Radio Wizard

Everyone thinks I just tap into the Plane of Emotions, but they're wrong.

It's hard to blame them, so much of the schooling around magic use is about investigating the Major and Minor planes, because that's where all the common magic comes from. But somewhere probably around middle-school, you get a lesson about how there are alternate magics, maybe a Druid visits your school and does some pet tricks or something. And that's about the end of it. They say "If you're one of those strange ones, you'll find your way."

Well, I don't know how the Druids do it, but there's not really a network of.. users like me. See? There's not even a common term for us. An arcanologist called me a "Radio conductive emotional telepath", but how useful is that in conversation? Should we take a break?

Sorry, that happens. That's the "radio conductive" part. If I want to use my talents, I have to find them in the current radio spectrum around me. I'm listening to every station who's broadcast reaches my head, all the time, and I tune into the one that has the right emotion. I borrow the emotion and broadcast it out when I talk. So while I'm talking to you right now, I'm borrowing the self-reflective confidence of a guest on the afternoon advice show on 94.1.

She's a great speaker, she tells her story in a way that is easy to follow, I've heard her on a few other shows. So I'm borrowing her confidence, and projecting the host's interest in her story so you feel more engaged with mine. The host took a commercial break suddenly and caught me off guard a second ago, but I switched to the delayed feed that comes off the transponder in the south bay. I promise you don't want to hear me channel commercial emotions. I mean, you probably would if I did, but that's why you don't want me to, right?

Don't worry, I know it's cliche, but I try to use my powers for good.

Or at least, not for evil. But it's getting harder out here, I rely on the radio towers. I don't work on Wi-Fi, cell, satellite, you know? I only get what gets broadcast. That's why I'm here in the big city, from my apartment I have a good 20 stations on the dial, lots of options to work with. Do you know how hard it is to drive down a lonely rural road when the only signal you get is some mournful country blues? I had to install a personal broadcast antenna and run a pirate signal just to make it through Nebraska on tour.

Now that the media conglomerates have taken over most of the smaller stations, and the national ad networks buy most of the ad time, the actual selection of emotions is a lot smaller. Every morning at 8:08 AM I have fifteen morning-news stations all broadcasting worry and shame. I have to pick between the callers on the non-news morning talk shows if I want to find any nuanced emotion at all. And apparently, the only things people want to listen to from about 11 to 1 is political bickering or just big blocks of music.

Don't get me started on the music. If the talking is a little repetitive, try finding any fresh emotions in the songs! If I need to tell someone I'm horny, drunk, angry, stoned, heartbroken or in love, I'm all set! Need anything more than that? Better hope there's a college station with permissive play standards doing "experimental stuff", because the top 40 is the same handful of feelings on loop since the 1980s.

Anyways, my point is that I'm not doing any planar magic. I don't conjure or summon, and I'm not using scrolls or potions or artifacts. Just the radio you all fill the air with. Do you know what I think? I think you all are more like me than you expect. I think you pick up the radio in some little part of you, you just don't know how to notice it. I think early on, our ancestors were exposed to some radio noise, maybe something from space you know? And it was just gibberish noise, so they all learned to tune it out. Then millions of years later or whatever, here I am with a broken filter, so I get the full picture.

And I'm not just saying that to make myself feel better. I see it happen in real-time. Do you know that moment in a TV show or movie where you suddenly realize, as the viewer, that something really scary or bad is about to happen? That cue in the score that makes your stomach drop in anticipation? When something really bad happens in real life, like the kind of thing that causes laws and wars and charity drives, all the radios quiet down right away. Every DJ and host on-air comes back live to start somberly delivering the news. It's so creepy, like everyone in the room going silent and looking right at me.

I know something bad has happened before I know the details because the only emotion left on-air is shocked fear.

But so do you. It's not as strong, sure, but I'm convinced all people feel it at some level. When that thing happened with the space launch, I was in a board room talking to CEOs about brand management. They weren't connected to the news, I knew they were still in the safe bubble of ignorance until the end of the meeting, so I tried to ignore the fear. But I could see the anxiety creep in on their faces. I swear, I wasn't broadcasting anything, I was fully clamped down. But they knew something was up. They could feel it. On the radio, or maybe coming off other people in the building? I don't know. But they got fidgety, antsy, the meeting lost all of its momentum, and I tried to wrap up so they could join their coworkers in starting to process the grief.

It's not always bad. You'd be surprised how many smiles just happen to break out when the local team scores big down at the arena. Granny on the bus knitting her way to the park isn't much of a baseball fan, she's listening to a murder mystery podcast or something on her phone. But when #22 knocks a fastball out of the park, she giggles just the same. Little things like that, people just line up with each other in so many ways they don't really see.

Up next, let's talk about space for a second. I only "hear" radio, a particular range of the spectrum. And for the most part, that's radio stations or communications between humans. Birds don't do radio, right? But stars do. Or other things like stars, out in space, sometimes. I tuned it out as background noise when I was growing up until I learned about pulsars and interstellar radio signals. Once I had an idea of what I might be hearing, I tried to tune in on it. Do you want to know the emotion of a distant burning star?

So did I. And I tried hard. But it's too big, or too strange. If you're standing in a windstorm, you can't figure out the shape of the wind with just your ears. But they will give you a very broad guess whether it's a small breeze, a strong wind, or a blustering storm. When I channel the star signals, it's like that. I know I'm picking up a small part of something much, much larger, but I can't make out the whole shape. What I do feel is a complicated mess, I don't think stars feel in at all the same way as we do. There's a sensation kind of like cold glass on your prideful face during a lecture on dental hygiene. See? It's like it's not the right format, like a really bad translation to a language that doesn't have the right words for any part of the sentence.

No aliens though. At least, not that I pick up. Maybe they use Bluetooth.

In my day to day, my talent isn't as magical as it might sound. I've never felt a calling to be a leader or a politician or anything like that, but I did fall into a pretty natural position as a business consultant. It's not hard to run a good meeting and leave everyone feeling co-operative and enthusiastic, especially if there's a charity drive on air. Is it cheating? I don't think so, they hire me to talk them into making good decisions, I just make sure they feel good about listening.

I don't do it in my personal relationships, for the most part. Occasionally at a party, or to help a friend who specifically asks. But otherwise, I kinda feel weird trying to rely on the radio to bring emotion into a personal interaction. If I use the radio to tell my partner that I love him, what happens when the radio doesn't have the emotion I need? For things like that, I'm just more comfortable bottling at the source. It keeps me grounded, makes sure I have my own emotions independent from what gets broadcast. I think it's important that everyone has a way to maintain that separation, you can't just persist on the emotional content of media around you.

Anyways, I'd love to keep chatting with you today, but I have a pretty rare opportunity today that I don't want to miss. The Youth Soccer League semi-finals are being played at the park downtown today, and they just happen to be running at the same time as the Copa América down in Brazil. I've volunteered to do commentary for the kids' games, and I have a local station piping in the South American game coverage. I'm hoping to give that whole crowd a taste of the arena energy the fans down there like to bring, and try to make it easy for those young athletes to play their best games today. It's going to be great.

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