Thursday, March 26, 2009

Armageddon

Michael bought a 42” plasma flat-screen television with surround sound and all the amenities that promised to make his life wonderful, but the goddamn thing never worked right. Now he found himself with a serious dilemma; should he take it back and save the world or just keep the annoying thing and hope that everything turned out okay? Michael wasn’t the type of person who returned something when it didn’t work correctly. In this day and age he understood that with electronics you were bound to have some difficulties, but he wasn’t about to be bullied either. He wasn’t going to put up with crap like that.

You see, the main problem with it was that sometimes the goddamned teevee had a mind of its own and when that happened it often let Michael in on some of its secrets. The most vital of these being wild aspirations to destroy the planet. It was extremely rare to find such desires in a normal household appliance, no matter how advance the technology was. Michael had an alarm clock that didn’t wake him sometimes and a toaster that always burned one side of the bread, but never anything as catastrophic as this. The crazy part about it was that he waited for Circuit City’s annual sale to buy the damn thing even though he could afford it at the regular price. He was a thrifty fellow, that’s just the way he was, which was the main reason he burned at the thought of returning it to those bastards!

It all began a few weeks earlier as fate intervened and forced him to procure alternate viewing scenarios. While watching a pre-season game between the Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers, a team he hoped would finally take the championship, his large bulky rear-projection dinosaur of a television had a meltdown and began to give him a triple-vision red-green half-assed poor-man's substitute of an image. Five hours later, after a television repair guy informed him that it would be cheaper to replace the monstrous thing than to fix it, Michael found himself nursing a beer and showering curses at the obscured in-triplicate survivors of a plane crash as they tried to discover the meaning of a small island located somewhere in the middle of the twilight zone. Not only was he thrifty, but stubborn as well and for a couple of weeks he suffered through headaches and nausea while watching sitcom celebrity Martians from hell. It's a wonder he hadn't been on a date in a few months.

It was shortly after he went out and bought the new, evil plasma teevee that all the real trouble began. It had been working fine for about ten days when a shudder ran through the image, followed by an abrupt noise that oddly sounded like a sneeze. Michael was just sitting down with his Healthy Choice Fettuccine Alfredo to watch Prison Break when the incident occurred. It was one of his favorite shows and he was eager to find out what was going to happen next with Dr. Sara Tancredi after she and LJ were kidnapped. You see, he was secretly in love with Dr. Sara and often imagined himself as Michael from the show instead of the regular old Michael that he was in real life. When the preview flashed across the screen two years earlier and he noticed her for the first time, he knew that an obsession was in the works. Forty-five episodes later, Michael had yet to miss a moment of screen time with his girl and he sure as hell was not going to miss one now. He jumped up from his seat and went to make sure that all of the connections were secure.

That's when his television began to speak to him.

“Hey, don't touch me there?” It said in a voice that sounded a bit like Fred Sanford on acid, which basically sounds exactly like Fred Sanford...but more omniscient.

Michael turned and looked at the front door, thinking that maybe one of his buddies had busted in and was cracking on him. His neighbor Gregory held one of the largest Sanford & Son collections in the world and loved to imitate the great patriarch but the door was locked, of course, like it always was since that day his ex barged in on him while he was playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour on his Wii dressed only his chonies. She left without a word and, though it was a bit hazy later from all the gin and tonics he'd been drinking that day, he knew that she wasn't expecting him to call either. Needless to say, no one was about to come in through his door anymore but he was about to entertain a very interesting house guest.

“You know that she's going to die soon, right?”

He whirled about, searching for the joker but all that he managed to see was another shimmery wave spread across the television screen that seemed to coincide directly with the question mark. He leaned in real close because, though he knew that plasma indicated liquid in some format, he was pretty confident that the picture wasn't supposed to come with a ripple effect. Michael was about to touch the screen with an outstretched finger, not really knowing if he had reached the point where it had become clear that he'd lived alone for far too long.

“Hell yes, I'm talking to you fool!”

Michael squealed and stumbled backward, unfortunately knocking over his Pacifico cerveza into his bowl of fettuccine. There was no getting around it. His teevee was speaking to him. His first thought was that extra terrestrials had harnessed his satellite dish and sent down transmissions into his living room. He thought of himself standing before the giant spaceship with bright colored lights reflecting a rhythmic classical order feedback into his brain just like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encount...

...wait a minute, did it just say that she was going to die?

His television began to chuckle at him. The Prison Break intro, that he'd come to know and love, shook like a leaf. The chuckle grew into laughter and eventually expounded into a full gale burst of jest that rattled the screen so violently until it abruptly stopped, the teevee blinking into nothingness. That's when Michael knew that he was doomed. There would be no Prison Break that night.

The television, appropriately named Pan, began to tell him of the overtures of Armageddon, which could be found throughout historical creative expression and that the time of the rapture foretold through the ages was finally coming to fruition. Michael eventually grew tired of the pedagogical rantings of the doomsday simulacrum and after cleaning up the Healthy Choice disaster, he ordered a pizza and went to see if he could find some images of Dr. Sara on the internet to get him through his depression. By the time he went to bed, he could still hear the damn thing shouting away in the living room. Yes, he tried to lower the volume and even pulled the plug out of the wall, but it was definitely possessed by some sort of demon.

That's how it went for awhile. Whenever he sat down to enjoy something that he really liked, Michael would catch the image jostling and before a groan could pass from his lips, Pan would start asking him questions about random societal issues that he knew nothing about. Who had time to think about what was happening on the stock market or greenhouse gases or the president of Venezuela? It was enough to drive someone mad and it definitely brought about the most excruciating headaches. There were more important things to think about after all, like the first round of the Major League playoffs or the first round of American Idol. Couldn't this stupid teevee understand that?

Of course, it didn't interrupt him when nothing was on. There were days when he found himself surfing through channels, hoping that he could bide some time with anything halfway interesting until Sportscenter started and he suddenly would wish that the damn thing would start talking to him. Michael would have eagerly answered any query that the bastard wanted to send his way but no, he had to suffer through old episodes of Remington Steele and he hated Pierce Brosnan. One day he even found himself calling out to the screen during a really bad James Bond film until he realized what he was doing. He never imagined that he would be shouting loudly and trying to start a conversation with his television. He figured that if he stayed inside that house any longer, he would completely lose his mind. He needed to ground himself, so he called one of his buddies, hit the bar, got really drunk, picked up a hooker and spent the night in a motel. It was the first time he'd felt normal in quite awhile.

One day he couldn't take it any more and decided that it was time for his television to answer some questions of his own. Michael interrupted a rather vitriolic train of thought that Pan was dumping on him with a severe now looky here!

“Where do you get off wishing for the death of humanity?”

“Well, I suppose that it's a little cosmic conviction, a wager of sorts between the Gods.”

Michael was intrigued, mostly because Pan had finally responded to one of his questions but he wasn't one to turn down a little roll of dice, as well. Vegas was a first class sort of place as far as he was concerned and he had spent, literally, many fortunate hours within its lovely confines.

“What kind of wager?”

“Hmmm, let me see...” the 42-inch screen flickered at him, “...first there was a good bet going around on whether or not you'd even make it out alive once you left the ocean for land. You had a fighting spirit and the universe is a tough place, after all. Then most of us thought you wouldn't last long during the Jurassic era but Vulcan gave you an extra life with his heinous volcanic eruptions. He did have an issue with bloating back then, you know. But it wasn't until you became human that we knew for sure that you were doomed. We immediately got an office pool together and everyone gave their best estimate for Armageddon Time and put it down on the calendar. Now were all just waiting to find out.”

“You call this waiting?” Michael said, annoyed.

“Well...” embarrassment edging into Pan's voice, “...we're allowed a small amount of dallying to help move it along, if necessary.”

“I suppose your guess is coming along fairly soon.”

“Well, I suppose you could say that,” Pan said, a bit sheepishly.

Michael was beginning to find this amusing.

“How do you plan on doing anything from inside a television?” He asked.

There was long, empty pause from the screen and Michael started to assume that the thing had disappeared, that he'd stumped it with such a minor question. He was about to feel rather proud of himself when the voice came back to him suddenly.

“It's the fastest way to get my message across,” the teevee said to him.

“Well, I don't know about where you come from,” Michael explained to him, “but shouting out mantras as loud as you can and jabbering insane thoughts as much as possible doesn't get you a whole hell of a lot in this place.”

Pan began to chuckle. Michael sighed. He knew what was bound to follow so he reached for the remote and flicked off the power before the bombastic gut wrenching laughter cut the program short with a snap. For some reason, he always felt like the television was causing damage in there with its wicked sense of humor and now that the thing was starting to grow on him, he really didn't want to have to replace it again.

“Don't tell me that you have that much faith in your fellow man, Michael,” Pan said jovially once it had settled down.

Well, of course, thought Michael. He wasn't about to give in to visions of catastrophe, Jimmy Swaggert be damned! The human spirit was still alive and well, after all, and they would thrive until the end of time. Humanity couldn't be fooled by no two-bit God who sabotaged satellites to distract them into ushering along their own demise. There was more to life than getting caught up in some crazy sche...

“I wonder if Kate and Jack will finally hook up tonight?”

The screen wavered to life and the word, Lost, shimmered for a moment before revealing a sweaty pretty face. Oh, Kate is looking good tonight, Michael thought to himself as he settled into his most comfortable chair, his cold beverage still half-full.

That night he had a most strange and vivid dream. It couldn't be called unpleasant though the circumstances weren't ideal. He dreamed that he was incarcerated and, after getting into a fight in the yard, he ended up in the infirmary. Dr. Sara tended to him and she was scolding him, but he could feel tenderness in her voice and there was a sparkle in her eye. Deep in his heart he knew that they were falling in love and that, no matter the foreboding walls that closed all around them, somehow they would be able to discover that magical realm where all perfect couples inhabit. He awoke the next morning scrambling to hold onto that precious feeling, completely losing train of the reality that he was locked in a prison of which he was supposed to break free.

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3 Comments:

Blogger PAVLICK said...

"a triple-vision red-green half-assed poor-man's substitute of an image"

?

awesome.

6:18 PM  
Blogger mishupishu said...

Funny thing is, I've never seen one second of the show Prison Break.

4:36 PM  
Blogger ScottE said...

I found the reference to the volcanic demise of the dinosaurs interesting. A month ago I might have pointed out that the impact theory was favored more these days. Now, I'm not sure. I love a good scientific controversy.

I also like that Pan, a god of nature, would choose to reveal himself through television. Of course, he was known for his ability to charm and deceive, so there are some parallells.

9:54 PM  

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