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Authors: Josh Malerman,Damien Angelica Walters,Matthew M. Bartlett,David James Keaton,Tony Burgess,T.E. Grau

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BOOK: Lost Signals
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An estimated 14,800 civilians were exposed to Item L5161ORDE to varying degrees. Testimony from exposed civilians was superfluous and contradictory in nature, but a tentative order sequence for the collected audio samples was created. Most exposed civilians were confident that the incident started with the text from Audio L5161ORDE-01. Many exposed civilians suggested additional spoken word occurred subsequent to Audio L5161ORDE-05, but numerous other exposed civilians refuted this, instead suggesting the layers of ticking and additional DELTA-XX EVENTS occurred and ended the incident. DELTA-XX EVENTS that may have occurred include additional samples of reversed spoken text, the screaming of one (1) to sixteen (16) women, and sustained tones from a wind instrument similar to a pan flute.




Person of interest Martin S. Dangsturm missing as of 22 August 20XX. Text L5161ORDE-01 was discovered in his residence. Class-A staff with no current security holds may refer to External File L5161ORDE for updated information.



: Text L5161ORDE-01

I wear the mask of winter storms between the stars, and, behind it, the pulsars shall never find me. I follow the eternal piping. I am coming, Father.


Behold . . . a burial . . .

. . . wet maple leaves trampled, footprints in the mud, a mist more than a rain and yet a lot of it, like how a whisper can sound angry . . . black cloaks for the pallbearers

; not friends of the deceased, the disgusting mailman had no friends, had two sisters still in Ohio—as if having decided long ago to get as far from their brother as possible . . . the mailman caught with lips in his trunk

; leaves and laundry and lips . . . no plastic bags, no cooler, just the mouths of nine people and none of the mouthless here, at his burial and yet . . . silence . . . perhaps the silence he’d wished for (the mailman never explained himself, never gave Samhattan the manifesto the city expected

I just wanted them to all shut up
I couldn’t stand the sound of them

; nothing given, nothing like that) . . . the mailman in the box, can’t call it a casket, can’t call it a coffin, can’t call it a crypt, the mailman in the
and the wood damp from the mist, could grow weak, could get soft enough to bust-up, to break apart, to release him if he had the life and strength in him to want it . . . strength . . . a black frock

; Father Stockard doesn’t want to be here either, doesn’t care for these types of ceremonies

; not that they test his faith, nothing tests his faith, but he’d rather be reading rather be sitting in a silent home staring at a fire that births calm than standing here in the rain, protecting the good book, yodeling for the soul of a thin balding mail carrier who must have known who would be home when and when home alone . . . the creaking of the box from the uneven passage from the cemetery building to the cemetery plot, from the rigid grip of the pallbearers, all of them having read the
Samhattan News
through the whole horrid affair, saw the photos of Officers Bobby and Bloomberg standing by the trunk of Randy Scotts’s car (he, the mailman), outside Duncle’s Bar, Scotts inside sipping gin, thin and balding, meek and wild-eyed, gin to his lips, his own lips, still attached to his face, still able to smile, still able to sip . . . the pallbearers saw the newspaper photo too of Bobby and Bloomberg on either side of Scotts, escorting him into the Samhattan Courthouse, time for trial, time to face the big bad Judge Walker who had a daughter of her own, a daughter with lips, and who delivered the death-sentence through her mouth, still had a mouth, could sympathize with those who suddenly had theirs taken away . . .
. . . behold . . . guilt and a burial but not the burying of guilt

; the burying of a dead monster, he who brought mail, delivered bills and notices of love, too, nodded and said you’re welcome while eyeing the smiles of the homeowners on his route, no doubt finding this mouth more attractive than that, these lips more desirable than those, until he had them for himself, taken them, then forgot them like used kid toys in the trunk to loll about over the bumps and humps in the road on his way to the next set, the next pair, the next lips he had to have . . .

. . . behold . . .

. . . a photo, taken at the burial . . . Scotts in the box . . . Don Miller from the
Samhattan News,
the lone reporter though more of a photographer . . . even the
had finally agreed with greater Samhattan about what the Scotts case had become

; nothing to talk about . . . nothing more to report . . . the collective sigh of the community when he was captured . . . the second, lesser relief, felt with Walker’s sentence . . . all of it echoing into oblivion . . . into nothing to talk about . . . nothing at all, save the thoughts and fears of those at home

; bad dreams about the mailman out in the hall, a creaking of a board, a weakling with a pair of scissors . . .

. . . thunder . . . above . . . though still a mist . . . still the noncommittal storm . . . like Scotts in the box . . . uneven images . . . incongruent man . . . on his back now . . . hung by Walker for the crimes of removing nine mouths . . . none of the nine died . . . and none here . . . at the burial . . . but you know who they are in town, easy to spot . . . the mummies . . . the invisible men and women with gauze wrapped around the lower half of their faces . . . at the grocery store . . . at the bank . . . at the post office, too . . .



. . . not lightning . . . a photo

; Miller from the
Samhattan News
, a solitary shot of the pallbearers lowering the box to the canvas, to be lowered by Michael Donner on the lever, the big creaking wheel . . . Michael the young impressionable night watchman as well . . . Father Stockard speaking now to nobody, reciting rote verses

; nothing really applies, no passage in the book says
just bury him and forget him, move on—
his voice like a man trying not to lie, feigning respect for life

; Stockard has no respect for Scotts, nobody does . . . the college kid Donner turning the crank and Stockard nodding to him yes yes, get this over with can you roll any faster, kid

? . . . the box lowering, going down . . . the mist dampening the wood, making mud of the hole . . . even the pallbearers turning their backs on the grave, discussing other things

; sports, beer

; not interested in the mailman descending

; the mailman is where he should be now and all of Samhattan knows this

; nothing to talk about, nothing more to photograph so Miller doesn’t step to the grave’s edge, doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t take a photo of Stockard priesting as Father Stockard has asked not to be associated with this one, doesn’t want to be tied to the hideous man in the box, the thing nobody saw coming . . . so just Michael actually engaged, Michael of all people, hungover from a night out, last night, rotating the wheel, rounding the lever, lowering the box ’til it stops . . . it stops . . . Father Stockard midway through a passage stops as well and takes hold of a shovel, helps the bearers dump the dirt, figures one more set of hands will make it all go away faster, will get him home quicker . . . and the job
a fast one, nobody to console, nobody to talk to

; silence between the bearers and Stockard and Michael, too, Michael with no shovel but on his knees in the mud, shoving dirt into the hole, helping any way he can, to get this over with . . .



. . . lightning this time, not Miller the photographer

; Miller’s camera is already put away, he’s already halfway to the cemetery gate

; Scotts is buried but nobody cares any more about the meek man with the scissors who took mouths and grew bored of them and tossed them into the trunk (and what did he
with the lips . . . did he kiss them

? . . . did he set them on the opposite side of the kitchen table and talk to them over dinner


. . . buried now . . . night . . . Michael all alone . . . Michael in the cemetery office where he watches television . . . the plots marked by the Givens Sensor Board behind him, along the back wall . . . each cemetery plot marked by a dead light, none of them blinking, none of them had ever blinked, thank God, the Givens Sensors Board installed five years ago, installed in every cemetery in America . . . gone were the days of formaldehyde . . . what if people don’t really die

? the Givens family had asked, what if people didn’t quite die the way we thought they died and here we’ve been filling their veins with formaldehyde and burying them alive, see

? burying everybody on Earth alive, but we don’t have to, see

? we can bury ’em like we used to, only put a sensor in there, a Givens Sensor, a
a buried man can press to alert whoever’s in the office . . . a beeper and a button and buzzing to let the staff know they better call an ambulance, better go get a shovel themselves . . . and the world laughed at the Givens Sensor until one cemetery agreed and one blinking light came to life and one woman was discovered buried alive and she lived to tell, to talk about it on television, to write a book, and dammit if the Givens Sensors didn’t become law less than a year later

; every cemetery in America

; a mortuary revolution and the Givens family got rich, so rich, so many appearances on television

; in the half decade since the law was passed, six more blinking lights, six people we all thought were dead, six people dug up, gasping for air, ready to write memoirs of their own . . .



. . . not a photo, the photographer long gone, but lightning, again, erupting in the Samhattan sky, skinny fingers across the black

; deep nighttime now

; Michael Donner alone in the office . . . eating chips . . . watching a movie, a comedy about dogs and cats . . . reading a book, a thriller about a blind man . . . the storm outside growing, getting meaner, just the kind of night Michael enjoyed at the cemetery, half the reason he’d applied in the first place,
imagine me in the office at night, thunder and lightning outside


; a
gig, the coolest he’d ever heard of

; a man with a paperback and a bunch of dead bodies, if that doesn’t thrill you nothing will . . . FLASH

!. . . another thunder-crack and Michael smiles, shakes his head, this is cool, this is amazing, sitting here in the office as the black sky cries, as the dogs of Samhattan lose their minds, all bark at once . . . Michael thinks of Father Stockard ’cause Father Stockard has a dog, a famous one here in Samhattan, a wolfhound, one of those huge gray dogs

; is Stockard quieting the thing now

?, telling him be quiet dog, I had a dark day, dog, that man stole mouths, dog, or was Stockard already asleep (perhaps) having showered the eulogy off himself . . . Michael doesn’t know, doesn’t really care either, just cares about this movie and these chips and that book and the girl Pamela from school who said she’d like to come visit him one night on the job, liked scary things, fancied herself macabre . . . Michael cares about her, very much so, cares about calling her up and inviting her tonight, right now, and so he does, call her up, says come eat chips with me in the dark, wants to say come let’s have sex in the cemetery office at night if you’re so into the macabre, if you’re so dark as the black nail polish you wear, come on by tonight, Pamela . . . a FLASH

! . . . CRACK-

! . . .
lightning again and the girl says yes, she’ll come, but give her a minute, and Michael takes that minute to turn up the volume of the funny movie and chomp another chip . . . gets up to use the bathroom, passing the Givens Sensor Board like one of those Light-O-Rama things or maybe more like the information map at a state park, HERE is where you might see owls, HERE is where you might see moose

; Michael likes it, the board, never lit, just sitting there like so much potential, so freaky, something to thrill Pamela with, the board and the ledger and the stone cottage


office and the creaking chair that he sits in to watch movies, watch over the cemetery, make sure no kids sneak inside (except for the ones he sneaks inside), and of course the lone window in the free-standing office (“the cemetery tollbooth,” Michael likes to call it), the small square overlooking all those
. . . graves and gravestones and broken limbs fallen from the trees and black leaves in the mud, footprints, many of those Michael’s own . . . it is as cool a view as Michael could offer a lover of the macabre and if Pamela doesn’t like it, who cares, the movie is good, the book is good, the pizza he has in a box (box) upon the black filing cabinet is good, too . . . no worries on the job, nothing to get upset about, getting paid to sit in a stone cottage, do whatever he likes to do, take a piss when he needs to–

BOOK: Lost Signals
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