Radio Static

Edited by Julia Rios

October 2019

Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:

If you can hear this: I know the blood on the wall was overly dramatic. My handwriting was appalling even before I became an amorphous apparition, so I should probably not be surprised that the words came out as a mess of bloody fingerprints. I would apologize to the janitor if I still had a voice.

It’s been ten years since the day I sat down next to you in a lecture hall and accidentally spilled iced coffee all over your notes. The whole semester, I kept starting arguments in class about Kafka novels I hadn’t actually read to get your attention. It’s been nine years and eight months since you kissed me between the stacks in the fiction section of the library and you’re still the only person in the room I want to talk to, even more so now that I am dead.

Nobody cares that the ICU is haunted. I make strange noises inside the walls and let the lights flicker on and off and they say: Plumbing issue. Faulty wiring. At night, I put coins on the sleeping eyes of every patient. The nurses shrug and pocket them. That’s the thing about ICU nurses: They have seen it all. They are impossible to rattle.

Every morning, the nurse turns on the radio. Maybe she thinks patients would rather wake up from their vegetative states than listen to Celine Dion or Nickelback.

You don’t know that I am a ghost, so you sit at my bedside and cup my hand like a seashell in your palm.

Maybe, if you had a Ouija board, I could send you the spirit version of a text message:

G-O H-O-M-E.

S-H-O-W-E-R.

S-L-E-E-P.

You look worse than I do and I am the one with severe traumatic brain damage.

I’m sorry that I was such a slob when we lived together. You deserve a girlfriend who throws away take-out boxes before they grow patches of fuzzy mold inside.

I’ve found all these lost things here: the stuffed bunny I had as a kid, spare change, dozens of single socks. You kept joking that there was a dimensional portal in the washing machine that swallowed single socks. Nope. They are all here. Most things I’ve found are pretty random but, between the hairpins and the countless pens that the nurses keep losing, I found the necklace your mother gave you when you were sixteen that went missing during the move. I put it in your purse while you were sleeping in the chair next to my hospital bed.

Turn up the radio. Trust me.

A (non-exhaustive) list of things that I am sorry for:

1 - The call you got in the middle of the night.

2 - The broken glass of my windshield glittering on the asphalt.

3 - Driving in the pouring rain.

4 - Not seeing the twin wounds of tail lights in front of me until it was too late.

Today, the doctor frowns at the lack of squiggly lines on my EEG again. I have a plastic card in my wallet that says that I am an organ donor. Any day now, they will salvage what is left of me; deep sea divers exploring the wreckage.

Did you know that some people think that radio static is just ghosts trying to speak to you?

Did you know that they are right?

What I am saying is that I am sorry I will never get to be your wife.

Remember how I teased you endlessly because the cute butch barista wrote her number on your paper cup? You should call her. Just maybe wait for a few weeks, until after the funeral.

If you can hear this, blink twice. If you can hear this, squeeze my hand. If you can hear this, say my name three times in front of a mirror.

I hope that you keep Mulder. He is essentially your cat, anyway. He always liked you much better than me.

There is no bright light here. It’s like you’re waiting for a train, but you can’t see all the way down the tracks, and you keep turning your head because you know that it is coming, soon, soon.

What I am saying is that it is okay to leave.

Can you hear me?

My darling, can you hear me?

Maybe if you lean in closer to the radio, maybe if you press your ear against the speaker, you might hear the waves of my voice breaking in the sea of static, you might hear me say that I really, I really—

© 2019 Carolin Jansen

About the author

Carolin Jansen

Carolin Jansen is a writer of short fiction, poetry, and overly ambitious to-do lists. She lives in Germany, where she works as a doctor. English is her second language. Her interests include strange and fantastical stories, bioethics, ice cream, and petting dogs. She can be found on Twitter as @_cjansen. “Radio Static” is her first magazine publication.

Support Fireside

Subscribe to Fireside Quarterly, the beautiful new print edition of Fireside.