows he loved—mostly cartoons and old movies that were made before he was born.  He’d then retreat to the garage once his father had left for work and resume trying to contact PQ.  The days would melt into each other, filled with a diet of frozen dinners and whatever movie he could find on cable while his parents fought each night away in their bedroom.

“We can’t goddamn afford it, Gil!  We couldn’t afford it last week and we can’t afford it this one!  For God’s sake we can’t even afford him!  We couldn’t when we had him, but you said it would be ok.  You know I wanted to give him away, but you said we’d make it work somehow.  Well we can’t very well give him away now!  You can’t just get rid of a six year old boy.  Now where the hell are we?  I can’t find a goddamned job and that damn taxi you drive barely pays rent!  I can’t do this anymore, Gil.  I just can’t!”

It was the same every night.  Sometimes things were thrown and broken, sometimes it was just words.  It would always continue until his father emerged with a bowed head and red eyes, stubbing his cigarette out in the tin can on the kitchen counter.  His father would then go out into the too-small garage and get in his dingy yellow cab and disappear until sometime in the early morning.  Eli would sit in front of whatever old movie he could find on TV and let it take him away until his mother drank herself to sleep.  He’d then quietly slink into the darkened garage, pull up the broken chair twice his size and flick on the transmitter with renewed excitement that maybe this just might be the night.

“2X2L calling PQ.  Come in PQ.  Is there anyone there?  I’m still here.  I’m waiting.  Come in PQ…”

Within the depths of static Eli could make out faint voices, always just out of reach.  Occasionally one would bubble to the surface, but Eli could never quite make out what was being said.  Though when he let himself drift, he could almost hear the response from PQ…

“This is PQ.  Over.  We read you.  We weren’t sure if anyone survived the initial attack.  We’re mounting a rescue mission now.  Just stay put 2X2L.  We’ll try to get there as soon as possible before the monsters arrive.  Do you read?  Over.”

Whenever Eli answered, the responder’s voice only faded back into the sea of static.  Still Eli refused to give up.

One night long after his father had left for work and his mother had passed out, Eli woke to something in his room.  It was a tall figure dressed all in black standing at the foot of his bed.  In one hand, Eli saw a long knife folded out from the handle.  The figure lurched over and looked down at him with the head of a werewolf.  Eli sat upright in his bed as the figure came toward him, but somehow he wasn’t afraid.  The figure adjusted its face so the eye-holes were in line and Eli could see that its hands were trembling.

“So, are you a monster, or did you come to rescue me?”

The werewolf stood looking down at Eli with the knife bunched in its gloved fist and heavy breathing coming from somewhere behind its motionless mouth.  Its breath smelled of stale cigarettes.  It grabbed Eli by the neck as it gripped the knife tighter.  Eli looked into the monster’s sunken eyes and saw tears beginning to form.  The werewolf held Eli there frozen as the tears began to fall.  After a long silence, it slowly released him and closed the knife.  It gently handed the knife to Eli and whispered in a growl.

“Take this.  It’ll protect you.  Don’t let anyone hurt you.  PQ will be here soon.”

With that, the monster left quietly, closing the bedroom door behind it.  That night Eli fell into a strange sleep—one with no nightmares.

The next morning Eli woke feeling strong and floated through the day with the knife securely in his pocket, somehow feeling safer than he ever had before.  That night, before Eli’s father went to work, he came into the garage where Eli had taken an early post at the radio.  His father stood there for a moment and then did something he’d never done before.  He bent to kiss Eli on the forehead with tears in his eyes and gave him a long hug before shuffling into the dirty cab and driving off into the night.  Eli could smell his father’s staleness in the air.

“2X2L calling PQ.  Come in PQ.  I have the weapon you sent.  I’m waiting for rescue.  Come in.  Come in PQ.  I’m still here waiting for rescue…”

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Kristopher Monroe

Kristopher Monroe lives, writes, and drinks in Brooklyn, NY.  His fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Thieves Jargon, In the Snake, Defenestration, Weirdyear, and Flesh & Blood, among other places.  He's currently at work on a novel which he hopes to finish within a not too ridiculous time frame. He can be found on the interwebs at cultureassassin.com

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