• • •
The hillbilly fuckers are sitting on either side of the couch, each resting an arm on an arm. There’s space to sit between them. Jonathan Knox supposes this day will keep on getting better. He hobbles to the couch and gingerly sits down, expecting the cushion to soak his pants. It doesn’t. At least there’s that.
He turns left and sees Courtney looking at him, turns right and sees Cletus looking at him, faces forward and sees the front door mocking him. Come on, Knoxxi Boi, the door is saying, the way out’s right here. Come on and grab my knob. He’s tempted, too. Wouldn’t be the first knob to go grabbed in this house.
“So what about the ceremony?” Jonathan Knox finally asks after at least a minute of being flanked with gawks. “What do I do?”
“This,” Cletus explains, “is the ceremony, Knoxxi Boi. Every Sunday the wife’n’I skip our breakfast, sit down on this couch, and when the time is right we turn on the television and watch what it has to show us.”
“That’s it?” He turns to Courtney and sees her nodding with a smile. “How is that a ceremony?”
“‘Cause we’re actin’ out’a the ordinary for a formal occasion. Our sit’n’watch is very special to us, Knoxxi Boi, and you’ll give us the respect we deserve.”
“I’m not trying to offend you,” Knoxxi Boi says to his captors and all too soon to be cannibalizers, “I just thought there would be… I don’t know. More, I guess.”
“Just like everyone else,” Cletus sighs. “Sometimes, Knoxxi Boi, one must understan’ that less can be more. Now, normally every time Courtney and I sit on this couch we’re all over one another, as you know very well yourself.”
Boi does he ever.
“But for the sit’n’watch, there’s none’a’that. No touchin’, no fuckin’, no suckin’, alls we do is sit until it’s time to watch, and then we watch. Simple as’at.”
“It’s special because it’s a break from the norm, Knoxxi Boi,” Courtney says, putting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s just like our taste for longpork. Most all the time we eat the lovely, delicious, scrum-diddly nutritious food fabricated for us by The Internet Culture Company.” It could be a product placement, the way she says that. Sweet Christ, it is a product placement. Bionic fuckin’ Earth… like, what the fuck, ‘man? “But every now and again we break from the norm and indulge ourselves a little bit. Just like we will after the sit’n’watch is over.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Jonathan Knox broods. They all stare at the television cylinder thing for a time. “So… are we going to watch or not?”
“Not time yet,” says Cletus.
“When will it–”
“When it’s time,” says Courtney.
And so they wait. And they wait. And they wait.
And then they wait s’more.
“How do you know when it’s time?”
“Oh,” Cletus says, facing forward with a smug dimpling his cheeks, “we’ll know.”
“We always know when to turn it on, Knoxxi Boi,” explains Courtney. “There’s always somethin’ on the television we need to see on Sundays, somethin’ that directly impacts our lives. We turn the television on as soon as it starts, and when it ends we turn the television off and the sit’n’watch is over.”
“I… see. But how do you know? ”
“We jus’ do,” Cletus says, doing an impression of Jonathan Knox’s wordly emphasis. “One of us’ll get a tingle in our head – it’s sort’a similar to the tingle we get in our groins, the one that tells us the other is ready for the next round when we ain’t in the same room to make it known ourselves – and we’ll flip it on and there it is, without fail.”
“Oh,” Jonathan Knox oh s. He’s not sure how to take this, it feels like they’re bullshitting him. “Well… what kind’a stuff do you usually see?”
“It depends, Knoxxi Boi,” says Courtney. “Sometimes it’ll be warnings about thunderstorms or lynch mobs runnin’ through the woods lookin’ f’r off-gridders like ourselves, but mostly it’s the general mundanity. Last time, it gave us a heads up about a new software update for the food fabricator, it makes longpork now.”
“Who would’a thought,” Cletus says with slight reverence. “The Internet Culture Company even looks out f’r folks like us.”
“Wai’wai’wait,” Jonathan Knox says, stomping the brakes. “The fabricator can make… what do you call it?”
“Longpork,” Courtney says. “Because it tastes just like pork, texture’n’everything. And because humans’re longer than pigs, but that part’s pro’ly obvious.”
Jonathan Knox swallows a lump of something. It only goes down halfway. “Right. So… so your food machine can fabricate longpork… but you’re still going to eat me…?”
“Course we are,” Cletus says plainly. “Why the hell wouldn’t we?”
“Because you can fabricate it!! ”
“Easy there, Knoxxi Boi,” Cletus warns him. “Mouth off like that again I’ll pop y’r tailbone through y’Goddamn bellybutton.”
“You’ll do what? ”
“Think about it.”
Jonathan Knox thinks about it, but doing so only serves to befuddle him further. “Why do I have to die when you can just fabricate the longpork?”
“Fabricated food ain’t the same as the real thing, Knoxxi Boi,” says Courtney.
“All the food you gave me tasted fine.”
“It ain’t the same,” Cletus decides. “Hush the fuck up now, I think I’m gettin’ the tingle.”
“Is it time, Cletus??”
Rather than answer, Cletus merely tilts his chin back, half-shutting his ‘lids as the ‘balls roll back in his head, and makes a narrow open-mouth frown. It almost looks like he’s going to sneeze. Then, he sneezes.
“Bless you, dearie.”
“Thank you, baby. Jus’ a false alarm.”
Jonathan Knox doesn’t know what the fuck anymore.
Courtney makes the sneeze face and starts wavin’ her hand at Cletus.
“You got the tingle, Court’?”
“Turn it on, boo’bah,” says Courtney as minor convulsions sweep through her body. “I’m gettin’ the tingle, I’m gettin’ it real strong!”
“It’s probably just a sneeze,” as Jonathan Knox reaches for a thread of normalcy.
“Ain’t no sneeze, Knoxxi Bitch. Courtney knows the tingle.”
Cletus removes his arm from the chasm between the arm of the couch and his flat cushion and reveals a chrome remote control with five buttons: two for channel, two for volume, and one for power. He presses the latter and the small black dome atop the centerpiece begins to whir like something is spinning beneath its shell. Above it, at eye level, appears a holographic screen showing in crisp color with life (not lifelike but simply life) graphics a full body shot of Jonathan Knox dressed as he is now (save for the bloody cloth wrapped around his droolin’ foot) except neater, like his duds had been suds’d, no experience needed, moments before the picture was taken.
“Whut in tarnation…?”
[to be cont’d]
This has been the start of the last subchapter of the first chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
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