the following story was part of the nighttime fiction challenge on HPOTD. The premise of the challenge was for authors to submit ideas to partner-authors, and each would write the other's story. The idea I recieved was to show the Living Dead in one of several primetime television shows...this is what I did.
The television screen was filled with static.
The man with the gun stood beside it. He held the little girl tightly by the arm, pointing the gun at the back of her head. His eyes were lit with panic.
Detective Bobby Simone held his own gun down towards the ground. The hammer was pulled back, ready to be put to use if the man gave him the slightest opening.
“Do it, cop ,” the man screamed for what seemed the hundredth time. “Do it ”
Bobby shook his head. “It’s not gonna play out that way, bub. Put down the gun and let’s talk this out.”
The man laughed wildly. His eyes were ablaze with desperation. He pushed the gun, hard, into the little girl’s head. She screamed, tears coursing freely down her face.
“Hey ,” Bobby screamed at the man. He held his free hand out towards the little girl in a placating gesture. “It’s okay. Honey, it’s gonna be alright.”
The tall Cuban detective glanced around the small living room. A small couch and coffee table sat along the far wall. In a corner, a reading chair and lamp seemed to be the only other furniture. Not forgetting the television, the fucking television that had been voicing it’s white noise at top volume since Bobby had arrived on scene. The noise was driving into his ear like an ice pick, digging at his sanity.
“Don’t lie to her, cop.” The man pushed the gun at the little girl again, forcing her head forward with the weight of the barrel. “The only way this is gonna end happily ever after, is if you do it.”
Do it. Just do it. A shiver ran down Bobby’s spine. The man wanted to die. Suicide by cop…and Bobby was the chosen executioner.
“Just make sure you put it in my head, okay? That’s the only way it’s gonna work.” The man giggled shrilly. “Yeah…the brain…quick and easy…yeah…”
And it would be easy. The sound of the television, static-ridden and constant, coupled with the little girl’s steady screams were wearing down his resistance. Bobby felt his hand with the gun slowly raise.
A sudden movement in the mirror caught his eye. His partner, Andy Sipowitz, waiting in the hall. His partner, ready to back his play. Bobby lowered the gun.
“Damn it! Thought you was finally gonna do it, cop. Guess I’ma hafta blow this sweet girl’s brains all over the front of your suit to make this happen, huh?”
Bobby extended his free hand again. “Listen to me. This can’t play out that way. I can’t do what you want.” He sighed heavily. “If we could just turn off the TV for a minute, give our selves a moment’s peace…”
But the conversation would go no further. At the mention of the television, the man’s sanity snapped fully. He cocked the hammer on his revolver, a string of drool hanging from his lips. The little girl screamed louder than ever.
But for Detective Simone, there was finally silence. The world became a pinpoint of focus, there was the man, the man’s gun, the girl, and the heavy service revolver in his own hand. A hand that had appeared almost mystically before his eyes. Then, the silence was gone, replaced by a crashing thunder that echoed through the small confines of the apartment.
Detective Robert Simone had fired his weapon. It was the first time he had done so in the line of duty, and he would have made his instructor’s at the academy proud. His stance was textbook, his line of sight clean, and his aim was true. Dead-on center mass.
The man landed in a heap on the floor next to the television.
The screen was full of static.
Dr. Mark Benton slapped the side of the monitor, bringing it back into focus. There was a short pause, then the fluorescent green lines appeared again. They had stopped spiking some time ago. Now, they rode across the screen in a constant flatline, signally the patient’s death.
He sat beside the bed in the closed room. He was trying hard not to feel the guilt of losing a patient, after all, the cops had brought this one in on death’s doorstep. Massive internal bleeding, ruptured lung, two shattered ribs, and a large hunk of irremovable metal courtesy of the NYPD. And from what he gathered, the guy had it coming.
Still, he was a surgeon, one the best, and he took his oath seriously. His was the duty to save lives without question. Heroes and criminals were all the same under his care.
But, it was the man’s last few words, more than his own inability to save him, that taxed Benton. When the paramedics had brought the man in, he had been ranting incoherently, wheezing pitiful screams through the pain of the ruptured lung. The words forming in bubbles of blood on his dying lips. Then, he had gone silent. Lying still and silent as Benton began his work.
It wasn’t until Benton realized he was fighting a losing battle, that the man spoken again. Seeming to read his thoughts, the man’s eyes had shot open and he grabbed at the doctor with hands painted in blood.
“They did it…it went wrong…don’t …”
Benton had pushed the man away, not ungently.
“Lie down, man. I’m busy trying to save your life, we can shoot the breeze later.”
The man wheezed loudly. “…understand…you don’t under…you must finish it…”
And then, he had slipped away. Lost in the clutches of cardiac arrest. Benton pushed the words away, filing them away for later review, as he did so many things. He bent back to work, intent on being the victor in this fight he could not hope to win.
Now, the man’s word rang through his mind. A haunting memory that seemed to carry the weight of prophecy. He did not laugh at the notion. Doctors, he believed, saw too many things to laugh at such ideas.
Benton sat in the silence of the room, hiding from the bustle of the ER (at least, until the next trauma begged for his attention) and weighed these thoughts until he slipped into an uneasy sleep.
He must have dreamed. He must have. Because the man on the table, the most assuredly dead man, was sitting upright. The open incision on his chest gleaming under the harsh lights of the surgery. A tight grin spread across his face. He swung his legs slowly off the table, moving with the care of an elderly person in the thick of an icy winter. He stood slowly and shamble-stepped towards Benton.
Even knowing it was a dream, Benton felt the fear course through his soul. He jerked from his seat and moved away from the walking corpse. His hip brushed against the monitor, sending it crashing to the floor.
Static filled the screen.
“Dad…the TV is on the fritz again ,” the young boy bellowed across the house.
The mother, a young and pretty thing that seemed to always wear high heels, regardless of whether she was doing housework or digging in her flower garden, stepped into the room. She wore a brightly colored housedress covered with an impossibly clean apron. Her hair was impeccable.
“Young man, why are you screaming loud enough to wake the dead?”
“Awwww mom, I’m sorry. But, gee whiz, the TV broke again.”
“It’s not broke,” she explained in her too patient voice. “The antenna just needs turned. Go out to the garage and ask your father, nicely, to fix it.”
The boy jumped up and ran for the front door. He moved with the energy of a stereotypical American youth.
“And do me a favor?,” his mother called after him.
The boy halted dead in his tracks, with his hand on the doorknob.
“Ask Wally to come in and take out this trash for me, okay?”
“Sure thing, mom.”
The Beav opened the door and ran outside. As usual, he left the door wide open. June smiled and shook her head in casual dismay. That boy would be the death of her…
Then, the thing walked into the house. It moved slowly, wearing blood smeared clothes and a leering grin. June uttered a harsh gasp, her hand demurely covering her mouth. She turned to run away, but lost her footing in the obviously non-athletic high heels. The thing descended upon her.
The world swam out of focus. The only thing she could see was the television set.
The screen was broken with static.
Agent Scully reached forward to turn it off.
“Don’t Scully,” Fox said from behind her. “ I want to show you something.”
Dana sighed. It would be like Fox to link the television to what was apparently an open and shut case. Obviously, there were hidden demons from the netherworlds of deep space communicating to the perpetrator via NBC. But, she humored him and left the TV on.
“What do we know about this case Scully?”
“Only that the oldest son of a family of five seems to have had a severe mental episode and killed his family.”
Fox nodded. “But how, and why?”
Scully sighed (something she seemed to do a lot working with Fox). “Well, the how is easy…he ate them. Or, made a damn good attempt at it. As for the why, it could be a number of reasons.” Fox wore a smug grin that said, he didn’t think so. He picked up the remote control for the TV. “Know what this is?”
Dana rolled her eyes. “Yes, Maulder. I am familiar with it.”
Fox grinned wider. He took the battery panel off the remote. It was empty. He made sure Scully saw it, before he replaced it.
“Ever see one do this?”
The FBI agent pointed the powerless remote at the television screen.
“Fox…wait.” Scully was suddenly uncomfortable.
Too late. Maulder depressed a button.
The static was gone.