THE MYTHIC PIXECIDE

Pixecide1“The Mythic Pixecide” or simply, “Pixecide”, as it was originally titled, was the first anything I’d ever had published. It graced the e-pages of the webzine Quantum Muse and was later re-published that same year in serialized podcast form with all the bells and whistles at Chaos Theory: Tales Askew. I wrote it not long after I’d read the Pat Cadigan cyberpunk story “Patterns”. I was notified of its acceptance at Quantum Muse in an email late in 2006. It appeared in the January 2007 issue. Understandably, I was ecstatic at the prospect of actually having sold one of my stories after having written so many subpar ones (Unfortunately, I didn’t realize they were subpar at the time and even if I had I wouldn’t have had the foggiest notion of how to go about improving them).

It was during the year 2006 that I attended my first writer’s workshop with “Pixecide” under my arm. A newly-minted writer from the famed Iowa writing program by the name of Laura Farmer ran the workshop and it was with her guidance, along with the encouragement of my classmates, that I was able to craft my dystopian, satirically-comic vision of the future into a publishable piece of fiction. The experience was an invaluable one and I came to rely on feedback of this kind to mold my later stories as well. I honestly don’t know how a writer can edit their work to its fullest potential effect without such resources.

As a humorous aside to this story, Quantum Muse had a policy at the time, perhaps they still do, that in lieu of monetary payment the contributing author could instead receive some swag from the publication. If memory serves, I could’ve scored a Quantum Muse coffee mug and a t-shirt in place of the cash. Being a first-time-published author (and not being a coffee drinker) I thought it more distinguished if I received money for my work. Looking back on it now, the tiny payment long gone, I wish I had that mug and t-shirt. After all, I do drink hot chocolate.

 

 

THE MYTHIC PIXECIDE

by

Christopher L. DelGuercio

 

You’ve heard all the stories–perhaps even half-heartedly tried it yourself alone at night, despite the warnings. Its legend lives on even as the act itself has vanished into antiquity.

But know that it occurred. Know that at one time, it existed.

No one’s terribly certain when the rumor began but rumor has it, it spread faster than rumor itself. Faster than any ordinary rumor at least. This one traveled at light-rumor speed and we sucked in the trail of sweet gasoline exhaust like mother’s milk. Both parts ridiculous and delicious, the rumor grew into myth, the myth to legend, and the legend was all awful truth.

Did you hear about what happened on TV?

I did. I watched it all go down, every blood-soaked second. I lived through it, lived with it, and lived for it all at the same time. This is my testimony.

  

Phase I – GENESIS or:

In the beginning there was QVC

It’s claimed by a great many people that The Home Shopping Network is a consumer Shangri-la. For the uninitiated, this is the channel that will make a persuasive case that your very existence in the cosmos is utterly incomplete without a Roto-Matic® electric cheese grater.

And if you act now you also get the commemorative Dale Earnhardt plate which is essential to serve your freshly shredded Gouda.

 The soothsayers down at QVC always foresee the payments as being easy, the rewards vast, and are quite assuring that if you do not act within the next thirty seconds you will never again have the opportunity to purchase a grater of such exceeding quality and will ultimately be saddled with the burden of having to chew your cheese for the rest of your miserable life.

I guess some people have to be told what they really need.

Thus was the setting when Barry Winkengrin, on-air “talent” and resident expert on all things décor, charged full on into the Arabian Nights-themed showcase presentation. Cocooned within his trademark vanilla-cream cableknit sweater, Barry beguiled the home audience with all manner of surprising factoids about the Middle East:

“You people are in luck!” he’d spout. “The Koran forbids the sale of these items to westerners but we know a guy.”

He also pulled out this old standard from his bag:

“You could turn around and sell this stuff to a dealer right now and double your money.” (That one works with just about anything.).

He even made up this gem on the spot:

“Most Americans aren’t aware that they’re experiencing a severe thread shortage over there in Egypt so who knows when we’ll see this stuff at such low prices again.”

The man was a master. He was crooked as a river, but always spoke with a straight face, spoon-feeding the public just what they wanted with his forked tongue.

About halfway through this code-orange onslaught on the viewer, Barry started to perspire. Now it’s not uncommon for the QVC hosts to broil under those enormous studio lights, but Barry was the exception; around studio headquarters he was nicknamed “the driest man on cable”. Some execs thought he was born without sweat glands. Others posited that the boardmembers at QVC had him genetically-engineered to be the perfect on-air salesperson, like some Nazi experiment. So you can imagine their astonishment when Barry stopped perspiring and started sweating—I mean really sweating. But the man pressed on. What a pro, they all thought.

The camera cut away for a few seconds as they toweled their boy off but the faucet inside him was still running on high. Everyone on-set was worried. Barry was glistening like a Christmas ham but he artfully shot some clandestine hand signals to the crew assuring them that he could continue and then–POP–it happened:

Barry Winkengrin’s skull was hollowed out right there in front of a hungry consumer audience, they say. Little red-and-white puzzle pieces of cranium and contents mixed with the cobalt glassware display it shattered—completely ruining thousands of dollars worth of product.

*                                                          *                                                          *

Now, unfortunately, nastiness like this happens here and there in front of the unflickering public eye and people catch whisper or sight of it second, third, fourth-hand, and up. We ask agog,

Did you hear about that guy on TV?

These gruesome tales are e-mailed and linked to friends and family as lovingly as one passes the cranberries and candied yams at Thanksgiving. Once they finally make their grisly cyber-rounds and are forgotten, they’re relegated to the dust heap of the macabre that our minds confront and discard daily. It’s just abject violence; it doesn’t endure . . . normally.

The problem here is that there’s a mystery as well. It seems they can’t find the shooter–on a set with plenty of eye witnesses (at least a few more watching at home) and caught on closed circuit camera to boot. Add to that it had to be point blank range the way this guy’s head burst. But no one saw the killer or even heard a gunshot. No bullet was ever recovered from the scene, no gunpowder residue left. Nothing pointed to the possibility of a shooting except for the fact that a man lost a good portion of his head. So the sum of clues in this case supported the theory that, while engaged in an honest bilk, Barry Winkengrin’s brains just blasted off his shoulders. It had all the makings of an urban legend.

But here’s where the story gets truly weird and weirdly true.

Almost two weeks after the killing, a seventy-six-year-old widow, Ida MacDonald, shambled alone into her local police precinct and claimed that she, in point of fact, murdered the late Mr. Winkengrin. Now wrap your wrinkly grey matter around this: She didn’t know the man. She had never even seen, much less owned, a firearm of any kind and she was never at the scene of the crime, ever. She had scarcely left her home for the past ten years, could hardly see, and lived five states away.

Impossible, right? Stay tuned.

Mrs. MacDonald attested to watching the broadcast that fateful night from her bedroom as Barry Winkengrin hawked imitation wall tapestries from the Middle East to Middle Americans, passing them off as the genuine article. She recalled the way he regaled his audience with the details of his fictional trip to Yemen, the bazaar where he discovered the three-eyed merchant who sold him the tapestries, and the painstaking care with which he personally watched each tapestry woven.

But Ida MacDonald knew her hanging cloth. She’d spent a goodly amount of time traveling the Mideast since her conversion to the Islamic faith. She wasn’t about to be duped by this cozener’s flimflammery.

The longer she watched the more incensed Ida MacDonald grew. So much so that, a la Allah, she got smiting mad and, like a haggard backwoods witch, cooked up a good ole fashioned malediction to excuse this lying devil of a man from this world and hasten him on to the next. She thought up the worst thoughts she could think and thunk them right at Barry Winkengrin’s overripe melon head.

And whattayaknow, it worked.

Upon hearing the woman’s tear-stained confession, Sheriff J.T. Arnott of the Taradiddle County Police Department politely escorted her from the station house and insisted that she go home and get some rest.

“Don’t let your head get heavy over this, ma’am, it wasn’t your fault. Hell, we’ve all heaped some dark thoughts on other folks at one time or another. The Good Lord fixes it so that we think better of ‘em by-and-by and all that evil don’t amount to squat,” he assured her.

But Ida MacDonald insisted that she “wished” the man dead and demanded to be taken into custody. Sheriff Arnott made a final attempt to assuage the woman’s guilt.

“Ma’am, wishing for evil’s about as useful as a bucket a’ puss. Unless you get to taking some action on the subject, ain’t nothing bad gonna happen to no-body. And, pardon my saying so, but you don’t look like you’re in any condition to be acting evil. Listen here now, you’re an old woman, why don’t you go home and forget about all this nonsense.”

But Ida MacDonald wouldn’t leave it alone.

“Something must be done with me, sheriff–I cursed that man. It does not matter that it was not my hand that struck him down. I must be punished!”

Sheriff Arnott drew a heavy sigh. “You truly believe this story of yours and you’re not gonna let this go until I do something, are you?”

“No, I am not,” she said staunchly.

*                                                          *                                                          *

From the county psychiatric ward, Ida MacDonald asserted until the day of her passing a week hence that she was not crazy, only a murderer. Her family didn’t buy either charge and reasoned that one old woman’s delusions were hardly a cause for her to be locked away like a common kook. So when Ida died in her bed one quiet night, something broke in her only daughter.

Elise MacDonald lay on her mother’s bed in the house where she grew up, sorting through a life in a shoebox of old photographs–at the bus stop on the first day of school; her eighth birthday party at the beach, her wedding day. She saw her Momma in every one and her dark eyes welled up. She pounded her fists down into the mattress. It was all she could think to do.

The 13-inch Zenith with the rabbit ears sitting on the nightstand in the corner delivered the local news coverage of the eleventh annual Chili-For-Charity cook-off benefiting the children’s hospital. T-shirts sold at the event urged contestants to make their chili “HOT FOR A TOT” and some giggles were had at the expense of Father Freely, the local pastor who, well-intended though he was, really should have rethought his choice of attire.

The Chief-of-Police was a celebrity competitor in the chili-eating contest. J.T. Arnott was a mound of man, three hundred sixty-five pounds and growing by the hour. He wore his brown ceremonial police uniform with its ivory belt and matching double-shouldered rope sash that he had mothballed since he was a rookie. His belt, coupled with the thin strips of white rope struggling to contain his girth, lent him the appearance of a gigantic pot roast.

Elise MacDonald watched while the corpulent civil servant plunged into his first bowl of chili and gleefully shoveled in the five-alarm concoction spoon-by-heaping-spoonful. When he’d emptied his twelfth bowl at the ten minute mark, his head slowly rose from the blotched crimson tablecloth. His eyes rolled around and he covered his mouth with one hand. The nearest onlookers covered themselves hastily in anticipation, almost giddy at the thought of being splashed with the sheriff’s vomit—like they were attending a redneck version of a Gallagher concert.

Sheriff Arnott, with his cheeks still crammed with the last spoonfuls of unswallowed chili, let his head fall back between his shoulder blades while he snorted and laughed. But instead of vomitus, the group was treated to a meaty mixture of chili and saliva erupting from his mouth and nose. The crowd was duly amused, if a bit disappointed. The mayor raised the sheriff’s fat hog-hands in victory. He wore the chili slathered over his dewlap of a neck and other facefolds as proudly as a Congressional Medal.

Elise MacDonald saw it all in black-and-white.

The man who took her mother away forever was now deliriously enraptured before her eyes in a Bacchanallian display of excess that caused her to become ill with rage. With her mother’s inherited temper, she lashed out with a ferocity usually only reserved for major league umpires, bad drivers, and in-laws. The young woman spit fiery expletives and fired a wild flurry of obscene gestures and swinging motions at the image of the sheriff on the screen in a release of frustrative energy akin to the splitting of the emotional atom.

A thunderclap roared across the hazy summer sky and Sheriff Arnott, amidst the gasps of the crowd, clutched his chest and fell headlong into the lap of the mayor’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Sugarbelle. Some further histrionics from Elise and the sheriff’s body writhed on the grass, seized in an unseen vice, until his heart burst within his chest like a tomato thrown against a concrete wall. Filled with guilt, Elise turned herself in to the authorities the very next day. That’s how the proverbial ball got a-rollin’.

This story was too bizarre to be ignored and too juicy to be secreted; that’s why it had legs. I don’t know if anyone actually believed the legend or not but it didn’t stop quite a few people from playfully testing the waters.

I guess some people will try anything once.

And once they tried, what they uncovered quickly reached urban-mythic status. They found out that just one person could muster up the requisite stockpiles of anger to dispatch of another on the TV screen, but it took some real focus. A quick kick or slap was all most folks could do at first. It was all pretty harmless for awhile–a party gag, fun for a laugh. But good news travels fast.

Six or seven people together could easily administer a severe beatdown but six or seven hundred (or hundred-thousand); well, that would result in a grave and permanent case of death every time. You just can’t bridle that many bad vibes.

The legend traveled by word and wire and some people started getting good at it, started finding the zone, doing damage, making it look easy. Everyone was getting into the swing of it. Schoolchildren sang about it while they jumped rope on the playground:

With a black-eye here,

An’ a charley-horse there,

Head con-tusions are a-musin’,

Old MacDonald wished for harm,

E-I-E-I-O

Phase II – PROLIFERATION or:

The Inevitable Meeting of Shit & Fan

The real carnage kicked-off when Jenning Peters, the anchorman of the six o’clock national news, kicked-off–right in the middle of his nightly report.

I guess some people were tired of hearing all that bad news.

That’s when the dominoes began to fall: dirty, double-talking politicos; the purebred, pouty-mouthed models; pampered, prima donna pro athletes; afternoon soap opera baddies and bitches; bawdy-blue, late-night, long-dong porn stars; the glitterati, the slim and snotty, Joanie & Chachi—everyone who looked like they had it better, wore it weller, or just had more fun than the rest of us got theirs.

Word got round that it was open season on the whole wide wild world and a billion people ran out to get their hunting licenses. They were training their minds on television screens and letting fly with the most primeval ammunition they had inside them, focusing in on every little pixel, and filling them with fury. The media dubbed it “pixecide” based on some Ivy League egghead’s sound byte about the method by which it was all possible (said egghead was later dispatched of on a primetime discussion forum by a group of viewers who simply loathed the coining of terms).

But it was too late. The name stuck. Pixecide was what it was and no one could change it. No one could stop it. It was a deep, dark shame of masturbatory proportions–everyone did it but no one would cop to it–and we came to realize that any lingering conscience the public might have had was a crumbling dam to the weighty waters of the subconscious.

Why, I would never take another human life—no matter how much I wished they would just die.

But that was just it, wishing was all it took.

The actor who played the obnoxious neighbor on your favorite sitcom convulses in a puddle of blood before your very eyes, but there’s no guarantee that it was you who did it; everyone hated that guy. It was probably one of them.

It couldn’t have been me, I wasn’t even hating that hard . . . ah well, I wonder what else is on.

When the entire world is a firing squad who’s to say your gun is the one with the live round? Consciences were clean and ratings soared.

*                                                          *                                                          *

The U.S. national security advisor came on one night begging for tolerance and patience in the citizenry. He said that they were working on the problem and making progress. He cautioned that if we all stopped right now no one would ever need to be prosecuted. He called this “a completely unique situation in the annals of mankind”. He trumpeted the tenderness of the human spirit and cited the commandments—Love Thy Neighbor and Thou Shalt Not Kill, yadda, yadda, yadda. Finally, he reminded us all of a God in heaven who was ever-watchful.

Then his chest exploded.

The death blow originated from a nine-foot, high-definition plasma screen located in the main lodge of the American Atheists Alliance.

I guess some people don’t like being watched.

Martial law was declared. The president’s state-of-the-union address was postponed indefinitely and the strangest thing began to happen:

No one wanted to be on television anymore.

No one wanted their fifteen minutes.

Not one person wanted to be a millionaire (or marry one). No one wanted to be an idol, an apprentice or a survivor and, make no mistake about it, fear was definitely a factor. Even the professional actors, the beautiful cattle who craved only the warmth of the spotlight, opted instead for safer professions like nightshift cabbing, coal mining, and shark wrangling.

The only reason anyone agreed to work on television anymore at all was because network bigwigs started developing pixecide-safe programming: the all mentally-challenged cast of the hit drama, Please Don’t Kill Us, We’re All Retarded; orthe underground men’s favorite, The NakedLadies Show; or the other end of the spectrum, the pixecide-friendly smash hit, Do Me A Favor: Dr. Jack’s Wild America, made up entirely of volunteer patients from the newly-founded Kervorkian Hospice Center.

The nightly news was now being commandeered by the cutest group of eight-year-olds ever, stumbling over the names of the newest Eastern European nations and megalomaniacal despots while puppies and kittens frolicked on the news desk beside them. Disney even created some animated characters to safely relay the day’s events without bloodshed, but ratings slumped.

I guess some people don’t like getting their news from a cartoon (which makes the appearance of Ted Koppel’s hair that much more perplexing).

Nonetheless, as a matter of necessity, person-less programming became more and more prevalent. Weather channels with radar views, forecasts, and temperature scrolls dented the Nielsen ratings for the first time and no one ever seemed to get caught in the rain anymore. Grown men learned to cook, watching channels that aired recipes with step-by-step drawings and instructions doled out in a very masculine how-to format. Interactive trivia networks and educational programming boosted the aggregate I.Q. a few points and it was almost cool to be smart. Old movies played all the time—fifty, sixty, seventy-year-old flicks, even the silents–because everyone in them was already dead. Some weary souls even shunned the glass teat altogether and returned to the radio, huddling together with their families nightly, eyelids drawn, their minds’ eyes filling in the pictures.

Amidst this upheaval, special bulletins from the government were now frequently being posted in script form rolling across the bottom of the screen imploring all good citizens to remain calm and asking them to kindly curb their heathen urges and wanton bloodlusts until a time at which this phenomenon could be controlled. Emails, letters and even telegrams were sent out by the feds to a concerned nation.

… currently working on pixecide problem—STOP

… only matter of time before we crack it—STOP

… will soon return country to safety and normalcy—STOP

But who were they talking to?

*                                                          *                                                          *

By now, the president hadn’t been seen in public for months and it had been reported that he may not have survived the early stages of the epidemic–so many other nation’s leaders had gotten the memo about the scourge of pixecide just a tad late:

The United States of America is setting up new democracies for the long-suffering peoples of…”whistled the nation’s favorite news anchor, Billy. He’d lost one of his front teeth just the night before. His precious new gapped smile secured his job as anchorboy for the foreseeable future (or at least until his face broke out). You see, for a broadcast journalist in the post-pixecide landscape, your days were numbered the closer you inched toward puberty, kind of like being in Menudo.

“In other news, speculation is running rampant that the entire pixecide plague has been orchestrated by the United States to their own ends. An international task force has been assembled by the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to investigate these claims. With political pressure mounting, the U.S. government continues to seek answers that will provide a respite from the slaughter. I’m Billy . . . and that’s the way it is.”

  

Phase III – RECIPROCITY or:

Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You

Every front page in America screamed the headline that the President, alive and well, would finally address the nation tonight . . . on television no less! The entire country spoke of nothing else all day and that night at eight o’clock, we watched:

THE STATE-OF-THE-UNION ADDRESS

 “Ladies and gentlemen,” the disembodied voice announced, “the President of the United States, Regis Francis Xavier Philbin.”

The fearless leader of the free world, President Regis Philbin, broadcasting from the oval office of the White House, newly renamed The Salmon Room for its soothing pink wall color, sat behind his desk, preparing to address his constituents for the first time since the furor started flying. After a word from our sponsors, Pepto-Bismol, the president made his final preparations before speaking to the nation.

The tension was palpable.

“Dude, what the fuck is this shit–what the hell happened to our show?”

From a fully-furnished basement in Northern Minnesota, three overbaked, underaged anarchists squeezed the remote in a vain attempt to return to their regularly-scheduled program, The Bludgeon Fun FamilyHour.

“Check that guy out, Nick, all serious and shit, he looks like your Dad.”

“Shut your hole, Daniel!” retorted Nick, still fingering the remote. “Wow, this guy’s on every freakin’ channel.”

“Will both you asshats just chillax,” Ken said. “How long have you two been blazed–that’s the president? He’s on tonight to talk about pixecide, probably gonna tell everybody to stop or some shit like that. Everybody’s been talking about it.”

Dazed and bemused, Daniel shouted, “Is he cracked? They’re gonna rip him a new one if he comes on, they’re probably sending this shit all over the world—people in Iraqistan are sittin’ around watching this right now. My man’s crazy, he won’t last a minute.”

“A minute? C’mon, Daniel, that’s too quick,” Nick said.

“I say he won’t last a minute,” Daniel repeated with a mischievous glint in his eye.

“You wanna make a bet?” Nick asked.

“What, like a little gentlemen’s wager, say, the usual amount?”

“You’re on, son. But you best cough up that money if he lasts a whole minute.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “Alright, don’t get your undies in a bundle, little girl, I got it right here.” He fished a dollar bill wadded to within an inch of its existence as well as some blue pocket lint from the front of his jeans and handed it to Ken. “Kenny’ll hold the money and keep time. That sound fair to you, Nicky-boy?”

“That’s cool, whatever dude,” Nick agreed, handing his money over to Ken as well.

President Philbin shuffled a few pieces of paper on the desk while he waited for his cue to speak. After a few moments he cleared his throat forcefully and began.

My fellow Americans . . . Here we go, it’s on . . . the entire globe has been plagued by a deadly new threat . . . FIFTEEN SECONDS . . . C’mon people, let’s do this . . . an end to the nightmare is now in sight . . . THIRTY SECONDS! . . . For Christsakes, somebody get him . . .  at last solved the enigma of pixecide . . . FORTY-FIVE SECONDS!! . . . What in the bloody blue hell is going on? . . . we must take drastic measures in order to protect us from ourselves.

 “One minute!!!” Ken’s voice boomed and handed over the cash to Nick. “I don’t believe it, he made it. I don’t know how but he made it.”

“To the winner go the spoils,” Nick announced with a satisfied smirk, holding out both bills.

“Can we actually call two dollars ‘spoils’?” Ken asked.

 “Spoils or not,” Daniel broke in, “that was my lunch money, douchebag,” he exclaimed to the statesman on the screen. “Forget all y’all, I’m gonna do this clown myself.”

The young man focused a steady stream of concentrated ire at the pattern that formed the face of the president. At that exact moment, the Commander-in-Chief broke from his pre-rehearsed speech.

“Let’s take this young man. Now don’t be alarmed, I’m going to have to be a touch harsh to make my point. I’ve been practicing so pay close attention because once I get it going, I’m a blur,” the president said. President Philbin, stepping out from behind the desk, removed his grey suit jacket and pants to reveal a tin-colored jump suit. Wires snaked across the surface of the garment, attaching electrodes to various points of his body. He lowered his eyes and, breathing deeply, stood akimbo on the bald eagle rug as the camera panned out to capture his body position for the nationwide audience.

In what appeared to be a bizarre Tai Chi routine, the statesman raised one leg off the floor and flapped his arms in slow motion, first up-and-down and then side-to-side. He then immediately let loose his fists in an interpretative dance of quick jabbing punches complemented by several savage kicks into mid-air while his face contorted into an orgasmic knot. His incessant mutterings were picked up by his microphone, still clipped to the lapel of his jacket.

“How you like that you little mother **BEEP**. Think I was going to come in here and let you people beat the living **BEEP** out of me? We used to call this being taken out to the woodshed **BEEP**. Where you going? There’s plenty more you **BEEP** dumb **BEEP** punk ***BEEEEP***.”

Various cabinet members could be heard off-camera cheering and the viewing audience could clearly see the Secretary-of-State barking advice like any good cornerman would, “Stick and move, Mr. President. Stick-and-move!”

The president did stick and move. He also bobbed and weaved, ducked and covered and even rope-a-doped a little while perspiration beaded above his top lip and across the presidential forehead.

Back in Minnesota, the place had been laid to waste. The young would-be Regicidal maniac lay badly beaten on the wet shag carpeting of the floor, his face awash in a mixture of blood and bong water, his head swelling impatiently.

I guess some people think the best defense is a good offense.

Upon witnessing this swiftest of displays of justice leveled against their comrade, Nick and Ken dared to direct their dander on the pixelized pattern of the sweat-basted president. Several secret servicemen appeared at once, crowding up from the corners of the boys’ television screen. They commenced to pummeling the two into submission before they could so much as land an ill thought.

After a lengthy commercial break to allow the local news affiliates to arrive on the scene, President Philbin settled back in behind his desk and concluded his speech, images of his handiwork being beamed over the airwaves to a stunned world.

“These dark days are coming to an end, my friends. What you’ve witnessed here today is a trained counter-pix technique discovered and developed by the best and brightest minds in the service of this great nation. It’s part of a larger system being put into place at this very moment to safeguard all television transmissions with counter-pix agents. Soon the entire country, and later the world, will be fully able to strike back against the murderous hordes that have kept good people hostage these long months. Never again will we hide in the shadows while Americans are besieged by the unchecked collective id of the weak-minded. We now possess a means by which to fight back.”

 

Phase IV – ACCEPTANCE or:

It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

It was simple really–amazing no one thought of it sooner. If some invisible assailant is using the TV to put you in their crosshairs, set your sights on them, too. It’s astounding how much anger, heretofore unleashed, one can swallow with the specter of a gargantuan ass-kicking looming over one’s head. It made perfect sense that pixecide would be a double-edged sword or a two-way howitzer.

Soon every channel on the clicker had its own security system up and running–“wave bouncers” they called them. Just like the beefy guys at your local pub, if anyone feels like stirring up some mayhem they throw you out on your ear, probably give you a blackish/bluish souvenir as well to commemorate your questionable decision making.

And that’s how it all ended—just as quickly and mysteriously as it began. Even after the official explanation was broadcast, complete with snappy line graphs and colorful USA Today-style pie charts, I don’t think anyone fully understood how it was all possible in the first place. But, then again, most of us don’t know how our telephones, toasters, or toilets work–much less our television sets. So what does it matter, really? It’s all just part of that magic show called technology that serves us unnoticed everyday. What’s one more rabbit-out-of-the-hat? Just add pixecide to that short list of technological diseases.

*                                                          *                                                          *

I can’t prove any of what I’ve told you here. You won’t find it in any history book. They wiped away all record of it–tried like hell to erase it from our memories, too.

But the truth is so hard to forget.

The whole damn thing’s under the rug now, forever hidden from future generations. Perhaps because we know what they’d say to us:

What were you thinking?

I’m not trying to acquit myself. I just wanted someone else to know.

To make a short story longer, after pixecide had been cured, the golden programming of yesteryear marched straight back into our living rooms: the evening news horror show, the infomercials, the canned laugh-tracks, the reality television, and Larry King. They were all back in business and guaranteed to go down easy, without a hint of aftertaste. Our world was normal again.

What were we thinking, indeed?

 

-THE END-