“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to Apocalypta FM! And thanks for tuning into us tonight- we have amazing news, great tunes- as usual- and some stories to tell. We may even take some calls later- but it all depends on daylight hours. So, let’s kick off this morning with a nice little number from our old buddies MCR. Yeah- they might be over in America, all snug and dead-less, but their voice can reach you here- comin’ atcha from a warehouse, here’s Welcome, To The Black Parade.” Flicking off the microphone in the mock-studio and spinning around in my chair, I loosened the headphones and gave Harley the thumbs up. With a sharp nod, she pushed up the volume and pressed a few buttons with her slim, delicate fingers- letting the music blare out into the world; straight to the people who needed it most.
“You’re good at speaking.” Drew commented, leaning in the doorway. His hazel eyes darted from me to her; from my tawny-blonde to her flame-redhead. Maybe I was imagining them linger on me for longer than they should.
“Thanks. I used to have to pick up my gang a lot when they got sad. Like some weird fuckin’ cult leader or some shit.” Wriggling my fingers and pulling a face for effect earned me a laugh. It was true I’d always had a soft spot for the bassist- hell, the five were like my idols. But Drew…
There was something about Drew.
“Ha- well, when you put it like that…” There was more laughter now- and his laugh brought out mine. For once, it wasn’t cracked or strained- or dry. Maybe company is all I needed.
“Married to the music~” I spun in my chain, grinning at him. “For better or for worse~”
“Get used to it. I’m always quoting musicians.”
“Do you quote us?”
“Pfft- hell yes.” At this, he seemed happy.
“Should I get the boys?”
“Sure- but remember, if anybody calls in…. Be prepared.” There was a grim foreboding in those words. Most of the time when we took calls I made Harley leave. Some of them…
I tried not to dwell on it.
Instead, I focused on Drew as he left. When I looked back at the worktop, Harley had her eyebrows raised.
“Somebody’s got their eye on Mr Woolnough.” She mocked, teasing at me with a smirk and a cock of her eyebrows- but I was having none of her bullshit today.
“I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there~” It came out sweet- but as the black parade calmed down and we shipped the infamous MCR back to America, it became apparent that we had work to do.
“So- that was our beloved MCR with Welcome To The Black Parade, and this is Apocalypta FM. So- goooooood morning world! Hello to everybody new and hellooooo to our regular guys and gals! It’s a good day today, cause I can tell you straight off that there has been less ghoulish activity around here and more of the… Human male activity. And for two single females that sure is exciting, huh, Harley?”
“You never know relief until you know the feeling you’re not the only two on the planet- we’ll tell you that now!” Blowing her fringe out of her eyes as she spoke, she winked at me and I rolled my eyes.
“Not that we’re actually bothered about repopulation- but you know. It’s a nice thought.” Pausing for a little bit of laughter, the banter between us ceased. The phone rang.
All five men stood in the doorway as I explained to the listeners that somebody was calling in. With great hesitation, I let my hand grasp it, placing it on speaker.
“Hello- you’re live on air on Apocalypta FM. Who are you and what’s up?”
“Oh thank God- Thank God- Catty, Harley? You gotta help me.”
My heart sank. Harley winced away from the phone and the five got closer.
“Alright, sweetheart, what’s going on?” I soothed- trying hard not to retch. From that horribly panicked, terrified tone to her voice, I already knew. It made me feel more than sick, but I would never hang up.
“My friends are gone-“ She must have been younger than us- or maybe that was just because she was scared. Her voice was so shaky and every now and then she’d hiccup. “And I’ve been bitten.”
There was dead silence in the room, and I took a deep breath.
“Alright, sweetheart- it’s okay.”
“You know what happens when you get bitten, right?”
“Y-Yeah. My friend Stewart got bit- and he-h-he-“
“What’s your name, love?” In my hand was a pen, poised over a piece of scrap paper. I recorded all their names on it. Always.
Just in case the world dare forget them.
“Alrighty then, Alice- here’s what we’re gonna do to make this nice and quick. You with me?” Another pause. “Alice- you still there?” My voice was greeted by soft sobbing. It sounded like it belonged to a little girl more than to a young woman. Biting my tongue, I let her finish.
“Y-Yeah-h. I-I understand, Cats.”
“Good, good. I’m so sorry, darling. I’m so, so sorry.”
“No-no. D-don’t be. Is- Is Harley there?”
“Yes. I’m here.” Moving over, I placed the phone between us as Fearless Vampire Killers loomed over us, expressions all torn between two emotions. None of them were happy.
“I-I just wanted to say, T-Thank you.” It was like a twist of the knife that was already embedded in our hearts. I could tell by the way my flame-haired companion’s face crumpled.
“Don’t mention it, sweetie.” She managed, but she shook her head. She couldn’t do this.
In all truth, neither could I.
“Have you got a weapon you can use- Hand gun is probably best.” My voice was slightly more emotional than I planned, but I heard the scrape of the gun against concrete. As she spoke, my stomach dropped and I went cold.
“Will it hurt?”
“… Not as much as letting the virus change you.”
Taking a deep breath and letting one hand come to my forehead, I blinked back my tears.
“I know, sweetie. I know. But at least you won’t have to run anymore, huh?”
There was a click. The gun was off safety.
“Do one thing for me, Cat.”
“Don’t hang up.”
This time, I spoke with conviction.
“I’ll never hang up on one of you. Ever.”
“…. Thank you.”
Her voice broke.
“Thank you so, so much.”
“You’re never alone- to anybody who’s out there- You are never alone. We won’t let you be.”
Then, a gunshot.
Clear- clean. One shot.
The phone hit the ground and the connection cut.
In the room, only silence reigned.
“And that… is why we can’t give up. We have got to fight together, lads and ladies.” Even if I’d listened to the death of another teen, I couldn’t let anybody else down. Not today. “Just remember- always keep a bullet for yourself. It may seem selfish- but you do NOT want to become one of them.”
Harley sobbed quietly beside me, and I pulled her into a hug, allowing her to cry quietly against my shoulder.
“Alright you lot- here- have another few songs and a break. When we come back, we’ll introduce you to our friends.”
Flicking the switch and sliding the volume up, I let a few more uplifting songs play.
As FVK gathered round, I held my friend and let her cry- avoiding eye contact with the visibly upset men.
Unlike some people, I couldn’t cry.
If I did, I knew I wouldn’t stop.
Sitting next to the mic, there was a list of people who had either died phoning in from zombie attack or suicide.
The list of names was far too long.
“My gift if my curse…~”