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Stories from The World, Chapter 1: The Television Demon

{-- Previously | Later --}

The TV showed snowy static. The old fashioned kind. The kind that this $7000 monstrosity didn't even bother with when I was still trying to figure out how to hook it up. Normally, with no input or bad signal, it would show a black screen with the selected input port displayed.

As I squatted over the miniature horseshoe-shaped burns, contemplating the television, I realized that it was showing the input source, right where it was supposed to be in the upper right corner. It was just hard to read the green letters over the white and grey static. Rather than saying "HDMI 3" or "RCA 1" or any of the other things that were actually present on the television, it said "UNK".

I squinted at the word UNK and tried to remember anything about this in the manual. I turned around to grab the remote control from the recliner, and when I turned back, the little demon's head peeked up from the bottom of the screen, silhouetted by static.

I could see the spade-shaped tip of a tail swinging lazily back and forth behind the head. It looked like the TV had been turned into a Punch and Judy puppet theater, with live TV snow instead of a red curtain as the background. He looked the same as he had last night, and looked as if he was only inches from the inside of the glass. He said nothing, did nothing, but his eyes followed me as I swayed back and forth with one hand raised. Ten seconds later, he sank back out of view. Shortly afterwards, the TV turned off.

The best I could think to do was unplug the television. The next best thing I could do was sigh and wonder how I was going to come to grips with full-blown visual and auditory hallucinations. Would they let me keep my driver license? Probably not. Would I be able to take care of myself? I guess that would depend on being able to sort out the hallucinations from reality.

The Speaker was still sitting on the recliner, where I'd dropped it to investigate the hoofmarks. I picked it up again and took another look at it. It certainly felt like paper, though it looked like the shiny aluminized plastic that candy bar wrappers are made of nowadays. It was printed with multicolored ink that looked like someone had silk-screened an oil slick. It was hard to read, but if I squinted a little, and concentrated on the way the paper felt and sounded, I could somehow force it into better, more legible contrast. The front page illustration seemed to have been embossed or printed with raised ink. The bag it had come in was printed "Special Thorsday Edition!" and it had a crude clip art style picture of a blond bearded man wearing a helmet, flashing a thumbs-up next to his cheesy grin, framed by braided pigtails.

I figured it was too early yet to be calling the doc, so I settled in to see how much more detailed the hallucinations were going to get - namely, I intended to read the paper and see what more came of it.

The front page headline was "ÆGIR REFUSES TREATY PLEAS", and the picture showed a man draped in seaweed, waving a spear around, and shouting into a podium covered in microphones. The caption was "Ægir at press conference following Coalition of Primal Forces roundtable discussions". The article gave a quick gloss-over of recent events having to do with the division of powers over oceanic realms and the Cthonic Nonproliferation Treaty. There was a brief mention of Ægir's threats to develop undead forces with the legions of unfortunate seafarers he had claimed over the years, and some terse sounding responses from Intulo, Baihu, and a few others. Apparently Leviathan was the only one who even came close to sympathetic to Ægir, and Poseidon was "withdrawing support for Ægir due to suspected coercion by other signatory powers".

I figured I was having subconscious echoes of nuclear talks with Best Korea and flipped though the paper, seeing headlines like "IBLIS Database Compromised, Up To 10,000 True Names Stolen", and "Lead To Gold Scandal Deepens, Investors Outraged".

I was about to put it down and grab some more coffee when I got to the classifieds.

WANTED: NARWHAL TUSK OR SYNTH. UNICORN IVORY
         RESPOND WITH PRICE/SIZES
     GADUS ARKUS, INTERDOMAIN 23-3-1470
     GLASS 8A11B13.6C 45 45 (NITE ONLY)
          SAVE MONEY, DON'T REBUILD!
        RECONDITION YOUR GRANITE ALTAR
       BONDED AND INSURED NEUTRAL SHAMAN
 HAPPY HARVEST PAGAN SERVICES, INTER. 11-4-630
           (WE DO COUNTERTOPS TOO!)
        FOUND: LOST EARTH GOLEM
          RED BRICK AND LATHE, 
  WANDERING WITHOUT CONTROL WARDS DOWNTOWN
        KEYSTONE INSCRIBED "DELAI"
CHUCK, TEL 808 555 6113, INTER. 17-0-9452
There were hundreds. Many hundreds, all of them just as wacky. The paper was fifty pages, easily, and more than half were classifieds. I didn't understand the vast majority of them, but kept reading anyway. It was like every fantasy novel, mythological study, children's book, and pulp fiction novel I'd ever read was being cut up and pasted at random. There were telephone numbers, email addresses, "glass notations", and "interdomains" listed seemingly at random as contact information. My coffee had long gone cold when I got to
    METAPHYSICAL HARASSMENT OR INFILTRATION?
   DON'T TRY HOME REVOKATION, CALL AN EXPERT
SPIRITS & OTHER INCORPOREALS, OTHER SERVICES TOO
        YUUTA WIRNHIER, WITCH DOCTOR
     TEL 881 555 8612, INTER 17-1-8612

Laughing, I figured I'd call and probably startle some random person with what they would assume was a prank call. Thirty seconds, and two very long rings later, a woman picked up on the other end.

"Yuuta Wirnhier, Witch Doctor, how may I help you sir, madame, or other?"

I laughed out loud and said, "Well, I saw your ad in the paper, can you keep demons out of my TV?"

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