White Noise

     “Pete , I told you to turn the television off before coming to bed.”

     “I turned it off.”

     “Then what is that I hear?”

     The only thing I hear is your mouth , he was tempted to say.

     Grumbling , Pete sat up on the edge of the bed , switched on his night stand lamp , and eased his feet into his slippers.

     “Son of a bitch ,” he muttered.

     “What was that , Pete?”

     “Nothing ,” he said.

     He shuffled to the door and listened. “I don’t hear a damn thing.”

     “Well , if you bothered to clean your ears out once in a while , maybe you would hear something.”

     “Are you implying that I’m deaf?”

     “I’m saying that you never listen to anything I say ,” Sally said. “All you do is sit in front of that television , belching , farting , and guzzling beer. Whenever I say anything , it goes in one ear and out the other. Either that , or you pretend to be asleep when I ask you to do something. Now , are you  going to turn it off , or keep standing there looking like an idiot?”

     Pete didn’t realize that he had been looking like an idiot , or that his mouth was hanging open the whole time. He quickly shut it , and shuffled through the door. When he reached the bottom of the stairs , he could hear the faint hiss of static. The volume was so low , he could barely hear it. He wondered how Sally could hear it. That woman must have hearing like a dog.

     The room was awash in a ghostly , blue light. He stood in front of the television , staring at the screen , imagining that he was seeing patterns in the snow.

     Pete was sure he had turned it off. He knew he was becoming forgetful in his old age , but he wasn’t senile yet.

     The remote was on the seat of his favorite arm chair , where he always left it. Pete reached for it , but hesitate before picking it up. There came a faint sound in the darkness. The sound of footsteps on the stairs. For  a moment he thought Sally was coming down to see what was taking him so long. But when he looked back at the stairs , she was not there.

     “Hello? Is someone in here?”

     When he spoke , the footsteps suddenly ceased. He reached for the remote and picked it up. The footsteps came again. This time he noticed a strange rhythm to the sound , a shuffle , followed by a faint thump. He turned toward the stairs again , and again no one was there. What the hell was going on here? Was someone playing a practical joke on him? Was it Rollo? Rollo was his next door neighbor. Pete knew that Rollo liked to play jokes , because Pete had too often been the butt of his jokes. But Rollo had never staged anything this elaborate.

     Is that you , Rollo?” The footsteps ceased abruptly again. Jesus! He was starting to get spooked. “How did you get in here , Rollo? Did Sally put you up to this?”

      If it was Rollo , how was he doing it? How was he making the shuffling footsteps on the stairs? And where was he hiding?

      “Alright , you son of a bitch! Show yourself , before I lose my temper. Hear me Rollo?”

     There came a faint sound of laughter , as if from a distance. Pete whirled toward the television , his heart racing. He stared into the snowy pattern. It felt as if every hair on his body was standing on end. He knew that was where the laughter had come from. The television. But how?

      He felt around the back of the set , thinking maybe Rollo had placed some kind of transmitting devise there. But there was nothing. He looked back at the screen. The snowy patterns mesmerized him. He thought he could see faint images , figures moving among the snow. Faces. People laughing … crying.

     Eyes filled with fear.

     Eyes full of hatred. Eyes as deep and black as the fathomless night.

     And then he heard the voice.

     It was not Rollo’s voice. It was a voice that no human ears had ever heard. It was neither male , nor female. A voice as timeless as time itself

     “I need ,” it said. “I neeeed! I neeeeeeeeed! I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!”

     Pete stared at the television , unable to comprehend what he was hearing. He was mesmerized not only by the images he was seeing , but the voice had a hypnotic quality to it. It drew him toward the screen as a moth is drawn to a bright light. Inch by  inch , his face drew closer , until the tip of his nose was pressed against it.  Then a ghostly hand emerged from the screen , and wrapped itself around his throat. Pete struggled to dislodge the hand , but his own hands seemed to pass through nothing but air , and yet the thing that had a hold of him had the unmistakable  grip of a vise. He was unable to utter a sound.

    Slowly , the spectral hand pulled him through the screen. Pete passed through as easily as if he were passing through water.

     Sally came down the stairs a few minutes later. “Damn it , Pete! I told you to turn the television off! Is that too much to ask?”

     She stopped in front of the television. “Pete? Pete!! I’m not playing games with you , Pete! I’m going back to bed. Are you coming , or are you going to play your childish games?”

     She looked at the screen. For a moment she thought she could see images moving among the snowy patterns. Then she picked up the remote and turned it off.

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