The Halloween Project 2021 - Story 2: WPKN (W)hen (P)eople (K)now (N)othing
WPKN is a real place and the radio station is moving to new digs. I’ve been to the old studio several times and can’t wait to see the new one. It’s a real story. Well, maybe not all of it.
WPKN (W)hen (P)eople (K)now (N)othing
Steve, casual and cool, stood at the head of the long oak table. He turned and smiled that wider-then-public-relations grin. The small gathering, a dozen or more, men and women, all officials of the radio station, from Music Director to Fundraising and Development Director, News Director to Press and Publicity all smiled back. Most had known each other for decades and this was an exciting new rebirth.
“It’s a done deal. We’re movin’ the station to the Bijou!” Steve clapped his hands, the throng joining in with applause and the scattered “Yeah!” and “Alright!” 58 long years had been spent at the same battered and beaten studio on the third floor of a rundown college office building. The 10,000 watt free-spirited audio beacon across southern Connecticut and Long Island would move to new digs. A state-of-the-art upgrade with energy, financial support, and enthusiasm in a lively city center.
The next two hours was a working session of how’s, when’s, why’s and whatever’s. Pizza was brought in, beer, soda, and some gin. It was a celebration. Solutions proffered, difficulties uncovered, timelines hammered out. Around 10 P.M. someone offered, “Gettin’ late.” A few nods of agreement were stopped short by a question knifed from the near corner.
“What about The Dozen?” it was Richard, always the arbiter of less bullshit.
Silence. The room shut down. Pizza boxes gaped, half-eaten pepperoni suddenly appeared cloying. One beer fell over, fizzing, but no one moved to pick it up.
“The Dozen? What the hell is The Dozen? And what’s up with all of you?” asked the youngest member of the crew, Xavier. His show aired on Thursdays and every other Friday in the hour of the wolf, 2. A.M to 4 A.M. “Xavier’s Saviors” it was called. A few heads turned to Steve. The moment lingered.
“It’s nothing, I mean, it’s a thing, but nothing really. It’s a myth, an old wives tale,” Steve explained.
“Tell him. He deserves to know. He’s part of this team,” it was Richard again.
“Jesus Christ, Richard!?” Steve complained.
Silence stilled the room once again. Finally, two other voices joined in, “Just tell him,” they echoed each other.
Steve sighed, turned his head toward the ancient studios and back at those gathered, and began:
“WPKN began in 1963. It was primitive, amateur, at least for a while. A college station at first. Many, if not most of us, joined on in the 70’s and 80’s or even 90’s. A lot of us came from college radio stations and just settled in. We’ve got a lot of history here. So how many CD’s and records do we have here?”
“Going on 70,000,” a voice offered.
“Nearly 70,000, that’s right. That’s a deep collection. Many of our programmers and DJ’s go real deep into that collection. But some of it is crap... as we all know.”
Heads nodded around the room.
“But we don’t throw anything away,” more nodding agreement.
“But we should have,” Richard stated flatly.
“We tried Richard. You know we tried.” Steve’s arms gesturing, palms raised.
Xavier jumped in, “Will somebody please tell me what you’re talking about?”
Steve’s arms fell to his sides.
“In 2000, on the day before Halloween, a package arrived at the station.”
There was a quick screech as someone pushed away from the table. A chair clattered backward and cracked as it hit the floor.
“I’m leavin’,” Adam declared, “I’m leavin!”
“Adam, please… hold on…” Steve began, but before entreaties could be made, Adam’s back was to the group and nearing the door. “Adam, you were there.”
Adam stopped. His shoulders heaved, grew tight, then drooped, “And that’s why I’m leaving!” he hissed over his shoulder and was gone.
Steve turned back and let the quiet fill the room. “So this package showed up. Wrapped in plain brown paper. Inside it was wrapped again and it smelled bad. A few of us looked at this package on the desk and didn’t know what to think. There were quite a number of us in the studio which was unusual. Eight in all. Five are here now. Well, four, without Adam. We looked at the wrapping and thought it was…” he paused.
“SKIN!” someone barked from the back.
“WHAT!?” Xavier shouted.
“Come on, Jack” Richard joined in, “It wasn’t skin, it was leather or hide or parchment or pigskin. It was not skin.”
Steve continued, “Whatever it was, we were curious. We’re a nutty bunch up here and it was Halloween. We might have actually had some gin up here that day too. We thought it might be one of the staff pulling a joke. So we continued carefully unwrapping this gross parchment and these 15 C.D.’s fell out. Typical plastic case, no writing, no message, no liner notes, no return address, nothing. So we put one in the CD player. The room hushed once again.
“And?” Xavier asked.
Steve sighed. “I can’t describe it, I really can’t. And I’m not going to try. Anyone want to help me?” he glanced at Richard who had one hand on his forehead, his face turned to the table top.
“It’s enough to say it was horrible,” Steve continued, “Beyond horrible. Not music. Sounds. Voices. Lots of voices. Terrible, terrible voices. We were all a bit messed up. We tried one CD then another. They were all very different, but each one seemed worse than the last. So, we decided just to get rid of them. No police or anything. Just some sicko. What was the crime? We figured we’d just destroy them."
“AND!?” Xavier was now excited, not only his interest, but his curiosity rising. Steve looked around for more help, then continued.
“Jasper took a hammer to one. He smashed it a couple times. It was super hard. Suddenly, it just splintered and a shard of the CD pierced his left eye and blinded him.”
“Malcolm took one home. He didn’t listen to it. They were having some kind of picnic that weekend evening. They had a big bonfire. He threw the CD on the bonfire, enjoyed the party and went to bed. Sometime in the night the embers from the bonfire floated up and got under the roof. Fire department affirmed it. Malcolm and his wife died in their bed, hopefully from the smoke before the fire burned their house to the ground.”
“Tomas took one and put it in his car player. Remember, he loved to drive that mint Mustang? He was on I-95, probably two miles from here. A tractor-trailer came loose from the rig, spun and collapsed right on Tomas and the Mustang. Crushed him instantly. The CD was still in the player, also crushed and mangled.”
“So, we made a decision. We took the 12 remaining CD’s, placed them in a lockbox and put it in a safe place. Four people in this room have heard them and know where the box is. The Dozen. End of story.”
“End of story? End of story! You’re just playing with me because I’m the newest guy here. Hell, come on, I’ve been here a few years. Is this a joke?!” Xavier started to stand.
Silence again, then Richard began, “So…are we moving The Dozen?”
“My vote would be no,” Richard offered, “Let’s just leave them where they are. No one will ever find them. Just leave them be. Whatever they are.” Heads nodded all around. A murmur of agreement.
“So they’re here,” Xavier exclaimed, then quieter, “They’re here.”
Quieter still, “And I’ll find them.”