The Old Box TV

Cover of The Old Box TV

The Old Box TV


Dark rooms and darker skies come with the falling of night. 

They sit up, awake, staying still with wide grey eyes, aching for everyone else in the house to fall asleep. 

They had been alone for a scant few hours during the day, but it was long enough. Long enough to keep them from craving the bathing of light that fell from a television screen. 

And now, in the shadows of midnight, they can wait no more. So, when the first snores of the father can be heard down hall, and the last rustlings of turning pages have fallen silent, they creep downstairs, to lay themselves before the box of many worlds. 

They’d stared up at it last night, from their place sitting on the floor, wishing, and wishing more than anything alive, that the images moving before them could be real. But they weren’t and they knew it then. 

Though tonight it is different. They would make the black and white images turn to colour in their mind, and draw them from behind the glass that kept them apart. If only they could touch them once then it would be enough for them to live. Not that anyone would understand, or care to. Repetitions of ‘square-eyes’ and ‘melted brains’ breathed down their neck the moment the screen had flickered for more then an hour after dinner. And they would have to move away, if only for a while, so no suspicion came upon their sanity. 

The screen blinked at them, waking from its slumber and hissing its anger into the room. It whispered to them, beckoning to them with its white tone. 

They took their spot on the ageing carpet, kneeling before their reason, their life, and looked up to its compelling mind, bearing their soul and willing, needing, to drown beneath the waves of stories so much grander than their own.

The Language of Death


Death does not speak English. 

That was the first thought she had when she came across the creature on the beach, standing waist deep in the freezing waves as the snow fell to settle on the sand. He – they – whatever it was stared at her. It must have been, faceless that it was, because she was the only one there. 

Alone. 

There were many things she should have thought: what was it, why it was there, how was she not afraid. But none of those things crossed her mind. She saw the featureless face, skin as dark as midnight, shrouded by the long grey cloak, and knew that Death did not speak English. 

Once before they met. Long ago, far from the beach she now sat on, and they made a deal in words long lost. She had made a promise to deliver people into its grasp, just so she could last a little longer. 

Time was up. The day had come, as it said it would, and she could fight it no more. 

She stood, pressing her hand into the pebbles to push herself up, leaving red circles marked into her palm. With a few steps her boots vanished beneath the surface of the water and it held out a hand. She took hold, her skin so pale against it’s, and allowed Death to pull her into an embrace as it whispered into her ear. 

Death does not speak English, she thought, because the only thing Death needs speak is your name.




The Dreams We Have at Night



Lie in your bed and count your sheep.

Hope for sleep to come.

Wide eyes closed against the dark,

sounds more clear than in the light.

How long it takes before you fall

beneath the black of night

when thoughts push up against your skull,

screaming on and on.


dream

/dri:m/

noun

1. a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep.



Dark corridors painted black, twisted and warped. With flickering lights they wait. One step is four, and four is backwards, and it s t r e t c h e s out until there are no more lights left to see by. Except for the one, still alive and dim, glaring above the peeling red wooden door at the end. 

And it shines above you, dripping red and black downwards to caress your hair with its breath, eating at the doorway until it cracks apart. The fissures grow big enough, wide and gaping enough, that when you place your eye against the rotting flesh you can see right the way through.

 

In the early hours of the morning, at two-thirteen a.m, you can think these things.


 

fear

/fɪə/

noun

1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

 

At the side of the road you wait for… something. You don't know what, or why you're there, but you are. 

A brown brick wall towers behind you, curving with the bend of the road and shooting off along the pavement up the steep, steep hill. Beside you stands a street sign, the last few letters faded to painted scraps. The words it bears escape your mind, but it sits familiar in your memories. 

From further up the street from where you are people - children, teenagers, adults - flood the path, flowing towards you from an invisible place hidden from your view by the wall. 

They meander downwards as cars trundle along the road, the silence from the vehicles impossibly clear against the chatter of the crowd. 

You watch from your place as the people drift pass you, and a small group steps up to the zebra crossing a few metres away. They wait, as they should, for the cars to whistle into the distance, and when no more come for a while they step from the path into the road. 

Now on the other side, they continue on their way, but one lone teen, fourteen or so, is straying behind the rest. 

She runs, feet close to the curb, slipping her way through everyone around her. She gets to the crossing and doesn’t stop, sprinting out to step on lines of black and white. 

A truck slams her away. 

She corkscrews in the air, spins once, twice, head lolling, hair flying, and lands. 

You don’t look.

Everything is silent.

Everything is still. 


And maybe when you wake the image is seared behind your eyes. So, as your heart beats in your chest, faster than it should, you know sleep will not come again without the tumbling of a body firmly in hand. 



nightmare

/ˈnʌɪtmɛː/

noun

1.a frightening or unpleasant dream which can often be recalled after awaking. 


A building again. Up, up, up it rises, and you know it’s tall, and you’re right at the top. You don’t recognise it, because how could you? But the doors lining each side of the long hallway are those to flats. That, at least, you are sure of. There are no lights overhead. 

It is always that way. 

Though, at the very far end, what seems like a mile away, a window stands, floor to ceiling, letting in enough whiteness from the outside for you to see. 

You are in a lift. 

The power is out and no one is coming. 

You are alone. 

The doors lay open and the hallway is there. 

A mirror is behind you, but when you turn to look, empty. You don’t want to see yourself. That’s not why you're there. 

You take a step forward. 

The building tips, swinging forward on a central axis, groaning in the effort until the corridor is beneath you. 

You bend your legs to keep your footing, and cling to the metal rail.  

The lift clunks around you. Shifting and turning, it changes direction, twisting until you’re looking down into gaping darkness. 

It settles, and you stare into the void, immovable, heart racing.

Because the corridor is there again, and 

you’re 

still

looking

down. 

If you move you will fall. 

Fall straight down to the window, smashing right through the glass, and when the shards shatter across your skin you’ll be released to the bright nothingness beyond.

The lift moves again, back to darkness. 

Over and over it goes between the two. 

You cannot stay, 

and gravity is fighting against you. 

It is a choice, 

So when the doors line up with the hallway once more, you ready yourself - 

And jump.

 

courage

/ˈkʌrɪdʒ/

noun

1. the ability to do something that frightens one.




Rubatosis

In the darkness of the night, wrapped in the coverings of your bed, everything falls silent. All the thoughts of the day spiral through you brain as you fall into the dreams you feel dancing behind your eyes. And, although everything seems the same as it’s always been, same bed, same news, same blu-tack stain on the bedroom wall, you wait on that cusp, not wanting to dream, but unable to sleep without passing through the pictures. Maybe because you know. You know that nothing will make sense, that there will be no control, and that the images will still come. They will not be tangible. You will wake, unable to tell what it was you saw, but something…something about them bring the darkness in and you will be too afraid to move.

In your chest your heart beats. It calls out into the silence, pounding. The more you listen the louder it gets. It grows and grows, until it fills your mind. In the blackness, with nothing else there, it yells. Put your hands on your chest. Push it down. Make it stop. It pushes back. The darkness draws in. The sound rushes through your ears. The thump, thump, faster and faster. Just the black and the pounding, closing in. It won’t stop. It infects your thoughts, drags you down.

Too much now. You feel the… thing in the dark. You need to move. Do something. Anything. If you move it’ll get you. If you do nothing, it’s still there. You’re safe. You are safe. You are blind and you can’t see when you need to. The covers protect you, but if you reach outside…

Close your eyes tight, your body shaking and heart screaming. Reach out to turn on the light.

Nothing is there.

You knew that before, but still. You won’t turn it off again, not for a while.

Sleep won’t come again, and you won’t even try, because, as you stare up at that blu-tack stain on the wall, the only thing you know is real is the fleeing of your heart.


Four- Nineteen

You wake at 04:19 am. Something roused you, but, as you lie in your darkened room, you can't say what. You're in that space between; Not awake, not asleep, not even sure if what you see around you is reality or dreams. Across the room your half closed eyes can make out the pictures pinned to the wall. The window's closed. It's not too cold, and you remember locking the door so it can't be that. You close your eyes and drift. The weight and the warmth of the duvet surrounds you, drags you back towards the sleep you want to fall into, but, for some reason, you can't. You stay on the edge of hazy existence, your brain trying to tell you what's wrong. You don't listen because, rationally, you know you're probably on edge from watching too much TV the day before.

You’re almost asleep again when you hear it, the same thing that must have woken you the first time.

Tap, tap, tap. Something hitting glass, a tree on the window maybe. You stir, turning over to face the wall, trying to ignore the sound. Tap, tap, tap. It keeps going and you roll back over, the continuous noise infecting your thoughts. You sit up in bed with your eyes still closed with a heaviness that makes it a struggle to open them. Sightless, you fumble for the string on the blind and start to pull it, to open the blind, just to see. You get the blind half open.

Tap, tap, tap.

And then you realise why the tapping has you wary. It’s not coming from the window.

Now you open your eyes. The tiredness which had settled in your bones is gone. Your heart beats, speeding up like a runaway train. You stop trying to get the blind up and listen.

Fingers, a hand, the tapping on glass like a knock at the door. You turn towards the far end of the room. From your bed, lying down in the dark, you couldn’t see it before, but now you’re up, your eyes adjusting to the gloom you can see the mirror hanging on the wall.

There’s something moving inside it. A white-grey figure twisting and warping behind the glass. It lifts a clawed hand, which it’s holding in a fist and reaches forward to knock once again. You stare at it, shaking from the cold feeling that brushes your skin, and the thing stares right back with its bloodshot eyes. The lipless mouth stretches into a vicious smile, revealing the red stained fangs inside.

It keeps its eyes on you as it moves, daring you to do something, but you can’t. You’re frozen.

The glass ripples as the thing pushes a hand through to grip at the frame and pull itself forward. Somewhere in your fear you find enough sanity to wonder why it didn’t do that before.

It climbs through the mirror, long matchstick legs stepping out to place gnarled feet onto the carpet. It stands by the wall and stretches, bones cracking and breath rasping as the body unfolds, reaching up until the skeletal head brushes against the ceiling.   

It comes towards you. It only takes one long stride for it to corner you where you sit. You try to shout, to call out, to get up and run, but nothing’ works. It leans over, its putrid breath ghosting your hair and echoing in your ear. It reaches for you, puts a hand above your heart. The blade-like claws dig into your skin and with each passing moment sink deeper.

Then it lurches, cracking your ribs and plunging the hand into your chest and through your heart. You barely feel the pain, but as the darkness takes you, you look over at the clock. Four-nineteen.