Reddit Writing Prompt #22: The Face In The Static

All television static is a signal from a Lovecraftian horror whose message takes a very long time to discover. Somehow, its message is accidentally decoded while trying to figure out something else. –thedeliriousdonut

She had first seen the face in the static as a young girl, impatiently waiting for her father to adjust the antenna. It crackled on the screen like a black and white blizzard, and she liked to pretend she could see funny shapes in it. There was a bunny wearing a top hat. A bear on a unicycle. A face, pressed against the glass, staring at her. A flower.

If she had just blinked at the right moment, she would have missed it, and her life never would have turned out the way it did. But fate is cruel, and the face in the static stayed with her. She tried to tell her parents, but they believed it to be a sign of an active imagination. For her birthday that year, she got a set of watercolor paints. She quickly ran out of black, as she tried to recreate the static-y face on the white paper.

She could never get it right. Her memory of it kept changing, usually by the time she finished one picture, as if the face was slowly moving in her own mind. It shifted gradually over the span of months and years. Nobody else could see the face in her pictures, though to her it was plain as day. Her parents thought she was just going through an ‘impressionist’ phase.

Every day, for years, she would try to trap the memory on paper. Each picture was added to a thick binder, and when that binder became too full, she began to fill another one. She never told her parents, opting instead to buy the supplies herself and paint only in the depths of the night. And whenever she saw static, she stared at it, unblinking, hoping or fearing that she would see the face again.

When she finally noticed the pattern, fifteen years after her first encounter with the face, she felt like a fool. She saw it when flipping through her first binder of pictures, which now numbered in the thousands. She had started going through them like a flipbook, holding the pages up and letting them fall one by one, static pictures becoming frames of animation.

She rearranged them in reverse order, an ordeal that took her months, and in that time she made still more pictures, the task having become a ritual to her, as intrinsic as brushing her teeth every night. Finally, she was done, and could see the movement in the proper order.

There was no sound except the rustling of paper, but it spoke to her. Now, she could clearly see that the slow changes of the mouth was the formation of words, something so obvious that she had never noticed it before. She couldn’t read lips, but she knew what the thing was saying.

The face spoke three words, then it hammered on the paper, furious that it was trapped. It screamed again, those same three words, glaring at her as if she was responsible for its imprisonment.

Three words, spoken over the course of months.

LET ME OUT.

Terrified, she screamed, dropping the thick binder in her mad dash to get away from it. Her body controlled her actions, scrambling for a match, a lighter, anything to burn the horrible pictures away.

It was inside them. It had escaped from the static that night, burrowed in her mind, and even now was struggling for freedom. She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew.

Finally, a match was found, struck, and thrown on the binder. It caught like tinder, and spread like wildfire. She screamed as the fire overtook her, and the thing in her mind screamed as well. TRAITOR, her memory of that night screamed at her, pushing to be freed from the confines of her mind.

She smiled as she died, knowing that she had won, though she didn’t understand why. She was very glad about that.

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