Rela just bought a new VCR. When she goes to play back a movie she taped, Rela ends up watching the news--tomorrow's news! Reissue.
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Christopher Pike was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Los Angeles, where he lives to this day. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked in a factory, painted houses, and programmed computers. His hobbies include astronomy, meditating, running, playing with his nieces and nephews, and making sure his books are prominently displayed in local bookstores. He is the author of Last Act, Spellbound, Gimme a Kiss, Remember Me, Scavenger Hunt, Final Friends 1, 2, and 3, Fall into Darkness, See You Later, Witch, Die Softly, Bury Me Deep, Whisper of Death, Chain Letter 2: The Ancient Evil, Master of Murder, Monster, Road to Nowhere, The Eternal Enemy, The Immortal, The Wicked Heart, The Midnight Club, The Last Vampire, The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood, The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice, Remember Me 2: The Return, Remember Me 3: The Last Story, The Lost Mind, The Visitor, The Last Vampire 4: Phantom, The Last Vampire 5: Evil Thirst, The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever, The Starlight Crystal, Execution of Innocence, Tales of Terror #1, The Star Group, The Hollow Skull, and Tales of Terror #2 --- all available from Archway Paperbacks. Slumber Party, Weekend, Chain Letter, and Sati -- an adult novel about a very unusual lady -- are also by Mr. Pike.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I was just a normal teenage girl. I loved beautiful clothes and loud music, long telephone conversations and sleepy summer evenings. Most of all I loved cookies and boys. My favorite cookies were chocolate chip -- with milk. You've got to have milk to have cookies. That's what I always said.
My favorite boys -- well, actually, I had only one favorite boy. His name was Christopher. My name is Rela. I just used to have to think "Chris and Rela" to get goosebumps -- hoping that we would one day be together. Now when I think of us I feel a lot different -- sad, very sad. But there is beauty in sorrow, I realize that now. Someone I knew well once said if there was no sorrow in the world there would be no compassion. That's how I feel as I begin this tale -- filled with love for all the people of the world.
How fragile we all are. Time has a permanent hold on us the moment we're born. It allows us to grow, to get big. We go to school, we find jobs, we fall in love, get married, and have children. Time lets us do all these things. But then, in the end, it kills us. Time is like a friend but only for a time. You see, I don't have a lot of time to tell this story -- my old friend has come for me. This time it's my time.
I will begin, then.
I wanted to buy a VCR. My father didn't own one. We had to be the only family in Los Angeles that didn't have a machine, and the lack was particularly distressing to me because I loved movies so much. Honestly, on a Saturday or Sunday I could go to three movies in a row and not get tired. I had no taste and could watch anything, even low-budget sci-fi films with no story and cheesy special effects. Anything sci-fi sent me straight to technological heaven -- as long as I had popcorn. Ah, cookies, boys, movies, and popcorn. What a life!
Anyway, I wanted to buy a VCR, but I had only two hundred bucks to spend. I had saved the money from my after-school job at our local library -- three to nine Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Friends at school had told me Circuit City had good prices and a wide selection, so I went there. It was Thursday afternoon and I had just got out of my art class, where I had been working on a brilliant sculpture of my own head. What vanity, I know, but I was having fun.
A handsome young salesman practically jumped me when I entered the store. I didn't mind because I needed advice on what to buy. The guy was blond and tan, with bulging muscles that looked like they'd been injected. He was about twenty easy-California-living years old.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "I want to buy a VCR."
He gestured to a shelf of VCRs over his shoulder. A glance at the prices made me nervous -- nothing under three hundred. "We've got a wide selection," he said. "Do you know what you're looking for?"
"Something good and cheap."
He was amused. "How cheap?"
"Two hundred bucks."
"You're going to have to spend more than that to get something good."
"It's all I've got."
"Do you have plastic?"
"A credit card?"
"No," I said. "I only have a leather purse with ten twenties in it. That's all I've got in all the world."
He chuckled. "Another one of our poor homeless. We get them in all the time wanting to buy sophisticated electronic equipment." He turned. "Let's find you a VCR you like -- then you can worry about paying for it."
In the next five minutes Ed -- he had on a name tag -- explained why he preferred certain brands over others, and why two hundred bucks wasn't going to cut it. Yet as we wandered down the aisle I spotted a couple of machines on sale for less than two hundred. Ed said I didn't want one of them because they had only two heads and I wanted four.
"With only two heads you have horrible quality when you switch to slow motion," Ed said.
"Why would I ever switch to slow motion?" I asked. "I just want to be able to rent movies and watch them."
"Have you seen Lethal Weapon? The first one?"
"I don't think so."
"You must have seen it. When it came out on video it was the hottest movie in the country among women. The reason is because there's a scene near the beginning where Mel Gibson walks across the room butt naked. Now, you've got to have slow motion to fully enjoy that scene. If you have only two heads on your VCR and you watch that movie you'll probably break your blasted machine."
I must have looked somewhat incredulous. "I'm not going to risk ruining my VCR just to look at Mel Gibson's butt," I said.
"What's your name?" Ed asked suddenly.
"What kind of name is that?"
"A beautiful one. What kind of name is Ed?"
"How old are you?"
"Eighteen. Do I need a license to operate all four heads?"
He laughed. "It depends on what you're trying to slow down with all those heads. Look, I like you, Rela, I want to give you a deal. If you spend a little more than you want you'll thank me later."
I appraised him closely. "When am I going to see you later, Ed?"
That caught him by surprise. He took a step back and scratched his head through his short hair. "Well, I wouldn't mind seeing you later, Rela. What's your number?"
"Are you asking me out?"
"Yeah. You sound surprised."
"You hardly know me. You just met me."
Ed shrugged. "I hardly know any of my customers. In fact, I prefer it that way. But you're cute. What are you doing Saturday night?"
"I'm having a party at my house. That's why I want to buy the VCR -- so I can show a couple movies." I paused. "But you can't come to the party."
I hesitated. "My boyfriend's going to be there."
"You have a boyfriend?"
"Yeah. Now you sound surprised."
"I'm not, actually. I told you, you're cute. I do want to go out with you. Maybe Sunday night."
"But -- "
"How long have you known your boyfriend?"
"Not long. Actually, he's just a guy I like a lot."
Ed waved his hand. "He sounds like a jerk. Let's go to a movie Sunday night. That way you won't have to rent one."
I stopped and shook my head. "It's too bad I don't have four heads on top of my shoulders, then maybe I could keep up with you. Let's get back to business, Ed. You were going to give me a deal, and get me to pay more than I want to. How does this all work?"
"Do you have a checking account?"
"Yes, but that's where I got the two hundred in my purse now. I only have ten dollars left in my account."
Ed wasn't worried. "You can write us a postdated check. I'll tell the manager I know you and that you're trustworthy." He reached out and put his hand on a black VCR. "This is a Pioneer. It's pretty popular, and I sell a lot of them. You get four heads -- the machine's easy to program, and Pioneers seldom break down. Normally we sell this model for three hundred and forty, but I can give it to you for two eighty."
"Do I get such a big discount because you want to go out with me?"
Ed grinned. He wasn't a bad sort. "You get it because you have a beautiful name, Rela. That's reason enough."
I bought the VCR. I didn't have to make good on my postdated check for sixty days. I figured I'd be ahead of things by then. Ed asked me for my phone number as I was leaving the store. I just laughed. That can be the safest response sometimes.
I didn't laugh when he asked me for my driver's license so he could write the number down on the back of the check. I knew it was his job to ask. I lowered my head and told him I didn't have it with me. He said fine.
I was happy driving home with my new toy beside me on the front seat. I kept looking at it, thinking of all the movies I was going to be able to watch. Next, I thought, I was going to have to buy an electric popcorn popper.
And get a boyfriend.
I knew I had to call Christopher when I got home to invite him to my party. I had to give him some notice so he wouldn't make other plans. But I was too nervous to call right away so I decided to dial my best friend, Stacy, instead.
I had known Stacy for three months, since mid July, when I came to Los Angeles to be with my father. I met her at a park. I went there to fly a kite, or rather to try to fly a kite. There wasn't much wind that day and all my running up and down on the parched lawn wasn't getting my red paper diamond up into the sky. The day was hot and I was sweating gallons. I think Stacy must have watched me for a while before approaching me and asking if I was out of my mind. It was a novel way to say hello, and I liked her right away for it.
Stacy was one of those people who had no time lag between her brain and her tongue. She said exactly what was on her mind. Some people thought she was rude; they didn't know how sensitive she was. Yet, for all her straightforwardness her wit was subtle -- you had to be quick to catch it.
Stacy was big-boned and had short shiny brown hair. She was always making fun of herself. Truly, though, she didn't do this to cover some unseen pain. Stacy was one of the happiest people I knew. She was eighteen -- like me. The day I met her she took in my situation, cut my kite tail in half, and had my kite flying high five minutes later.
It was four in the afternoon when I spoke to Stacy. I hadn't unpacked my VCR yet. She called just as I picked up the phone to dial her.
"Rela," she said, "do you walk around with the phone plugged into your belly button? You always get it on the first ring."
"I'm telepathic," I said. "I always know when you're thinking of me. Hey, I did it, I -- "
"You called Chris? Wow!" she interrupted excitedly. Stacy also loved cookies and boys. One of the reasons she was chubby was that she loved doughnuts as well and could down a whole box without a single swallow of milk. She had no lack of boys calling her, though. They felt safe doing so, I suppose, since she went out with anybody who asked. She was a giving soul and by no means a virgin.
"No," I said. "I bought a VCR."
"Oh." She was disappointed. "You should call him. It's easier to ask a guy out over the phone cause then he can't see your face. If he says no, you won't have to hide your disappointment."
"I'm not asking him out. I'm just inviting him to my party. If he wants to go out with me he's going to have to do the asking. Let me tell you about my VCR. It's got four heads -- "
"Oh, cool, you have slow motion. I wish we had slow motion. Last week I watched the first Lethal Weapon and I wanted to see -- "
"Don't say it," I interrupted. "It was two hundred and eighty dollars. I had to give the guy a postdated check for eighty."
"He let you? He must really have had the hots for you."
"He did. He asked me out right there in the store. He wants to come to my party."
"Did you tell him where and when?"
"No. He was covered with bulging muscles. They almost looked fake."
"If he has your check, he has your address," Stacy observed. Like I said, she was no fool. She went on, "Did you tell him the party was this Saturday night?"
"I did. If he comes you can have him. Anyway, I can't call Christopher right now."
"I'll have a heart attack if he says no."
"He might say yes."
"There's only a fifty-fifty chance at best that he'll say yes. I don't want to die. I'm scared -- God, this is ridiculous. Are you sure he's not seeing anybody?"
Stacy paused. "Well, I didn't want to tell you this but I have seen him talking to Debbie Rosten at lunch a few days in a row."
"Debbie Rosten? God, she's a fox. I hate her. Why does he like her?"
"He was just talking to her. That doesn't mean he likes her. I talk to my brother's old dog all the time and it stinks."
"Debbie does not smell like old dog," I grumbled. "I'm not going to call him."
"Nothing. I've got to go. My dad's going to be home in an hour and I want to fix him a feast."
Stacy laughed. "You have to ask Chris out tomorrow at school. You won't have any peace until you do."
"What are you going to make for your dad?"
"I don't know -- something good."
"You never told me where you learned to cook."
"It's just something I picked up over the years," I said.
There were two TVs in our house, one in the living room, the other in my bedroom. When I bought the VCR I intended to put it in the living room so that my dad could enjoy it too. I took it out of the box in my bedroom, though, because I wanted to have privacy while I learned to use it.
I read the instruction manual while I darted between my bedroom and the kitchen. There was fish in the freezer -- I decided to cook that instead of the pasta I had been planning. The VCR instruction booklet was easy to follow. Technology was really dancing forward, I thought, as I set the machine to record a movie that was supposed to be on HBO late Friday night -- actually, super-early Saturday morning -- at three AM. Each entry I made flashed on the screen.
The film I was taping was an old sci-fi horror flick that I had seen as a kid. It was called It! The Terror from Beyond Space! It! was about a space expedition to Mars that had the misfortune of taking aboard an alien monster that had an insatiable craving for human flesh. I remembered how terrified I had been as a kid when several of the crew members were fleeing from the monster and the thing grabbed one of them by the leg. All you heard, while the camera focused on sweat running down the guy's pals' faces was horrible screaming. "Help me! Please, God, somebody help me!" That movie gave me nightmares for months -- I loved it. I figured It! would spice up my party if things got dull. Since the movie was to come on at three in the morning, I was thankful there were such things as microchips with memories.
Memories. Later, did I remember making a mistake programming the machine? No, I didn't, I really didn't, even now I don't think I did. It's all a mystery.
I left the VCR in my bedroom, for the time being.
My father came home at a quarter to six. His name was the Reverend Spencer Lindquist. He wasn't my real father. I was adopted. Spence was the minister at a Methodist church a mile from our house. He was a modern-day saint, and I don't say that just because he took care of me. He worked with the homeless. He
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