The day of the funeral, Flug decided he would never come back to Kirlian. Standing between his mother and his tía, Flug looked down at the grave and glowered. His goggles covered his face and his mother could not pinch him for the face. He just couldn't grieve the way his family was. He was pissed. Manuel had been his only friend; the only person to not laugh at him, the only one who was interested in all of his experiments, the only one who listened to him talk about planes for hours. They had, in fact, bonded over their mutual interest in plane crashes.
And now Manuel was dead. His body had been mangled after falling into that cavern and lay for three days. The whole thing was odd, and the entire family grumbled about it. Manuel didn't ever ride his bike out that way, out by the strange concrete building near the cemetery. And to fall into the cavern, with the bike, made it seem as though he had launched himself into the abyss.
They had only found him because the buzzards had been circling over the opening. Circling, but never landing.
For twenty years, Flug stayed away. He didn't even bother to visit his own parents in Mexico, why would he travel to the other end of the world to a city in the middle-of-nowhere, Argentina?
Then came the April that would last forever. Or at least till the end of time.
He had crashed in Hatville only a few years prior and had been working for Black Hat. It had been his dream job, as much as Demencia was turning it into a nightmare, and had been putting together a scanner for a client. It had been proving impossible, and Black Hat had been growing impatient with his lack of progress.
"It runs off melange and something is going wrong with the time-space frequency," Flug explained and something shifted in Black Hat's face. Flug swallowed hard and continued. "I can't get it to calibrate."
"Find the source of the problem," Black Hat said, his voice coming out low and cold. "And fix it."
He did find the source of the problem. A dilation had occurred in a little city, out in the middle of nowhere, in the Buenos Ares province of Argentina.
Flug flew himself down there, and true to his record almost crashed a half-dozen times. It wasn't that he was a bad pilot, only that his fascination with plane crashes didn't come with a sense of self-preservation.
The only surprise malfunction came just before landing. All of his instruments suddenly went dead and the engine cut out. Pulling on the stick, the plane didn't respond, but neither was it falling. For just a moment, or for eons, the plane hung in the sky like one of his models.
Lucky, since his goggles had malfunctioned at the same moment.
Just as the confusion started to dissipate, but before any sort of fear set in, everything started to work again. With no other issue, Flug landed at the small airstrip just outside of Kirlian. It was easily midnight, though the time change hadn't caught up with Flug yet. The clearing was quiet, save for the cacophony of insects and night animals.
In the small hangar, a radio played in an empty office. Flug ignored it while he gathered up his few belongings. It was only as he passed that a voice made him freeze.
"And so listeners, the crisis has passed and the calendars seem to have reverted back to their normal, twelve-month state. If yours is still missing the rest of the year, perhaps call a lawyer and get your affairs in order." The radio host said. Flug stared at the radio, not really registering the message but focused on the voice.
It was older, and sounded inherently wrong, but was perfectly familiar.
Behind him, a toilet flushed and Flug turned to see a woman in a greasy jumpsuit walk out of a bathroom.
"Oh." She said, startled. "I wasn't expecting any arrivals today."
"Not many arrivals in Kirlian if I recall," Flug replied. The woman chuckled and only made a passing glance at his bag while she walked into the office.
"Are you a prodigal son? Coming home?" She asked as she picked up a clipboard.
"No. But my aunt lives here." Flug added hastily. The woman nodded as she glanced at his plane and wrote down the identifier.
"Well, welcome back." She said. "You picked a helluva night to visit."
"So I heard," Flug said and then gestured to the radio. "What station is that?"
"The Kirlian Frequency? 96.6." She said. "It's broadcast from the bunker in the cemetery."
"Out by the cavern," Flug said and the woman winked at him.
"You do know Kirlian."
The woman made a call and had her wife take Flug into the city proper. By the time he made it to the small hotel, the twilight had deepened. Streetlights buzzed overhead, illuminating the blundering of moths. Green smoke poured from torches placed at intervals along the sidewalks. There had always been a mosquito problem here, but the smoke had an eerie glow to it. As he looked around, Flug was startled by the odd biometric readings of the men on the other side of the park. He stared at them for a while and they seemed to be looking back at him. But their eyes were strange.
A window was open behind him, somewhere on the second floor of the hotel, and a radio could be heard on the warm fall night.
"We could consider this to be a sort of new year since we celebrated Christmas last week." The impossibly familiar voice said. "And we've already got our first visitor. The flight manifest of the Cessna 172 that landed around midnight lists one passenger, the pilot Dr. Kenning Flugslys from Hatville. I would like to be the first to welcome our visitor, though his aunt would like him to call her. Hopefully he remembers the number."
Distracted, and growing more and more irritated, Flug walked into the hotel.
There wasn't a desk, but the door to a small bedroom to the left was propped open. As the front door shut, an elderly man in a threadbare robe shuffled out of the room and looked pointedly at Flug's bag.
"Need a room." The man said, more as a statement than a question and Flug only nodded. The man sucked on his teeth and pulled a brass key from deep in his pocket. He handed it to Flug and grimaced.
"Fifteen pesos." The man said. Flug sighed and set his bag down to pull out his wallet. After the money had been exchanged, Flug walked up the stairs to the third floor - a converted attic if truth be told - and found the room the matched the number on the key. Unlocking it, Flug opened the door and flicked on the light. A solitary naked bulb illuminated a small room. A narrow bed on a metal frame was bare, the mattress stained to a tea color. A dresser was made out of a dark heavy wood and Flug tried to imagine the old man dragging it up two flights of stairs. Whoever had managed the feat did so while battering the dense piece of furniture.
On top of the dresser was a cracked china bowl and a pitcher. Looking around, he didn't see a bathroom. He'd have to go downstairs for that it seemed.
Next to the bowl, however, was an ancient radio. Flug set his bag down and closed the door, all the while staring at the radio. When he went to it, he switched it on and felt the electricity before he heard the loud pop and crackle. Turning the knob, Flug scanned the other frequencies before landing on the one the lady at the airport had told him. It was playing music, and Flug left it on while he unpacked.
April was nearing the end of fall, and the warmth of the day had finally evaporated into the darkness. A chilly breeze came in through the open window, smelling like the acrid smoke of the torches. Still, the very nature of the attic made the room stifling hot, and Flug went to the window to catch some of the sour breeze. His room faced the park and he watched the green smoke make curlicues in the air. The group of ill-formed thugs still edged the other side of the park.
"Welcome back to our extended edition of The Kirlian Frequency. As you recall, the comet brought about some good changes to Kirlian. You're invited to call into the station and share some memories of Kirlian in the past, before the sunrise ushers in a new start for the city. You have our number." The host said suddenly, interrupting the song that had been playing. Flug looked at the radio.
Then he grabbed the pitcher and walked out of the room.
There was a washroom on the second floor and Flug made his way purposefully to it. He stopped at the telephone.
Flug stepped over to it and set the pitcher down against the wall. Then he examined the phone. It was a massive thing, just as bulky and ancient as the radio in his room. Tucked behind it was a piece of paper with a phone number scrawled on it in purple ink. He stared at it as he picked up the receiver and dialed.
The phone clicked as it was picked up.
"You've reached The Kirlian Frequency." The host said. The voice was nearer now, and clearer. Flug was certain that he remembered it, though he had never heard it before. Not at this age.
"I've just landed in Kirlian," Flug said. "And it's completely different from when I was here last."
"Ah, Dr. Flugslys I presume?" The host asked.
"Last time I was here was for my cousin Manuel's funeral." Flug continued, ignoring the host. The man on the other end of the line went quiet and Flug waited.
"I believe we know each other." The host said carefully. "I think we have some friends in common."
Confused, Flug leaned against the wall. He nudged the pitcher with his foot and moved the receiver to his other hand.
"That's possible," Flug said finally.
"I think my friend knows your employer."
Flug's shoulders came up to his ears as he froze. He cleared his throat before talking. "I think you know my cousin."
"That's possible," The host replied.
"Are we on the air?"
"Then what are you doing in my cousin's body?"
"I'm only borrowing it. I need it to take care of someone."
Flug made a noise and shifted to lean on his other side, keeping his back to the stairs and other rooms.
"What's been happening in Kirlian?" He questioned.
"Why have you come back?" The host asked in return.
"Malfunctioning equipment," Flug answered, keeping his tone even.
"The Board doesn't like having one of Black Hat's people around." The host said.
"But you have a friend who knows him?"
"Knows him very well. It's why Kirlian has escaped his notice."
Flug thought back to his notes on Black Hat's dominion. Kirlian had been in the small blank pocket of that map. But then, it was always the small blank pocket on every map.
"He still has no interest in it." Flug said.
"And you?" The host asked.
Flug wanted to know how a boy dead for twenty years could sound like an adult and be hosting a radio show.
Or, more likely, hosting whatever was inside of him.