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DEAD AIR by Edward Morris
March 5, 2010  Short stories   Tags:   

Fearless Leader Nicky Tesla failed to return on air at the top of the past half hour, all you loyal listeners both among the living and, uh, existence-impaired out there howling with the donkeys. This is Jimbo Weiland, the Court Foole, on KRAK.

FADE DOWN. That was”The Liberty Bell March” by John Philip Sousa, better known to most of you basement-dwelling, bong-scraping mold gnomes as the theme from ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus.’ Aaaand… we’re back. Well, I am. Fearless Leader is a harder case to argue. As my Dad used to say, he went to defecate and the swine devoured him.

WHAT? I’d say, and laugh, and Dad, who was the son of an old vaudeville hoofer, would bellow back, “HE WENT TO SHIT AND THE HOGS ATE HIM!”

Yeah, that’s right, FCC, I said ‘shit.’ Piss, cock, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits, as well, may George Carlin be looking down at all this and still shaking, shaking, shaking his sad head at the job I did stacking file cabinets three deep over and around every door, a kind of File Stonehenge, if you will, trilithons of metal buttressed up and down with others after their kind, across every point of ingress or egress in and out of the main studio.

All but one, and that one is covered with a trip-wire I rigged to the slaughtering-gun that Shorty and Dutch the evening shock-jocks picked up at the scenic Willamette Valley Stockyards. It fires a steel rod at something like two hundred miles an hour, and stands now Duct-taped onto a tripod to aim at roughly head level for a person of average height.

We were all going to get fired, just before the Big One hit. All of us. Ratings were down. Dutch’s solution was to bring in every kind of weird toy he could get his hands on, just so they could play drunken ‘MythBusters’ on the air and get paid for it before contracts came up for renewal and the swish, swish, swish of the guillotine blade began…

Dutch’s toy I have trained on that one door looks like a big caulking gun mated with a slingshot, just fires this long steel rail, thwipp, right through the head, just where that guy Shaun Partridge on Public Access says is the only place you can shoot the crumblees where they’ll stay down. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle your ammo.

Bring out your dead! But I’m not quite dead yet, I feel….

I feel like I am so sick and tired of these Meal Ready to Eat packs I could jump on the Boss and eat him myself. But I’m somehow horribly sure that a former someone or someones has recently saved me the trouble of doing so, or even handing in my resignation.

I feel like my eyes are starting to sink in their sockets, my skin to leach pale, my very soul to hunger for a window, a tree, a running stream…

I feel like going for that walk, all right, before some crumblee clubs me like a baby seal with someone else’s severed limb.

But I have all this music we couldn’t play, before. Anyway, you guys, that was an uninterrupted block of… lemme see, three in a row from the Butthole Surfers, Hank Williams the Third’s cover of ‘Cocaine Blues’ by the Old Man in Black himself, the late and hopefully still late Johnny Cash and… that little blast from the past I’ve been using for our new station ID, “People Who Died” by the late and also hopefully still-late Jim Carroll, of the former and probably-still-former Jim Carroll Band.

Work’s been tough lately, loyal listeners. Nicky, the Boss, was the only human being I’ve seen in close to six weeks. Felt just like those monthly safety meetings we had down here, where he’d get me to run down to Andy and Bax for some dumb damn thing like an Army flashlight or some MRE’s. “Company policy,” Nicky informed me, “from the Cold War.”

Ah. I thought about that then. From back when the radio news was considered at least the second or third line of defense during an imagined nuclear attack… But I don’t think Murrow or Kronkite or even Rod Serling could have ever imagined the…abortion… Yeah, I said it, Corporate, abortion, that has swallowed our cities and our civilization whole out there tonight, you guys, and I… I need you all to listen, and use your fucking heads, and… and not go wild with them.

I need you all to shoot for their heads, or burn them. I need you to always leave a round in the chamber for your pal the Foole; well, for yourself, actually. I grew up Catholic, and they say suicide’s a mortal sin, but I’ll take gettin’ whacked in the knuckles for all eternity by Sister Mary Borborygmus to becoming a GWAR-style deli tray for a bunch of…

(Ulp.) The Boss and Shannon Z the Program Director were the only other folks down here with me when the virus, or whatever the fuck this stuff is, reached us. Shame about Z. I always… never mind. She was smart and funny and beautiful and they even ate her bones, they ate her fucking bones, you guys, just crunched them up like Kibble, and I was shooting, you best believe it, but they move so fast when they get in a Charlie Foxtrot sorta pattern, like our one sound guy used to say…

That wasn’t the worst, though. For those just tuning in to this broadcast that has already been in progress round the clock one way or the other for close to seven weeks now and just got a lot more fuckin’ difficult…

Just before we lost all cell phone reception the first week, when we had to actually move this broadcast down here to the studio in the shelter, my wife Lisa’s frantic call in to the show was… Truncated, shall we say? Service Not Available? The Subscriber You Are Trying To Reach Has Just Been Devoured, Please Try Your Call Again Later?

I heard Lisa, my Lisa, dragged through the front window by a wall of rotting meat that moved and swayed in a fungal macumba. I could all but smell the wave and wash of stink, and feel the hideous flock mind. I could…

Shit, need a new bottle of this Old Crow stuff. Any… port in a storm. Dad always said, ‘Never follow an idiot.’ So I’m stayin’ right… here. Here’s one for you, Lisa, from the Violent Femmes, “Please Please Please Please Please Do Not… Follow An Idiot’, I mean ‘ Please Do Not Go’ ..”


Excellent. I have found the new bottle and will soon climb back on the mic, as I did when this shitstorm started and will continue to do until everything runs out or they bust in to get me.

Back in three minutes and change, all you out there in ham radio land or dumb luck radio land or steel plate in your head radio land or whoever’s listening to me. The beacon’s on, and I will disarm all defenses if, on camera and on air, you can name for me at least one member of the B-52’s. “Fuck you, fat boy, let me in,” is also an acceptable answer. Just show me you’re breathing.

Shit. I’ve fallen. Legally inab… able… to operate this chair. Fucker. No, see, the way I see it, the Book of Revelation is happening out there Right Now. We gotta come together, right now, and watch, and wait. The graveyards are clean of stones, and all the butchered dead have come home to their destroyers. Us. We did this. Somehow, some way, we didn’t listen.

Some way. Deny it all you want. Like so many other disasters, this one was an inside job.

But Comedy’s just Tragedy plus Time. Tragedy and Time will never run out, here, and Johnnie Law won’t be by any time soon. Nor will the vending machine guy, more than likely.

Our only guests to the lovely station will be introduced to the steel front doors the Boss electrified himself. Those still work, at least. I just have no idea how Joey Genovese, Nicky Tesla to the listeners, could have gotten pinched inside this tiny little glorified office building. I thought I had all the doors covered.

Let’s go to the phones. We’re gonna go back to my buddy Lon Roberts in Alpine, Oregon on his scanner. Lon, you got your ears on, come back?

Is this that weirdo up in Portland on the radio? God damn you, you get me the Army Navy Air Force Marines Coast Guard or some fuckin’ shit or you …

I’m sorry, Lon. I still can’t hardly do jack squat from where I sit, good buddy. The crumblees got me in a querencia. You said before that they’re getting smarter?

Shit, yeah! Can’t get nowhere near the hospital or the old Safeway. They’re tryin’ to starve us out one way or t’other, they…

Say, whatever in the hell you call yourself, I can’t… I can’t hear you any more. What is your situation, son? Acknowledge! Acknowledge! Acknowledge!

Lon, I…

I’m an idiot.

All of a sudden, a very cold idiot, who doesn’t want to look anywhere, or admit that the sounds he’s been hearing for a while are in fact sounds, ah God, Mama, Jesus…

In the Employees’ Washroom, see, there’s this trapdoor in the floor I would have thought about if I’d ever seen anybody use it in a hundred billion years, I swear to the Father Son and Holy Ghost and I never barricaded that door because it’s the only—


(labored breathing)

Oh, hell no, Joey.

You’re not Joey.

You were never really that bad of a guy in life, just kind of lived in your own little… This ain’t… Don’t. Joey. You’re gonna… trip the…wire…Joey… Oh, I can’t look.



Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ save me from what I see here on the floor.

The hole in Joey’s head is big enough to whistle through. The bolt is stuck in the drilled white composition-board soundproofing behind him.

I think of the Band Room back at Catholic school. I think of my mic still being on, you guys, and I think there is something else in here with me if I could just get to the light—




Hurt. No-time. Long-time no-time long-time hurt hurt hurt Foole hurt so hungry down here in this hole with the other one, the kill, my kill. In the hole in the road, the hole to get under the road, outside WORK outside JOB outside STATION, fall far down hole in road.

When there was no more Living-food at STATION WORK, just that one guy to begin with, ever since NICKY took a chunk out of me and I sent the fuck through the wall, but not before…

No more Living-food there much anyway, just that one roadie guy. I felt… I felt bad, but I was starving, I was in so much pain, and…

Well, let’s face it. I don’t think we were gonna get the zombie vaccine outta that brain. I fed the pain away, and drank the blood from his brain and felt… Felt… STONED. He got stoned before work. I felt it. I could… slow down, think sideways, make connections the living only make when they’re…


Stoned. Oh, my god, like when I was alive and I told… I told them a joke, I… I’m standing here in front of the open manhole out on First Avenue that I just kicked him down when I was done. I didn’t eat any more than I had to.

I feel better… but as I look at my hands, and elsewhere, I realize that Better is a long way off. But something good is coming. Something—


CLOCK. The fire extinguisher swings from behind on the cowering janitor’s last resolve.


Hurt. No time. Fool fall far down into manhole. Foole hurt.

Foole fall far…


Green flashlights with funny flickering patterns stitch my cenotaph. The soldiers in their plague-suits are flaming, flaming, flaming all around, laying flaming angelic wings for ten feet out in front of them, slow short bursts that drop clean trails, pour and dance, go Up…

UP… I sit up, on my broken back, and lock eyes with their alpha-dog. He sees. He looks local. I try to remember where my chest-voice is, and then I gamble the whole world:


Everywhere, everywhere, my words make the flames suck back into the dark, back up each and every air-cooled bore. LED flashlights and Starlight goggles whicker on like flock telepathy.

“HOLD YOUR FIRE, GROUP,” their Sarge, who recognized me at first, announces quite unnecessarily, “IT’S REALLY HIM.”

Old Sarge draws closer, weapon drawn. “You move on me, I shoot you through the head, Weiland. We gonna have a problem?”

I shake my head, very slowly and painfully. “Just going to need some help up,” I whisper. “I don’t bite, gentlemen. That… that costs extra.”

I let two of the biggest grunts draw up at their sergeant’s hand-signal, and get me to my feet in one arm-bar each. It’s about the only thing keeping me up. Already, the Sarge begins to grouse.

“God damn it, this has got to be like the tenth one I’ve seen still had some kinda sense left in him. You know what kinda paperwork you just generated, Mister Dee Jay? We gotta come back for our dead twice as much, now, since… Oh, I guess you didn’t hear. Bad news: East of the Ohio River’s gone. Good news:

You’re gettin’ inoculated.” He spits. “This rate, I’ll have a deader for a boss.”

I listen, and try to keep up as best as I can, as they lead me out into the light…


I… Mommy made me mash my M&M’s. Red leather, yellow leather. Pink-trip slip for a three-cent fare, punch in the presence of the pass-en-jare… Okay. Not as much numbness. We can do this in one take.

This is the Court Foole on Radio Free Seattle. It has been five years, seven weeks and thirteen days since I received the vaccine. I was Patient Number Seventy-Two. Patient Number One, Whitney Streed, is here with us tonight. Stand up, Whitney, there in front… How about a big hand?

You people are the heroes of your own cause. You found me. You created the opportunity for Constitutional Convention 2.0. The borders are a bit smaller now than they were, but… What the hell, folks, less work. I’m just the schlub you picked to supervise this shift.

As the Grateful Dead …ha ha… once put it, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Even now, in this hallowed location, where most of the blood is gone from the walls and I stand with my hand on an old book and say a bunch of stuff that still doesn’t mean anything if you don’t apply it everywhere, and properly…

There’s so much work to do, so much wreckage to clear away. Even now, I have obligations hanging off me like chains from Marley’s ghost. Comes with the gig.

But it’s worth it. I look out at the horizon as it grows dark, as I solemly swear to preserve, protect, uphold and defend the Constitution of the New Provisional United States, so help me God, and all you kind listeners sweep forward in a roar of sound so loud I barely hear the





  1. What… Sorry this is either very poorly written or very much over my head. I’m not arrogant enough to believe the later isn’t likely or self hating enough to completely disregard the former.

    Comment by matt on March 5, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  2. I can’t really argue for or against either. But thank you for not being arrogant. More than I can say for some folks.

    As Mr. King once put it, sometimes the subject dictates the form. I don’t write because I want to do anything anyone else has done before. If it works for you, cool. If it doesn’t, thank you for taking the time to read it anyway. Much respect.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 5, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  3. A little confusing at a couple parts, though I think I see what you’ve done there. Probably another read would clarify. But enjoyable nontheless. I’d like to read more.

    Comment by Scooter on March 5, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  4. I am going to drink a bit a nd try this again. I think I liked it.

    Comment by Mac on March 5, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  5. So if I understand correctly, a deader (Foole maybe?) just got elected President of the New Provisional United States, and somebody just assassinated him.

    Comment by Joe on March 5, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  6. All three of those segments are the Foole. Foole got bit. Fool got zombie vaccine from military. Foole lived and got elected Prexy. Someone tried to assassinate him, presumably for being an EX-deader (imagine the Teabaggers’ reaction to having an ex-zombie in charge of the remains of the US.) We don’t really know. That’s the Cliff Notes version of the last two scenes. First scene is just Foole on the mic all f’ed up, trying to explain what’s going on while still being part of the insanity.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 5, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  7. Mr. Morris, I give you props for the story and submitting it. I have read some real stinkers on this site and yours is Definately NOT one of them. I realized the radio format earley on and liked it. I was uncertin when he broke for a song, but you had some terms in there that guided me in the right direction. I’m guessing that at each paragraph break was an air-time break. Did someone proof this before you submitted it? I know that in my case, when i’m writing its all together in my head but the transfer to paper doesn’t come across well sometimes. that’s because in my mind, all the “i”s and “t”s are crossed. having a read through from a friend helps me pull it together.
    There were a few confusions for me, here and there. But over all, pretty decent story. Kudo’s. Personally, I take criticism from someone who hasn’t written something for print with a grain of salt. Nay sayers can get bent. With a little work I say this work would have been great. Please keep writing. If and when mine is posted I would really like to hear what YOU think of it.
    Thanks and keep writing,

    Comment by Barrett on March 6, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  8. I liked it, there is some good language in there, and ‘Comedy is tragedy plus time’ is a great quote (if its yours then kudos) but didn’t fully ‘get it’ until your explanation. Its tough to write in the style (for me anyway) and the difficutly is that if you are going to use a challenging style then its wise to spell it out more than if you are doing pure exposition as the meaning can be hidden in the language, in my opinon. The flip side is you can creat great characterisation and imagery but if it was me I would do it in a simpler but more dramatic scene.

    The first segment I really liked, it reminded me of Grant Mazzy in Pontypool, which is certainly no poor image to conjure. I certainly would read more. The idea of a virus coming late and an ex dead President is one that deserves nore flesh on the bones. ahem.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 6, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

  9. The last sentence should say ‘virus cure coming late’. Damn proof reading 🙂

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 6, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  10. Apparently I should let my Proof Reader read my commemts as well. She just read mine and picket at it.
    See…they are nice to have. LOL

    Comment by Barrett on March 6, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  11. not sure if i liked the writing style , but i got the story good enough an interesting piece well done

    Comment by uncleb on March 7, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  12. Wow, you definitely have a well-developed style. It’s like a cross between Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson. You’ve solidly developed your own world’s vernacular, and you pace the writing like a literary speedball. Whew, I gotta take a break.

    Comment by Drew Fuller on March 9, 2010 @ 11:34 am

  13. Moore and Thompson are both major influences, though I’ve only started reading Alan Moore in depth very recently. (I did grow up reading Swamp Thing, though…)

    Back in the early days of my college career, I used to surf the political forums on Usenet. Hunter Thompson posted on many of them quite a bit, and it was a real joy to get to read his political musings hot off the fevered press. The popular myth of him masked a serious journalist with a whole lot of heart. I think he wanted it that way. Better to hide one’s light under a bushel. Charles Kuralt said that he and Hunter were friends since one night at a bar in Cuba when Hunter observed a man beating his dog outside the bar. Hunter beat the correct (two-legged) dog, and thus made a friend for life in Kuralt. I can’t help but admire him, for all his shortcomings. Jann Wenner’s book _Gonzo_ provides an excellent rendering of something like the non-mythic Hunter, warts and all. I highly recommend it.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 9, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  14. Hunter S Thompson is on my ‘Time Machine List’ 🙂

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 10, 2010 @ 2:02 am

  15. Charles Beaumont is on mine. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. Washington Irving. Rod Serling. Franz Kafka.

    And Kage Baker. We never got to talk in person, just on email once or twice. Hell, I’d hand the time machine off to her. It would do more good.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 10, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  16. Just now had time to read the story.

    I fail to see where the confusion lays. Lies. Whichever is correct.

    I got it the first time through, and enjoyed it. I found it easy to understand, and moving enough to elicit an emotional response at the appropriate times.

    Is this your first one on the site? I could search, and will, but was wondering.

    My first is up now, and I’m hoping to get more here. If they are good enough.

    Either way, kudos! Well done.

    Comment by cdugger on March 11, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  17. Cheers. I want to read some of your work too, now. Yes, this is my first one on here. I have one coming out in Lefora’s antho Through Undead Eyes soon that was my first published zombie story, “I Am Stretched On Your Grave.” And I am working on another one to submit here, already well-received in drafts on Facebook, called “Hunger Strike” about a Vegan who gets bit, and the surprising result.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 11, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

  18. HA! A Vegan Z! Great idea!

    I’ve got 2 or 3 more in for consideration here, and another one being written.

    Two of those will hopefully be ground-breaking. Or at least readable.

    Comment by cdugger on March 13, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  19. AAACK! Good story but I’m thinking that since it’s about a radio D.J. & is mostly 1st person: how would it sound if it was recorded w/voices on Pseudopod (horror podcast ) or on Libray of the Living Dead podcast? Yes-I would have followed along much easier if this one was spoken word.

    Comment by D.Mc on March 14, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  20. Because I didn’t submit it to them, I submitted it here.
    Library of the Living Dead already has my story “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” to run pretty soon, and Pseudopod favors reprints over originals.
    I will certainly resub this to Pseudopod after a few months. If I feel like it. Hard to follow does not equal bad. I write to make people think, and take them outside their comfort level. There are thousands of other writers of every kind who write things which are more predictable and easy to understand. I write to make people think.

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 15, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

  21. http://www.theonion.com/content/news/nation_shudders_at_large_block_of

    Comment by Edward Morris on March 15, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  22. hahahaha

    TLDR 🙂

    Genius Mr Morris. Genius.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 15, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  23. Oh my God! I can’t believe I had to read that whole article!

    That was funny!

    Comment by cdugger on March 20, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  24. I liked it, a bit challenging to read at times, there was so much going on, but a great story with a great twist. Thanks

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  25. To be honest, I found it very hard to read. I don’t like it really, that is to say it’s not my cup of tea.

    You do though, have a really interesting writing style. Like Barrett said getting someone to proof read it would be a good idea. But keep up the good work.

    Comment by Scott B on May 9, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  26. Yeah, getting someone to proofread it would be a good idea… like the editor??? Also, maybe one more person could bring that up. I didn’t get it the first six times it was repeated. Sorry I wasted your time with my crappy story. I don’t even know why they took it. Please carry on.

    Comment by Edward Morris on May 10, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  27. @Bevan: Pontypool has been on my Netflix list for quite some time and I’ve yet to receive it. I hope it’s worth the wait 🙂
    @Morris: Great work. Will mos’ def read again to savor. Any chance that the barely heard shot missed and that our intrepid hero will appear in another story?

    Comment by Clement S. on August 7, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

  28. Pontypool is definitely worth the wait.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on August 8, 2010 @ 1:35 am

  29. @Clement S. : Maybe. I hadn’t thought about that, but good call. Nice to not get a lecture. Thank you for reading and enjoying that story.

    Comment by Edward Morris on August 8, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  30. Yeah, I don’t know why anyone wasted time on this crappy story either.

    Comment by Tory Al on January 2, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

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