Channel 13

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A previously unused channel starts broadcasting odd material world wide.

Submitted: November 14, 2019

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Submitted: November 14, 2019

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“MOM!!” The shout came from down the hallway. Laura lifted her head from the laundry and glanced down the hall, expecting to see a screaming child running down the hallway, imaginary wound and all. She waited a few moments, but nothing came. No follow up scream, no flailing child barreling down the hallway, nothing. She returned to the dirty clothes and, before too long, it came again. “MOM!” Jason was seven years old now, and though he had shown enormous maturity in the last few years, he still had his moments. This would be one of those moments. Laura left her dirty laundry duties and strolled down the hallway towards the irritated shouts of her eldest child. 

She found him in the living room, tv remote in hand, sitting on the sofa in front of a static screen. He wasn’t in peril, nor was he injured. He was simply unable to watch his favorite show. The poor thing. Laura glanced at his hand and saw him clicking away at the remote with no results. He was on channel 13. No network would touch the number, it being unlucky and all. And so it made sense to any adult cable subscriber that flipping to channel 13 would result in a screen full of snow. But to a seven year old, it would be Armageddon.

Laura smiled silently before reaching down to pull the remote from Jason’s hand and switching to channel 14. It was a talk show host rambling on about God knows what. “What do you want hun?” She asked Jason.

“Dragon Ball!” He replied, animatedly.

She punched in the numbers on the remote and it switched to Japanese cartoon characters battling each other. It’s funny how children love TV so much but never seem to remember what channels they like. 

Jason seemed appeased, and Laura returned to her laundry. 

About an hour later Jason yelled again. “Mom!”

She was in the kitchen this time, feeding her younger child, Sammy.

“Jason just press up on the remote.” Her reply wasn’t particularly warm,but she was quite busy at the moment, and Jason’s TV crisis was hardly pressing. She waited for a response, and when it didn’t come she continued to feed Sammy. 

She had finished Sammy’s meal and just started the dishes when Jason yelled out again. “Mom!”

At this point Laura was fed up. Sammy has been great all night and, though Jason had been tolerable for the most part, it had been a long week and not exactly how Laura had planned on spending her Sunday night. 

She scooped up Sammy’s unconscious body from the high chair and delivered her to her bedroom, flipping her noise machine on before shutting off the light and closing the door on her way out. 

“MOM!” Jason belted, patient but frustrated. 

“What Jason, what is it?” She whispered as loud as she could while briskly stepping towards the family room. She entered the room and saw the TV on, as it always was. Jason was on the couch, remote in hand as usual, but something was different. The TV wasn’t full of static as it normally was when he bellowed for her. There was something else on the screen. 

Laura paid it no mind. “It’s about time for bed, Jay.”

He ignored her, and continued to stare at the screen. 

“Jay, bed time, babe. Turn the TV off.” She reached for the remote but he yanked it away, his gaze never leaving the TV screen. 

“Jay, what did I just say?” Laura was angry, so angry in fact, that she didn’t even look at what Jay was looking at. Or wonder why her more obedient child would disobey her in such a blatant way. At least not at first. She was angry at being ignored and disrespected. But her head eventually lifted. And her eyes eventually caught the screen. Channel 13. Static. She was expecting that, anyway. For some reason Jason always ended up on that channel. But that’s not what she saw. It was channel 13 alright. The number was plain as day right in the upper left corner. But there was something different about it. It wasn’t a screen full of static. There were people on it, at least beings that appeared human. And the language they were speaking certainly wasn’t English.

 

It wasn’t an isolated incident.  People all over the world reported strange activity on channel 13 that day. Something resembling a sitcom featuring people no one has ever seen or heard of before was broadcast on channel 13 across the world. It was confusing and scary, and everyone pointed their fingers at everyone else, yet no one claimed responsibility.

At first, the internet had a lot of fun with the story. Theories floated and accusations soared but eventually, when no explanation surfaced, people began to turn on each other and things got ugly. It went from a Banksy level prank to a terrorist threat almost over night. People loved the idea of no one taking credit for the show. Then people got frustrated that no one took credit for it. Then people began to accuse the Russians, or the North Koreans, or the Republicans, and so on. 

while internet enthusiasts, social media stars, news stations and governments conspired about the events happening on channel 13, families continued to tune in, and it slowly became the most watched show in the world. Not the nation, not the hemisphere. The world. Unreal. 

It was tough to watch for most people. It featured characters that looked fairly human, but ultimately there was something off about them. They looked human for the most part. Maybe too airbrushed, but human non-the-less. They faced every day problems, and reacted the way we would react, but there stilled seemed to be something off. 

Laura hated the new show on channel 13. She tried to ignore it, but people at work refused to let it go and made it impossible for her to move past it. At this point it had been airing for weeks, and still no one had come up with an explanation as to where the show was coming from or who was featured in it. She was a fairly open minded person, but everyone has their limits. 

It was no help that the show aired like it was running in syndication, or that there was no discernible ongoing story. People discussed it, as expected, but ultimately it was fruitless. The only thing she could do was try to keep her children from it. And boy was that hard. There were two TVs in the house. And someone found out in the early days of the “airing” was that no cable or internet connection was needed to receive channel 13. It was available to all. 

Ultimately she came to the conclusion that steering clear of the channel was the best course of action, and she hid the remotes for the foreseeable future. Jason noticed. He was not happy. 

“Everyone else watches the show, its not fair!” Jason said these words without fully understanding what he was saying. He wanted to watch the show. So did most people, but none of them knew why, and that was the most concerning thing about channel 13. It was perplexing and alluring and terrifying. However, it wasn’t something children should see. Not that it was inappropriate, but it was random and unapproved. There was no filter for the show, and while they weren’t actually speaking English, their actions spoke loud enough for anyone to understand. That combined with the unpredictable visuals of the show, which included but was not limited to: rude hand gestures, extreme violence and what could only be assumed was nudity, given the anatomy of the creatures featured, her kids won’t be watching it any time soon. 

She resorted to quick reports from friends and the occasional tune in when the kids had fallen asleep. Nothing conclusive came for months. No one came forward claiming responsibility, no one shed any kind of light on the phenomenon. Eventually the Government announced a ban on the channel, and shut it down. It lasted 4 seconds. The show came right back after 4 seconds of blackness.  The most powerful nation in the world was able to block the broadcast. For 4 seconds. 

The episode that aired after the governments attempt at blocking it was entirely new and just as odd. The Main character tried to smother his kids, unsuccessfully, and afterwards was given a medal by the mayor of the city. Had he actually succeeded, at least there would have been reason to present an award. But he had failed. His children were still alive, and fairly pissed at him, and yet he still got his medal from the mayor. To call it bizarre would be an understatement.

Things only got worse from there. Unlike most publicity stunts, trending topics and extravagant stories, the interest didn’t fade. Slowly but surely, attention drifted completely from climate change, terror in the Middle East, affordable healthcare, etc. to the show on channel 13. Every news report, social media post, personal conversation and so on was about the show. Laura eventually caved and stopped monitoring Jason’s television activity. He was attempting to watch it whenever her back was turned and, though it was extremely weird content, it hadn’t actually shown anything inappropriate in weeks. It was easier to just let him view it and, hopefully, he would lose interest soon and go back to Dragon Ball. It was wishful thinking. 

About a week or so later there was a development on channel 13. A number showed up in the lower right corner of the screen. It fluctuated throughout the entire broadcast, mostly growing exponentially, but occasionally dropping the slightest bit. It was in the 100’s of millions, and was soon determined to be the number of people viewing the show at the current time. As with most changes or updates with the show, no one had any idea what it meant beyond that. 

The number appearing increased viewership, and thus, it grew even larger. It peaked early in the first week of its appearance at 1.3 billion. The following day it reached 2 billion even. That night Laura put Sammy to bed and ventured into the living room to find Jason tuning in to channel 13. The characters on the screen were at some sort of banquet hall, celebrating something and having a grand old time. She sighed, then sat in her recliner and checked her email on her phone. Mostly junk, one from work that didn’t require any immediate attention and a notification that her cable bill was due. The last email cause her to shift her attention back to the TV, to the cable she was paying for, and her young son. It looked like the celebration had ended and the characters were heading home. Jason was wide eyed and tuned in, still picking at his dinner plate despite the late hour. Her own eyelids suddenly became heavy and she decided to retreat to bed early. 

“Jason, 30 more minutes and then bed time okay?” She rubbed his head as she kissed his forehead and headed towards the bedroom. 

“K, mom.” He replied, without looking away from the screen. Laura glanced back one more time at the TV screen. The characters were doing something but, her attention was drawn to the number on the bottom right corner. It was currently at 3,517,047, creeping up higher bit by bit. Over half the words population was tuned in. Unbelievable. She headed to the bathroom, went through her nightly routine, then headed to bed and soon drifted into a deep sleep. 

Laura woke in the middle of the night to a pitch black room. She rubbed her eye and glanced at the digital alarm clock on her nightstand, which showed that the time was 1:23 am. She let out a small groan, part of her glad it wasn’t time to get up and part upset that she now had to fall back asleep. She had just flipped the pillow and rested her head on the cool side when she noticed light emitting from under her bedroom door. It was way too late for Jason to still be up. Even if he wanted to, he knew he couldn’t stay up this late. She concluded he must have fallen asleep with the TV on, and so she got out of bed and headed towards the door. As she reached for the doorknob, she heard a thud from the other side of the door. Not loud, but definitely distinct and out of the ordinary. She hesitated for a moment, then thought of her children and slowly turned the doorknob and opened the door. 

The short hallway between her bedroom and the living room was illuminated by a flickering light that she assumed was from the television. There was no noise, the apartment was silent, and so she slowly made her way towards the living room. As she got closer the room came into view and she saw the spot where Jason had been sitting earlier. It was empty, as was the entire room. He must have left the TV on when he went to bed. The TV glowed in the dark room, lighting up its immediate vicinity which grew darker as the distance from the screen increased. The corners of the room were completely dark, as was the hallway leading to the kids rooms, the kitchen and the laundry room. 

The TV screen drew her attention, being the only vibrant object in the room. It was completely white, from top to bottom and gave off a very low hum. She looked around but could not find the TV remote. Too tired to look for it, she headed towards the TV to hit the power button on the side of the set. She approached the white screen and reached for the side when a flash on the display disrupted the soft white glow radiating from the screen. She jumped back, startled, and stared at the white screen. Nothing happened. She regained her nerve and started to lean forward just in time to see one of the characters appear on the screen. It was just standing there in the white, with no discernible walls or floor, staring at her. The number in the bottom right corner had vanished, as had the “13” in the upper left corner. She stared back at the figure on the screen and it stared right back.

Laura took a step towards the TV and so did the character. She stopped and studied it. They didn’t budge. She tilted her head as she leaned forward, and so did the character, almost as if Laura were looking into a mirror. She jumped back quickly, startled, and so did the character. It looked almost as alarmed as she did, but it was hard to tell with its odd looking face and features. Laura waited a moment, and so did the character. Then she reached quickly for the power button. She was mere inches from it when the characters hand reached through the screen and grabbed her by the throat. 

Laura cried out a soundless scream as she grabbed the characters arm with both her hands and tried to pry it from her neck. She used her legs to leverage herself against the TV stand and pushed back from the TV set, trying to get free from her attacker. Instead, the character was pulled through the TV and slowly materialized into Laura’s world. It’s face was distorted in a combination of anger and pain, as it struggled to keep it’s grip on Laura’s throat and pass through the screen. It’s shoulders passed through, and with it’s free hand it grabbed the edge of the screen and helped pull itself out of it’s world, while still gripping Laura’s throat with its other hand. She continued to pull on it’s arm, trying to free herself from it’s grasp while looking around the room for something to help her. She spotted Jason’s dinner plate from earlier that night, and reached for the fork that hung over the edge of the plate. The silverware jingled on the plate as she reached for it, her fingers brushing its edges as she gasped for breath. The character was almost completely through the screen now, and started to bring it’s other hand around to Laura’s throat when she finally got ahold of the fork.  She pulled back as far as she could before plunging the utensil into the characters large, black eye. The creature lunged back in pain, releasing Laura’s neck to grab hold of the end of fork and pull it from its dark, bleeding socket.

While it was struggling to free the fork from its eye, Laura noticed the bottom half of the character was still in TV, and scrambled to the cord of the set plugged into the wall. If she could cut the power to the TV, maybe she could cut off the creatures path to her world. She grabbed the TV stand and pulled herself towards the outlet, still gasping for air. Her finger tips touched the cord, as the creature yanked the fork from its eye and grasped her by the throat again. She struggled more to get closer to the cord, yet the more she struggled, the more she slipped closer to unconsciousness. As the light from the TV began to fade, Laura thought about her children. They would be left alone, parentless. She couldn’t let that happen. She closed her eyes, dug deep, ignored the pain, ignored the necessity for air, and reached out in one last desperate attempt. Her fingers felt the cold cord and, with her last burst of strength, she yanked it from the outlet. The TV shut off and the torso of the creature flopped to the floor limp. Laura gasped for breathe and crawled backwards to the wall of the living room, as far as she could get from the TV. She panted and stared at the inanimate torso that lay on the floor before her, processing all that had just happened. She had just about caught her breathe when the torso of the character disintegrated into nothing, leaving behind no trace of it’s existence. 

Laura took a moment to gather herself, then thought of her kids and scrambled to her feet and rushed to Sammy’s room, the closer of the two. She was fast asleep in her crib, not at all disturbed by the events that happened in the other room mere moments ago. After confirming Sammy was ok she rushed to Jason’s room only to find that he too was in a deep sleep and non the wiser to the near death experience his mother had just experienced.

Still shaken, and not wanting to leave the children alone, she quickly went to Sammy’s room, scooped her up, then returned to Jason’s room. She placed Sammy on the bed next to Jason then closed the door and struggled to shove the dresser in front of it. After it was secure, she picked Sammy up and sat on the floor. She leaned up against Jason’s bed with Sammy in her arms and focused on the closed, barricaded door of Jason’s room, waiting for whatever came next. 

Laura awoke the next morning on the floor of Jason’s room, Sammy crying in her arms. She rocked her daughter, quietly shushing her while listening for any noises on the other side of the bedroom door. Silence. She slowly got to her feet, and glanced over at Jason. He was still sleeping peacefully in his bed, and she took some comfort in that. She crept closer to the door, trying with each step to make as little noise as possible. Still nothing from outside the bedroom. Laura took a deep breath and looked down at Sammy. Her daughter had quieted down and was simply looking back at her, not a care in the world. She smiled and felt a small wave of relief, as if some of Sammy’s mood had transferred to her and allowed her to relax.  She held her ear to the door and listened. Again, nothing. She placed Sammy on the ground and went to move the dresser from the door. With a hard shove, she was able to inch it out of the way. She reached for the doorknob and turned, pulling the door open slowly. A slight creek was the only thing she heard. After a moment of the door cracked open with no noise, Laura poked her head outside and took a look. Nothing to the left. A quick turn revealed nothing to the right. She snatched up Sammy from the floor and ventured out into the hall. She stopped at the doorway to the living room and saw that there was no evidence of the attack; everything seem completely normal. The TV was off, and the plug lay on the floor, a foot or two from the outlet. Right where she had dropped it the night before. There was no mark on the carpet where the creature fell. She continued on to the kitchen. She plopped Sammy into her chair and turned to grab her breakfast. Laura’s phone was on the kitchen counter, in the same spot that she left it to charge every night. She picked it up. Flipping to her news app, she saw that there had been multiple reports of TV invasions the night before. Many had been killed, however, most were able to fight off their invaders, just like Laura had done. It seemed that all attacks had happened at the same time globally, and that while some were unsuccessful at fighting off their invaders, all of the strangers had disappeared shortly after their invasion. It appeared to be an all or nothing deal, and since most were defeated by the loss of TV connection, the ones that had successfully made it through the TV simply disappeared shortly after the invasion started.

Nobody watched TV in the following weeks. Theories began to circulate as minds across the world, both great and otherwise, hypothesized about the phenomenon. Ultimately it was a theory posted to Reddit that gained the most traction. RussianRedCow pitched the conspiracy that Beings from some other world were attempting an invasion using our television signals as a gateway into our plane of existence. It wasn’t until nearly half the world was watching that they attempted their siege, he preached. Why wait until that was the case unless they, in some way, needed the viewership. Sure, greater minds claimed it was obviously the answer, and that they had hypothesized the same thing before RRC, but no one was able to prove it. RRC’s post was tagged at 8:39 am the morning after. Immortalized on reddit until the mods intervened, before which screenshot upon screenshot had been taken to prove the time stamp. Way before anyone with a masters degree was able to disagree. And so what became widely known as the RRC Theory established itself as the go-to explanation for that night. For reasons we’ll never know, beings used our need to spread gossip, forward, retweet, hashtag and post anything and everything we come across, both on the internet and in reality, against us in an attempt to steal our world. 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Ben Driver. All rights reserved.

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