"Pete , I told you to turn the television off before you came to bed!" Sally said.
"Then what is that I hear?"
Your big mouth? he was tempted to say.
Grumbling , Pete sat up on the edge of the bed. Switching on his bed side lamp , he distinctly said ,"Son of a *****!"
"That better not directed at me."
Pete didn't answer. He pushed his feet into a pair of worn and faded slippers and shuffled to the door. "I don't hear anything."
"Maybe you would if you bothered to clean out your ears once in a while ," she said.
Pete didn't know whether to feel insulted , or pretend she was joking. She did more and more of the former , lately , and a lot less of the latter.
"You calling me deaf?"
"I'm saying that you never listen to anything I say. All you seem to do is sit in front of the television , belching and drinking beer. And whenever I ask you to do something , it just goes in one ear and out the other. Either that , or you pretend to be asleep when I want some help.
"Now , are you going to turn the television off , or are you going to stand there all night looking like an idiot?"
Pete hadn't realized his mouth had been hanging open the whole time. Sally had spoken harshly to him on a few occasions , but not like this , and it surprised him. He shuffled through the door and down the stairs. He could hear the faint hiss of static coming from the television. The volume was so low , he could barely hear it. He wondered how Sally could hear it way upstairs. That woman must have hearing like a hawk.
The living room was awash in a ghostly blue light. Pete stood in front of the television , staring at the screen , imagining that he was seeing patterns in the snow.
"I know I turned it off ," he said. The remote was on the seat of his favorite arm chair. Pete reached for it , then hesitated. He heard something. It sounded like the faint sound of foot steps on the stairs , as if someone were trying to be quiet. He thought it might be Sally coming down to see what was taking him so long. Had he been down here that long? It couldn't have been more than a minute and a half since he had come down stairs. And yet , when he checked his watch , he saw that it had been more than six minutes! Had he been staring at the television screen all that time?
There was no one on the stairs , but the stealthy sound of movement could still be heard. The bottom most step creaked slightly , as it always had when someone came down. There was a slight shuffling sound as of feet moving across the carpet. Pete knew that whatever it was , it was coming toward him.
"What the ****?" he said.
At the sound of his voice , the shuffling ceased. What the hell was going on? Was someone playing a practical joke? Was it Rollo? Rollo was his next door neighbor. Pete knew that Rollo was into pranks , because Pete had too often been on the butt end. But Rollo had never staged anything this elaborate. If it was Rollo , then he had to have had help from someone. Sally , most likely.
"Rollo , is that you?"
The shuffling resumed , but this time came it from the right , from the direction of the kitchen.
Jesus! He was starting to get spooked. It felt as if every hair on his body was standing on end.
"How did you get in here , Rollo? Did Sally give you a key?"
If it was Rollo , how was he doing it? How was he making the shuffling sounds? And where was he hiding?
"Alright , you son of a *****! Better show yourself before I lose my temper! You hear me , Rollo?"
The shuffling ceased again , and Pete heard faint laughter , as if from a great distance. He whirled back to the television , his heart racing. He stared again into the snowy pattern. He knew that was where the laughter had come from. The television. But that was impossible.
He felt around the back of the set , thinking Rollo had probably placed a transmitting devise there. But there was nothing. Pete looked back at the screen. The snowy patterns mesmerized him. He thought he could see faint images , figures moving about.
Faces filled with fear , and hatred.
Hideous faces , with eyes as deep and black as fathomless pits.
And then Pete heard the voice. It was not Rollo's voice. It was a voice that no human ears had ever heard. Until now. A voice from beyond time , from the darkest recesses of hell.
"I neeed!' it whispered. It was neither male nor female. It was the essence of cupidity and desire. Something longed for , but never received. "I neeeeed! I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!"
Pete stared at the screen , unable to comprehend what he was hearing. He was mesmerized not only by the images he was seeing , but the voice was even more hypnotic. It repeated several times , drawing him toward the screen , like a moth is drawn to a bright light. Inch by inch , his face drew closer , until his nose was pressed against it. Then , the voice ceased , and a ghostly hand , as black as darkness emerged from the screen and wrapped itself around his throat.
Pete struggled to dislodge it , but his efforts to free himself were feeble and weak. The hand was like a vise around his throat. He was unable to utter a sound.
Slowly , the hand pulled him through the screen. Pete passed through as easily as if he were passing through water.
Sally came down the stairs a few minutes later. "Damn it , Pete! I asked you to turn the television off! Is that too much to ask?"
She stopped in front of the television. "Pete? Pete! I'm not playing games with you! I'm going back to bed. Are you coming , or are you going to continue playing your childish games?"
She looked at the screen. She thought she could see images moving through the snowy patterns. Then she picked up the remote and turned it off.