I live at 3823 Winterberry Lane.
If you take a turn between the Speedway Gas Station and the CVS Pharmacy, you’ll find a dead end road with 20 or so small houses in various states of repair.
I live approximately halfway down on the North side. It’s a quiet street. Most of the neighbors are in their 70s and 80s. They refer to me as ‘The new kid on the block’. I don’t mind. I bought my house from the estate of Mr. Theodore J. Abernathy. The house was up for sale for almost two years when I purchased it, at a greatly reduced price.
Anyway about three weeks ago, on my way home from work, I picked up a pizza and stopped at the gas station. While filling my tank, on a whim, I ran in and bought one of those gigantic coke ICEEs and continued home.
I didn’t have a TV. I usually just watched something online or used my laptop as a DVD player. I set up the laptop, pizza and extra large coke at my kitchen table. Then, with the pizza in one hand I must have set the drink down at an angle.
The whole thing flipped over right on my laptop.
I tried to save it, tipping it over immediately to let the clumps of frozen coke drip out as much as possible.
I ate my dinner in discouraged silence. After cleaning things up, I tried turning on my computer, but found only a dark dead screen. Trying to make the best of it, I made a long overdue call to my parents. We talked for a while, and my mom filled me in on all of the goings-on in the family. Then, she said she had to go (Jeopardy was on), and I was left once again in the silence of an empty house.
It was at that moment, just to punctuate my mundane predicament, that the overhead kitchen light blew out with a loud pop. Retrieving the spare bulbs from the closet shelf, I remembered that the basement light was also out. After changing the light bulb in the basement, I decided to throw away a couple of old boxes left behind from the previous owner.
Then… I remembered the cabinet.
The heavy metal cabinet that I had found in a small closet-like room under the steps. Inside, I remembered, had been an old analog TV set. Happy to have a diversion, I carried it upstairs, cleaned it off, and plugged it in.
Flipping around the dial, there wasn’t much to choose from, so I settled for a movie that I’d never seen before. It was a romantic comedy. In it, a young woman wearing a green baseball cap is walking a large Great Dane. She gets to a stoplight and the dog pulls away from her, running across a busy street. I fell asleep before reaching the end.
The next morning driving to work, I found myself stuck in a long line of traffic. Glancing over at the sidewalk, I saw a young woman. She was wearing a baseball cap and walking a Great Dane.
At first, I was unsure about where this feeling of Deja vu had come from.
Then I remembered the Movie.
Eyes on her, I watched as she stopped at the crosswalk… and the dog pulled away from her and ran across the busy street. I awoke from my daze to the sound of car horns blaring. I drove on.
“That was strange,” I thought.
My workday got busy and I forgot all about the incident. I spent my lunch hour looking for a new laptop. The one that I wanted was on sale, but unavailable to ship for two weeks. I figured I could make it without Netflix for a week or two, in fact it might do me some good.
I signed in and clicked purchase.
That night, I found myself back in front of the TV with my leftover pizza. Turning the dial, I was pleased to find an episode of When Animals Attack. It was the big cats episode, and it was pretty good. Anyway, it was better than infomercials and the weather channel.
It wasn’t until the next evening, pulling onto my street, that I saw the police cars and the ambulance.
My neighbors were gathered together on the tree lawn in front of Mrs. Brighton’s house. Parking my car, I walked over as two bodies, covered in sheets, were wheeled slowly to the back of the ambulance.
“What happened!“ I asked
Getting bits of information from several different people, I pieced together the tragic events. Apparently Mrs. Brighton and her sister Agatha were having coffee on the backyard patio.
They were attacked from behind.
They never had a chance.
Agatha’s neck was snapped, and her limp body dragged away into the bushes. Mrs. Brighton, it appeared, tried to make it to the house… but the remaining two attackers cut her off.
The little that was left of them was strewn about the yard. There were pieces of a pearl necklace, a bloody shoe… dentures. Their attackers – two Siberian tigers and a lion, had escaped from a big cat sanctuary over 25 miles away.
Suddenly finding it hard to breathe, I stammered something and made my way back home. Closing the back door behind me, I stood in the doorway to my living room, silently staring at the old TV.
I made myself some coffee, sat down at the kitchen table and tried to think. Should I call a friend or try to explain this to my brother? I tried to imagine his response.
“Are you crazy? So some tigers escaped and a lady’s dog ran away. You think that an old television set is controlling the world?”
I shook my head – I know it’s crazy. Maybe I’m having some kind of mental break from reality.
I tried to think logically…
1 – I know this is not possible.
2 – I don’t trust the TV.
I needed to come up with some kind of test. Watch something innocuous. Something that wouldn’t hurt anyone even if it came true. I took a walk to the corner and bought a newspaper. One that had a TV guide. I couldn’t take any chances just flipping through channels.
What if I happened upon the detonation of a Nuclear Bomb?
That night, I made myself a frozen dinner and nervously sat down in front of the TV. Looking through the TV guide, I found exactly what I was looking for.
The Office… pretzel day. And if it came true, so be it…
I like pretzels.
I watched two and a half episodes and well, remember what they say about the best laid plans? I woke up in my chair around 2:00 am. It took me 30 seconds or so to come fully awake. In that short amount of time, I became aware that I was watching a rerun of NCIS. The coroner, “Ducky,” was explaining how the victim was poisoned with ricin, a Russian method of assassination, most likely delivered with the sharpened tip of an umbrella.
He said the murderer attempted to cover up the crime by setting a house fire that killed four people.
Suddenly wide awake, I lunged for the television and yanked the cord from the wall.
I barely slept for the next three nights as I waited, watched, and listened for the siren of an ambulance, but there was nothing. Slowly, I began to relax. I started to laugh and chide myself for such ridiculous theories. Thankful that I hadn’t mentioned this to anyone, I even plugged the television back in, only using it to watch DVDs. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to watch anything violent or scary. My new laptop would be here shortly, and then I would throw the old analog in the trash.
I woke up in my chair. It was 4:00 am, and I couldn’t take my eyes from the TV screen. The DVD player had shut itself off, and on the screen was a man who looked a lot like me.
He was gagged and bound in a living room chair, that looked a lot like this one.
He shook his head violently, trying to yell, as a man approached from the shadows. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see the outline of a large hunting knife.
The man smiled and said, “We’re gonna have some fun…”
I shot up from my chair and pulled the cord from the wall. Breathing hard, I grabbed the TV and quickly carried it out to the garage where I threw it into the trash bin. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
I made coffee and got dressed for work. Trying to choke down half a piece of toast, I gave up and headed for the door. I opened it into the startled face of my next door neighbor, Mrs. Halloway. She excused herself for stopping by so early, but wanted to let me know that the funeral for Benjamin Davis would be on Saturday. She said it looked like a heart attack.
I didn’t even know he was dead.
I attended the funeral on Saturday, staying in the back until the mourners began to dissipate. I wanted to speak to the widow, Helen Davis, alone.
Walking out, she spotted me and came over to give me a hug and thank me for coming. I told her how sorry I was, then paused.
I had to ask if it were actually a heart attack.
She pulled me aside, shaking her head.
“No, it wasn’t a heart attack.” she said quietly.
“It’s almost too hard to believe. He died of ricin poisoning… ricin. How on earth would Benjamin ever come in contact with ricin? There are rumors going around that maybe he wasn’t an insurance salesman… Maybe he was some kind of a spy working for the CIA.”
Her eyes became glassy with tears.
“Do you think that’s possible? I feel like maybe I didn’t even know my husband at all.”
“I… I’m just so sorry,” I stammered out.
I drove back home in a daze. Turning down my street, I could see the static flashing lights of a firetruck.
One of the houses was a full-on inferno.
Without having to ask, I knew that when the fire cooled they would find four bodies inside.