Wait, static from my TV?
I slowly rolled over and looked at my TV in front of the bed. It was on, the red light at the bottom left was lit, but the picture was near black and the faint fuzz of static warped around the corners of the screen.
That was odd. Why was the TV on? I had only watched TV downstairs with my mother. I hadn’t watched a thing up here for days.
I was reaching over for the remote on the bedside table when the TV suddenly lit up with the grey and black static of a lost signal.
It reminded me a little too much of Poltergeist. My heart hammered loudly in my chest.
I aimed the remote at the TV and quickly pressed the off button.
I pressed it again, aiming it at an angle.
Again, nothing happened. The static grew louder and the outline of a woman’s face fil ed the screen, her face comprised of wavering, jagged black, white and grey lines.
I couldn’t make out any detail except for grey tubes that were lips. They moved up and down, as if the face were talking.
This…was not good.
I got out of bed and approached the TV as if it were a skittish deer, keeping the remote aimed precisely at the off/on button. I pressed it repeatedly as I approached the screen, but to no avail. I was going to have to turn it off by hand.
I was right up against the screen, my hand going for the physical button on the bottom left corner when the face moved. I froze, eyes drawn to the dancing screen. The lips opened.
“Perry!” the face on the TV screamed.
I screamed back. I hit the button with my fist but it did nothing.
The TV screamed my name again, the voice coming out of the speakers.
I quickly lunged for the back of the unit, taking the power cord in my hands and yanking it out of the wal .
“Help me!” the TV screamed again, in a voice not unlike my own. It wasn’t plugged in anymore. But it stil screamed.
I scampered for the door and flung it open, taking off down the dark hal way that was only lit by the nightlight by the bathroom door. I went straight for Ada’s room, ripped open her half-shut door and jumped into bed with her.
“Ada!” I cried out in the darkness, putting my arms around her. “My television is possessed!”
I paused after I said that. Ada didn’t feel like Ada. She felt… leathery. Beneath the sheets, something hard and cold and pointed flicked my way and it wasn’t her legs.
“Ada?” I whispered in horror, an unbearable feeling rising up in my throat.
Whatever I was holding shuddered, as if it were laughing.
The rough protrusion stroked my inner calf.
Then the light went on and I was blinded into a sea of yel ow/white.
“What the hel ?”
I squinted at the direction of the voice and saw the blurry shape of Ada standing by her door, one hand on the light switch, the other at her chest, clutching her pajama shirt.
“Oh my God, Perry, you scared the hel out me! What are you doing?”
I looked down at where I was on her bed. I was holding her pil ows in my arms.
“I don’t know. I…my TV…it came on…”
“So did the TV downstairs.”
I sat up straight as she came over to me. She was wearing her striped designer pajamas, her hair sticking out at crazy angles, mad scientist style.
“What?” I asked, rubbing my temples and trying to make sense of everything that just happened.
“I woke up because I heard the TV turn on from downstairs. I don’t know if it was always on or what. You turned it off when you and mom were done, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I remember. But my TV just turned on now too.”
She calmed down as we rehashed our stories. I wish I could say the same about me. I was fixated on the fact that I had, very clearly, not been holding onto her pil ows a few moments ago.
“Maybe there’s a weird power surge in the house,” she said, lowering her voice so she wouldn’t wake my parents.
“Wel how does that explain the TV staying on after I unplugged it?” I pointed out fearful y.
“I don’t know. I’m sure it’s possible.”
“Come on,” I said, getting out of her bed and tugging at her sleeve. “I’l show you.”
We went to my room but lo and behold, though the TV was unplugged as I had left it, there was no power flowing through it.
“It said my name,” I implored, looking at her, trying to get her to believe me.
“You were probably asleep,” she said.
“But I wasn’t.”
“But maybe you were. Look, I don’t know, Perry. You’ve been through a lot. You just watched a whole bunch of Tyra Banks. Combined, those things can create nightmares.”
And with that, she left me in my room. A hugely selfish part of me wanted to beg her to stay with me and keep awake until I fel asleep, but I knew that she had school in the morning and I could afford to sleep in. I was just going to have to suck it up and try and get some shut-eye.
Luckily there was stil some NyQuil left behind in my bedside table and before I had time to dwel on the evil television I was swept under by a merciful, drug-induced sleep.
The next day, I pried myself out of my NyQuil coma and forced myself to partake in some exercise. It had been days since I left the house and my body was cooperating a lot better. I wasn’t well enough to run, as my innards felt achy at times, but I was good enough to take a brisk walk down by the river.
It was a beautiful day, too. The sun was weak and obscured by a thin layer of mist that rested over the river and treetops like a strip of gauze, but the light danced beautiful y and there was a hint of spring in the air. It was nice to walk the route for a change, instead of running past in a blur. I took the time to enjoy the pockets of nature, to pay attention to the crisp, clear pools of the river where shadows of spry fish swam underneath, and the spindly trees whose branches bore the slightest hint of green buds.
It reminded me of being young and pretending I was in fairy land.
By the time I returned back home, I was in better spirits and feeling more optimistic about everything. One thing that had real y bothered me the past few days was how bad it looked for me to take off so much time from work. I know it wasn’t like I asked to end up in the hospital but it was one of those situations where my absence would have been felt.
I know Ash and the others would have covered for me (in fact, I had spoken to Ash the other day and he assured me everything was fine) but it didn’t real y help me in my quest to get ful -time employment. Having finicky health didn’t make you look like the most reliable employee.
But I had a plan. I was going to go into work and work extra hard. I’d take a mil ion painkil ers if I had to; I just wanted to prove that I was someone you could depend on, someone who would go the extra mile. Yes, it was just a stupid barista job, but it was stil the only way out of my parents’ house and down a path all my own, where I didn’t have to put up with my parents worrying that their child was going to end up a spinster in her early twenties.
I was almost at my parents’ driveway when I saw my neighbor walking down the street with her lab, Cheerio, again. I waved at her, and I waved at the dog (as you do), giving him my brightest smile.
At the sight of me, the dog froze on the spot, nearly yanking his owner off her feet. His eyes were fixed on mine, his legs stiff as boards and shaking ever so slightly.
I looked behind me to see if perhaps he saw another dog or a rabbit but there was nothing.
“Cheerio!” my neighbor scolded. “Come on, now. That’s just Perry.”
She tried pul ing at the dog but he wouldn’t move. The only thing that did was his mouth, as his droopy lips spread open, showing perfectly white, pointed teeth.
A low guttural growl seeped out between them. I nearly felt it in my running shoes.
“Cheerio, what -” she started.
Before she could finish, the dog leaped forward, ripping the leash out of her hands and bringing my neighbor to her knees on the rough concrete. She cried out in pain and the dog kept running, coming straight for me.
Coming to kil me.
I turned on a dime, losing no hesitation, and sprinted toward the house, ignoring the pain in my sides as I coaxed my legs to leap wider, run harder.
I reached the door just as I heard the wet, snapping snarls a few feet away, flung it open and slammed it shut as Cheerio flung his body up against the door. I fel back onto the foyer and the door sprang back open, having not latched properly.
Cheerio had fal en too, and there was a brief instance where both of us were on the ground, eyeing each other like predator and prey, before scrambling to get to our feet, with only an open door between us.
I reached the door first and put all my weight against it, holding it in place as Cheerio slammed his body against the door repeatedly, shaking me with each throw.
I kept myself against it until I found the agility to lock it, my fingers fumbling as I slid the chain across. Then I curled up into a bal at the foot of the stairs and cried until my parents came home.
“You’re not touching your mashed potatoes, honey,” my mom said gently, gesturing to the steaming pile of starch, which looked as appetizing as a heap of albino crap.
We were having dinner, and thanks to my incident with Cheerio earlier in the day, I lost the wil to eat, even though mashed potatoes and chicken parmesan were among my favorite foods. I could only pick at it and push the food around my plate, feeling on edge and depressed at the same time.
My dad sighed, loudly, and folded his hands, his chubby fingers smeared with old ink stains. He rested his chin on them and peered at me over the top of his thick glasses.
I shot him a derisive look. “What now?”
His eyes narrowed momentarily but he managed to rein in his temper. It never did me any good to get snappish with him, but I was sick and tired of having everyone look at me like I was a mental patient. They did that already anyway, and now it was even worse.
“I think we’re all worried about you,” he said careful y. He glanced at Ada to see if she’d disagree. But from her quiet, pensive demeanor, I could see she was worried too.
“I’m also worried,” I admitted. “Animals usual y love me.”
He sighed again and leaned back in his chair. “Perry, come now, you must have done something to provoke the animal.”
“Like what?” I exclaimed. “I just waved.”
“You waved at a dog?”
“I always wave at dogs! And I always wave at Cheerio.
Go ask the neighbor.”
“We would but I think she’s stil in the hospital getting her knee looked at. That was her bum knee, you know.”
“No, I didn’t know,” I said, pushing back my plate in anger. It rattled loudly on the hard table. “How the hel should I know that? It wasn’t my fault her damn dog went psycho.”
“Perry!” he admonished. The tension in the room shot up. “We do not use that word in the house.”
“Damn? Hel ?” I repeated. “Why the hel not? You think God is going to come down and smote you for it? Fry you like a piece of Goddamn bacon right here?”
“Perry, for goodness sake!” my mother yel ed, her voice warbling in a mix of fear and anger.