It was just getting on to the part of the evening when crickets would begin to chirp that I finished dinner. The first flakes of winter came down on gusts of wind outside my cabin’s glazed windows like demented birds. But to ward it all off: my fireplace blazed. Sitting in my favorite chair beside the hearth, I clicked my radio on to catch the night’s forecast.
It was static at first, then it resolved into Bill Bronson’s familiar jazzy voice. “And that’s tonight’s low for the great city of Scranton. But for those folk up in the mountains, watch out! Gonna be dropping into single digits, so close up those windows and get those fireplaces going--you’re gonna need them. Next up, we’ve got sports-”
Then it went back to static just as thick as the strengthening flurries of snow outside. I adjusted my radio’s old antenna, held together by tape and spite, hoping to get Bill back.
Instead, the next voice I heard was a gravelly bass, reminded me of Louis Armstrong in a weird way, yet there was an enthralling energy behind the deliberately pronounced syllables. “Evenin, fine folk across the waves, the worldlines, and the ways. We’re just getting started with tonight’s broadcast and I’ve gotta say I’ve been hearing some crazy things from out in the void. Even went up to my dish to see if it needed adjustin. But it was right on. Bullseye on tomorrow.”
I raised an eyebrow at the oddity of the broadcast, harkening it back to the classic radio dramas such as “The war of the worlds.” But it was better than nothing on a frozen in night, so I kept listening.
“Acordin to the void, seems like the sky will be openin up soon, letting the heavens spill out. ‘Cept in this case ‘heavens’ isn’t so much paradise, but a period on the end of a sentence written into history and the openin of a new paragraph. I’d even go as far to say it’ll be a whole new chapter, if not the start of a whole new volume. See, it’s the start of the real story to be told. But I’m only here to tell you listeners out there: it won’t be coming without a cost. Are you ready to pay to continue your story?”
Snow pelted my windows, strengthening more every minute. I tossed another log into the flames and sat back, comfortable despite the chill seeping under the door.
The voice continued, “for those wanting a preview of the next volume, listen well. I’ve got the author’s note on the back to read to ya. And it goes a little like this:
The year is 2036, a year of change and burning, and of strength. An ashen blizzard will sweep across the world, blocking out the sun and throwing everything into disarray. Out of the disarray struggle and advancement will emerge, defining an age perpetrated by the callous actions of the apathetic, the empathetically blind.
My front door rattled as a gust rocked the forest. A tree crashed soundlessly into the foot of fresh powder blanketing the ground. I took another sip of my steaming drink, hoping that the old maple outside was gonna make it.
“Listeners, this blizzard is coming; the void says so. I heard it while up on my roof fixing my dish. For most of you, you’ll be part of the ash that sweeps across the world. But for those lucky enough to be away from civilization, out in the backwoods and remote mountains, you’ll have a shot at writing your own story in the new volume. Take care and lock your doors, hermits, prepare for a blizzard of change. I’m the voice in the void, take care now. But stay tuned, I’ll be playing you some music I picked out for just this occasion. Enjoy.”
My little cabin shuddered and far away, the next volume began. The glow on the horizon from the orbital fire flared more brightly than my fireplace despite the distance and storm. Heart pounding, I snapped my attention back to the radio.
Sure enough, it played a tune I’d heard a thousand times before. I recognized it even through the static, once again as thick as the flakes pounding down.
The voice had somehow known this was to happen, somehow been able to predict this catastrophe, and no logic I summoned could explain it. I stood and paced by the hearth, deeply unsettled.
Then a pounding came from my door. It broke my reprieve, throwing me into a momentary flash of terror. Who could it be? None knew of my isolated cabin--none. Perhaps a lost, frozen soul? I went to open the door, ignoring the dry chill seeping under the jam. Not a flake in sight.
I opened it.
Grey ash tumbled past my ankles. But there in my doorway was a pallid, inhuman creature masquerading as a lumberjack from decades ago--almost as if he’d gotten lost in a storm in the 50s and wandered up to my cabin for help. But instead of an axe, the bearded man held a crusted, hooked piece of metal over one shoulder. Three links of chain dangled from the anchor’s eyelet; barnacles were like teeth along its flanges.
My heart froze at his inhuman presence.
It was the anchorman. I didn’t know how I knew, but I did, and every fiber in me screamed to run.
But with only one door into my cabin, I was swept away into Anchorman’s wake. My story wouldn’t be one of ash, but a story of survival out in the void. I hoped to maybe get the chance to meet the voice, but first I had to survive the anchorman.