Season 1, Episode 3
Of all the teenage highs to chase,
we chose fear, the kind best felt
slumped in bean bag chairs
in dark basements. For years,
the flickering TV disgorged monsters,
each one fuzzy enough for our brains
to fill in the horror we wanted,
a weekly scapegoat for our nagging,
unshakeable dread. That eerie whistle.
You know the one. A siren song
for 90s rejects with nowhere to be
Friday nights besides listening
to the house creak as Mulder and Scully
investigate inexplicable phenomena:
biohazard bags of sentient tumors,
coughed-up flukes down the drain,
limbless matriarchs like 3rd base
with eyes, and alien hosts with black oil
in their eyes. Most of these storylines
slid off us after the first cheap thrill,
forgotten long before the VHS tapes
were Goodwilled and we’d convinced
ourselves there wasn’t anything
out there, certainly not the truth.
But we all still carry one episode with us,
one that wriggled under our skins,
and lay dormant. Can you feel it?
There, that tight knot in your chest
that says something’s wrong–
the one you ignore because what’s the point?
You’re alone on your couch Friday night
with the house locked up around you
and the whole street silent. For a second,
you see yourself from far away,
as if you’re hovering by the vent in the corner,
watching yourself reach for more popcorn.
The whole scene recalls the grainy TV
of your youth like dejà vu, and you realize
you’re waiting for the next shotZ
when the camera will re-focus
on the cent in the foreground,
a screw unscrewing
Erinn Batykefer earned her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of Allegheny, Monongahela (Red Hen Press) and The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide (Coffee House Press). She is co-founder and editor of The Library as Incubator Project, and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.