My sister's name is Mary. At the time, she was five years old. She is the reason. It was her fault, you hear me? I didn't put it on. She made me watch it. It was a Thursday night in the summer of 2005, around five o'clock. She told me to turn the TV on for her. My mom was in the kitchen two rooms down. Mom. Mother. Mother didn't know. I put on PBS kids and watched Between the Lions for about an hour. Then came the commercial break. The first sign. First. A commercial for Chick Fil A flicked on. A cow stood in a white room in front of a chalkboard. The announcer spurted out robotically: "Chick Fil A is a proud sponsor of PBS kids. Why? Maybe because Chick Fil A promotes high quality programming here on PBS.
The cows have no beef with that. (Moo!)" But that was not the problem. The chalkboard. Scratched into it with what seemed to be fingernails was a single word. ZErO. And something was wrong with the cow. It's eyes expressed mild panic. I was horrified. I didn't remember the commercial being so creepy. I turned to my sister. She was smiling, looking at the screen. I had forgotten she couldn't read. But as I was looking at her, I heard a noise coming from the TV. It was someone loudly whispering "IT." I looked back at the TV and quickly saw something flash. But then it was just a Juicy Juice commercial, untampered with. That was when I saw a red light on the VCR. I was recording. I didn't remember turning it on.
The regular PBS Kids bumper started with Dash the green person. But when he moved his mouth, no words came out. And a single drip slowly crept down from the "B" in "PBS". The Sesame Street theme song came on. At the scene where Big Bird slid down the playground slide, the show paused. For about five seconds I sat there, staring, but then I saw it. In the background a man stood in the sandbox. He wore all white, but his eyes were like blackholes, sucking the light out of the surrounding air. But then he slowly started to turn his head towards Big Bird. Keep in mind that the rest of the screen was still.