The road passed under the four tires with a droning hum that called out in a siren’s song.
Fence posts, cacti and telephone poles blurred as the car passed, only regaining their solidity when they had been left behind.
The Man drove aimlessly, ignoring the speed limits and the center line with equal disdain. Other than the occasional abandoned vehicle slowly rusting away, there was nothing to run into.
No people. No animals. No… anything.
The Man swerved aimlessly into a vacant parking lot sprawled out before a silent department store.
The car came to rest in five separate parking spaces, and the Man got out and stretched stiff muscles as he surveyed this fresh corner of his domain.
For it was all his, his kingdom, his territory to claim he supposed. He grunted a humorless laugh as he unzipped and urinated on a solitary lamp post, marking this forsaken spot as his own.
The store stank, as every store had stunk since the power went out six months ago.
The Man retrieved a cart and begun to mindlessly wander the aisles, fantasizing of a time when shopping for food was a mundane chore.
A chance to smile at the pretty girl across the produce display, or flirt with the cashier. The Man shook off his fantasy as it veered down the familiar path. He had not found anyone Before.
He would not find anyone After.
His cart filled with canned goods and various items still useful to him, the Man left the store and returned to the car.
Sustenance for the next couple days stowed in the trunk, the car returned to the road as it always did. Always fleeing emptiness and sorrow. Always seeking something to fill the void.
Man and car hurtled into the growing dusk, a weary sun setting on an empty world. Stars began to shimmer in the sky as night triumphed over day once again.
The Man drove, his senses dulled by the roar of the car’s passage and the hypnotic static of dead air on the radio.
Early in his travels the Man had listened to music on CD’s, but soon found the music too depressing. Music from a CD was too canned, too sterile. The musicians were gone, the singers dead.
No disc jockey would announce the song after it was gone. No one else would hear the music. So the Man threw his CD’s out the window and drove on with an AM radio and four tires.
The Man’s mind wandered alone in its own wilderness, even as his body wandered the roads that nature was already beginning to reclaim.
Such long periods of isolation and silence had produced periods of weeping, hysterical laughter and hallucination, but at this moment, the Man’s mind languished in a nearly comatose state.
So far gone was he that the foreign sound did not register at first, the mind imagining that the sound itself was its own creation,
a figment of memory brought to life by a weakened grasp on reality. But the sound was not emanating from inside the Man’s head.
Tires cried out and the brakes squealed as the car slid down the road, coming to rest at last. The Man stared into space, at first in shock, and then spellbound by the sound.
His mind, so long left to atrophy in silence and solitude, could not grasp the sound’s source. As the sound faded away it left an ache in the Man’s ears and in his heart.
The Man’s mind scrambled to discern whether it had been real or just a cruel prank, another in an endless series of illusion and heartbreak.
When the voice came wafting through the ether, breaking the silence the Man stared at the car’s radio with awe and reverence in his eyes.
“That was ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen. Coming up next we have Def Leppard singing ‘Photograph.’ This is Radio Nowhere. Is there anybody alive out there?”
Music began to play, filling the car, not with canned sounds of loneliness, but with a rich warmth. Tears rolled down the Man’s face as he struggled to come to terms with this revelation.
He was no longer alone in the world. Somewhere out there was someone else. Conviction and purpose seized him, dragging him from the clutches of apathy.
The sweet, husky tones of the Woman’s voice called out to him, willing him to seek her out, to answer the question she had cast upon the airwaves.
The Man struggled to harness his brain, demanding labor from something which had languished unused for too long. The music hadn’t been playing when he had left the store.
He must be driving towards the music. Towards the Woman.
The Man stomped the gas pedal to the floor and the car seemed to respond to his new sense of urgency, as it sang out and threw every horse available to the task.
Man and car thundered down the road, teetering on the uppermost limits of the Man’s control and the Car’s connection to the road.
As the music began to fade at the close of the song, the Man longed for the sound of her voice once more.
Sweat drenched his body like an addict craving a desperately needed fix, and his breath came in panting gasps. Every fiber trembled with desire, only to cry out in despair as another song began.
The Man recognized ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ even as his despairing mind tried to reason that surely She would return after this song.
The Man howled down the road with the radio blaring its renewed message of hope to the passing landscape.
As the song reached its closing notes, the car once again skidded to a stop in the middle of the road. Breathless, the Man waited.
The dulcet tones of the Woman’s voice came across the airwaves once again.
“That was Warren Zevon singing ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ and up next we have ‘The Passenger’ by Iggy Pop. This is Radio Nowhere. Is there anybody alive out there?”
The Man drank in her words and bathed in the sound of her voice. Had she demanded that he cast himself into the fire in that moment, he would have flung himself to his death without hesitation.
Her voice consumed him, soothed him and filled him with emotions long thought dead.
The Man drove until the rising of the sun slowly brought static to the radio and finally banished the Woman’s voice and her music to oblivion.
Fighting a bone numbing weariness and sadness beyond comprehension, the car and its driver coasted down the road before rolling to a stop at a roadside motel.
The Man let himself into a nearby room and cast himself onto the bed and into the welcoming arms of sleep, perchance to dream of Her.
Nights and days blurred by as the Man chased the radio waves by night and slept by day. He came to hate the sight of the sun, for the sun meant the end of the Woman’s voice.
At times the radio signal would begin to fade even at night, and despair would seize his heart as he turned the car around and retraced his steps.
The Man drove aimlessly, his only goal to keep the signal strong as he tried to follow it back to its source.
Sometimes, to the Man’s joy, the Woman would speak at length of the weather, of her memories, of whatever seemed to strike her fancy.
Other times it seemed she put a tape in, for the radio would play an endless series of songs without a single word from her. In these times, the Man despaired. Still the car drove on.
One morning as the sun crested the horizon, the Man began to curse and weep in turn, for he knew that the sun would surely steal away the voice of the Woman.
Yet the Man continued to drive on, for he was determined not to rest until the static had once again washed away the sound of her voice.
But on this day, the Woman’s voice did not end with the sun. Surprise blossomed into joy as the Man realized that he had finally gotten close enough for the airwaves to find him even during the day.
There could be no sleep on this day.
The Man rushed into a convenience store and seized every energy drink he could find and piled them on the passenger seat.
His long nights of questing now became a never ending search, sleep occurring only when the Man was too weary to keep his eyes open or guide the car down the road.
The Man awoke in the afternoon and shook off several hours of sleep, the most he had managed in the last two days.
His fervor and desire had faded, the lack of rest draining the capacity for any other feelings from him.
The Man fell into the car in much the same way he had fallen into the Motel bed a scant few hours before.
As it had so many days before, the car began to roll down the highway, yet it too seemed as careworn and weary as its driver.
Unnatural and unhealthy knocks and grindings came from beneath the car’s hood.
The Man, the car and the radio rolled down the highway, the crisp air coaxing a hint of new life from the Man.
His mind once again began to fade into its own static, returning to its aimless wanderings even as the music played.
Suddenly the car slid to a stop, tires and brakes singing out with perhaps a hint more protest than they had that fateful day that the music had come.
The Man seemed frozen for a moment, and then the car reversed down the highway. The Man stared at the road sign without comprehension at first, and then with amazement.
The sign simply said ‘Nowhere: Next Exit.’
The Man took the exit in a daze. He wandered the streets of the small town until he saw the small building with the large radio antenna tower.
The car rolled to a stop with a final rattle, a faithful steed drawing its last breath. The Man stepped out of the car in a trance as a door opened in the side of the building.
The Woman faced the Man in silence for several moments, auburn hair fluttering around her, catching the sunlight and lending her a reddish gold halo.
Both seemed lost for words, struggling to accept the presence of another in a world each had long thought their own.
Then a dam seemed to break between them and they rushed as one into each other’s arms.
They held each other for a long time, both finding comfort in the others touch, their scent, their very being.
"I heard you. On the radio. I... I had to come for you." The Man's voice was choked with emotion and rusty with disuse.
Tears brimmed in azure eyes as the Woman clutched him tighter to herself. "I knew someone was out there. I knew that you'd come."
Finally, Man and Woman separated and smiled, shy but happy, before turning and walking hand in hand back into Radio Nowhere.