Nightmares in Analog: Three Supernatural Tales

Nightmares in Analog: Three Supernatural Tales

by Jonathan Chateau


Publisher Jonathan Chateau

Published in Literature & Fiction/Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Paranormal

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Book Description

FREEstyle> Nightmares in Analog is a collection of three supernatural tales: a VCR that channels the dead, a sports drink that turns men into gods & a shopping mall laid siege by an aquatic enemy.

Sample Chapter

Something tells me I should just drive away, but I can’t.

I’m seated in my car, parked in front of a garage sale, watching the bargain hunters rummage through junk like they’re at an archeological dig. Meticulously browsing tables sprinkled with clutter. Uncovering used soccer cleats. Watercolor Elvis paintings. Plastic yard gnomes.

Why am I here?

Well, I’m not perusing the front lawns of strangers in search of more crap to later resell or re-gift.

I’m searching for a VCR.

Four garage sales later, on this muggy Saturday morning, and I’ve finally found one.



Moments ago, the proprietor of this garage sale made a peculiar claim about her VCR.

A supernatural claim.

At home, I have an expansive collection of movies on VHS that I refuse to throw away. Three hundred in fact. I’ve collected them since I was in high school. My VCR died about ten years ago, and I promptly switched to collecting DVDs. But my need for a replacement player is not due to a precipitant urge to watch Rambo or Robocop.

It’s to see my mother again.

Mom died the same year as the VCR. Head-on collision with a drunk driver. She had a bad habit of not wearing a seatbelt.

Buckling up, she said, made her feel restricted.

So upon impact, she rocketed through the windshield. Shards of glass showering about like droplets of water. The force of the collision sending her sailing through the air like a human javelin.

Naturally, the drunk driver survived. Seems they always do. They locked the asshole up for manslaughter. A hollow compromise. He’s in jail and Mom is still worm food. All I have left of her are a few dusty home movies.

My parents’ wedding.

My sixth birthday.

My college graduation.

I’ve been having dreams about Mom all month. Thirty days and it’s the same dream. A hospital recovery room. Mom lying in bed. Clean white sheets draped around her frail body. Her hand on my hand telling me over and over that this is where I belong. That this is where I need to be.

And then the dreams end the same. They end with her producing a VCR out of thin air. Holding it up to me like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey. And then smashing it to pieces with her bare hands.

Neither of these two components of the dream makes sense to me, so I’ve translated all of it to simply be a sign. A sign that I need to get a VCR and see Mom again. I like signs. I want to believe there’s more to us than us.

Reality sucks.

Still, it’s been hard to bring myself to see Mom again. Beyond pictures that is. Dad and I have photo albums upon photo albums, but it’s not the same as a movie. If pictures tell a thousand words, movies convey a novel. And I love movies. So much so, I made a career out of it as a full-time projectionist. Projection booth manager, to be exact. I make a living off of the suspension of disbelief.

Obviously working at the theater affords me the reward of being able to see all of the movies I want for free, but there’s a downside. Working at a theatre is like being a line cook at a buffet. Sure, there’s all of this food in front of you, but after a while, it all tastes the same.

As of late, the movies have proven no different. I’ve been working this job so long, I can look at a poster and tell you if it’s going to be shit or not. Buddy comedies with the smug faces of actors smirking at us, self-assured we’ll really find them that funny. Action films with heroes and heroines, guns drawn, skin scuffed and bronzed, fresh from surviving that “climactic” explosion.

Wake me up when it’s over.

So the lady hosting this garage sale told me just a few minutes ago that she has two VCRs for sale. One is five bucks and the other is two hundred. Same model.


Same exact model.

The difference?

The one for five dollars plays movies. The one for two hundred dollars lets you communicate with the dead.

Ok, I’m awake now.

The old lady believes her story so much that it’s convincing me. She claims that she’s the original owner, and that it belonged to her deceased husband, Artie. She told me that she’s had it for sale since he died, and everyone who has bought it has returned it claiming it didn’t work. Yet she says she knows it works.

I can’t help but laugh. She simply glares at me.

“What,” I ask, “did you offer them a money-back guarantee or something?”


I chuckle again, but a little less emphatically. I have to admit, I’m kind of intrigued.

“If you aren’t happy with it, you can return it. I’ll give you your money back too.”


“Well,” she says. “You know where I live.”

When I asked her how it worked, she explained that if you play the home movies of any loved ones who have passed, they will come to life in your living room.

Still, it’s two hundred bucks.

What if she doesn’t give me my money back? It’s her word against mine. What would I do? Take her to small claims court? Hey Judge, I’m sorry but this lady’s VCR didn’t revive my dead aunt?

Thinking better of it, I thank her for her time and drive away. Probably a good idea since I am feeling highly irrational and spontaneous. The result of boredom perhaps.

Yet the car seems to drive itself.

I find myself at an ATM, pulling out the money. Squeezing the cash like it’s the hand of a parting lover. Damn it, I can’t help but succumb to the curiosity. She was so sold on her claim, her confidence spilled over to me.

Back at the garage sale, I cut past the people sifting through used clothes and approach the old lady. She shoots me a look of surprise from behind the graying curls that hug her face like threads of a wet mop.

“Doris,” she says.

“Ok, Doris. Here’s the cash.”

“Which one are you buying?” she asks. But she already knows, because clearly I’m not handing her five bucks.

I point at the necromantic VCR.

“Are you sure?” she asks.

This is impulsive of me. Perhaps it’s just time to admit that after a decade I’m not done grieving. Whether it works as described or not, at least it will make for a great story over beers.

Lots of beers.

The kinds with ABVs north of eight percent. And my friends will all laugh at me for getting punked by a grandma.

If I had any friends that is.

“Yes,” I tell her. “I’ll take your magical VCR.”


I pick it up. It’s noticeably heavier than I expected. Wanting no one around me to acknowledge that I just paid a ransom for dated electronics, I thank her and make for my car as fast as possible.

“Wait!” she calls after me.

Fumbling for my keys, I perform a contortionist dance of balancing the two hundred dollar anvil and unlocking my front door.

Doris is suddenly beside me, telling me that there are some basic rules. If you want to see a loved one, while the movie is playing, fast forward to when they first appear on the video. You need a clear shot of their face.

Pause the frame.


They will emerge.

She tells me my time will be short. Only lasting the length of the movie. If it’s a two-minute video, you only get two minutes. Make the most of it. Got it?

Ok, Doris.

“And whatever you do… if the movie is off…” she portends while squeezing my arm with the death grip of a black belt, “never hit rewind or fast forward. Ever.”

Ok, Doris!

I set the VCR carefully in the backseat as if it were a toddler and head to the nearest Radio Shack for some RCA cables.

Whether Doris’s claim is real or not, I rationalize this two ways. First, if it doesn’t work, at least I’m helping this Betty refill her Lipitor prescription. Secondly, at least I will get to see movies of Mom again.

Still a part of me wants to believe so badly. I prefer fiction over reality. Reality has and will always be a disappointment.

When I was a kid, it was crushing to learn there was no Tooth Fairy.

No Saint Nick.

No Three Kings.

And so I’ve always longed for an escape from our dull, predictable reality.

Suspension of disbelief.

This is why I am drawn to movies.

Chapter 2

When Pac-Man was god, this VCR was a Porsche. Three months’ salary and you’d never miss an episode of The A Team again. Backlit PLAY and REC buttons. Digital display. Imitation wood paneling. Multifunction remote. I couldn’t help but run home and hook it up. I had to know. Call it boredom. Or that genetic male desire to tinker with things that either plug in or require gasoline. Or the lack of a significant woman in my life for the third straight year.

This model doesn’t have a red and white RCA jack though. There’s an AUDIO OUT and a VIDEO OUT. No stereo outputs. They had a special room at Circuit City for folks who wanted more features.

I place the VCR next to my 50-inch flat screen. My lower back reminds me how cumbrous this monster is. I run the mono RCA cable from the VCR to the TV and stand back and marvel.

It’s an odd pairing seated on my low-profile bachelor pad entertainment center.

1983 meets 2013.

A generation of technology between them, connected by a strand of insulated copper cable.

Setting the TV input to A/V 1, I’m greeted with the familiar salt and pepper static of my youth. The torture of manipulating rabbit ears and the futile efforts of wrapping antennae with foil.

The VCR is now officially plugged in. The blue digital display flashes the word STOP. The funny thing about electronics is that once they warm up, they all have the same smell. The smell of hot plastic. A metallic stink. Like a sweaty handful of pennies.

On the TV, I’m greeted with a blank screen. I guess I half expected this supernatural VCR to give me some sort of preview. Perhaps a floating, talking head of a spirit, with the features of a Halloween pumpkin.

“Good evening, Jacob,” the head would say. “I’ve been expecting you.”

But no, there’s no talking head.

No special effects.


Just my faint reflection of disappointment.

I pull down several boxes of tapes from the attic space. Boxes marked MOVIES A – G, MOVIES H – R, MOVIES S – Z. And finally a smaller box marked FAMILY MOVIES. Buried in the box, I find one labeled JACOB’S SIXTH BDAY.

In that tape goes, and I’m holding my breath again.

There’s a moment of static.

The frame jumps.

Fade in. Our old house. A six-year-old me seated at the dining room table. Dad got me a fantastic Spiderman cake. Red frosting. Blue spider sprinkles. Flames dancing on six Green Goblin candles. Mom at my side. Her arm around me. Her hair puffy and stiff from applying too much hairspray.

“Don’t blow out the candles yet, Jacob.”

Spiderman’s eyes were made of thick black frosting that tasted like licorice. They tasted nasty. The rest of the cake was delicious. Mom gave me a Snoopy Sno-Cone maker. Dad bought me a Spiderman bike helmet, which the neighborhood bully, Toby, would later break in half.

What a guy.

“Thomas,” Mom says, waving at the camera, “come on.”

“Ok,” I hear Dad say as he moves into the shot.

Mom lights the candles. Dad kisses the top of my head. They sing happy birthday to me. While the six-year-old me is blowing out candles, the thirty-year-old me is crying.

Then I do it.

I hit PAUSE.

Mom is frozen in time. Looking down on my first-grade self with maternal reverence. I wait for her to come to life. But nothing happens.

There are pops and crackles from the speakers. The video frame jumps repeatedly upwards as if on an elevator to nowhere. I’m half tempted to perform a technical tap – to smack it – but I don’t, and the video rights itself on its own.

Still nothing happens.

Eerie silence and the still frame of my parents gazing proudly upon their baby boy as if posing for a TV commercial peddling life insurance.

“What an idiot,” I say aloud. You got me, Doris.

I’m laughing at myself now, the way villains do in movies when they realize the hero has outsmarted them. I’ve been scammed by that silver fox. All because I wanted to believe this thing would actually allow me to communicate with Mom.

Two hundred bucks.


Bathroom break.

I’m in the middle of peeing when a blast of white light blinds me momentarily as if a flash grenade were

detonated in my living room. I nearly piss on my leg. Then I hear:


My body locks up.

What was that?


I flush the toilet. Turn on the sink. Splash, splash, splash. I stare at my reflection and tell myself that it’s all in my head.

“Jacob, it’s Mom.”

Chapter 3

My living room now has the eerie glow of a lava lamp. I walk in to find a holographic projection of Mom on her hands and knees in the middle of the floor. I scream the way one would if a tarantula landed on them.

She lifts her head.


Her voice is muffled, like she’s underwater. Behind her, the freeze frame of the three of us, still on the TV.

She surveys the room. A stray cat introduced to its new home. Her skin tone is grainy, like silent film grainy. I half expect R2D2 to roll up at any moment, her image projected from one of his robot eyes.

I back away, speechless. My hands hovering behind me, reaching, protecting myself from stumbling into… something. My back is against the wall now.


She nods.

I struggle to breathe. My lungs are deflating balloons.

“Don’t be afraid,” she says.

I ask if it’s really her.

She nods again.

I ask her the first question that pops into my mind. What was the color of my first bike?


I just stare at her for a long time and then ask her, where did she win bike?

“At the mall,” she answers.

Mom had filled out one of those sweepstakes cards at a department store. You know the sweepstakes. The ones with the tear-away pads seated atop a plastic drop box. The ones where you volunteer all of your personal information only to never hear anything. The only thing you win is a lifetime supply of mail order catalogs and junk mail.

Only Mom actually won.

She won me a badass Kuwahara BMX bike. The same one Elliot rode in E.T.

“I don’t have much time,” she says. “So listen very carefully.”

She tells me that she’s been in my dreams for a reason. To guide me and to protect me.

She tells me that I need to quit the theater and apply for a management opportunity at our community hospital. That even thought I have no formal background in the medical field, if I apply, I will get the job and it will steer me away from my dead-end life.

She then says that she’s been trying to warn me about this VCR. That she didn’t want me to touch it in the first place.

“Jacob, you have to destroy it,” she says. “It’s a doorway for the dead.”

“I know Mom,” I say. “That’s why I bought it.”

Regardless, she says this is something I must do. She tells me she has to go.

But I argue that I have more tapes. More movies with her in it. We could spend a little more time together.

“No,” she says. “Just do what I said.”

Then her translucent hand reaches for my cheek. I wince, eyelids tightening like two stubborn oysters. I feel cool air caress my skin. When I open my eyes her loving face is smiling at me.

There’s a loud POP.

Mom and I look back at the TV.

The freeze frame disappears.

The screen goes black. The blue digital letters on the VCR read STOP again. The video has ended. Turns out, even though you hit pause, the video rolls on, continuing through its filmed length.

And a second later, her image condenses into one tiny circle of light and fizzles the way an old tube TV cools down after hours of use.

Mom is gone.

Holy shit. The VCR works. I sink into the sofa and digest what just happened.

I can revive the dead! At least long enough to exchange words. This is amazing. Think of the potential. The lives that could be changed. Lost loved ones reunited.

I’m suddenly struck with a surge of elation.

A tickle in my brain.

An epiphany.


Excerpted from "Nightmares in Analog: Three Supernatural Tales" by Jonathan Chateau. Copyright © 2016 by Jonathan Chateau. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Jonathan Chateau

Jonathan Chateau

Jonathan Chateau grew up reading books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton. However it was Fight Club—both the 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk and the 1999 film by David Fincher—that inspired him to pursue writing.

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