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Stories from The World, Chapter 1: The Television Demon

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Most people who get into The World do so accidentally, and, more dangerously, incompletely.

The way it was described to me at first was a little contrived, but fairly accurate. A grizzled bokor, a voodoo sorcerer, explained it to me thus:

Most people live in a linen closet their whole life. They're born there, and die there, never realizing there's a door, let alone opening it. Sometimes, they get lucky, or something very strange happens, and they stumble out into the crappy studio apartment that the closet is attached to.

It's at this point that 99% of the bokors, magicians, spirit guides, and other assorted small fry get stuck again, and we aren't even talking the outright frauds. Most people tend to believe that their hypothetical apartment building is the extent of the "spirit world", or whatever they or their tradition brands it - and they never figure out how to look out the window to see the rest of the World.

It's a bit contrived, yes, especially if you know what the analogy is really describing. But it does a great deal of explaining on why the majority of secret societies and magicians are, by measure of potency, chumps, and also why they so wildly disagree on the nature of whatever it is they think they're tapping into.

They've all got a different address, see, so they all have different neighbors and different landlords.

The World is a big, and mostly pretty scary place. Humans should probably stay in their little linen closets.

My entrance into The World was caused by fortuitous accident. Well, okay, fortuitous is quite a stretch. The newspaper headlines called it "horrific". I was a welder before all of this, and a pretty decent one. The last site I was on, a spilled coffee, a scalded forklift operator, slick forks, and an improperly secured load of rebar combined into a Rube Goldberg machine. At the end, instead of a little flag raising or a piece of toast falling onto a plate, I got a five foot section of rebar through one side of my skull and out the other.

Obviously, stuff got messed up in there, but thankfully the parts that made my heart and lungs keep going were okay. So, three months of vegetation later, the "I submit myself for experimental research as part of potential treatment" clause of the living will kicked in.

A whole bunch of really smart guys in white coats spent a lot of government money to do things to me, and with me, that I do not have the multiple PhDs to understand. Stem cells, derived from my own skin cells, were chemically coaxed to be predisposed to grow into neurons. The idea was that they would help patch up the disrupted grey stuff on more than a gross physical level.

As crazy as it sounds, it worked. Or at least, it didn't not work. I woke up with a terrible headache and what was later diagnosed as the first documented case of consciously controllable synaesthesia in the whole of science.

The company paid for the hospital time and the metal plates. My cousin the ambulance chaser made sure that neither of us were ever going to think about money ever again. And I was experimenting with what synaesthesia could do to a brand new, top-of-the-line-for-now, 3DTV when the demon first demanded my fealty.

I'll give him credit, he was rather subtle at first. But I later learned of course that the more powerful they are, the less subtle they need to be, since they have less to be afraid of. Looking back now I see that he was neither a particularly powerful, nor intelligent member of the race.

I was watching commercials, and was rather engrossed in the smell of Shark Week and the taste of the shiny chrome on Bob's Used Car lot when the demon slithered out of the television.

He looked, really, like a pulp art Satan - mottled red skin, pointy goatee, curled horns, Satyr legs; but all scaled to the height of a two year old human. He trotted over, crawled up on the couch next to me and asked, rather casually, "What do you think you're doing, pink thing?"

My first reaction was something to the effect of "Hot damn! I didn't realize the depth of field was that far on these things!" but that lasted about as long as it took for the demon to slap me across the face and thrust his ring out at me like he wanted me to kiss it.

He explained that, as he was a titled Lord in the domains of Color and Emotion, I was in violation of some sacred laws or other by practicing those magics without pledging my fealty and paying a tax. It was rather more involved than that, but I was a little beyond erudite consideration just then. The best I could do was scream, cry a little bit, and wonder if I was having a waking dream.

That seemed to satisfy him though, since he jumped down off the couch, trotted off on his little cloven hooves, and told me he'd give me a day to think about it. He climbed back into the television, and I went right to bed, reasoning that that was where sleeping people belonged.

When I woke up the next morning, I decided over coffee to give the TV a pass and decided to get the morning news from the newspaper instead. I rolled out to the curb to discover two newspapers where I had only expected one. There was the local rag, The Herald, the familiar black and grey roll inside a clear plastic bag. And next to it was The Speaker, particolored ink on metallic silver, also in a clear plastic bag. And quite a bit heftier than The Herald.

Just a little puzzled, I took them back into the house and grabbed another cup of coffee. Right about the time I got The Speaker out of the bag, and moseyed over towards the recliner, I noticed the little hoofprints on the livingroom floor.

While I was both grappling with the idea that I'd burned half dollar size hoofprints into the hardwood floor, and trying to figure out how I'd done it, the TV clicked on.