Anothor spine-chilling horror story from the pen of David Dwan. This one is centred on an extraordinary online-only game show, Demon Time, in which a priest is pitted against what, in all likelihood, appears to be an authentic devil. As candidate number five, the cleric is in an unenviably daunting position.
Michael Davis watched all this play out in glorious HD on a monitor from the production control room, which was housed in a prefabricated office situated behind the main stand which looked down on the house and surrounding arena. Next to him the show’s director, Jeff Miller, a stick thin man full of nervous ticks and wild eyed enthusiasm was barking orders into the mic of his headset to the five camera operators they had down there, whilst surveying the bank of monitors in front of him.
Miller was expensive and a little too reliant on amphetamines in Davis’ opinion, but he knew he was one of the best live directors out there. Miller looked up at Davis after calling for a close up of the prone priest. “Shall I send in the paramedics, boss? That guy looks pretty beat up to me.”
“Sure,” Davis said dispassionately.
“Hit it!” Miller said to the production assistant at his right and the night sky exploded in fireworks which heralded the ‘Demonettes’. The shows very own cheerleading troupe (dressed as zombies, of course) who always came out with the paramedics, flanking them five each side, to whip the three hundred strong crowd into even more of a frenzy. The massive PA system blasted out AC/DC’s highway to hell as the priest was eventually hauled up onto a hospital gurney and rushed out of the arena and into a waiting ambulance.
“Stick with the paramedics, Johnny,” Miller told one of the cameramen. “That’s it, great shot, all the way out until they drive away.”
Back down in the makeshift arena, Dex Dexter, (God how Davis hated that name) the show’s host was leading the crowd in an impromptu Mexican wave. Dexter was the perfect internet game show host. Part Liberace, part sports commentator, all flash. Even before demon time had come alone, Dexter had been a minor You Tube sensation, thanks to his time in Japan hosting an extreme sports show called Kamikaze Krazies, which before it was shut down had boasted at least two on screen deaths, the ratings for that show had been obscene.
A whole scandal had then erupted and Dexter had scurried back to England with his tail between his legs and tens of thousands of pounds in debt. All of which had worked to the good for Davis.
When Davis had found him down on his luck hosting at a comedy club slash strip joint in Soho, he had been able to sign the ‘entertainer’ for a pittance. Dexter had all but bitten his hand off when he had come to him with the idea for demon time.
Ah, demon time. An internet only game show where a real Catholic priest would go head to head with a (supposedly) real demon. Of course Dexter had rolled his eyes in the beginning, everyone did, but they all changed their tune when he took them to meet ‘Mister Minx’. (Davis still didn’t know where the creature’s name had come from, but it somehow seemed to suit the scrawny little fuck.) Yes, Mister Minx was always very convincing.
No one knew how Davis had gotten his hands on an actual demon, and that was the way he liked it. Indeed most thought the whole thing was just a well-executed hoax. A notion Davis was more than fine with as it kept the authorities from investigating the show and ‘Michael Davis Productions’ too closely.
Davis had made sure the whole show was transportable around mainland Europe, with the location kept an absolute secret until a day or so before broadcast. All those who had paid to watch the show live knew was the date and to have their passports at the ready.
Tonight they were in Brittany, France, but the next time it could be Italy, Spain, anywhere on mainland Europe, maybe even further afield if the show’s success continued to grow.
But in reality the location and the crowd didn’t matter, neither did the cheerleaders or Dex Dexter, sure they gave the whole event a certain spectacle, but it was on the internet where demon time really came alive, and where Michael Davis made the majority of his money.
Pay per view live streaming, the five sweetest words in the English language.
People paid a one off subscription of fifty Euros. For this you got access to an encrypted website where the show was streamed live. Then there was the lottery; for a mere ten Euros, you could guess how long the battle would actually take. From the moment the priest (always a volunteer, usually some Vatican cast off who saw the show as a shot at redemption in the eyes of their masters in Rome) entered the house, to the exact moment they exited. (Usually at great pace, one even through an upstairs window. One hell of a show that.)
It never failed to amuse Davis that no one ever actually bet on the priest winning and casting the demon out (God forbid!)
Down below, Dexter held up a hand to hush the crowd, and then consulted his IPad. It was time for the lottery, those in the crowd and those logged on to the live stream each had the chance to pick the exact time the priest would exit the house, then the lucky punter would win a thousand Euros and a free ticket to the next show. Just another way for Davis to rake in the cash. Money makes money makes money he thought.
Dexter had them in the palm of his hand, he checked the IPad theatrically, checked it again just to ramp up the suspense. It was pin drop quiet in the arena until he finally put them out of their misery. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Dexter whispered into his mic. “Have your tickets at the ready, and good luck to one and all...”
He spun on his heels and pointed to the large viewing screen which hung above the makeshift arena. “Eight minutes twenty nine seconds!” He shouted, this was met, as always, with the excited hushed chatter of a hundred or so people hastily checking their lottery tickets. Dexter waited, the cameras set up around the arena scanned the crowd, waiting for that ecstatic whoop as one of their number jumped to their feet waving the winning ticket. But there was nothing.
Back in the control room, Miller the director was whispering camera instructions into his head set, cutting the shot from one group of spectators to the next. He turned to look up at Davis who was standing at the largest screen watching the show as it played out. The director put a hand over his mic. “You know Boss,” he said hopefully. “If I had one of those new Lorimar light weight cranes, we could do one hell of a swooping shot right about now.”
“Too expensive, Jeff.” Davis replied without looking around. He could almost hear the wind disappear from Miller’s sails. “I’ll maybe get you one of those cheap ass drones for the next show, maybe.”
“Boss!” It was Tiff, Davis’ assistant. “We’ve got a winner, on the web,” she said waving her IPad. “Someone in Denmark of all places, guessed it bang on.”
“Denmark?” Davis said with no little satisfaction. Demon time was truly getting popular all over the place these days. “Okay, bring it up on the big screen,” he instructed.
“Roger that,” Miller said and hit a button. The winner’s name appeared on the big screen above Dexter and a pre-recorded fanfare blasted out over the PA system.
“Yeeeessss,” Dexter shouted. “And we have a winner, one of our friends on the internet. A Mister Gunnar...” He faltered only slightly at the Dane’s surname. “Kotilainen? Yes, congratulations to Gunnar and he picks up tonight’s one thousand Euro jackpot. Spend it unwisely Gunnar, spend it unwisely.”
With this, Miller hit the cue for the show’s end musical sequence and barked orders into his head set for the Demonettes to come on once again. Much to the crowd’s frenzied pleasure.
Davis turned away from the screen. Another killer show, he thought, each one better than the last. “I need to see some viewing figures people,” he ordered. “And I think it’s time to break out the Champagne, great job everyone.” He looked across the control room to Baker, a huge barrel chested bear of a man who was the head of the construction crew. “I want everything stripped and on the trucks in two hours Harry, okay?”
Baker gave his usual curt nod and disappeared out the door. Demon time was essentially one big travelling circus. Everything, including the demon house itself was a set. It could be put up and stripped down all in a matter of a couple of hours. Keeping everything on the move kept the broadcasting authorities guessing, and unable to pry too deeply into whether demon time was real or not.
They weren’t exactly breaking any laws, but it didn’t do any harm to keep one step ahead, just in case. If this was on legitimate TV, Davis would have those pencil pushers crawling right up his ass, with their health and safety bullshit and not to mention those pesky union pay scales and working conditions. Thank God for live entertainment and the internet. In cyber space, no one can sue for wrongful dismissal for falling off a fucking ladder, at least not if you kept moving.