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The Black Box


Eric Rodriguez

"There," Aaron said. He stepped back beside me and folded his arms. "So how does it look?"

I beamed proudly at my new TV nestled on top of my dresser in my room. "It looks great, Aaron," I replied to my brother. "Thanks for hooking it to the satellite. It only took five minutes, too. Isn't that a new world record?"

Aaron shrugged his shoulders. "I could've done it faster."

"That's okay," I expressed. "What would I ever do without you?"

"That's one thing you'll find out if you don't stop sucking up to me and just pay me the money you have left over from this morning, as you promised," Aaron reminded, holding out his hand.

I rolled my eyes as I scrimmaged through my jeans pocket. "Well, you have to admit it was worth a try. And I didn't want to suck up to you. It was acting." I handed him two dollars. "But believe me, I had enough trouble doing it."

"Ha ha, very funny," he scoffed as he snatched the money from my hand. But as he studied the money he let out a startled cry. "Two dollars! That's all I get for helping you bring in the TV and hooking it up to the satellite? You've gotta be joking!"

"Sorry, but that's all I have left from going garage sale shopping this morning," I apologized. "So take it or leave it."

Aaron growled, but jammed the two dollars in his jeans pocket. "I should've known better than to trust you." He glanced at the TV. "So how much was it, anyway?"

"That's the weird thing," I began. "Mom and I were on our way home from going around to garage sales when we spotted one at this guy's house that, I guess, just began, since it wasn't in the paper. Anyway, we stopped, looked around, and there it was! And you're not going to believe this; it was on sale for forty dollars!"

"Forty dollars!" Aaron exclaimed. "No way! It's gotta be broken or something, probably even stolen."

"Nope, the guy said it was almost brand new," I replied. "But stolen or not, it's now mine. Now, it's almost time for my favourite sitcom to air, so thanks for hooking it up. Now please leave so I can watch it in private."

Aaron grumbled again, but obeyed and walked out of the room. I quickly closed the door behind him, snatched the remote control from off my dresser, launched myself onto my bed, and pressed 'Power.'

I chuckled with glee as a clear and crisp channel airing a sitcom appeared. I began to flip channels, and soon I found the right station that aired the sitcom. It was in perfect timing, too, for the show came on right then. I set the remote down, settled myself in a comfortable position, and began to watch.

All of a sudden a box materialized right in the centre of the screen. I shot up in alarm.

"What the..." I said. "Where'd this come from?

There was a black box in the middle of the screen. The box was huge and covered most of the screen, but I could see portions of the show where the box did not cover. But still, I could not make out anything that was happening and I knew I would miss seeing valuable portions of the show if I did not get rid of the box, but how?

As I began to ponder, my hand hit the remote control. That was it! Maybe I had accidentally pushed a button when I dropped the remote. I quickly grabbed the remote and began pushing buttons. Nothing happened.

"Come on!" I ordered and pushed the 'Power' button.

The screen clicked black and I pushed the button again. The channel came back on, this time without the box.

"Yes!" I exclaimed.

I put the remote down - this time carefully - and once again nestled into a comfortable position. But just as I started watching the black box appeared again.

"No!" I screamed.

I leapt to my feet and stomped to the TV. Grabbing hold of its sides, I began to shake it.

"Go away, stupid thing!" I commanded. "Let me watch my show in peace!"

But the box did not go away. Instead, something entirely different happened. Just as I stopped shaking it, words appeared on the box.

. . . . . . Help . . . . . . . help me . . . . .

I jumped back and screamed. My bedroom door burst open.

"Monica!" Aaron exclaimed. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Aaron!" I cried. "Something strange happened! I was sitting on my bed watching a show when suddenly this black box came on the screen! I don't know how it got on there, but I turned off the TV then turned it back on again and it was gone! So I started watching the show when the box appeared again! So I started shaking the TV so it would go away when it started talking to me!"

Aaron cocked an eyebrow. "It started talking to you."

"Yes!" I screamed. "It was saying 'help me!' See, it's right there..."

"Where?" Aaron inquired as he glanced at the TV. I pointed at the screen and gasped. The box was gone.

"It was there I tell you!" I assured. "It was right in the middle of the TV, and it was calling for help! Don't you believe me, Aaron?"

"Sure," Aaron replied, but I knew he did not.

"Well," he continued, "since the box is gone, I'm going to go back to what I was doing."

He turned to leave, but I grabbed his arm. "No! Please, Aaron. Don't go. What if the box comes back and starts talking to me again?"

"Then talk back to it," he replied. He yanked his arm free from my grip and walked out of the room, leaving me staring after him.

"'Talk back to it'," I mimicked. "Yeah right."

I sat myself back down on my bed. The sitcom was still on, but I could hardly pay any attention to it. The only thing on my mind was the black box. What was it? Why was it talking to me? When would it reappear? More and more questions flashed in my mind, all of them unanswered. I sighed and lowered my eyes from the TV.

After a moment of pondering I raised my eyes back to the TV and gasped! There it was! The black box was back in the middle of the TV! The box was blank, but once I jumped to my feet it began to speak.

. . . . . . Help . . . . . help me . . . . . Monica . . . . .

I opened my mouth to scream, then stopped. If I screamed, the box would go away. Then Aaron would come in and consider me an absolute chicken for being afraid. Of course I would not allow that. But what should I do? The image of Aaron's face filled my mind, followed by the words 'Talk back to it.' I sighed. I hated it when I had to use Aaron's advice. But it was worth a try. I took a deep breath.

"What do you want?" I asked.

It was several seconds before I received a reply. The words on the screen disappeared, replaced by more.

. . . . Help me . . . Monica . . . help me . . . . . .

"Yes, yes, I know that," I said. "But help you with what?"

There was another pause before the words disappeared.

. . . . .help me . . . . . revenge . . . . . killer . . . . . .

The last word sent a chill down my spine. "Killer?" I inquired. "What killer?"

. . . . . my killer . . . . . . my murderer . . . . . . .

I dropped my jaw in shock. "What! You want me to find your murderer?"

. . . . . . yes . . . . . . help me . . . . . .

"Whoa!" I exclaimed. "Hold on! Why me? Why did you come to me?"

. . . . . TV . . . . .

"The TV? What about it?"

. . . . . TV . . . . . you have TV . . . .

"So?" I questioned. "I have a TV. Almost everyone has a TV. But why did you come to me? I just got mine today.."

Then I realized something. "Does this have to do with the fact that I just bought this TV today?"

. . . . . yes . . . . house . . . . bought from house . . . . .

"Yes, I bought the TV from a house. A garage sale, actually. But what does this have to do with me?"

. . . . . me . . . . . TV . . . belonged . . . . to . . . . murderer . . . .

I almost freaked out. I bought this TV from a murderer! That's even worse than it being stolen!

. . . . revenge . . . me . . . . punish . . . . . killer. . . . . . .

"Punish the killer? But what do I do? I don't have any proof, except for a TV that talks, and the police will surely believe that!" I said sarcastically. I took a deep breath to calm down. "You know, I don't even know who you are. I mean, what if you're just some mechanical malfunction in the TV that's repeating things being said on a channel where a murder-mystery is airing? I'll look like an idiot if I go to the police!"

The black box did not respond. After some time, I sighed. I was probably right. The black box was probably just a malfunction, and all I needed to do was take it in somewhere and get it fixed. The box was not talking to me. I laughed. How stupid I felt! I actually believed the box was talking to me! But then, it did seem pretty real, even if the black box was repeating things being said on a murder-mystery. Maybe it was just a coincidence.

I reached over to turn off the TV.

. . . . . . . touch me . . . . .

"Oh-my-gosh!" I cried and shot back my arm. "That freaked me out! It took you long enough to reply. I thought I was right about you being a malfunction."

. . . . . . . touch me . . . . .

I frowned. "What? Touch you? I don't understand."

. . . . . touch . . . . the screen . . . . .

"Oh," I said to myself. I slowly began to raise my hands up towards the TV, but stopped. Fear was overtaking over me. I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I would chicken out. I glanced at her bedroom door.

. . . . . . Monica . . . . . touch the screen . . . . . help me . . . . .

With a sharp gasp of air, I reached up and pressed my hands against the TV screen.

Suddenly, I began to fall forward. It was not the type of fall where you tripped over something, but it was as if I were falling into time. I could not speak. I could not hear. I could only stand there with my hands glued to the TV screen as my room rushed backwards as I went forward. And just before I believed I would never stop falling, I came to a halt.

"Whoa!" I exclaimed. "That was definitely not a mechanical malfunction."

That was when I noticed the room I was in. Where was I? It was definitely not my bedroom. The room was much bigger, and filled with all kinds of expensive furniture, including...

... my TV.

I jumped back. What was it doing here? I reached down to touch it, but instead of grasping plastic my hand went through it! I looked in shock at my hand, then at the TV. What had just happened?

All of a sudden a door shot open. I dropped to the floor, but it was no use. I was still in the open, and I knew in seconds I would be seen. My heart began to thud in my chest. What was I going to do?

It was after what seemed forever when I realized the person who had opened the door was not screaming in alarm at the sight of a stranger inside his or her room. Could he or she not see me? I quickly glanced at the person. It was a woman in the process of hanging up her car keys, but she was facing my direction. Yet she could not see me! What was I, invisible?

Before I could answer my own question, the door opened again. This time I did not duck, but watched as another person, this time a man, came inside the room. One look at the man and a strange feeling came over me. I knew that guy. But where have I seen him? Then it struck me; he was the guy that sold me the TV! But why was he here?

"Well, wasn't that a great anniversary party?" the man asked.

"Yes, dear," the woman replied. She threw her arms around his neck. "It was a fabulous party."

The man kissed her on the lips, but then pulled away.

"Oh, I almost forgot, Lorene," he said. "There's one more present for you. I had it delivered while we were away."

"Oh, Mark," Lorene replied, "you've done enough."

Mark smiled. "I know, but this one is special."

He covered Lorene's eyes with his hands. She giggled as he guided Lorene towards my direction. I quickly moved aside as Mark led Lorene in front of my TV and stopped.

"Okay, here it is!"

He dropped his hands. Lorene glanced down at the TV and gasped.

"Oh Mark! For me?" she exclaimed. "A new TV!"

"The exact one you wanted at the store," Mark added. "Do you like it?"

"Like it? I love it!" Lorene cried.

I watched as Lorene once again threw her arms around Mark, but this time it took him by surprise. He stepped back under her weight to regain his balance. As he did, something fell out of his jacket pocket.

"What's that?" Lorene asked when she spotted it.

She bent down and picked it up. The object was a small package filled with white powder. I recognized it immediately. It was a drug. From the look on Lorene's face, she must have figured out what it was as well. Mark grabbed it away from her before she could say a word.

"Where did you get that?" she inquired.

"What do you mean, honey?" Mark asked with a flirting smile.

"That's cocaine or something, isn't it?"

Mark gave her a hard look. "So?"

Lorene dropped her jaw in shock. "That stuff is illegal, Mark! Who gave it to you? What are you going to do with it? Answer me!"

"Now, Lorene, don't get pushy with me," Mark ordered. "Just take it easy. Do you actually believe I take this stuff?"

Lorene shrugged. "I don't know. Do you?"

"No! I would never take drugs. I just found it on the street, all right? It was near an abandoned house on my route to work. But don't worry. Tomorrow I'm going to turn it in to the police. Okay?"

Lorene frowned, a questioning look on her face. "I don't know, Mark..."

"Well, just trust me," he interrupted. I watched Mark wrap his arms around Lorene and guide her in a little dance. "Just trust me."

Lorene buried her face in Mark's shoulder. With one hand Mark began to smooth her hair. His other hand reached down in his jacket pocket --- and pulled out a small pistol.

I gasped. Mark was going to kill her!

"Lorene!" I shouted. "Lorene, watch out!"

But it was no use. I watched with anticipation and fear as Mark raised the pistol slowly to Lorene's head and pulled the trigger. I screamed as a shot filled the room. Tears filled my eyes as I watched Mark lower Lorene's lifeless body to the floor. When he stood up, I noticed he held no emotion on his face.

"Oh, Lorene," he said calmly. "You had to find out. You had to make me kill you. But I didn't want to kill you!" He frowned. "But I couldn't allow you to call the police. I would not allow you to tell on me!"

Mark sighed and put his head in his hands. "Now what am I going to do?"

He paused for some time in thought, and then he snapped his fingers. "The backyard. You've always wanted a flower garden, Lorene. Now you will be a part of the garden. Yes, flowers will make you a beautiful grave. And no one will know. Yes, no one will ever know."

He left to begin digging the grave, but I did not follow him. Instead I knelt beside Lorene's body.

"Lorene," I cried.

I reached out to touch her. Suddenly I began to fall, but instead of falling forward I was falling backwards. I could not speak nor hear, just kneel there with my hand outstretched to touch Lorene as I fell back into time. But as quickly as the falling began it stopped, and I found myself back in my room with my hand touching the TV screen. I dropped my hand with a sob and fell back onto my bed. I could not believe I had just witnessed a murder. But not just the murder, but also who the murderer was and what happened to the body! I sobbed and glanced at the TV.

. . . . . Help me . . . Monica . . . help me . . . . . .

"But how?" I asked. "How do I help you?"

Then I understood. I knew who the murderer was and where he lived, and where Lorene was buried. I knew everything. I just had to put it to use.

"Okay, Lorene," I said out loud. "I will help you. I will make Mark pay for what he did to you."

Without another word, I picked up my bedroom telephone and dialled 911.

"Hello? I'd like to report a murder."

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