Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rex's Birthday

It was Rex Dunbar’s 30th birthday. What a waste his life had been, he figured. He hadn't even gotten anything good, nor had he had any sort of party. He didn’t even get the day off, even though he asked for it. He'd gotten a handful of gifts from the usual suspects: his mom, dad, siblings. He also got a card from work, as usual. Sometime in the late afternoon, after work, he received a package. He didn't recognize the address or name of the sender, but he accepted it regardless. It was a small box with a card which simply read "Happy Birthday Rex!" No name. Inside the box was a DVD simply labeled "play this as soon as you get it. Important. Watch it all." He did as the DVD told him and popped it into his DVD player. 
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It didn’t seem particularly important. It was an old episode of The Price Is Right. He figured, judging by the hair and clothing styles of the contestants and the look of the prizes, that it was from the early 1980s. Nothing about this episode was particularly striking until… 

“Denise Dunbar, come on down!” Bob Barker had called down a woman with his mother’s name. When he was able to get a look at the very pregnant woman’s face, he found that, indeed, it was his mother. Rex found it strange that she’d never mentioned being a contestant on this show, or even hinted that she liked it, but that bit of weirdness soon gave way to curiosity. “So, Denise, you have 2 children already?” Bob asked. 

“Yes, Alexa and Steven, with a third on the way,” she said, patting her belly. The audience laughed, and Rex knew the rough time when this episode was filmed: shortly before his own birth. Sure enough, after Bob asked about the planned name, she said “I’d like to name him Wesley, but my husband really wants a Rex!” Rex wasn’t particularly surprised that his father won that argument. He was always a very controlling man, at least he was while he was alive. Denise eventually got to play 10 Chances. One of the prizes was a new car that looked exactly like the one that Rex’s mom drove when he was growing up. This made Rex believe that she won the car. However, she took four tries to get the first prize, and another four to get the second. The audience was trying to help...but she still failed her ninth attempt. On the tenth try, they all called out in unison “$9560” a few times. 

“The audience is helping you out, Denise. Is that what you’re going with?” Rex found that sort of statement a little leading, which was odd for a game show, but maybe Bob just took pity on the poor housewife. Denise nodded and wrote $9560. The theme song began playing triumphantly. “Congratulations, Denise!” She was understandably elated. Bob produced a contract and pen. “Just sign on the dotted line and the car is yours!” That was also strange, Rex thought. He’d only seen a few episodes of the show, but any contract signing that did happen generally took place back stage. Either way, Denise signed on the dotted line. Mr Barker briefly examined the signature, slipped the contract into his suit pocket, then snapped his finger. The lights immediately dimmed, and the theme song slowed down and played at a lower, warped pitch. Shadowy men grasped Denise from behind. “Come on down!” Bob cried, and the camera panned to the audience. A few were still fastening the belt around their robes or slipping their hood over their faces, but within a moment, all were standing, walking down to the stage and chanting along with the newer theme song. It was in a language that Rex didn’t understand or recognize. 

“What is going on?” Denise asked, nearly overcome with fear. 

“Shut up, cunt!” Bob angrily shoved something that looked like a pill into Denise’s mouth, kept her mouth closed and massaged her throat to make her swallow. She began to cry. A man wheeled a hospital bed behind her, and the two who held onto her forced her onto her back on the bed. They quickly strapped her down. “Hike up her dress and get her panties off!” The cultists obeyed Bob Barker’s command, and Denise began screaming in protest. “Stop it! Stop it!” “You signed the contract!” Bob sneered as the cultists continued chanting. “To be fair, that only was to make it easier. We can get what we want without your consent, but it takes more effort. And hey, you get a car out of the deal!” He could see her fear, and paused a moment. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, we’re not going to rape you.” He leaned in closer. “Your child is important to us.” Rex began worrying for himself. “You see, the drug I gave you should induce labour in a few-there it is!” Her water broke and Bob stepped aside. “And this child will belong to our dark lord.” Denise began screaming, both out of pain and at the prospect of giving the child to any sort of demon. “We’ve had our eye on your line for a while. Every generation or so, a member of your family gives a son to us, and on his thirtieth birthday, our lord takes over his body.” Rex normally didn’t believe in that sort of thing, so he wasn’t worried about being possessed…but he was worried they’d come for him. 

“NO!” Denise screamed. 

“YES!” Bob Barker replied. “We get one of ours to marry one of yours…oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Sam was one of us.” It made a lot of sense to Rex. “Anyway, we do that, then when the kid is born, we perform the ritual. Then Atroban gets him 30 years to the day later. And this time, you get a new car out of the deal. I figure the price is right, wouldn’t you agree?” Rex wanted to groan at the lameness of that reference, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He was too transfixed on what was happening below. His head was already starting to come out. “Don’t worry, Denise, it’s all taken care of. We’ll protect him, make sure he gets a good 30 years, and best of all, you won’t remember a thing! See, we can do things like that. You won’t remember any of this. By this time tomorrow, you’ll have a bouncing baby boy, a new car, and you’ll think you had a regular hospital birth right after buying this thing. You get a car, no guilt, no worry about the pre-ordained day, the baby gets 30 years of life and health, we get our vessel for our dark lord, and you won’t even remember the birth pain. Everyone wins!” Rex didn’t think he’d win in this deal, not really. His mother kept screaming and crying until Barker finally had her gagged. Bob Barker then turned to the camera. 

“Hey, Rex! I know you’re watching, or at least I’m sure you will be. You can fast forward past the next bit, this will take a while. Then again, you’re watching your own birth, it might be interesting. It’s up to you.” He then shrugged and went back to assisting the other cultists with the birthing process. He was still in his regular suit, while everyone else was in the black robes of the cult. Rex did, indeed, fast forward. While watching his own birth was surreal, the circumstances around it were quite distasteful, and he was more concerned with listening for signs of them getting in. After all, they knew his address…The birthing process seemed to take an hour, and Rex hit play again when the umbilical cord was cut. The chanting seemingly hadn’t stopped, and baby Rex was being washed in a basinet. Bob Barker motioned for a jar. He put his right hand in it, covering his index and middle fingers with a red, glowing substance. He picked up baby Rex with his left hand. 

“In the name of Atroban, I consecrate this child as your Vessel.” Then, he touched Baby Rex’s left ankle and drew a small design on it. It didn’t seem to burn, but Rex did recognize it as an odd birthmark he’d had his whole life. The cultists unstrapped Denise, put her panties back on, and helped her up. She was barely conscious. Bob handed the baby to a cultist to his left, then looked directly into Denise’s eyes. “This never happened,” he said in a somewhat hypnotic tone. “He was born in Cedar Sinai Hospital, you and your husband bought the car earlier today, the mark on his ankle is a birthmark.” She seemed to nod in agreement, and was then given her baby. “You take care of him, you hear?” She nodded as she was led off, and Bob strode towards the camera. “Well, Rex…don’t worry. Atroban won’t end the world while in your body or anything like that, he’ll just…work towards it. Anyway, if I were you, I’d unlock the doors. Just let us in. It’s much less painful that way.” Bob Barker began laughing, and the tape ended with a title card.

“Open the door, Rex.” 

Just then, there was a pounding at Rex’s front door, back door, and at every window. Rex froze. The DVD was over, back to the menu screen, but the chanting of that slowed down Price Is Right theme song hadn’t stopped. He was surrounded. He had no way of escape, and the police would not be able to get to him in time. He took a deep breath, unlocked the front door, then curled up on the floor and accepted his fate. And here is the rest of it.

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