Turning on a TV unlocked the past as well as the future.
“What’s that thing?” Mort pointed at a box with a glass-eyed front and a wire tail hanging down from the back. His face, hands, and body were covered with attic dust. It hid his unusually kinky black hair, eyes and the almost coal-like color of his skin.
“You gotta read the antique books to know what’s worth pulling out or you’ll never make a penny.” Sal was the salt to his pepper. Under the grime was one of the few pure blondes around with alabaster skin and pure blue eyes.
“That’s why I hang around you. Learn more from you than a book any day.”
“Uh huh.” She walked over to wipe the front of her torn T-shirt against the glass and twist a few dials. “It’s a TV.”
“What do you do with it?” Mort watched his mentor play with the thing a moment before coughing some of the dust from his lungs.
“You sit down like this and you watch it.”
“It has a receiver of some kind that pulls what they called shows out of the air. You watch them.”
Mort sat down beside her and stared at the thing. “People did that?”
“Yeah. Just sat there for hours a day.” Sal licked dry lips and picked up the plug. “Didn’t work without this tail being pushed into a wall. Ran off electricity.” She blew hair out of her eyes. “You remember what that was, right?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Most everything had to have juice. It’s what destroyed the planet. Making all that juice for lights and heat and cold and riding to get someplace. Most people couldn’t survive without it. It’s why we almost didn’t.” He waited for her to get up. She didn’t. Sal licked her lips and chewed on them for a moment.
“Those show signals are said to be still traveling through space.”
“Like ghosts or something?”
“Yeah Kinda’. Might be getting weaker or might get bounced back stronger for all I know. I’m an antique dealer, not a scientist.” She made a quick sign to ward off evil. The underground science cult trying to resurrect the past was considered a terrorist organization.
“So we going to pull this or is it on the blacklist?”
“They’re rare as we are. Almost one of a kind. Priceless on the black market if we were bent that way. Set us up for life.” A dry chuckle escaped Sal along with another dusty cough.
“But if we were caught.” Mort shifted uneasily. He didn’t like hearing this kind of talk. He’d been brought up right.
“Either way we gotta’ get it out of here. Come on. It’ll take both of us to carry it.”
“Maybe we ought to report it, instead.”
They stood up wiping their hands on their sides.
“Hey. That’s a generator in the corner. The glass stuff by it is a solar panel.” Sal was getting a little agitated, twisting her fingers in and out of her T-shirt.
“So? That’s definitely blacklisted.” Mort stepped back, tripping over a smaller metal box. “This cabin may be haunted. I thought I heard a banshee in the surrounding woods on our way here.”
“You’re still wet behind the ears. That was no banshee. That was a wild dog. One or two must have survived out here.” Sal picked up the box, stared at the TV and then the generator. “It’s time to shit or get off the pot.”
“Say what?” Mort felt a chill run up and down his spine. He didn’t like where this was headed. “Come on, Sal. First you scare the pants off me talking about wild creatures from the history books lurking around and then you say you’re going to sin right here in front of me. I’d have to report you.”
“This is a DVD player. I’m going to see if it’ll work.” Sal pulled her T-shirt off over her head and began wiping the solar panels clean.
“I knew those books you read all the time would do you no good. Stop it, Sal. You stop this right now.” Mort headed down out of the attic not even looking to see if Sal followed. A strangely mournful cry greeted him from below stopping him in his tracks.
“It’s a pack of wild dogs. They had time to breed.” Sal’s laughter was bitter. “They’re hunting and got our scent. Go on and get yourself torn apart. They’ve got teeth the size of knives.”
“What… are we going to do?”
“So it’s we again, is it? Noise might scare them. A lot of noise. Come on. Help me put this together.”
Once more they sat side by side watching the TV. Sal had found a box of discs. She fed one to the DVD player, punched a few buttons on each device and watched the glass eye blink.
John Wayne peered out at Mort and said, “Howdy pilgrim.”
There was a startled sound from one of the dogs zeroing in on the cabin. The lead animal barked nervously as it scrambled inside through the broken window Mort and Sal had come in.
“Can they climb stairs?” Mort looked around for something to throw.
Sal turned another knob. The TV sound got louder. Shots rang through the air followed by an explosion from a cowboy dynamiting a mine. Background music sang out loud in an earsplitting scream.
Down below the dogs were going crazy. Then they were gone.
“Are they hiding and waiting for us to go down?” Mort stared from the action on the TV to Sal’s face wanting answers.
“We’re safe. Look at that. People everywhere on the TV. Look how they’re dressed and they’ve got horses.”
They were still watching when the backup party came searching for them. The priest kept his men outside the cabin. “Burn it down. There are ghosts inside. He could hear the two antique dealers laughing and talking up in the attic. He didn’t think Mort or Sal could be saved from the evil they’d brought back from the grave.
“Burn it and them along with it. It’s the only way to purify this ancient evil.” The crackling sound of licking flames grew hungry. The priest gave the sign to ward off evil. The sound of wild dogs mingled with that coming from the TV.
“That wild cry is coming from another direction, priest. The evil is already out upon the earth.” One of the followers pointed at the dogs waiting beyond the firelight for their turn to rid the earth of the human scourge which had befouled it.