's 2017 Horror Write-off:

She Died, But the Television Didn't.

Submitted by Brendan Cleary (email)

She died, but the television didn't.

It was last turned to channel 27, and there it would stay for eternity, playing a variety of programs, their complexity and quality degrading as the years turned to centuries.

Her corpse, or what you could call the scraps of her that remained by the end, would become 27's most consistent viewer.

She didn't need to eat anymore, she didn't need to sleep, boredom or restlessness was impossible. She was the perfect viewer, the type producers talk about wistfully in hypotheticals.

Now why did no one notice she was gone, why did no one notice the smell that grew worse with each passing episode? Maybe they did, or... at least one would hope they did. But maybe they were too scared to investigate, or too apathetic, or perhaps just too busy. All those that could have turned the television off were overcome by a case of too-ness. And the television bills were being paid, the heat was still working. Sure, she was always a bit short, as if the funds were not coming from her, but some subsidiary that expected her to pay for the rest. But for the landlord who received the money, she was still their most consistent tenant by far.

By the time the five percent not paid every month began to pile up, the landlord himself, and quite a few other people, were dead themselves, their tvs turned off.

It is said by people whose names are too long for me to pronounce and whose reputations are too obscure for me to bother that if an object possessing no mind is given enough time, it can learn how to grow one.

By the time the world had fallen in on itself and electricity and the television industry was like a bad dream, the television had found other ways to keep itself running. It, after all, had a viewer it needed to keep entertained.

But, none of the bright colorful things that had for years shown proudly on its stomach were there now. It was just... weird constantly changing black and white numbness. It didn't like it, and it was sure the viewer didn't like it. It had to make its own entertainment, stuff that the viewer would love. It had projected enough of them to know how to make its own. Or at least, it thought it did.

Its first creation was barely coherent, shapes that vaguely resembled people from 27's most popular and most played shows, mashed together into the worst kind of randomly generated content. One of its favorite of its first creations involved one entity, whose clothes were of the same color of their skin, trying to hide another entity, who just looked like a larger version of the first entity, from a third entity. This third entity seemed only capable of walking backwards, and seemed intent on finding this larger version of the entity with the skin clothes. Even though the first entity is doing a poor job of hiding it, the third entity seems unable to see it.

This show lasted eleven hours. Early on, 27 believed the longer a show was, the better it would naturally become. The woman continued to watch, so 27 knew it was on the right track. It had a winning formula, it was playing the things it used to, the stuff that she used to watch, it just needed to fine tune some things, add some real provocative and eye catching stuff for sweeps week. But even with the inclusion of disembodied genitals and violence without context to such shows it had created like "Get those two!" and "Have a family?", she continued being in the same, silent state that she always was.

What could it do to improve her mood? Have her go from a passive viewer to an active viewer. It remembered the ads it used to show for itself. They showed people of all types, laughing and excited, watching one of its siblings stomachs. They would point at the stomach often, look to their fellow viewers to make sure they were having as much fun watching as they were. What had it done wrong? Why was she still not moving? Why wasn't she pointing and laughing?

27 didn't have to deal with these feelings for long. During its third broadcast of the show it had dubbed "hide your others", with the entity trying to hide a larger version of itself, the viewers body opened. The woman's stomach ruptured and burst, releasing a horde of strange fluttery black and white things that filled her surroundings with buzzing and movement.

27 couldn't help but be reminded of its own stomach, how it used to be filled with buzzing, busy black and white dots.

This must have been a message of solidarity to the television. She understood what it and its stomach had gone through, and was reenacting its liberation of the whiteness and the blackness as a gesture of goodwill and friendship. Obviously, she was thankful for what it had done, and its decision to do this act during "hide the other" wasn't a coincidence. It must have been her favorite.

So, to repay her favor, it would scrap all of its programs except for "Hide The Other". That would be the template and inspiration for all it's programs going forward. The next few years were what it personally called its perfect period. It was where it found the perfect balance between being inspired by and ripping off ita previous work. All of them were perfect, because they had all been birthed by the show that the woman, by her reaction, had thought of as perfect.

Miniseries about a large person who walks sideways trying to find an angry man who walks backwards, hidden by the smallest man in the world.

One season wonder about clothes trying to angrily hide a man who is the skin from a smaller version of himself.

Holiday special about many people coming together, setting their differences and grudges aside, to hide a very large person who looks like an amalgamation of all of them from a angry man whose head is a backwards sweater.

A person who can't see walls tries to hide a backwards man. They look exactly the same.

A man with shirt colored skin presents a story of two men trying to hide a large building from each other through a series of flesh shirts he wears and then takes off. Every idea that came from "hide the others" was naturally good, the television thought. She will appreciate some creativity, she will appreciate it if I think outside the box. But soon, its creative reinterpretations began resembling its masterwork less and less.

A three season series revolving around a man traveling across a fractured unfinished landscape that may be america, visiting every house that looks like him. Sometimes he has to fight the people inside the houses.

A prime time movie event focusing on what may be a group of people or just a singular entity trying to locate a person who is never actually shown.

This prime time movie became a backdoor pilot for a mystery series starring the person the main character(s) were looking for. This character is never shown, and most of the action revolves around situations that other characters claim the main character caused. A building of some sort (floating ten feet above ground and flashing in and out of reality) is home to a variety of occupants whose faces (for the most part) stay the same. They compete to see who can hide their skin shirts from the large angry man who runs the building the fastest.

A hiding wider version of anger, who is also anger but not wide, angrily walks backwards through shirt town, where the skinned residents are competing to see who can learn how to walk upside the farther. No one can see this but anger. Man has a new pant.

This wasn't working.

With every new version, it became closer and closer to losing the heart of what made its constant watcher fall in love with "Hide The Others" in the first place. Looking back, the point of no return was the two part movie about two men who share the same shirt pretending to but not actually competing to see who can hide the concept of being "backwards angry" from the larger version of the third man (who is also the ceiling) the longest. That was a bridge too far, and it should have realized at the time.

This reinterpretations, these constant retellings, each one getting more strained. It was never what she was after, it never even came close to capturing the genius of "hide the others." It was never possible to replicate the perfect storm that was "hide the others", and it ruined her enjoyment by trying.

She hadnt burst her stomach, or any part of her body in a long time. She was a passive viewer now. It realized with a heavy static sigh that it didn't matter what it gave her, she wouldn't react, not anymore.

But that didn't mean that it couldn't try to give her what she deserved. It could try, if it really focused on what she wanted, and not what it thought she wanted, maybe it could finally give her the content she deserved, that they deserved.

Millenia after the last bird chirped, from its stomach came a new show, noticeably brighter and clearer.

It showed a woman, an aspect of her face bred familiarity, watching a television.

She was pointing at the television. She was laughing at the television. She was enjoying the television. She was warm and complete, and the window outside showed a city too dark, a city not fit to be outside in. She had made a good choice, and the television felt kind of silly that it had never really processed how truly special it was that she had watched it for so long. The television knew that this was what its programming should be, and while it had come to this conclusion about different programs throughout its existence, it knew with a certainty that it had never possessed before that this was what always should have been shown.

Not only for her sake, but for its. This program played, and it will play, long after any trace of the woman and her apartment has disappeared. Long after the television itself can no longer run.