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Anthony sat in front of the blank television screen and grinned an idiot's grin at the emptiness staring back at him. He was aware that it wasn't on--that the TV wasn't even plugged in--but most of him was somewhere else at the moment, somewhere beyond his ken to explain. Hell, he wasn't even sure if what he was seeing--or thought he was seeing--was real.
Maybe it's time for the nuthouse after all, my friend, his overactive, and often over-talkative, mind said. There's always a nice padded room waiting for someone like you. You can tell everyone about all the moving pictures you see on the broken television set. Oh, and don't forget to tell them about all the dead bodies. I'm sure they'll be interested in hearing all about that, too. Maybe you could even tell them how you know where they are, or better yet, how they will die. Yeah, tell them that, his one-sided interior dialogue sarcastically finished.
Anthony had grown accustomed over the years to what seemed like a bully living in his head and he quickly and efficiently blocked it out. One thing he didn't need right now was distraction. Anthony needed to concentrate. He squinted his eyes and focused on the television screen, ignoring the scuttling cockroaches and the sound of two transients having sex next door. Anthony forgot all about the shakes he was having due to a lack of alcohol, or maybe it was from the cocaine. He ignored his empty wallet, the ramshackle, abandoned building he called home--for the night at least--and the wasted life he lived. He blanked out all the problems he had, including the big one his life now was, and instead focused on the TV in front of him. The TV had no outlet to plug intoand no buttons to turn it on or off. It was the same TV with the hole in the middle of the screen where someone had pulled an Elvis with a small caliber weapon. This was the television that Anthony Pastor, son of the late Reverend Thomas Pastor (insert joke here, Anthony had heard them all at one time or another), had been sitting in front of for two days straight now. And for two days straight he had seen things he couldn't, or wouldn't, understand. Mostly, Anthony had seen the world from other people's eyes. Anthony saw himself the way a man in a sharp new business suit had seen him a few weeks past. Haggard, desperate, scary. Anthony saw the look on a mother's face from the eyes of the newborn she held. He saw disappointment, anger, fear, lust, and pure love from a thousand pairs of anonymous eyes. And he also saw death. Murders, assassinations, accidents, plots, wars, explosions, land mines, plane crashes, torture. Anthony saw it all, or at least he thought he did. But now he was seeing something else, something much worse. He was seeing something with no name--it was too old for names--that was slowly awakening. And when this thing awoke completely, everything would be different.
Sure, sure, sure. Stand up and go take care of these shakes before you rattle your rotted teeth out of your bloated gums.
Anthony hated that voice, hated and feared it. He feared it because he knew it was a part of him, a part he didn't like, but a part nonetheless. He also feared it because he knew it was right, sooner or later he would need to find a way to get a drink. For the time being though, what he was seeing on the broken television scared him more than anything else. It scared him in a basic way, like a fear of spiders, or flying, or basements. It also scared him in another way, an irrational way, almost a superstitious way, like a fear of black cats crossing your path, or leaving a hat on your bed, or breaking a mirror. Those things filled you with a strange feeling of dread for a short time, but eventually passed once you forgot about them. Anthony didn't think he would ever forget about what he was seeing right now--if he was even seeing it at all.
Someone walked past the room Anthony was sitting in and stared at him for a minute before shaking his head and wandering off. Anthony didn't hear him and he doubted the person walking by saw anything on the television, let alone what Anthony himself was now seeing. The TV flickered once, twice, and then the picture became clearer.
It was an insect, a large one, crawling, no, walking, along a dirt road at night. No, it wasn't a road, it was a path, but it was underground. It felt familiar somehow. Very familiar. The insect turned its head, displaying dripping mandibles from which hung the tattered remains of its last meal. Anthony sat quietly as the insect used its segmented arms to clean pieces of a blood-soaked gray T-shirt from one side of its mouth before pausing to work on the other. It was a mantis, Anthony thought, and a fucking big one, eight feet tall and at least that much long. It cocked its head sideways the way only a mantis could do and the face appeared to change, the features stood out more, to become darker somehow, even human, if that was possible. As quickly as it was there, it was just as quickly gone, and tiny red eyes peered out of the TV at him. No, not at him, through him. Anthony stared back and felt a spreading wetness growing in his pants. He was glad he hadn't eaten anything significant in a few days because he was certain that he would've felt that coming out the other end.
The eyes stared and they thought. They stared at him and they thought. They weighed him, searched his soul, weighed his soul and prodded further. When it was finally satisfied, the mantis turned away into the darkness, giving Anthony one last look as it left a ruddy trail of moisture behind it. It's blood, Anthony immediately thought, and he was right.
Don't you go telling anyone what you seen, kiddo, or you might find yourself down here with me next, a voice buzzed; a voice that wasn't the normal antagonizing one Anthony called his conscience. This voice sounded insectile. For the first time in his life, Anthony prayed for the other voice to return, to block out this new one.
The mantis only laughed.
You just keep your mouth shut and just maybe I won't come through this here TV and take your eyes out.
Anthony closed his eyes and when he opened them again, the television was blank once again.