Headlines at the top of the hour: Another heat dome has settled across the nation, and the new movie that reenacts ten celebrity drunk-driving offenses broke a box-office record over the weekend. 

Cut to commercial, and I hum along with a jingle for a machine that controls your brainwaves while you sleep: Wake up energized and get more done! Now a story about the latest self-help manual from a celebrity chef who is a recovering pyromaniac: “And I discovered this is the way with all things, a gentle breath can keep the tiniest flame alive—”

I scroll down the dial in search of the midnight call-in shows, those carrier waves of national rumor and patchwork theory. A woman in San Diego says the CIA is responsible for the body parts washing up on the Pacific coastline. “Chopped-off feet are coming in with the tide, and nobody knows why.” 

Callers assign divine significance to the calendar and the moon, offering theories rooted in numerology and biblical verse; they implicate Hollywood and the United Nations. “The government is controlling the weather so they can push through an eco-terrorist agenda. There are secret machines at the foot of the Rocky Mountains that manufacture terrible winds.”

A man in New Hampshire talks about an alien transmission that left behind three disemboweled bodies in Arkansas: “Humans don’t have the technology to suck out a person’s intestines through their naval, but that’s exactly what happened.” 

Cut to commercial. “At the California Institute of Psychics, only two of every three hundred applicants are selected, so you’re guaranteed a good reading.” 

I tune into another voice, this one sweaty and frightened. “I’m alone in Idaho where it’s just me and God, and it gets so lonely. Because I’m just a normal guy, and there are times when I get tired of being His servant and I say, ‘God, how much longer do you want me to do this, to keep warning people about your judgment?’ And the Lord tells me I have until the end of winter to prepare everyone for—”

Station after station of this: doomsayers and faith-dealers tormented by the ghosts in their heads. What has gone so horribly wrong in their lives that they’re on the radio, telling us we’re all going to burn?

I mute the radio. I’ll get more information from the rain.

This is the eighth episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.