SIGNALS
SIGNALS science fiction stories
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redwoarber
redwoarber Community member
Autoplay OFF   •   a year ago
An amateur radio operator learns that not all messages should be heard in this modern homage to H.P. Lovecraft

SIGNALS

I used to be a TV junkie.

It got real bad when I bought myself a dish in the 90's I would sit there all day, watching game shows, getting the evening news, half paying attention to 2 AM cartoons,

but recording everything on tapes. I started watching the satellite feeds any I could get. They were the networks raw image, before it was ready for mass consumption on the main channel.

Mostly it was empty sets or TV anchors staring straight ahead dead eyed or chatting, waiting for the cue to start, with only the noise of the crew working in the background.

It was a bit unnerving to switch through the feeds and land on a man staring straight into your eyes, stiff, no expression on his face, simply... waiting.

The weirdest feed I ever recorded was a private feed, broadcast by an amateur, and transmitted over shortwave. I was sitting there one night, cycling through the feeds.

My apartment was small and hot. But it was cheap, and close to work. As long as I didn't spend too much time at home, it was the perfect arrangement.

That left the nights to fill, and my nights were long. I've never had an easy time of sleeping but it was bad back then.

I would be up all night with nothing but the gas station open, so I was stuck at home or on the streets. It got damn hot at night though, too hot.

So I would spend my time, looking for anything interesting I could find in the feeds. I located a signal that appeared to be close, although how close was impossible to say.

It was weak, but I didn't give up the chase. A picture appeared on screen. I first mistook it for noise until I saw movement in the top middle of the frame.

A dim light flickered on in the picture, and I could barely make out the face of a man.

The signal was bad so the image was distorted a bit, making it impossible to discern features, but I could clearly make out a man, possibly of middle age, sitting down,

slumped over in exhaustion. "HMPHSSS" The man suddenly exhaled and I jumped. The man started talking. His voice was dry and weary.

"Day 24 of no sleep.... Wait. That can't be right. Day...7? Too long. It's impossible to get a real estimate because I'm not truly awake.

I sleep in little periods, seconds really, hundreds of times a day. They never last... I... the nightmares keep waking me up. It didn't used to be like this, until I found the white signal.

Us ham radio freaks are always sifting through the waves, sometimes we start hearing the same stations. Number stations, sex freaks trolling the waves, pretty standard for a Tuesday night.

But rumor started trickling through the waves about a rogue signal, incredibly difficult to pinpoint, and utterly bizarre. We called it the white signal, a reference to Moby Dick.

Number stations are already weird enough, but this beat all those away.

The signal starts out with an unintelligible muttering, like someone left a microphone on in a crowd talking amongst themselves before an event.

You could almost catch words here and there but not enough. Then a loud tone repeating 10 times 3 seconds apart. Then a churning sound, impossible to describe.

I suppose it sounds a bit like if a garbage disposal chewing metal .

Silence for three seconds, then a calm voice instructing to standby for an important alert, always perfectly understood in the receiver's native tongue.

It was impossible to find out anything about this signal. It was rarely detected, difficult to triangulate, and most people lost the signal before the transmission finished.

It was made all the more mysterious because those lucky enough to hear the signal never talked about it.

It took weeks for my buddy Jim to tell me the details, and I had to get him near piss-drunk to do it.

I brought it up, and I swear to god, he sobered up instantly even with half a bottle of bourbon in his belly. "Yeah, I heard it. Wish I didn't.

Damn shit gave me headaches for weeks, and I had the worst dreams. I can't remember any of 'em, I just remember.... running. I don't know why, I just remember feeling such a sense of doom.

I remember being chased but it didn't matter, I couldn't run from it and I couldn't hide but I still kept running." I raised my eyebrows "Are you saying the broadcast did that?" He nodded.

Jim had a theory on the signal.

He thinks it's a remnant of Cold War era science, a weaponized soundwave dialed at a frequency designed to cause psychological distress to humans, similar to a dog whistle.

He figured they would broadcast it to enemy radios scanning to intercept signals, or maybe play it over loudspeakers in an attempt to "encourage" enemy troops to relocate.

This story fascinated me and I made him give me the information on the broadcast, what frequency he found it on, what time, anything that would increase the odds I would catch it.

It was years until I finally did it, and it took hundreds of hours to do it. But I did it. By that time, satellites came out and exploded. I had one but stuck to radio.

I was obsessed with finding the white signal and scarcely did much else.One night, I finally heard that muttering and my heart leapt out of my chest.

I didn't breathe for a minute until I heard the loud repeating tone, a d note. I've had false signals before, painfully similar, but none had the ten tone unique to the white signal.

I did it! Not even one in a hundred ham geeks heard the broadcast and it was happening right then. I scrambled for my recorder as the d-note blared 9 more times.

Recorder in place, I leaned in close to catch the faint sound, only to be blasted by a churning sound. Jim's description wasn't far off but didn't quite due the unpleasant nature justice.

It raised my hairs on the end to hear it and I felt an urge to walk away, but I resisted and kept listening, recording all the while. Silence then...1.....2.....3

"Please stand by for further instructions. Stay calm and please stand by for an important alert." The broadcast started repeating, so I checked my tape.

It wasn't a perfect recording but I caught it. I had it so I decided to dial in the frequency on my satellite dish and back up the audio feed to a tape.

It took a minute, but I found the frequency, and it was stronger than before. The same unintelligible muttering that preceded normally but this time I could make out words.

It didn't matter, they were spoken in some weird language I've never heard. I turned down the TV getting ready for the unpleasant churning when my picture screen sprung to life.

I was only expecting audio, so this certainly came as a surprise, although there wasn't much to see. All I saw was a field. Sun rising.... the picture flashed and I saw a city of strange design.

All the buildings were shiny like metal yet supported by tiny foundations, seemingly impossibly.

Below was a familiar site, as the streets thronged with people going about business, driving on great freeways throughout the city.

The image flashed again, same place but something was different. No one was moving. Thousand of people stood in the dark.

On streets, outside their home, even getting out of their car to stand on the highways. Flash again and I'm seeing horrible images. A man calmly tying a noose and hanging himself.

A mother shooting her husband and her children before executing herself. Images of static and swirling blobs mixed in with the carnage. I wanted to look away but the images got stranger.

A meteor crashing into a planet, more realistic than I've ever seen in a movie. An image of a city in the shadow of a smoking mountain.

The view flies over the city and I see thousands lay prostrated on the streets, motionless in the bright light. The mountain opened up in a violent eruption, yet all laid kneeling.

None ran as the gargantuan cloud consumed them, coating them in poison ash. The smoke settled and revealed thousands still kneeling face down, perfectly preserved in ash.

Finally I saw the world, similar looking to our own yet distinct in that it had two moons.

The serene orbit of the moons and the beautiful blue of the planet hid the tragedy and horrors below and for a second, I was calmed.

A flash and now there was a figure comparable in size to the planet yet of uncertain shape, constantly changing like a cloud.

Whenever I tried to look directly at it, my head seared with pain, but I was able to make out what looked like a blob of mottled flesh constantly changing form.

A dark hole started widening in the middle, and to my horror, I realized it was devouring the planet.

The moons veered wildly toward the hole and were flung off in different directions, as if they were suddenly pulled towards a strong gravitational force.

The planet start eroding, chunks coming off and flowing into the creature's maw. My head was killing me now but I couldn't stop watching, I had to know what would happen next.

The planet disappeared and all that remained was the mess of flesh in the middle. Flash again and I was staring into an eye. I could comprehend it very well.

I saw an intelligence in that eye, cruel and hungry as it burned into my soul. It told me what I saw was real. It happened. Will happen again.

There isn't any malice in what it does, only hunger. Unfortunately, space is a very large place.

So it sends psychic messages through radio frequencies hoping for someone to respond, to unwittingly alerting the thing to the planet's location.

When it gets there, it disables the populace from any self defense by eroding their sanity before consuming them. It talked to me. It knows we're here. The signal ended but I keep seeing those images in my dreams. We have years before it gets here and infects our minds

I'm making this message now and sending it out in hopes of mustering some defense... anything. I can't keep my eyes open, so I'm ending this broadcast. Watch the skies" I stopped scanning the feeds so much after that but I still think about that broadcast to this day when I'm standing on my porch looking at the stars.

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