“Where the hell is Boone?” The station manager looked in on the chaos minutes before the show start.
He was an extraordinarily tall man, the type that always seemed to be ducking, through doorways that were too low, or hunched, to get to things not within arm’s reach or to interact with the rest of the human population. The radio station was a series of small everything - narrow hallways, tiny offices, claustrophobic studios. In there, it was more like the presence of a giant. It didn’t help that he had absurdly large hands that he liked to plant against a wall or a door frame to lean and hunch, so they were right in the line of sight, like some grotesque anomaly in a museum, or abstract art – big meaty hands the size of dinner plates and sausage fingers with nails as big as quarters.
He was intimidating, not only because of his size. He had a voice as deep as a bass drum, a face frozen in anger, and a disposition that communicated detest for all standing before him. Everyone at the station was at best uncomfortable around the boss, at worst absolutely terrified. Except Boone.
“He’ll be here,” the producer responded, checking the levels for the mic.
“He better be.” The grotesque anomaly on the door frame disappeared.
“Put his special coffee in place,” the producer shouted to the intern. She poured three shots of bourbon into a hot cup of coffee and placed it on a small end table next to the host’s ragged chair.
Boone walked in with only three minutes to spare. He relaxed in the beat-up leather chair and popped a cigarette in his mouth from the breast pocket of his faded leather jacket. The sulfur of the wooden match ignited and he inhaled with a satisfying smile as the nicotine triggered the endorphins. He liked to smoke just before going live, believing the cigarette gave his voice just a bit more grittiness.
Boone took three more drags in quick succession and extinguished the half-gone cigarette in an ashtray that was sculpted to be a woman’s nether region in excruciatingly pornographic detail - sideshow art and graphic for the raunchy humor of it.
The producer signaled from the other side of the glass with five fingers in the air. Boone nodded and sat up, and brought his face to the microphone. His lips touched the black foam, eyes closed. It looked like some sordid act and it was in a way. Boone felt the excitement every time his lips touched the foam of the microphone, knowing that his voice would exit and be transmitted through the airwaves to penetrate the ears of every soul listening. That’s how he described it, mostly to young women, whether they expressed interest or not – Soul Penetration.
The producer counted off by eliminating a finger, then another. Five, four…
Chip was the producer. He was loyal, eighteen years running, and would be by Boone’s side no matter how much he was treated like a piece of shit. Boone’s words. It was the radio host’s favorite phrase when conveying to someone the personal worth, value. Boone liked to make sure those around him fully and completely understood that he was the star, and the rest were far below him. You are a piece of shit.
Phillip was the sound engineer. Boone didn’t bother to remember his name, even after nine months in the booth. Sound engineers come and go, and Boone seemed to go through them at an accelerated rate. It had been that way in every job, every city. He told the last one that sound engineers were hardly engineers. They were trained monkeys who got paid way too much to push a few buttons on a board far too intricate for fucking radio.
The producer’s fingers dropped. Three, two…
The interns were Boone’s favorite. This one was named Stacey. He remembered their names, for as long as they were in the booth, which was never long. Some left disgusted and others gave in with regrets maybe, some not. After all, Boone was a celebrity, or once was.
Finger dropped. One….
Chip closed his fist indicating that they were live and Boone almost puckered up to kiss the foam.
“Hello nightcrawlers. People of the dark. It’s eleven p.m., an hour until we reach that coveted number for you morbid souls out there. Do you hear me? Is my voice coming to you loud and clear?” His was the kind of voice that could make a listener feel like it had been down a hard road of wisdom.
Nightcrawlers, the pet name for the show’s listeners. He started using it a few shows in, seemingly out of nowhere, and it stuck. Fans loved it and the label became synonymous with the show’s brand, and a demonstration of the listenership loyalty.
Boone looked up to meet the eyes of Stacey and gave her a wink. She recoiled, then tried to hide her disgust with an awkward smile.
“Get your ears close to that speaker nightcrawlers, because we are coming at you with fiery fury. We are embers glowing in the darkness. As white hot as the light on your radio dial. Remember these call letters, nightcrawlers. WYRM, the only place on the radio that lets the Undertaker Boone takeover. It won’t be long until we take over all of the airwaves. Every dial. Every transmitter. It’s a revolution, nightcrawlers. The phone lines are open.”
Boone leaned back in the old chair and took a deep breath. He confidently held an expression of satisfaction – a man who liked to hear his own voice and believed that voice enthralled, excited, invited. He was the Master of Ceremonies. He was so much more than the disc jockey.
The radio host was now in his mid-fifties. He was overweight, balding, and the years of drug and alcohol abuse added more time to his complexion. It had been nearly thirty years since he first let his voice float out there for listeners to find. It started at a small radio station in the Midwest playing family friendly music for a conservative listenership.
Boone recognized the surging power of rock in the seventies that contributed to the eventual obliteration of AM radio. There were all sorts of experiments going on and Boone fell into the camp that was known as freeform radio and soon dominated it. He went national. By his mid-twenties, Boone was one of the biggest names in the country, rivaling the likes of the great Wolfman Jack and Casey Kasem. He walked among the stars, the distinction being that Boone spoke to a generation of true, purest rockers, along with the hangers on and closet wishers. No pop shit, no Top 40. He was the rebel of the radio.
Then came the early eighties. Cable television drove music lovers to, of all things, a visual experience for a medium meant to be listened to. The music video was birthed in front of an entire generation who would only understand music by the visual montage that accompanied it. Many household radio names drifted into obscurity. Some understood how to bridge their medium to TV and remain relevant. They evolved with the times.
Boone did not. He lashed out at the music video generation and in the blink of an eye became irrelevant to the music scene.
He disappeared for a few years and eventually ended up on the east coast working the overnight, no longer the purveyor of rock, doing talk radio. The show centered on the strange and bizarre and invited every wacko awake when most of the world was sound asleep to call in. Eleven at night until six in the morning.
Despite years of drug and alcohol abuse, two heart attacks and three failed marriages, Boone was still the arrogant asshole he had always been, seemingly immune or unaware of the current state of his career. He would remind everyone around him, especially the station manager, that his new concept was on a trajectory to the stars. He would be back on top in no time.
The mid-eighties were beginning to experience a different kind of radio DJ, the morning shock jock. Listeners experienced controversial characters like Howard Stern. As opposed to walking the line that came with a popular morning show, Boone was a shock jock on steroids. He sailed under the radar because who gave a shit about what was said at two in the morning, and by the time they did care he was too damn popular. Boone created a show that had all of the vulgarity and testosterone of the shock jock with the weirdness of paranormal radio the likes of the legend Long John Nebel. It was a pornographic Coast to Coast, before there was a Coast to Coast. It was before the internet, and before podcasts. It was the beginning of the beginning of the fall of Rome.
Boone’s show was appropriately named Overnight Madness. And many of the nights truly lived up to it. In between the true believers of specters and aliens, and those trying to understand the unknown, there were the dark others depicting the worst aspects of society. The city police were actively listening to the show to respond to what Boone attracted. In the month of June alone, there was a woman’s attempted suicide, a naked runner covered in bloody, knife carved signs of Satan across his entire body, and a man held at gunpoint by his strung-out boyfriend who was convinced his love was a Reptilian. Protesters frequented the radio station’s lobby. The mayor was demanding that Boone be arrested and the FCC was threatening to fine the station every time Boone opened his mouth. But the listeners were coming in droves, tuning in for the freakshow. It started with only a target audience affectionately named the graveyard shift. Eventually, people were staying up to witness the radio train wreck. Boone’s star was rising and the proverbial phone was ringing. Going national was so close, he could taste it.
Chip prompted Boone with a signal that indicated a caller on hold and Boone sat up to kiss the black foam, puckered up, ready to make seedy sex to the airwaves.
“And the first caller comes to us from the footholds of conspiratorial solitude. Caller, tell us what you are seeing out there.”
The voice was nervous, almost stuttering. “I can only be on the phone for three minutes. Three minutes, so they can’t trace the call.”
“Gotcha caller. Who is the ‘they’ you speak of?”
“Them. They control everything.”
Boone looked at Chip and gave him a devious smile, as to say yeah, this is the stuff we are looking for. This is what the people want. Pour it on.
“Caller, if they control everything, what is with the three-minute grace period? Wouldn’t they control that time too? C’mon man, give it to us straight. What is out there for us to fear?”
“You don’t realize it Boone, but you are part of the problem. The aliens have control of everything now, Boone. Our government, our schools, our food. And they are using the radio to alter people’s minds so we are just passive and apathetic.”
“Whoa caller. Watch that language, you are on the radio. Apathetic is too big of a word for this audience.”
“This is serious, Boone. We are just blindly following like sheep.”
“The aliens are making everyone sheep? I thought religion already did that.”
Chip gave the cut-it sign, the one that said get off this tangent because this is the one that will kill everything. Don’t touch religion, you arrogant asshole. The producer and host had several hand signs between them. It was a complex language that astutely communicated the situation and the sentiment.
Boone smiled with an expression that was as sinister as any exaggerated comic book character. It excited him to push the limits. He felt he knew the line that was just controversial enough to suck in the masses, but not so far that it would ban him from radio. And he liked to screw with his producer.
“Is there an alien connection to religion caller? Caller? Caller? Well it looks like our three minutes are up, nightcrawlers. Somebody has a date with a probe.”
Boone leaned back in the withered chair and took a long drink from the coffee concoction, a pause too long for radio, one that had the producer making an astute sign to Boone who held another sinister smile, and just before the pause would have sent listeners to turn the knobs on the radio dial, convinced the station had gone black, he bounced up in the relic chair and kissed the microphone.
“Who is afraid of the dark out there? Not the nightcrawlers. We love the night. It’s where we live. With vampires, and the werewolves, all of the creatures of the night. We don’t fear the darkness. We need the darkness.”
He continued the self-absorbed diatribe littered with cheap horror movie tricks that the audience ate up. He taunted the outcasts and encouraged them to call in and bleed on live radio. It was a rant, part seduction for the unhinged to participate in his mecca of exploitation, part lashing out at the barriers that stood in his way. It was an attack on everything from the mayor, to the radio jobs of the past, to the establishment, to his own radio station. Boone’s thoughts and intentions were so insular, the outside world was a bunch of cardboard cut-outs to him.
“Now it’s time to get real. Check your inhibitions at the door or go the hell home. But if you are with me, nightcrawlers, don’t miss the next caller right after these messages.”
Phillip took them into commercial, following every cue from his producer through thick lenses and Gazelle frames. “We are back in thirty seconds.”
Boone downed the last of the coffee plus and tossed the cup across the room. He lit a cigarette and sucked in the smoke like it was the only air left in the room, then flicked it with his thumb and forefinger at the sound engineer.
“Get it right you pieces of shit. The people are looking for strangeness. High fucking, batshit crazy strangeness. Don’t feed me that mild manner bullshit. Give me something that will make this audience piss their goddamn pants. It’s 1986. The world wants pure, fucking sewage. That’s how we go national.”
Chip gave the five sign, then dropped a finger, and another. His eyes stayed on Boone, except for a quick and solemn glance at the ringed finger that he knew would soon be ringless – a consequence of the midnight shift and being in Boone’s gravity. Four, three, two, one. And a fist.
“Do you feel the dark creeping in? Only minutes until that fateful hour, and then it gets fun. There is something about the stroke of midnight that brings out the strange of the strange. The true nightcrawlers. Who is on the line?”
Chip opened up the line to a caller on hold who screamed into the radio, the sound so authentic and dripping with such primal rage that Phillip’s muscles tightened to near rigor mortis. Chip caught his sound engineer’s inaction and stretched across the board to drop the caller.
“I am going to kill everyone. Blood is fun.”
Boone howled like a wolf and slowly leaned away from the mic to give that beasts off in the distance effect. “Whoa, what a psycho, nightcrawlers. Tell him not to kill the hot ones.” He let out a smoker’s laugh that transformed into a half cough, half laugh and ended in a drawn-out wheezing. “The freakshow is on the caffeine tonight, nightcrawlers. Give me some of what they are drinking. Punch your ticket and enter to the right. The curtain has opened, the band is playing and you get a front seat to see what could never be out there in the daylight.”
Boone stared down his producer who was righting himself from the dive across the console to cut off the last caller. It was amusing. It always was to Boone, to see his faithful producer going to extremes to protect the show from the extremes. Chip was good, but he didn’t get it. He didn’t accept that it was the extreme that would be their proverbial rocket. Boone was hungry for the callers, for the trash that made the audience want more. ‘Bring it on,’ he thought. ‘The sensationalism. The depravity.’ He didn’t give a damn what was coming in as long as it was strange and gave the audience something they couldn’t find at any other point in the listening hours.
“What’s on your mind caller?”
“Theft,” the caller replied and followed with a dry laugh, close lipped, the kind that vibrated the back of the tongue and the teeth, and ended in a sort of hum.
“Looks like we have a thief on the line. Are you calling to tell us about your next big score tonight? Art theft? Are you a bank robber?”
“Intellectual property. And I am calling to report a theft,” the caller stated.
Boone snorted as he leaned back to grab his special coffee, a replacement cup from the beautiful intern. He took a quick drink and moved in to face the caller.
“Sounds really boring. Do you know what show you’re on?”
“Our intellectual property was appropriated, for a fraud of a radio program.”
Boone locked eyes with his producer whose finger was on the dump button. Chip always kept his finger close to the button and needed to eliminate multiple FCC violations nightly. There was something about the caller’s calm confidence swirling around the potential for a defamatory claim. Not that Boone cared about such a thing. Give it to the lawyers, that’s why they get paid.
“Well, now you have me intrigued,” the radio host declared.
The mysterious caller, whose composure amid the usual managed chaos, was utterly unsettling to the show’s backbone. They all listened with caution and watched their fearless, arrogant host.
The accusation was simple. Stated as intellectual property because it would get the radio host’s attention. What it really was, as the caller explained, was the theft of a word that had tremendous meaning to those who held it as an identity. To those others, the caller included, the word was a birthright. It was the difference between nightcrawlers the fan club and nightcrawlers the genuine. Imitation vs. Real.
“What is that even supposed to mean?” Boone asked.
There was a long pause, an absolute no no for the airwaves. Radio silence loses listenership. Seconds feel like minutes to the ear and radio dials get turned, tuned to another channel just to make the silence cease. The producer motioned for the dump button. Boone pointed his finger at the glass and mouthed, ‘Don’t you touch that fucking button.’
“It was three years ago,” the caller started back in. “You were on a bender, among other things. And you wandered into our sanctuary. And you saw our sacred word, and you left with it. We’ve come to take it back.”
Chip dumped the call. He knew they would have been seconds away from the gargantuan of a station manager stomping into the studio to scream about lawsuits and copyright infringement. The producer had no idea where the caller was going but he wasn’t going to give him a public platform for a legal claim. He gave Boone the signal that the call was disconnected, not that he dumped the call.
“Looks like this one got cold feet. What was he saying people of the night? Is he the nightcrawler, or are you? Tell him nightcrawlers, hell yeah.”
The rest of the night was just as strange, the further they went past midnight, the darker and more extreme the calls, until reaching a threshold where the calls dropped off as they always did and the remaining two hours were filled more with the personality of Boone.
Six in the morning, the airwaves were handed over to the morning show.
Walking out of the station doors in the brightness of the morning sun, both squinting to give their eyes time to adjust to daylight, Chip nudged his boss.
“What was with the call about the nightcrawlers label?”
Boone lit a cigarette, cupping the flame with his palm to block the wind. “Why is he different than the other unhinged callers who contribute to our success?”
Chip’s eyes finally adjusted to the sun. He used to love the bright, clean freshness of a city morning. The overnight had taken that away. Now, he raced home to climb into bed, windows covered, immersed in darkness and sleep when others were wide awake. He was a vampire minus the blood.
“Where did you get it? The idea, to call the audience nightcrawlers.”
“What does it matter? The audience loves it.”
They walked down the concrete steps together to the empty sidewalk ready to be full of hurried pedestrians on the way to work. As their feet touched the bottom where they would go separate ways, Chip in a rush to find the solitude of his bedroom for sleep and Boone to the local diner for breakfast before retiring, the producer grabbed his boss’s arm.
“Just curious. Where did you get the name?”
Boone flicked the half-consumed cigarette into the street. His expression was caught between fatigue and annoyance. ‘Pieces of shit,’ he thought.
“A fucking tagger, so what?”
Chip let go of Boone’s arm and looked out across the city that was becoming more populated with every passing second. It was full of life in the daytime, and full of life at night, and there was that time in between when it got as quiet as a city could be. Every weekday morning, Chip would watch it awaken from the in between as he left the station.
“What? Graffiti?” he asked Boone.
“A year or so before we got the greenlight for the show. I don’t know, I was at a party. I was wasted. I left, got lost. I ended up in some alley. A tag on the wall. Just shit graffiti.”
The waitress dropped off a plate of eggs and bacon with a large O.J. and a side of toast. It was tradition. Every overnight ended with a hearty breakfast before getting shuteye. It was a neighborhood spot catering to mostly locals who knew Boone well. Occasionally, a new face would recognize him and he would sign an autograph.
He devoured the breakfast and ignored the ambience. The usual crowd. Those getting off the midnight shift and listening to Boone’s madness gave him a nod and a smile or noted they loved the show. Some of the crowd starting their day had also experienced his overnight show, the rest were fans of the old Boone and his godlike place in 70s radio, despite the fact he was a decade away from the fame he once relished.
He acknowledged the fans with a nod or half smile. Most knew to give him space to decompress after the show. He didn’t mind signing an autograph or two as long as it was quick and people moved along. An unwritten rule the inhabitants of the local establishment accepted with no need for an explanation. Even the occasional tourist eager for an autograph understood the concept of personal space.
Which is why it was strange that Boone experienced an invader of that space, and done in such an intrusive and obnoxious way. The woman just sat across from him and made herself at home.
At first, Boone was not objectionable to the intrusion. She was in her early twenties, maybe. Attractive, although not the typical look he frequented. The hippie type, as Boone liked to call it. No make-up, straight hair, natural and no interest in cultural assimilation. Not a typical 80s look. Boone appreciated keeping up with the latest style, still she was alluring and he liked to say he loved all women.
She said nothing, no request for an autograph, no demonstration of admiration. She just sat down, stared and smiled. Strands of her hair were twisted like baby serpents, coiled and draped over her shoulders.
She reached across the table for the sugar dispenser and, as a seasoned artist would take to the instrument of choice, she let the sugar run like sand on the table, moving the dispenser like a composer moves the baton. The gestures reminded him of the sand paintings the California Buddhists did on the sidewalk of Ventura Boulevard when he was a D.J. there. Boone understood it to be an ancient art, but his only other experience with the sand creations was on the dirty San Fernando Valley sidewalk. The expression made of sugar unfolding in front of him on the table was as beautifully intricate as anything he had ever seen and left the radio host caught up in the craft of making it, barely noticing that his attention had left all else. Boone was mesmerized. No one in the place was paying attention. An exhibition all for him.
The paths of sugar were spiral in some places, sharp angles at others, and intertwined with no beginning or end. The woman continued until every granule had fallen from the dispenser into the table sculpture. When she stopped, there was maybe a minute to take in what had been created before him. She spoke for the first time.
“A gift from the nightcrawlers.”
And with those few words, the woman leaned over the art she had created and blew several times until the sculpture was only a mound of sugar. Boone was speechless. He was stunned at how she had so caringly poured the sugar to create such beauty, and so callously blew it all away. He couldn’t even process the words the woman spoke until later, on his walk home.
Boone lived a few blocks from breakfast. He walked heavier than usual, occupied by the thoughts of his uninvited guest. She was very attractive. Her words were cliché. A gift from the nightcrawlers.
He walked the busy street, filled with the morning rush. People pushed by in a hurried flurry to get to the daily grind. They were shapes passing out of focus. They were the same minutiae that comprised every walk home after the overnight and breakfast. Boone never paid attention to the triviality before that morning, wouldn’t have been able to make out a single face. Then he stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and felt the other bodies in motion brush against him trying to avoid a collision, and let his eyes be drawn across the street to the few smiling faces on the other side looking back.
They held the sort of fixed look and disturbing smile that would make anyone uncomfortable, and the fact that there were four, five, maybe six looking back. Unsure of exactly how many, he tried not to stare.
When Boone rounded the corner, there were two more peculiar smiles directly in front of him. They were unavoidable. He walked straight ahead, looked straight ahead, and they were right where his eyes needed to be to complete the steps. Big, frozen smiles. Strange eyes. More consequential was what was happening under their shirts, and it seemed to happen in some dark synchronicity. There was a slithering, like dozens of large worms were jockeying for position inside a cup-of-bait full to the brim.
The sight was disgusting. Boone felt like he would vomit right there on the sidewalk. The repercussions of years of excessive drinking and drugs? What else could it be? He closed his eyes and walked briskly through the maybe drug induced dreams and remained disconnected until he could reach his building and up the elevator into the penthouse.
Later, the day sleep, into the early evening sleep, Boone tossed under the covers with visions of the woman at breakfast and the voyeurs with wriggly torsos staring from across the street. The dream, that evolved into a gaze of hundreds of serpentine bodies lining the sidewalk slithering like no true human form could do, ripped Boone from his sleep in a wave of shivers and sweat.
When he awoke, his body lay limp on the drenched sheets. Boone was still, his legs and arms, fingers and toes. Still, but not completely motionless. There was the thumping in his chest, along with the expanding and contracting of his lungs that raced with his heartbeat, and the slithering inside his mouth like a slippery worm.
His tongue. He knew this because he could feel it brush against his cheeks and teeth, even though it was much larger than his tongue. The nerve endings responded to the various textures inside his mouth, and he could sense temperature and taste with it, except he could not will it. There was a truculent defiance behind Boone’s lips. No matter how hard he fought to control the movement, the slimy muscle that was pulsating, or growing, operated utterly independent of his brain and body. Slithering. Wriggling.
Boone staggered to the bathroom. He was half asleep and knew he was probably stuck in a half dream, which was the only thought that was preventing him from freefalling into sheer panic and uncontrollable screaming. He leaned heavily on the bathroom sink and stared, tight lipped into the mirror and could barely see his reflection in the darkness. The slimy muscle pushed against locked teeth and sealed lips.
He flicked the switch for the bathroom light and the half sleep, half dream dissipated. He actually felt it slip away. The slimy muscle, too big for his mouth that was trying to escape, almost instantly with the introduction of light, shrunk and returned to Boone’s will.
The station manager waited at the elevators for Boone to arrive. The midnight radio personality was usually pushing the limit, sometimes arriving so close to the show start that the producer would cue up an old show recording to cover in case Boone didn’t make it. Until that night, he had always arrived in time, even with only seconds to spare.
Boone emerged from the elevator doors more than forty-five minutes after the show was supposed to go live. He was more disheveled than usual, and the look of arrogance was replaced with a look caught somewhere between confusion and fear. He wasn’t drunk, and he was always at least buzzed to get the midnight party in motion. He was stone sober, wide-eyed like he was caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
He walked by the gargantuan station manager as if his boss was barely noticeable. The gargantuan reached down and grabbed Boone by the arm, the frustration emphasized by the strength of the oven mitt grip. Boone tore his arm from the grip and continued down the hall toward the studio with the sounds of the screaming station manager in the background.
When he walked through the doors to the booth, Boone heard a recording of an old show playing. He made the cut-it sign to Chip and mouthed the words, ‘live, you piece of shit.’ Chip, cut the show and went to commercial.
Boone sunk in the host’s chair and stared up at the microphone. It looked bigger than usual, something not to be controlled. He thought about the immensity of it, perhaps for the first time in his entire radio career. He understood its potential for influence, and how many ears could be reached. For some reason, in that post traumatic moment, every listener’s face raced to his eyes in lightspeed – scary, ugly, beautiful.
Chip gave the five sign, then dropped a finger. Boone felt his tongue begin to swell as though it was hooked up to a bicycle pump and being inflated. Chip dropped another finger. Boone’s tongue began to flop around violently like a desperate fish on the floor of a boat and the host clenched his teeth and lips tight, wide eyed looking back at his producer. Chip dropped another finger. Boone’s tongue was growing, and slithering, so much so that it pushed against his cheeks and made his face look like some disturbed balloon animal. Chip looked back at him disgusted with Boone’s exaggerated bloat, waiting for him to vomit all over the microphone or burst out laughing or make a completely offensive joke. The act of puffed facial distortion could have been any number of Boone’s antics. Chip dropped fingers from two, to one, to a closed fist and they were live.
Boone could hold the slithering in no more. The independent tongue had grown so large that it was filling into his throat and choking him. It pushed so hard against his teeth that at any moment it would crack them like toothpicks. Boone opened his mouth and a pinkish serpent with no face lunged into the open air, knocking the microphone into the glass. It was wet with exaggerated papillae covering it.
The serpent slapped against the glass of the booth, leaving behind a sticky wet, and it smacked against the ceiling and floor and lapped up the filth of years of studio shifts.
Boone felt around for the handle of the top drawer. He opened it and reached around for the scissors, and grasped them in a fist. He stabbed at the horrid excrescence and hit only air at most of the attempts as it floundered about. He could see his station manager, his producer, and the others staring through the glass with a look of shock, only, not the utter terror he would have expected out of witnesses to the tentacle-like manifestation protruding from his mouth and wreaking havoc in the booth.
Boone bit down on the serpent as hard as he could, the front teeth penetrating flesh, and it was excruciating. He screamed out through tightly clenched teeth that were into the serpent like a vice and he squeezed his eyelids together as tightly as the teeth vice.
Boone took one handle of the scissors with his left hand, and the other handle with his right, positioning one blade above the serpent and one below, the gape of the blades wide enough to encompass the serpent, the tentacle, the thing that was once his tongue. And he closed the scissors with both hands with as much strength that he could muster, pushing away the pain that would surely have debilitated him under any other circumstance that could be imagined. Boone forced the blades down and continued applying the pressure that amounted to a strength he had never exhibited. The sharp blades of the scissors gripped and sliced through meat until the meat fell from his mouth, followed by a fountain of blood.
The producer, the sound engineer, and the intern all looked back at Boone, the scissors, and the amputation. Blood had splattered onto the glass, the microphone, and the console. The booth was red spattered in perfect waves that started dark and complete and feathered off into accents.
Boone followed their eyes from his own, to the blood splattered in their view, to the floor and the carnage left. What he was seeing did not match the horror in his bathroom hours before, and what had launched from his mouth moments early. What did he see?
On the floor of the host’s midnight alter where the sounds of his voice were broadcast across the city to the ears of the impressionable and the devoted, was only his very regular sized, severed tongue.