In Between Saturday Morning Cartoons by Katherine Bergeron
Do you remember waking up before your parents to watch Saturday morning cartoons on the good TV in the living room? One time you woke up too early and some boring, cheap kids show from 10 years ago was on. That’s when you took a break and went to your room.
But instead of taking a nap, you went into your closet to look for something. Feeling around in the dark, you found the back of your closet was open space. Peering through your hanging clothes, you saw a large, darkened room. A bunch of children you had never seen before were sitting around a circular table, all quietly coloring. Despite the strangeness of finding this inside your closet, you felt inexplicably drawn into the large room.
There was an empty seat at the table and you approached it and sat down. There were a number of loose crayons scattered on the table, but the only color available was black. You peeked at the other children and saw all of them only held black crayons.
You picked up a crayon and began doodling on a blank sheet of paper in front of you. The other children appeared to be drawing circles—swirling the crayons around and around on their papers. You attempted to imitate what you saw the other children doing.
Slowly, you became aware of a presence in the room. You caught their scent before you could see them—they smelled like the hot dust on a television vent. You were afraid to look up—you colored harder, blackening the page. You were sweating, wondering if you should run back to the safety of your bedroom, but you didn’t want to attract the attention of whoever or whatever was encircling the table.
Out of the corner of your eye, you saw dozens of figures creeping out of the darkness. They were human-shaped, but their bodies appeared to be made of the shimmering grey static of a dying television set. They seemed to collectively breathe out a low electronic hiss as they crowded around behind the children.
An air horn boomed—you nearly jumped out of your skin. All of the children got up and stood at attention beside their chairs—you followed their lead. On cue, the children picked up and held out their drawings—you did the same. You glanced around at the different pictures—each one was a similar mass of childish black scribbles. You waited, holding in your breath, trying not to accidentally brush against one of the figures standing behind you, wondering what was next.
One of the children (who was the tallest and oldest-looking) pointed at a kid in blue overalls. Then another child pointed at the kid in blue overalls, then every child raised their arm and did the same. A child next to you gave you a sharp look, and you reluctantly pointed at the kid in blue overalls, too.
The face of the kid in blue overalls was ashen with terror. The figures gathered and fused together as one flickering, tentacled mass, like an unholy sun. The mass floated to the kid in blue overalls. It swept its many limbs over the kid’s body and dragged them backward into the darkness, the kid’s sneakers scraping on the gritty floor. The kid in blue overalls screamed out only once before their voice choked off.
The room fell silent. You searched the faces of the remaining children, but none would look you in the eye. What have we done, you thought, what have I done?
Somehow you found yourself back in your bedroom—you did not recall leaving the children’s table. You could hear the theme song of your favorite cartoon playing in the living room, and you sprinted to go watch the show. You tried to concentrate on the colorful characters and fanciful story, desperate to blot out what you just experienced. Only when your parents got up hours later did you feel safe enough to check your closet—the open space was gone and the closet walls were there, solid as ever.
Do you remember? Because I saw you there, too.
Katherine Bergeron’s writings have been published by The Haven, The Satirist, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and Circlet Press. She is a regular contributor to Storytime at the Ape’s Nest, Boston’s monthly showcase of weird tales with live noise music accompaniment. Her work can be seen on DameCore.com. She lives in the Greater Boston area.