The headphones are getting uncomfortable, but something is going on.

He nudges the tuning knob and the hiss intensifies, pulsing, like the breath of a predator. Deep in the background there are tiny irregular clicks—faint, frightened: the prey? And the hum? The hum is constant over this whole portion of the spectrum, no matter which way he tunes: the night? The sea?

He pulls off the headphones and pushes back the chair. His ears feel like boxers’ ears: hot, flat and raw.

There is motion outside the window. Something in the sky.

He eases the door open, applying a lot of muscle for extra control. The hallway boards want to creak as he bobs silently along with deep knee bends. He’s all joints tonight. He’s all joints every night.

The stairs flex. The front entry holds its breath. The door lets it out. The porch paint peels.

Up above the northern lights are swarming and searing, although this is not the North and it’s the humid heart of summer. Up there must be far from here. Cool, dry and highly-charged. Ionized. Electrified.

The sidewalks lead to the streets. The streets lead to the roads. The roads lead out of town.

The soles of his shoes are vulcanized.

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