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Reed pulled up outside his house. A light breeze had picked up, as dawn approached and the remains of the autumn leaves whipped up around him. He reached around and undid his seatbelt and it whizzed around his portly chest. He got out and headed up his path before he realised he'd left his things in the back of his car and he returned to get them.
Reed was an electrician by trade but had a special interest in old forms of communications, and in his car was his next major project. One of his clients had given him a selection of old electrical equipment which they had apparently procured from a recently departed uncle. Included in the selection of paraphernalia was a vintage radio which he planned on taking apart and studying its internals.
He headed back to his front door and fumbled for his keys while balancing his bag upon his knee. The porch above him flickered intermittently then went out, plunging Reed into darkness. He tutted and made a mental note to fix it in the morning while he turned the key in the lock.
The door swung open and the hinges creaked in harmony and Reed gazed down his long hallway peering into the darkness beyond. About halfway down he saw a pair of eyes gazing back at him. They shimmered in the little available light and then began to move towards the open door, increasing in speed rapidly until they were right upon him. At this point, Marconi, his Siamese cat skirted around him rapidly and headed out into the night, taking a swipe at a low flying moth as he did so.
Reed headed into his vast living room, and emptied out the contents of his bag onto his table. He pushed most of the items to one side and shifted the radio so he could study it closely and switched on his table lamp which he shone it upon the item like he was about to interrogate it. The radio was a deep and shiny black which betrayed its age, and a mottled brown strap ran over the top which was worn a little at the top. The front had an oval mesh which covered the speaker and a solid tuning knob parallel to it. What was strange about this particular model, Reed had noticed, was that there appeared to be no frequency bar and no model make or serial number. He rubbed his tired eyes and his desire to study the device further was shortly overridden as he swiftly fell asleep in his armchair.
Reed's slumber was rudely disturbed by a startling sound of static which emanated from the radio, and he jumped up with a start. He grabbed the offending article in an attempt to eliminate the noise and turned a worn circular dial which reduced the static to a bearable volume, and then he listened. Out of the static came a young female voice, barely audible at first but it was reading out what appeared to be numbers, and being a radio enthusiast, he had some idea what this may have been. They called them number stations. Bizarre radio broadcasts of unknown origin which were known to begin shortly after the first world war and consisted of a series of seemingly random numbers read out at regular intervals. Reed grabbed a pen and a used envelope and quickly began to write the numbers down, with a hope of being able to decipher them.
Nineteen, eight, five. Then a short pause, followed by nine, nineteen...
And then the broadcast began to fade until Reed was left again in silence, glancing at the numbers written down in front of him in the dim evening light.
BANG, BANG, BANG! Someone at his back door startled Reed from his armchair once more. He glanced at his wristwatch, it was 12:45, and he wondered who would be knocking at his door so vociferously at this time. He rose from his chair, his bones aching from his evening slumber and headed out into the kitchen. His hand swept the back wall for the light switch and flicked it on, cursing the dullness of the energy-saving lightbulb recently installed which barely illuminated the room, and peered out into the darkness... At nothing.
For the second day in a row, Reed returned home drenched in lethargy and the lonely silence of his house was no consolation. Marconi sat in his favourite armchair with the worn armrests and greeted his master with a typical disdainful glance. Reed headed straight for his fridge, removed a bottle of beer and a plastic container with leftover Thai curry in it. He placed the container in the microwave, pushed the button three times and headed to his chair in the living room.
He took three large gulps of beer, relishing the nectar-like taste, and looked at his mysterious radio on his side table. The incidents of the night before had been weighing on his mind all day, the mysterious broadcast and the seemingly coincidental knocking at his door moments after left him equal parts curious and disturbed. He grabbed the piece of paper with the numbers on it and studied it intently, taking a few more sips of his bottle, the microwave called to him shrilly from the kitchen but by now he was deep in thought. Turning the paper over, he wrote out the alphabet in lines and underneath each letter he wrote a number. He didn't hold out much hope that the numerical code would be this easy or obvious but after working out the first few numbers his hope was aroused.
19 8 5
S H E
This continued until he'd finished all the letters and the whole message read:
He pondered what this meant for a moment or two until the beep of the microwave distracted him from his wonderment and he headed back to the kitchen to retrieve his night's meal.
By the time he had returned this unfinished message was all but gone from his mind and he flicked on his television, more for just background ambiance than anything else.
The night drifted by slowly and the clock dragged its way to midnight before Reed decided to retire. Marconi slipped past his legs, hoping for a midnight feast and skulked out of the cat flap when his pleads were ignored.
Reed was about to head upstairs when a now familiar noise emanated from the front room and the voice from the radio broke the evening silence.
Nineteen, eight, five... Nine, Nineteen... Three, fifteen, thirteen, nine, fourteen, seven... Then static. Reed stood for a moment, still wondering what this code could mean and then... BANG, BANG, BANG! The knock at the back door again.
Reed hesitated but then went to the kitchen and once more gazed out into the night at nothing. The moon emerged slowly from a strip of cloud and temporarily illuminated his porch, and for a moment he thought he saw a large figure lurking in the darkness. He blinked momentarily and it faded away and a second or so later he was startled by the sound of the cat flap beneath his feet and what he thought was Marconi brushing past his feet, however as he looked into his garden he saw what was undoubtedly his cat and he suddenly froze in terror. He didn't want to look down but instinct took over and he looked to see what was at his feet and he saw a rotting charred hand reaching through the cat flap which grabbed his ankle. He screamed hysterically and tried to get away but the grip of the hand was strong and he tumbled to the floor, smashing his head hard on the cold stone floor and then blacked out.
A few tendrils of early morning light made its way across the kitchen floor and reached over Reed's face. The warmth aroused him and he groggily lifted his head and a burst of pain erupted from his temple. His eyes slowly focused and he began to suddenly become aware that he was being watched, and as his vision cleared Marconi gazed at him unsympathetically. He swiped at the cat irritability and Marconi marched away, tail flicking with displeasure as he did so. Reed felt the back of his head as another shot of pain jabbed at him. He could feel a large patch of dried blood under matted hair and he remembered last night and the hand, that inhuman hand which almost seemed like a dream it was so unreal.
His day drifted by, he didn't go to work, feeling too unwell and fearing concussion, but he dreaded nightfall and what it would bring. He figured out the rest of last night. About 8 o'clock he fell asleep and awoke again as the radio burst on again. A swell of fear came over him as the distant voice began again with its series of numbers. He sat listening, rigid with fear.
Nineteen, eight, five...
Eight, five, eighteen, five...
He grabbed his piece of paper which he had written the code down on the first night and finished off the extra part.
And wrote the following words:
"SHE... IS... HERE..."
He was shaking. Extreme fear swept over him like a fever as he slumped in his chair and waited for the now regular knock at the back door, and as expected at 12:45... BANG, BANG, BANG!
He chose to ignore it, hoping with every ounce of hope, that whatever was out there would just leave him alone but the knocking just got louder and continued with increasing rapidity. He rose from his chair and headed to his back door, choosing to meet his fate, and as he walked through the kitchen, he took the biggest and sharpest knife from his drawer.
Again darkness greeted him as he peered outside until his eyes adjusted and he noticed movement outside. Something low down to the ground was moving towards him and once again he recognised his curmudgeonly cat, but before the animal could reach him, a figure loomed from the distance and scooped the cat up by its tail and hurled it at the door. Reed jumped back in surprise and clenched his fist tighter around the knife. The cat flap shuddered and he held his breath as he waited to see what would emerge. To his relief his cat came staggering through the door, clearly injured but alive and nothing followed...
Seconds, maybe minutes drifted by as Reed tended to his wounded cat and BANG, BANG, BANG! once more.
A hand scratched eerily at the door, the sound of nails scratching roughly at the wood. The handle turned slowly and Reed noticed the door key hanging in the lock and realised it was unlocked. He lunged forward, grabbing for the key, but the door had begun to open and the black, charred hand reached through. Its unnaturally long and dirty nails gripped the door and bent back under the vice-like grip it had upon the wood. He pushed at the door with all his might, trying to prevent the thing behind the door from getting in, but to no avail. Its strength was immense, and an immense shove sent Reed halfway down the hall, and it emerged through the darkness. A giant hulking frame loomed towards him, its lank matted hair fell over its shoulders.
The figure appeared female in appearance but a big, six foot tall, and extremely broad woman. Her skin was charcoal black with what looked like thick lumps of flesh falling from it like peeling wallpaper. Over her right eye was a tatty patch and he wondered what grotesque horrors could be behind it. Half of her left arm was missing and he could see bone underneath, and a low moan emanated from her as she edged slowly towards him. He tried to stand up to defend himself and by the time he had risen she was upon him and took one menacing swipe at his head. His instinct took over and he dodged the blow, her knuckles grazing his forehead but he still felt the strength of the blow. Suddenly he remembered the knife he held in his hand and he held it out in front, hoping it would be a deterrent but the beast raised its hand for another attack. This was his moment and he lunged forward, plunging the knife into its stomach and it let out a low moan.
The knife stayed embedded in her torso and she started to emit an evil chuckle as it started to twist the knife, almost enjoying the pain from the blade within. As she removed the knife, Reed could see that it was black and twisted, like it had been subject to extreme heat. The remains of the utensil was now inches away from him and she plunged it deep into his shoulder, twisting it as it went through. Her strength was inhuman and the blade went straight through bone and sinew and impaled him into the wall behind. The pain was immense and he screamed aloud as the thing pushed deeper and harder before she let go of the blade entirely and placed her hand over his face. He immediately felt heat and his face began to burn, melting his flesh and the pain increased still, and the last thing he remembered was hearing the thing's low maniacal laugh before he burned.
Selina drove through the late night fog carefully on her way back home. A box of her late uncle's belongings and a cat basket in the backseat. She had retrieved them both an hour or so before from his home. As his only next of kin she felt obliged to give them, and his cat Marconi a home. She felt sad about his demise (victim of a freak electrical fire of some sorts according the official coroner's report). The illuminated display on her dashboard read 12:45 PM and she longed for her bed as drowsiness was creeping in, however she was startled from Marconi beginning to whine in the back closely followed by the sound of static....