Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Short Story: If At First

Manuals - We don't need no stinking manuals. Isn't this what most men think?


If At First
by Paul Darcy

Three hours and twenty minutes later, Melvin was hyperventilating and trying his best to not put his foot through the picture tube. And it wasn’t even a bloody tube, it was one of those plasma screens. What would happen, should he lose it and actually puncture the screen? Maybe the unit would vent like and Enterprise nacelle when it needed to break loose from some hostile galactic entity or make contact with a hyper-spacial race who could only communicate through exchanging crude physics via sub space. And this inner discussion was not solving his bloody dilemma.

There was a book, perhaps eight by six inches filled with directions for the hookup he was trying to master with logic. Piss on it, he thought, it will not defeat me. Resorting to that manual was for the weak, the uneducated, the inferior. No electronic device had made him search for the answers in some horribly laid out manual. They were all the same anyhow. Filled with schematics depicting everything you needed to know and on the opposite page words in English, or rather garbled quasi-Japanese-Korea-bastardization English like: red plug electrocute ground force. Co-join socket plug initial setting unless unit master three plug no connect. And the brainless warning; No water unit, like he was going to take the whole thing into the tub with him to watch movies.

So, several deep breaths later, Melvin tried again. He unplugged all the wires and cables and laid them out on the couch. He started with the cable box which he routed into the plasma unit, out again to surround sound amp, to sub. So far, so good. Next, old VCR in outs to the amp back into the plasma unit. Check. Dvd player in outs to amp to tv. Check. Now, satellite feed into descrambler, to amp to tv to vcr back to amp. Now all power cords into the octopus plugin and breaker on. Check.

He pushed in a DVD and made sure everything was powered up. The DVD player spun up to speed and... blue plasma screen like a goddamn backdrop for a horror movie where the man in a rubber monster suit had the special model effects put in later. The timer on the DVD was working fine so the disc was spinning, but no frickin picture again. Melvin tried VH-1 VH-2 every one of the 999 channels and still no bloody picture. And, hey, shouldn’t there be some sound.

He cranked up the amp and heard only static, then one massive thump from the sub as some random power shock made it activate violently. Calm, gotta stay calm. Melvin looked over at the manual, that abomination sitting, almost smirking at him from the coffee table. You can laugh all you want you ground up tree scrap but I’ll not flip you open and give you any pleasure.

Four hours and thirty two minutes later and he had sound but now the blue screen had turned to white fuzz. Only the satellite feed was coming through on audio. Sounded like an old Bob Hope movie and his wise cracking voice was grating on his already frazzled nerves. Twice he had hit the manual will all his might, but it deflected his fury like a shield, mocking him, daring him to succumb. But he would not open it. Piss off you pile of crap, Melvin swore at the manual, the tv, the converter box and the next door neighbor who was watching the game on his big screen. From across the street he could almost read the numbers on the player’s sweaters.

Manual reading Wuss, Melvin thought. Bob rerouted another line bringing a clear chorus of laughter through his surround system... all but the center speaker. It was progress, and without that infernal manual.

Melvin, after so many futile rearrangements of the wires began to play a dangerous game. Live cable jockeying. He knew it was wrong. He knew it was dangerous, but by crap, this pile of electronic junk was going to know who was the bloody boss. After nearly blowing his eardrums the first time, he decided that Russian roulette with the amp cranked up, incase he would happen by chance upon a correct hookup, was not a good idea. But after a while, despite the manuals ever present mocking presence, he could toggle, with several quick cable changes sound from satellite and blue screen, or sound from cable box and white fuzz. He even figure out how to get video, on channel 73 from the VCR, but no sound. Soon, bloody soon this crap would be under his control and he would be master of his electronic domain.

Five hours twenty seven minutes and Melvin was down to only his pants, sweating, swearing, raging until the veins were pulsing on his head ready to burst. He had hit the plasma screen once, hard, but it didn’t make him feel any better and because of it he couldn’t get the proper shade of blue screen anymore. Two cables, he was not sure how important they really were, he had bitten in half. He could still taste metal in his mouth but wasn’t sure if it was blood or the copper innards of the cables he had severed.

He stopped for a break. The sub was making a droning hum like a guitar amp cranked up about to blast out feedback. The plasma tv was flickering from white fuzz to grey lines and back again. It had started that shortly after he had jammed in a composite video cable into the optical connector. "You are mine," he swore hurling the beer bottle across his living room. He strode to the manual, picked it up... No, no would not succumb, he would not. He took it in his teeth and shredded the repulsive manual to bits actually masticating some of it and swallowing with the last of his beer. "You bastard equipment" he yelled, wild anger flashing in his eyes. Never before, never, never.

Picking up the plasm tv, it weighed a good hundred and twenty pounds, he let it drop from the stand to the floor. Next he ripped the cables from the amp and threw them onto the couch. And as if in complete mockery, video and audio feed from the DVD suddenly jumped onto the screen. He dropped to his knees, kissing the plasma screen full on. He knew it couldn’t defeat him, it... went to white fuzz again. No... No! You son of a...

Picking up the octopus power cord Melvin sank his teeth into it for all he was worth.

***

"Deranged, and an obvious suicide," was constable Tenants comments for the local paper. "We could find no cause as to why he would electrocute himself, that way. He’d been drinking, maybe on drugs too. We won’t know for sure until after the coroner does the autopsy."

The End
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