El 25 de Septiembre, 2008. 10:30 pm
“What are they doing?”
Toni looked across at the array of cables and lights. He would soon have to join the rest of the crew.
“They’re setting up. You know, getting ready for the rehearsal. We’ll prove the link to the station in Madrid. See that dish on the top of the van? It’s fully extended now and they’ll be running a series of checks, just to make sure nothing will go wrong.”
“That, I’m afraid, is out of your control now.”
“What exactly do you mean by that?”
The Professor glanced up at him and seemed to take a decision.
“Who are you?”
“I told you, Antonio Esposito.”
“Yes, but what’s your real name? Your connection with the village.”
He almost told him about the journal then. Later, he would wish that he had. Instead, he feigned anger.
“I told you my name already. What more do you want from me?”
“I’m sorry,” said the Professor. He rubbed his eyes and stared towards Rosa.
“She’s up to something. Her and her boss. They’ve planned this from the beginning.”
“You implied that before. What do you think will happen?”
The old man fixed Toni with his unflinching gaze.
“Juan will happen.” he said. “Can you pass me my bag?”
Toni watched him lay out an assortment of items. They looked like props from a horror movie, and a bad one at that.
“One hour to go until the broadcast, Emilio. Are you sure you’re ready?”
Sanchez smiled. The station was really worried at the loss of ratings. Today though, there would be a change. No other show had ever shown a real paranormal event. Spectacular visitations were limited to the movies. Blood, gore and the unearthly cry of a real-life ghost belonged only to his show. Not once did he think of the lives which would be lost. His only worry was whether the broadcast would last long enough to get the message across. Afterwards they could accuse him of a hoax. One visit to the village would prove his point.
“We’re more than ready. The link is proven and Rosa is running the rehearsal as we speak. Five minutes of ambient lighting and discussion, our anonymous video and then live to Pueblecito. Nothing can go wrong.”
His boss clapped him on the back, waved at the rest of the crew and went upstairs to watch the show.
“So,” Rosa began, “Fathers, you will start with a prayer. Let’s not call it an exorcism, shall we?”
She saw the older priest flush with anger and smiled.
“No, a blessing. You will ask for protection, for strength and guidance. Then the lovely Toni will lead in with the story of the strange disappearance of the villagers. The public will eat up their lemming-like behaviour. Then, if our friendly ghost won’t help, we’ll add a little atmosphere, a few noises and finish with the inexplicable mystery that is Pueblecito. Emilio can lead the panel discussion and it will become just another job well done.”
“You know that’s not all that will happen, don’t you?”
“Fantastic, Professor. Great for the ambient setting, but just a little early. If you’re a good boy, we’ll give you a walk-on part.”
The Professor looked at his watch, took his bag from his back, zipped open the top and grasped Toni’s wrist.
“Stay close.” He hissed, as the second hand swept round.
“We’re on in three, two, one ...”
Rosa pushed Toni to one side and smiled straight into the camera. He wanted to protest but the flashing red light on the equipment told him he would only make a fool of himself. All he could do was watch as Rosa stole his chance.
“This is Rosa Benitez, reporting from Pueblecito. It has been called the village of the damned. A cursed place in which once a year, death stalks its narrow streets. Here at El Ocho, we have decided to put this to the test. Myself and my crew will stay here and film all that occurs. We have with us spiritual help from the Holy Catholic Church and are well prepared for whatever may occur.
“You will see in the top left hand side of your screen a clock. This will count down to the so-called Witching Hour. Please stay tuned, as we will now pass you back to the studio where our experts will give you further background.”
The light blinked out. An angry Toni pushed past the cameraman.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?”
“There’s been a change in plans, Toni. Emilio called me and said he wanted someone with a little more experience anchoring this show.”
Toni felt the urge to wipe the cheesy smile off her face and struggled with himself. He spoke through gritted teeth.
“Why then did you bring me here?”
“Toni, Toni. Don’t worry. You are an integral part of this show.”
She laughed as a whistle drew her back to the camera. The Professor looked up as the second hand crossed the hour mark. His hand gripped his crucifix tight, sweat breaking out on his palms. Up above he could see the Surgery and a strangled cry burst from his throat.
“We’ll now take you back to Rosa....”
Viewers saw the clock touch midnight, heard the woman start to speak. She was interrupted by a male voice and they saw figures as they scrambled away. The picture shuddered and they heard rasping breath. Someone was running.
“There, point it there ...”
The picture steadied on the quaint-looking Doctor’s Surgery. It focussed in on a partially-opened doorway and the small hall behind. A shadowy figure moved, strengthened and was outlined in wavering blue flames. There was a scream, the thump of the camera falling and an unearthly howling. That was the last thing they saw.
Emilio stared open-mouthed at the feed. His arm waved in a circular motion and in the studio they explained they had temporarily lost the signal and the panel of experts began to fill in the shocked silence. It was a disaster.
One of the technicians called his attention to their web page and to the estimated ratings chart. Hits on their simulcast had suddenly leaped and their bar chart was rising rapidly.
Emilio muttered to himself, “It’s working, it’s working.”
SDIV El Juego Chapter Thirty Part Three
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