(excerpt from Doman Ate Your Meat)
Phil knows that the urban legends from childhood aren’t real. They were, well, legends, stories told around a campfire to tickle that itch of fear and wonder. This is one he found out about as a grown man in his twenties, well past the period in one’s life where superstitions are taken seriously. It’s probably just as imaginary as any other, but something about it feels different.
Yesterday, his best friend Trash asked him if he had ever heard of Daym. Phil figured he was talking about the common curse word or somebody with a messed up name. Trash told him about a ritual that leads to an amazing spiritual experience. He wasn’t sure why they called it Daym. Maybe it was some acronym people forgot long ago. The origin of the name doesn’t matter as much as what it supposedly does.
Now, Phil stands before the bathroom mirror with the door closed and his hand on the light switch. Why do these things have to be done in a bathroom? He makes a face when he notices that his hand is trembling, ‘tsking’ loudly before turning the light out. Following a brief pause, he recites the simple ritual.
“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.” Phil takes a nervous breath before repeating it. “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”
He turns the light on, hoping to see himself transformed into some kind of Lovecraftian beast, but all he sees is plain old Phil. The experience probably takes time to creep into the psyche. Or, Trash is full of crap, as usual. When they last spoke, Trash was talking all weird, jabbering on and on about how Phil absolutely needed to try this. It sounded like he might have been tripping on something, and apparently, it was one of the most glorious experiences in the history of the world.
Opening the old wood panel door, Phil steps into the hallway. He notices something move in his periphery, only to see the pale green linen closet when he turns his head. It’s already dusk as the dimming rays shine through the diagonal diamond-shaped windows on the front door. He steps into the living room. Leftover pizza rests in an open box on the coffee table. Tearing off a rubbery piece, he hastily stuffs it in his mouth. It tastes better cold than hot.
He picks up the remote and turns on the evening news. He rarely watches it all, staying on just long enough to see the weather lady do her part. She’s hot. Paula Sunterland was a girl he had a crush on in middle school. He credits himself for being one of the first to notice her beauty before she really blossomed in high school. Not being a part of her crew and only having one class together meant that he didn’t really know her. Phil watches until Paula comes on but starts to drift off before she finishes.
“Travis. Travis. Travis. Wake your ass up, Travis.”
A woman’s voice is coming from the television, but the television screen is dark. When Phil reaches for the remote, he sees a woman standing at the other end of the sectional, near the hallway. He recoils, scurrying across the cushions, crab walking on his hands and feet. Something’s not right. It’s Paula wearing the same blue dress she was wearing on television. But her skin and clothes are glowing like she’s an LCD image. She walks toward him as he moves further away.
“Don’t be scared, Travis. I don’t bite,” Paula says. When her lips move, her voice still comes from the television.
“I’m not Travis. That’s Trash’s name. I’m Phil. H.. how did you get in here?”
“You’re silly. You know I’m always here,” the television says.
Paula sits down next to Phil and touches his hand. Her touch vibrates like an electric razor, sending a tingling feeling through his arm. He jerks his hand away and stands up. Paula pouts.
“Look out behind you,” she says calmly.
Phil looks back to see a hand pushing from inside the TV screen, like it’s latex, reaching for his back. He jumps away and winds up face to face with radiant Paula. She kisses him on the cheek before he can react. The feeling is the most unbelievable feeling ever. The vibration of her lips radiates from his cheek, spreading all the way down to the tips of his toes. The tingling sensation that accompanies it is better than any massage he has ever received. Phil just closes his eyes and enjoys it.
The vibration suddenly starts coming in bursts. It becomes more jolting than pleasurable. Phil opens his eyes to his vibrating phone on the coffee table. He’s lying down with his cheek, the one Paula kissed, pressed against the tweed couch cushion. He lifts his head, rubbing his sweaty, imprinted cheek. Grabs the phone. Slides the answer button. It’s Trash.
“Dude. Dude. Dude. Dude. What everyou do. Whatever you do! Don’t like… I mean, just don’t do that ritual I told you about.” Phil knows the urgency in Trash’s voice is real.
Phil tries to answer calmly, still feeling tingly all over. “Sorry, man. I already–”
“I’m telling you now. Do not do it! Daym is not just a cuss word. It’s an actual fucking curse.”
Travis rambles on faster and faster as his voice turns into auto-tune gibberish. It finally changes to a poorly executed guitar riff from a song Phil barely remembers. He hangs up…