CHANNEL ZEROA Story by mark slade
I was standing in the middle of the dump with Manny when we found magic in the form of Television.
I have found the best time to watch the people in my neighborhood is between twelve am and five-thirty am. I sit back in my chair, turn the huge black knob on the T.V. and turn to channel zero, there they appear. I've often found myself watching them for hours instead of sleeping. No. That's not true. All I stare at is static and dead air on the screen.
Sometimes I glance over at the chair with the rainbow colored throw hanging on the back and wonder what my ex- wife is up to. I wonder who she is with. Then I close my eyes and wish all the past to stay buried.
It was several weeks ago that I was at the dump and I had found this wonderful old television set. It was a Dumont T.V. / Radio set RA -113 with cherry red cabinet, the speaker on the bottom. It also had a nineteen inch picture tube and a seventeen inch screen. I was amazed I could find such a rarity as this. Manny who owned the dump, also collected Vintage items and restores them to sell on Ebay, was flabbergasted. He kept at me for a week on the telephone, wanting me to sell it to him. Strange, Manny and I have a relationship that has lasted longer than any that I've had. Longer than my marriage, which was only lasted four years. I've known him since school.
Manny was considered a nothing and I was a jock. I secretly collected things such as comics and old record albums. He collected old books, sixteen millimeter films. In my senior year I didn't care who knew what I did. I lost almost all of my friends because of my association with Manny. So what. Life goes on. Margret also hated my obsessive collecting. The first three months of our dating, she knew nothing of the collecting, which now included antiques lamps.
It's what I did on the weekends that upset Margret. And in the evenings I restored what I found in the dump. She was a lot more of a needy person than I thought before I married her. She was always hovering over me, asking when I would have time for her. Always bitching at me. We never fought over normal marriage things like normal married people. Bills and sex. No, it was who didn't make the coffee in the morning and why I shave I left in the sink, or of course, when I would have more time for her and play board games. I really pissed her off when I started collecting board games. She ran a clothing shop the last year of our marriage. I never saw her. She claimed to be working late. Then she just didn't come home at all. I wonder what she's doing now. So what. Life goes on.
I occasionally work as an advertising artist. Only when I need money. I know a few people in the ad world that need a speedy job.
“ It was funny about that old Dumont. I had a look inside and everything was pristine,”
I told Manny at the dump.
Manny handed me a beer from the small fridge in his office shack, which was well stocked with his favorite spy novels and VHS tapes of old T.V. Shows. Manny hadn't shaved that ugly ginger beard since high school and his long tangled hair was loosing a few strands on top. He never wore his Kansas city Chiefs cap inside any building and beyond that Charles Manson gaze, he was a very low key person.
“I'm not sure how long that had been here in the dump. Since George had it, I would think.” The George he was referring to was his alcoholic father, who was a very nasty human being that literally died from eating too much.
“Surprising how well it works.” I drank down the cheap piss water Manny has a penchant for. “All I had to do was put a new coat of cherry red on the cabinet.”
“You wont sell---”
“Manny...stop asking, will you?”
Manny shrugged, after a few seconds I stopped looking at him sideways. He went to the window, chuckled to himself, shook his head. “That Cartwright fool is out there with a metal detector looking for gold coins.”
“I thought you kicked him out of here months ago.”
“No. That was Mrs. Newsome. I don't like foul language. So you get anything on that Dumont?”
“Just static,” I couldn't drink anymore of that swill. I left my half of can sitting on his T.V. As usual. As usual, Manny screamed at me as I left his office.
I was in the garage having one of my fantasies that I could watch Margret on the Dumont. I could see her sitting at her dressing table applying lotion to her very pale body, counting the wrinkles on her face. Her bedtime gesture every night. I reached down into my igloo and took out another beer. It was my sixth and it wasn't the piss water that Manny always bought. I found it difficult to keep my eyes open anymore.
The noise from the static woke me hours later. My body had become numb from sitting that beach chair, the plastic had almost become part of my a*s. I heard a car alarm going apes hit outside in unison with the Craven's German Shepard bringing out the bass. I felt like I was in one of those techno clubs that Margret drug me too. Headache and my heart riding up in my throat. I leaned forward intending to rise from the beach chair and turn the Dumont off.
The T.V. Buzzed, the screen blipped. An image tried to breakthrough the static. A woman in black and white was placing a cake in the oven. She was obviously dressed from the early fifties. More static usurped the image.
I stood, dropped my beer to the garage floor. I was stunned.
The image appeared again. The blond haired woman turned to the camera, leaned in and blew a kiss. “All for you, no one else.” She said. Then she dis appeared into a sea of static, the screen awash with scrambled feedback.
I ran to the Dumont and slapped the sides of the T.V. I did this for ten minutes straight. The image of the woman would not come back. Disappointed, mind disjointed, I turned off the Dumont, headed for bed.
As I lay in my bed, half-awake, I saw a shadow emerge from the corners of my room. It drifted from one corner to the next from one side of the room to the other. I rose from my bed slowly. It moved from as I did, staying ahead of me one step at a time. We moved from my bed to the living room. I dared not switch the lights, for fear that it may disappear or blend in with the rooms. It felt like ages, chasing this shadow in Geritol pace. In the kitchen it tried to hide behind the fridge, but the cords to the appliances kept it going so far in. The shadow seemed to try to speak as it emerged from behind the fridge and hovered over the table. There was words, but feedback, or some sort of interference interjected.
“I'm sorry,” I told the shadow. I don't understand you.”
It began again, the voice pitch overtaken by static. Suddenly, there were several voices speaking at the same time. There was a pain in my ears that is indescribable. I squeezed my eyes shut, the pain dispersed. When I reopened my eyes the shadow had moved on to the door leading to my garage.
The shadow found it's way across the cold cement of the garage floor, wavering across the beach chair. I knew it was going for the Dumont. I acted quickly. In four steps I had been in between the shadow and the television set.
As it slid inside the television screen of the Dumont, I took hold of a leg and it pulled me inside with. At first I had thought I had blacked out. I was surrounded by darkness. When my eyes adjusted to the black and white all around me, a seething pain from my pupils extended to the bridge of my nose. My head felt like a train had used it for tracks.
I was laying on a linoleum floor with rose patterns. I looked around. Obviously I was in someones kitchen. A stove as well as a fridge harkened back to the early fifties. I heard high heels clicking on the floor behind me.
An exasperated, husky female voice spoke. “Dave...get up. I just got that suit back from the cleaners.” I turned and saw the black high heels open toed and ankle straps mere inches from hand. My eyes moved from the white-gray swing skirt to a statuesque blond with her hair up in a bun.
My jaw dropped to the floor.
“Well,” She said. “Don't just sit there with your mouth open. Come and help me set the table.”
I watched her sashay off into a room that was dinning room. Odd. You didn't see many of those in a house anymore. Reluctantly I picked myself off the floor. Dusted off the pristine dark suit with my hands. I passed by a china cabinet and caught a glimpse of my image. I was now clean shaven, and the shortest my hair had ever been. I was startled when she touched my hand.
“Hey,” She took hold of my arm. “Don't be so jumpy, dear.” Her plump, moistened lips were smiling at me, reassuringly....almost creep...but sexually inviting as well. “No need to be nervous. It's just Bill and Cookie coming over for dinner.” She leaned in and kissed me full on the mouth. My knees went weak. I swear, my legs were like rubber.
I chuckled. “Your right...” I was stuck. I didn't know her name. Then it hit me. I was in a a nineteen-fifties T.V. Show. They always called each other dear, or honey. “Honey....hey, wait.” I grabbed her by her skirt.
“Hey! Don't!” She sounded off with a nervous laugh. “If you tug too hard, Bill and Cookie might catch me in a bad way!” She rolled my arms, her backside pressing hard against me. I kissed the nape of neck.
“Forget them. We'll pretend we are gone and send them away. Just us alone...”
“Nooo...Bill needs to have a good cooked meal and entertained for the evening. You need this promotion. Oh! Hey! Run to the market quickly and get a cake! They'll never know the difference if I didn't bake it.”
I sighed. “Sure thing,honey.”
She kissed me again. I nearly fell again. My mind fogged up, I walked to the front door, waived to her. I went out the door and hit complete darkness.
When I came to, I was laying on my garage floor staring blankly at the Dumont. It was on, the channel switched to channel zero, the screen engulfed with static.
S**t. I was back in my own miserable world.
I ran to the telephone in my living room and called Manny right away.
He was not too thrilled to hear from me.
“Where the hell have you been?” He screamed. “You drop out of sight for a month---then call in the middle of the night.”
“I haven't been gone a month--”
“I thought you went and offed yourself.”
“Manny, listen"that Dumont is no ordinary TV---”
“No, it is. Look, stop talking about things like that, okay? People will think your crazy.”
“Manny"I'm telling you, this TV is different---I was inside it. I went inside the set and was in some sort of black and white show. I remember reading years ago that Dumont had their own network at one time---broadcast on a kinoscope. Look...what if those shows were lost out there and still being broadcast---in Analog or something freaky--”
“Get help, old friend. You've lost it.” The phone went dead.
I didn't care what Manny said. I know it was real. I lived it. I wasn't crazy. I stayed in my garage the rest of the night, waiting for that shadow, the Dumont left on channel zero. Nothing happened. In the morning I was awaken by the mailman knocking on my door. When I answered he looked at me like he was staring at a ghost. He handed me the package and his hand slipped through my arm. The old man tipped his hat back on his head, eyes wide. He backed away from front door slowly. He caught his balance when he slipped on a curb. He turned on his heels and ran to the mail truck.
I was left standing at my doorstep holding the package, looking at my left hand as the sun's rays seared through the faded skin.
Maybe Manny was right. I have lost it.
I opened the package inside at my kitchen table. It was a scrapbook from Margret. I looked through it. Lots of pictures of us in places I don't remember being at. Nor did I really care to remember. I grabbed the scrapbook and tossed it in the trash can.
I went back to my garage. There had been a phone call, someone left a message wanting me to design a cookie package. How could I go to work now when I know that the magic inside that old TV was beckoning me. I opened the champagne that I bought last new years hoping Margret would come back to me. I sat in front of the Dumont, tuned into channel zero, drank the whole bottle.
At two in the morning I heard a broadcast. I stiffened up, groggy, but definitely awake. There was two men in suits and fedoras aiming guns at each other. I recognized the one actor. It was Ralph Bellamy, and I wasn't sure, but I believe it was MAN AGAINST CRIME. He played a private detective and almost always solving the case in thirty minutes.
The images began to disappear in a raging sea of static, a low hum burrowed inside my eardrums. From behind me there was a scuttle of noise from a dark corner of the garage. A rake and a snow shovel collapsed behind some sort of movement. The shadow slid out slowly from the corner toward the gas cans. I knew exactly where it was headed. I stayed in my chair, motionless, my eyes steady on it.
It took awhile, but the shadow finally made it's trek to the back of the Dumont.
The shadow extended it's body along the TV set, placing a hand on the cabinet. It moved along the flickering screen. A dark hand slid inside the waves of static, then the shadow pushed forward, before long it's right shoulder was in. I took hold of the shadow's left arm and it pulled me in.
I came to, shook off the headache, the noise in my ears leveled off. My eyes focused. I was the other man holding a .38 snub nose at Ralph Bellamy. He gave a wooden laugh.
“That gun doesn't change the fact your a coward who would shoot an old man in the back,” He said.
I stared at him blankly. I gurgled, dropped the .38. I turned and ran down the hallway of the office building, headed for the door at the end. Bellamy fired twice, both missing me. I reached the door, flung it open. In near darkness a stairway spiraled upward. I took three steps and heard a popping sound. I felt something catch in my back, then a burning feeling. I fell forward and rolled on the bottom step.
Again, total darkness.
White noise consumed me. Feedback pierced my eardrums. I swam through the
waves of static. I saw a bright light that grew smaller as I came closer. I reached out to touch it and fell to a floor. I looked up and saw Manny standing next to the Dumont. We were in his office at the dump. I caught a glimpse of myself in the windowpane. I had become the shadow.
I opened my mouth to scream, only white noise could be heard.
I stood, leapt for the screen of the Dumont. I felt a hand grab hold of my ankle as I hit the waves of static. I swam through it, taking Manny with me into TV land.
© 2011 mark slade
Added on November 8, 2011
Last Updated on November 8, 2011
Abouta writer of horror and dark fantasy http://bloodydreadful.blogspot.com/ more..