The last room is what appears to be the master bedroom. It is the least ruined of all the spaces in the house and could almost pass as having been abandoned within the past year. Everything from the dresser to the bed, the nightstand, and the closet full of clothes looks in order and well maintained. There are signs of mice having made a nest in one of the pillows, and perhaps another passerby had made the place home for a night or two as a few outfits had been taken out and then discarded on the floor. What quickly becomes the focus of the cameraman, as candles light the view, is the narrow stair built in the wall opposite the bed’s headboard. It leads into an attic that was not apparent from the outside. However, a stream of blue moonlight drifts down and seems to entice the recorder into entering. The first glance about when only halfway up reveals what had to have been storage at one point and the obscured window that let in the light. There are no candles, and the cameraman mutters, “I’ll bring up some of the spare candles from the other bedroom, and I bet we’ll find the equipment for the radio. I can’t believe it. We’ve got to be so close.”
A missed call and a message left on his phone greeted Lyle as he came to a few minutes past three in the morning. He knew his odds; someone would be out of work for a while sick, or someone else was calling to negotiate a lower ‘friend’ price for editing services. There was no way in the world either two would be anything but a headache, either forcing him to pick up more shifts to balance the workload or pick up more shifts to make up the money that he would be losing out on. Part of him wanted to put off listening to the bad news until he had at least woken up, more or more likely after he had finished the bit of work he had before him. Instead, he allowed that last inkling of responsibility and duty he held onto to play the message.
“Hey, Lyle, this is Aaron. I don’t know if you remember from school or when you were coming over to learn video editing from my step-dad. Well, I got to talk to you when you’ve got some free time. I’d spoken to your uncle, he says you keep some odd hours, so I don’t want to put you out, but it’s urgent. It’s not the kind of thing I’d want to do over the phone, so if you could just come over, it’d be great, thanks,” the message ended, leaving Lyle feeling more uneasy and anxious than had it been from his boss or a client.
Trying to put the call behind him until he figured Aaron would be awake, Lyle sunk into the project he had gotten stuck with. A couple of boys from the school he had bought cigarettes for and later alcohol had talked their way into doing a video for their class. It wasn’t some ‘We Did It’ senior year memorial stuff. There had been a kid that overdosed on sleeping pills the spring before who would have been in their class, but Lyle was a bit surprised when they said it wasn’t a dedicated video to him. Instead, they had negotiated their way into a film for their creative writing class, essentially defeating the ‘writing’ element of the course. Lyle couldn’t complain. They had, in fact, written their short film, but he doubted even his editing could get them a good mark for their efforts.
The twenty-five-minute schlock piece dove into every genre a teenage boy could be interested in but did so in such a hackney and hamfisted manner Lyle couldn’t tell if it was parody. If it weren’t for the self-referential nature and jokes to the audience, that would better serve as asides, would otherwise be the ruination of the whole work. However, if they were going into it with clear heads, aware of the comedy in not only their writing but acting, Lyle could maybe have given it a pass. After all, the cardboard props that looked like they were crafted by a fifth-grader and the sets, poorly dressed up basements and garages, couldn’t have been taken seriously even by the creators. The whole affair, the joke of it all, and those shots that Lyle couldn’t tell if they were meant to be cut or not made the job almost tolerable. However, knowing this wasn’t going to be a big payday or even one of typical size was a minor irritation slowly burning at the back of his mind.
It was rounding the corner into six o’clock now, and Lyle was about finished with the boys’ project for now. He told them Thursday, but it’d be ready today if he had bothered to put a move on it. The money wasn’t worth it, and his thoughts still dwelt on Aaron and whatever it was he wanted. Part of Lyle thought that maybe, just maybe, Aaron wanted some editing work done and didn’t want to go through his stepfather for it. He had only known the kid a bit in school, being a few years younger than him, but it wasn’t impossible to say the guy might have some hobbies or other such things that he filmed and now wanted a better copy of. If it were something very hush-hush, Aaron might even pay a pretty penny to keep word of it between Lyle and himself. Though it might mean staring for the better part of his free time at sights he had willfully avoided any other time in his life, Lyle couldn’t help but grin, thinking of what kind of cash it would bring in.
The thought of a big payday carried Lyle all the way through his morning tasks and preparation for work. He would have had it on his mind all the way to town until he crossed the highway onto the back-country route he liked to take. The radio fizzled and popped with static until N.I.B. was whisked away and replaced with that twangy creole Lyle had come to associate with his evening drive. For a moment, it seemed out of place and maybe just a little hard to believe, but there was no mistaking that drawl and the peculiar mannerisms of Clovis Jung.
“All lines are open, we are takin’ requests, and I am tellin’ y’all what the stars have whispered into me. I can feel it now; I feel it the currents and in the radiation the daystar that I will be hearing from a curious young man. Perhaps a doubter, not one of my true believers but someone who needs that swayin’ to get them over to the right side of it all. Dial that number, let your voice be heard, let your future be known, and go into the world with clarity and certainty. Banish your confusion and become one of the enlightened,” Clovis preached to the audience that was likely more sparse than his nightly fans.
Lyle smirked and then considered that prospect for a moment, “Well, maybe you can be useful to me for once, mister Jung. Tell me if Aaron’s going to bankroll me into a first-class ticket out of this town or if he just wants a favor.”
Dialing the number, then remembering he must have at one time considered calling and saved Clovis’ number in his phone, Lyle made the call. He put the phone on speaker, wary of the rare county officer patrolling the back roads, and let it ring. His phone continued to dial, and he waited until finally, a new voice came onto the radio.
“Hello? Is this the Astrological Society?” came a familiar voice, though not one Lyle could put a name to.
He ended his call as Clovis answered, “Yes, it is, young man, I’ll give you that one for free. And if’n I’m not mistaken, your name is Aaron Harris.”
“That’s correct. You’re pretty good. How did you know that?” Aaron asked in return.
Clovis’ hardy chuckle came over the speakers, “Now that one you gave me free when you spoke with my phone operator.”
“But I didn’t…”
“What’s your question today, young Aaron? Do you want for love or for fortune, or am I pull a thread of the hat and tell you where your future lies in who knows how long?” Jung retorted, cutting off Aaron.
The line went quiet a moment before the caller asked, “I had someone who passed on recently. I wanted to know if they went with peace or if they’re in a better place and…”
The truth of the question, the nature of the call, cut into Lyle like a hot knife through butter. His jaw was hanging slack, but he couldn’t care and hardly noticed. He hadn’t thought that perhaps Aaron had reached for something far less related to business in the firmer sense of it. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the kid had reached out to tell Lyle about the only one they both mutually knew. His uncle had told him before that Micheal Harris had been having medical issues, which prompted him to retire. Lyle couldn’t even begin to think of what he should say now, how he should conduct himself, or maybe if he should apologize for thinking he was about to sponge up money from some secretive job.
He came back around as Jung’s voice returned to the forefront of his mind, “I can do it, just you believe, and rest assured I know what I’m doin’. You give me the moment, you give me the authority, and perhaps you give over and become one of the devotees I can bring him here. Just for a few minutes, just his thoughts and voice, enough time for a little, a couple questions, but it’d be him. You just give me the word, mister Aaron, and I swear to you, you can hear your daddy, real one or replacement, one more time.”
A dial tone served as Aaron’s reply, and by no means could Lyle blame him for that much. He heard Clovis get serious before, perhaps even a bit sinister, but for anyone familiar with his broadcasts, this was a new level of derangement. Having never caught a morning broadcast in the past half of a year of listening, Lyle wanted to chalk it up to being a difference between night and day. Maybe Clovis wasn’t a morning person, or perhaps he was as off his rocker as humanly possible, and his medication didn’t kick it until near sundown. Part of Lyle wanted to call the crazed, creole son of a goat just then, but he was passing out of range; he wouldn’t know if his call made the airwaves. He would save it for later, first came work, and when break came, he would have to call Aaron.