Portable Radio

I woke up thirsty from my nap, so I went downstairs to get something to drink.  As I stood there with the refrigerator door open, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that something seemed wrong about the light coming up from the basement.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I couldn’t tell if the light was flickering or whether that was just a manifestation of my rattled nerves.  I tried to go back upstairs to sleep, but I never got farther than the first step.  I kept going back to the kitchen to stare at the ambient, flickering, light coming up from the basement stairs.  I couldn’t shake the feeling.

Finally, I realized that I was hearing very faint music coming from the basement.  The flickering was keeping beat with the music, and then I realized that the light wasn’t actually flickering at all.  It was just an auditory suggestion caused by the fact that I wasn’t aware that I was hearing the music.  I went down to check it out.  There was a little portable radio sitting on the top of a cabinet.  It was one of those cheap old radios with a handle on the top and a single speaker and an analog dial which spanned the length of it, the kind of radio someone would bring to a work site.  It was playing a harmless, familiar, song, but yet it made me feel uneasy all the same.  I knew that someone had left this radio on, and I knew that if I didn’t change the station, they would be lured back here by the music.  And I knew that was bad.

So I started to tune the dial, but instead of it changing the radio station, it changed everything else.  I found myself in the backyard of one of my childhood neighbors.  My wife and my daughter were there too, sleeping on the patchy grass, still wrapped up in their blankets.  They stirred, wondering how we had gotten outside.  My memory was a little foggy, and just as things were starting to come back to me, the screen door at the back of the house came banging open and my bearded old neighbor came rushing out yelling something in a toothless, drunken garble.  Yeah, this wasn’t good.  My wife and daughter gathered up their blankets and we started away, waving my neighbor off with our hands and assuring him that we were leaving.

As we were crossing the road, I noticed that I still had the radio.  I tuned the dial again.  Now we found ourselves in a long, narrow upstairs room in a strange house somewhere.  The room seemed to be an antechamber of some sort that opened onto other rooms on either side.  It spanned the width of the house with high, ornate, windows at either end.  In the evening the sunlight would fall through the window at the west end, and at night the streetlight outside would follow suit.  But the morning light would come through the window at the east end of the room, and everything would look different then.  I was anxious to see it.  I was comfortable here.  We stretched the blankets out on the floor below the west window.  Then I clicked off the radio and went back to sleep.


10 thoughts on “Portable Radio

  1. That radio, in different forms, tends to show up often. I think it's one of those archetypical Possibly Scary Things. Sometimes a portable radio or one of those old “beehive” style ones with the wooden cabinets. Sometimes it's a jukebox or an old gramophone.

    It's usually best not to touch it.


  2. There is sinister dream-logic in turning the dial, not to change the station, but the surroundings. Like a time-machine. Or a place-machine. Or simply a tunable memory-machine.


  3. The dream definitely started off very strange. Sometimes dreams have a certain tone to them which can be hard to find in the actual details of the dream. Here, though, constantly returning to the basement steps and feeling like something was lurking down there…yeah, a little creepy.


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