Hey, all! This is my first dabbling in the horror genre; it's not necessarily terrifying, but hopefully it's at least a little disturbing!
You can thank Three Dog Night and Rod Serling for this story; this story is kind of a love child of the two!
I don't own the lyrics which open up this story.
Walk but you'll never get away
No, you'll never get away from the burnin' a-heartache
I walked to Apollo by the bay
Everywhere I go though, Eli's a-comin'
-"Eli's Coming", Three Dog Night
ELI'S COMING- A phrase signifying a portend of something evil.
-The Urban Dictionary
Jackie Paulson entered the dark soundstage, closing the door behind him. Jackie stood still for a moment, letting his eyes adjust from the bright light of the southern California sun to the cool dark. Once he could see well enough to move, he did so, moving through the otherworldly-looking shadows the light towers cast on the floor and hacking through the jungle of wires until he arrived at the newsroom set.
At the horseshoe-shaped desk that was the centerpiece of the set sat three people. On the left side of the desk sat Heather Rhodes, a young, blonde, California-sun-and-surf type, dressed snappily in a gray pantsuit. On the right side of the desk sat Mackie Landers, an always-frazzled looking middle-aged man in a brown three-piece suit that had to be at least forty years old. At the dip in the desk sat a young boy, about sixteen years old. He had a shock of blond hair, uncombed and wavy. The boy had the most intense blue eyes that Jackie had ever seen. The boy moved his head from side to side, seeming to scan the room. The boy's eyes locked on Jackie's for a moment, paused there for a moment, then continued his slide around the room.
Jackie made his way up to the control booth that sat above the set and entered. Walking with purpose, he made his way to Michaela Lawrence, the young woman with the thick, red wavy hair standing in the middle of the room.
Michaela pasted on a broad smile as she saw Jackie approach. "Hello, Mr. Paulson! How nice of you to visit!"
"You won't think it's nice in a moment," Jackie growled in what he hoped was an intimidating manner. "What's the story on changing my schedule? Where's the escape artist?"
"Hey, you always told me to go out and find good stories. That's what I did," Jackie said.
"You always pick the most inconvenient times to take my advice."
"Well, that's what I do best, babe."
"Well, just count yourself fortunate that you found a replacement. Who is that kid, anyway? The Gerber poster child?"
"You'll find out. It's even better than any old escape artist."
With that, the cameraman's voice came over the control booth loudspeaker. "And we're live in five, four, three, two, one…"
Mackie took a long, world-weary sigh and launched into his routine. "And welcome back. Do you believe in prophets? ESP? Precognition? Most people would say no. Of course, however, now and then, something happens that makes a strong case for the existence of the paranormal. We have one such case with us today, a young man whose mother claims he's predicted such world-changing events as the Columbia disaster, 9/11 and the Japan tsunami, along with many household events. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tommy Mitchell."
Mackie swiveled his chair around to face Tommy. "Tommy, your mother says you can see the future. Do you agree with your mother's statement?"
Tommy's voice was intense as his eyes. "I do see things. They're not always things that I'd like to see, but I do see them."
"I imagine it's not always easy to share these things with others."
"It's never easy."
"Why do you share them, then?"
"Because it's my duty. My mom says that I have this gift for a reason, and it's up to me to use it for good."
"Sounds like you have a great mother."
"Would you do some predictions for us now, Tommy?"
Tommy sighed, a sad look crossing his face. He nodded slowly and closed his eyes. The boy sat there silently, vibrating a little, as if an electric current was running through his body, for about a minute. Tommy then opened his eyes and trained them on Mackie.
"This newscast will be your last," Tommy said, his voice taking on a majestic tone. "Your dreams will come true tonight."
While Mackie just sat there, astonished, Tommy turned toward Heather. "This will also be your last newscast, but for a sad reason. I feel bad for you and your family."
Mackie was still unable to talk, and Heather was unable to, also, for a moment. Heather regained her composure, however, and said, "This is KNOE LA News at Five. We'll see you tomorrow."
"You realize what kind of waves that kid is gonna cause, right? The waves it's already causing?" Jackie said into his iPhone as he pulled a Bud Light out of his fridge.
"Come on, Jackie. It's just a kid. How much trouble can he cause?" Michaela said from her apartment overlooking Hollywood Boulevard.
"Uh, quite a bit. Billy the Kid was only eighteen years old, look at all the trouble he caused!"
"Come on. A vicious killer, a supposed prophet. It's not like he's shooting people from a college tower. If some people have got frayed nerves, oh, well. It's not like that's ever killed anyone," Michaela said.
"Yeah, but… but…"
"Jackie, stammer for just a few more minutes before you tell me I win."
"Okay, fine. It was a good idea, the kid. You win."
"I knew you'd see the light."
Jackie leaned forward across his huge oak desk, unable to believe what he had just heard. He could feel the noontime sun beam through the window onto his back, a sensation Jackie usually enjoyed, but not today.
"Could you repeat that?" Jackie said, his eyes staring right across his football-field-sized desk at Michaela, who was sitting in a chair on the other side of the desk.
Michaela sighed. "Heather was hit by a car on her way to work today. Her neck was snapped. She was killed instantly."
"I guess he had written a TV pilot that had been floating around the studio for a while, some sort of horror TV movie that's supposed to branch off into a TV show. The network decided to put the pilot into production, and they want him to be the head writer on the show and host the show, too. They start writing the show's scripts this week."
Jackie sighed and rubbed his nose, like he always did when he was stressed. "And there's no chance of him coming back?"
"No. He says with the new writing schedule, there's no way he could come back even if he wanted to. And, to be honest with you, I don't think he even wants to."
"Well, that's just great. Losing both our news anchors on one…" Jackie cut himself off as he remembered what Tommy had said the night before. Jackie jumped out of his chair with such force that it made Michaela jump. He slammed both his hands down on his desk so hard it made the desk tremble. "Wait a minute! This is a blessing in disguise!"
"A blessing? Jackie, have you gone off your rocker?"
"You'll see. Call the papers. Yes, now. Use my phone. Tell them exactly what I tell you to say."
"I don't want to go on again," Tommy said, his voice filled with resolution.
"But, Tommy, you have to," Michaela said in her most motherly voice. "You don't want to disappoint everybody watching, do you? They all tuned in to see you."
"I don't care. I don't want to go on."
"Why not, Tommy? Is it because of Ms. Rhodes? You know nobody blames you for that."
"I know, and it's not that."
"Then what is it? Tommy, you know I can't help you if you don't talk to me."
Tommy remained silent.
"Come on, Tommy. You know I won't make fun of you or make you feel stupid."
Tommy took a deep breath. "Well… because I don't want to upset any more people. Like, what if I see something bad?"
"It'll be okay," Michaela said. "Everybody will understand."
Tommy hesitated. "Well… okay."
Grayson Michaels was a little wet behind the ears (right out of college), but he was warm and personable, a good replacement for Mackie and Heather. He looked a little stiff in his new suit, specially bought to be worn on the show, but Grayson's personality was anything but stiff. When the cameras started rolling, Grayson put on a warm smile and looked right into the camera.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, this evening, we have a special treat for you. Tommy Mitchell, the teenage prophet you've probably read about in the papers, has consented to come and pay us another visit." Grayson turned toward Tommy. "How've you been, Tommy?"
"Are you going to give us a prediction this evening?" Grayson wasn't one to beat around the bush.
Tommy sighed. "I suppose so." Tommy closed his eyes again and was silent, but it was much longer this time, about a minute longer. When he opened his eyes again, he was silent a moment longer, a tear rolling down his cheek the only indication of any emotion.
Grayson broke the silence. "Tommy? Are you okay?"
Tommy nodded. He wiped the tear from his cheek and faced the camera. "Okay," he said. "Tomorrow, everything's gonna be different. I don't mean just this city or just California or even just the United States. I mean the whole world. Today, we have wars and pollution and fighting in families and divorce and murders and all that kind of stuff. Tomorrow, all that will be gone. And I don't mean tomorrow in a large sense, like in twenty years or so. I mean tomorrow like real tomorrow, like when you wake up in the morning. When we go to bed tonight, all those bad things will be there. When we wake up, they'll be gone. Something is going to happen tomorrow morning that will wipe all those things away. It'll be a new world. A perfect one."
The silence was once again deafening in the studio. Slowly and with a trembling hand, Grayson swiveled back to his original position. "And that's the news for tonight. See you… tomorrow."
Tommy looked down at the stark white shag carpeting in Jackie's office, unwilling to look into anybody's eyes.
"Tommy, there's got to be more to the prediction than that!" Jackie said, pounding his fist on his desk.
"Well… there were some more details, but they were nothing important," Tommy said, drawing a cross in the carpet with his foot.
"Tommy," Michaela said gently, "This is not just somebody's promotion or somebody dying. This is world-changing. I know you know the significance of that."
"This is why it's so important that we know every detail. The slightest thing may be important."
Tommy looked up at Michaela, then swung his gaze to Jackie. "I know, but I didn't want to upset anyone."
Michaela frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Everything I said is true," Tommy said. "But I left out one thing. I know how it's gonna happen."
"How?" Jackie blurted.
"I'll tell you," Tommy said, walking to the large windows that lined the wall behind Jackie's desk, Michaela following.
"You see the sun?" Tommy said. Jackie and Michaela nodded in unison as they stared out the window at the sun, looking large and blood-red in the sky.
"It won't look like that tomorrow," Tommy said.
Michaela and Jackie looked at Tommy. "What do you mean?" Michaela asked.
"It'll change," Tommy said. "It'll explode. It's like I read about in my schoolbook once…"
"A supernova?" Jackie said.
Tommy nodded. "A supernova. All that radiation, all that heat, everything. It'll fry the earth and everyone on it. All this tomorrow. There won't be any bad stuff, but there won't be any good, either."
Tommy fell silent and Jackie and Michaela turned and looked out the window again. None of them spoke. There was nothing more to say.