A hush descended over the room.
Wesley held the crank radio in one hand and held a finger up in the other, his silent order that everyone stop moving, keep still and quiet. It was the first time anyone had heard static on the radio in over three years.
“Was that just static?” Eli asked, and Clare’s hand whipped out and smacked his arm, the slap of skin against skin louder than she had expected, and she looked at Wesley expectantly.
He held the radio up to his ear and listened, slowly turned the dial back and forth again.
They had found the radio in the house they had stayed in last night. They had been down in the basement, of course, as far away from the outside and the night as they could get, barricaded in and silent for the last eight hours, and when the sun had finally risen high enough in the sky for them to declare themselves safe for the day, they had gone up into the house to see what they could find, and in a kitchen drawer, had found this radio.
It didn’t need batteries or electricity to work, just the friction of the cranked handle would power it. It was invaluable tool, one that not only had the radio, but it also functioned as a flashlight, and could power up things like CD players and cell phones, not that anyone had those electronics anymore.
“I heard something,” Eli said, and he was shushed again.
Wesley concentrated, slowly turning the dial forward, then back, then forward again.
Finally it was there, the hiss that Nora had practically forgotten, a sound all of them had probably forgotten, but now it was familiar again, the static’s crackle and shhhhhhhhhhh.
“There, there!” Eli shouted.
“Eli,” Nora and Clare both said at once, giving him dirty looks. They knew how excited he was, they were all excited about hearing the static. Hearing static meant that somewhere, something was still broadcasting.
The sound of the static faded in, faded out, finally settled and Wesley turned up the volume.
“Listen,” Wesley said, and they did. To the sound of static. The whooshing and popping of it, and then, something else. A voice trying to break through.
“…… one … ere … afety…”
“What is he saying?” Eli shouted, and finally Wesley snapped back at him.
“Shut your mouth, boy! Let us listen!”
Nora reached over the table between them and grasped one of Eli’s hands in her own, giving his warm hand a squeeze, willing him to calm down and quiet himself so they could hear, if there was anything to hear.
“… ay … dark … afe here … come … ania … eat .. aster .. ania ..”
“I think it’s a recording,” Wesley said. “Listen again.”
“… come … afe here”
“Safe here,” Clare said, and they all nodded.
“… elter … afe … come …”
“Shelter, safe, come.” Nora whispered to herself.
“… tary … the dark … come … cast .. ensil ..”
“I think that part is repeating but I can’t make it out,” Wesley said, and the four of them leaned in closer to listen.
“… dead … stay a … dark … zombies … lan …… ania.”
“At least they got the part about zombies right,” Eli joked, and eyes were rolled.
“… welcome … afe … come … aster … ania…”
Like she’d been shocked, Nora sprung up, pulling her hand from Eli’s and in the process knocking a pink glass candy dish from the table, sending it to the floor in a million shining little pieces.
“Lancaster,” Nora said. “Lancaster, Pennsylvania. ‘Lan,’ ‘aster,’ ‘ensil,’ ‘ania,’ do you guys hear it?”
“By God, Nora, I think you’re right,” Wesley said, his unfamiliar grin cracking his face in half, cracking his face like the glass.
“But is it just a recording?” Clare asked. “If it’s just a recording..”
“It could have been recorded years ago. Lancaster might not be safe anymore,” Eli finished.
“Does it matter? What’s safe now?” Nora asked. “Someone was broadcasting from Lancaster. Lancaster is, like, the middle of nowhere, right? Amish country?”
“It’s also, like, three hundred miles away,” Eli pointed out.
“Where else do we have to go?” Clare asked.
“Lancaster,” Wesley said, turning the thought over in his mind. “Whelp,” he finally said. “We’ve got about nine hours of daylight to burn. Let’s get on our way to Pennsylvania.”