Technology harbors its own terrors…

‘[…]A faint dripping sound cut through his sleep. He sat up in bed, straining to pinpoint its source, at first thinking it was someone outside tapping on a window – one of the women’s exes again. But no, it was close, coming from inside their little apartment. Like a tap left on, but irritating and everywhere somehow, in the walls. Joseph lay wrapped in his blankets, oblivious, and Adam hesitated for a moment, then quietly shimmied out of bed and into the cold air. He shivered and opened the bedroom door.

It was definitely louder out here. He shot a glance at his mother’s door, but he could hear her light breathing beyond.

The loungeroom seemed strange in the darkness: too-long, warping around him. An outside security light, just visible through small windows high up against the roof, lent a weak, insubstantial illumination. Like in a dream.

The sound wasn’t coming from the kitchen sink, but from the corner where the big television squatted on its four sturdy legs. He walked over and stared at it. He’d spent much of his free time sitting in front of the box, but now, in the early morning, it looked weird and lifeless.

Drip. Drip.

He saw that a spreading pool of darkness had formed on the carpet underneath. He leaned in, curious. One corner of the set was seeping a thick black liquid, like blood. He must be dreaming. This was too strange. He reached out a hand, knowing he shouldn’t, but unable to stop himself.

There was a sudden blinding flash. He squealed and jumped backwards, falling on his backside as the television flared to life. Flickering light danced around the walls and cast an eerie glow over the tatty furniture.

There were bursts of movement and shapes on the television, the camerawork was hysterical, then it suddenly focused on a terrified face. The image pulled back to show a woman, eyes open and glazed, her throat grinning red. The scene swung around to some men in dark-blue shirts and ties, their sleeves rolled up, running down narrow aisles waving bloody knives, screaming at the passengers frozen in their seats. Someone, a man, rushed one with a blanket, trying to entangle the hijacker. Then he was set upon and stabbed in the neck, the eyes, the back. Children scream. The hijackers rang the entrance to the cockpit and waited. People frantically pushed mobile-phone buttons. A woman glancing out the window started to shriek as the clouds gave way to a sudden view of water skimming close below. Then city streets and buildings flashed past, people staring up. An explosion of flame swept up the plane, there was a deafening roar, then only white.

Adam stared at the television, eyes wide with fear and confusion. He started to back away across the floor and then the white coalesced into a form, and became a face staring out at him.

The serious anchorman sat at his desk, grim, tanned, his hair like plastic, staring out, frozen. Adam hoped desperately, insanely, that something was wrong with the television – that there was an explanation for what he had just seen, that it was some sick joke.

Then the anchorman blinked and swivelled his eyes straight towards him.

Adam stopped breathing.

The man blinked again. Then he smiled and opened his mouth to speak.

Adam.” A rasping, congealed voice.

Adam stumbled backwards and sat on the couch. He felt cold throughout his body. They stared at each other, he and the man, and then Adam slowly shuffled across the couch towards the door. The anchorman leaned in, as if he was going to step out of the television into the loungeroom. Adam shrank back into the couch.

But instead of stepping through the screen, the man cupped his hands, holding them out as if in offering. Adam hesitated, before peering into them. Empty. Then the man bent forward and vomited a neat puddle of blood. Adam stared, transfixed, at the thick dark liquid swirling in the cupped hands, then up at the man’s face. His lips were blackened, dripping. The man just smiled – a terrible smile – and thrust his hands forward again: “This will help you, Adam.” That horrible grating voice.

The smile grew wider, a grotesque rictus-grin, the man’s lips spreading further from his blackened teeth. Darkness began to fill those staring eyeballs, then the man’s mouth split with a wet, tearing sound like damp cardboard ripping, and a great gout of blood spewed forth to splatter over his hands and onto the desk. It rested at the bottom of the screen and then began to fill the television like a fishbowl.

Soon it covered the desk and surged towards the man’s neck and his ripped head. Adam tried to scream, but nothing came out. He wanted to jump off the couch, to run for the loungeroom door, to wake his mother and scream at her to help. But he was paralysed, like something was sitting on him, holding him down. He could only watch, as the man’s waxy haircut sank below the dark mass.

Then the screen suddenly dissolved – just disappeared – and the blood broke through to gush onto the floor, soaking into the carpet around the television like thick red wine. He’d screamed and screamed, as the draining blood revealed the anchorman perched like a plasticine-figure within the television, his white grin obscene in his dripping red face – as if he had been skinned.

And still the blood came, surging across the floor towards him.’

© Aaron Sterns 2002, Do not reproduce without permission














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