X-Files on VHS

By Sheldon Birnie

The living room of Skeeter’s shack was lined with VHS tapes. Stacks of shit he’d taped off the TV. Wasn’t much else, apart from a couple ratty sofas, one of which doubled as his bed, and a coffee table covered with all you’d need to blaze.

Skeet had every season of X-Files, complete with commercials and the weather reports from the station down in North Dakota that aired the show in its prime. Had that fuckin’ poster of the UFO taped to the back of his door, too. That I WANT TO BELIEVE one. Got it off a rental shop up the Wheat City that was going outta business.

He kept them first three seasons next to the bank of old VCRs he had wired to the flatscreen that took up nearly a whole Reflectix-lined wall of the shack out back of his uncle’s taxidermy shop, behind the mound of broken antlers and the platoon of rusted Chevys.

 Seen those episodes over and over, whenever I’d drop by to pick up, or just smoke and kill one of those long winter evenings. Even if I knew just what was gonna happen during those 60 minutes, it beat drinking in the dirty old bar by the highway there, listening to Top 40 and the VLTs buzz. Or driving up and down them backroads through the darkness, waiting for something weirder than whatever Mulder and Scully was after to jump up outta the ditch.

Show went to shit when it switched to Sunday. That’s Skeeter’s position. Bald-ass albino freak, he’s big on episodes about the alligator man, the Jersey devil, that motherfucker who could stretch himself thin and sneak into cracks above doors to nibble on the livers of his victims. That spooky shit. Show lost its edge with all that conspiracy crap, he says. Tried getting too sexy.

But me, I could dig what Mulder was chasing. Dana and that deep state shit. Told Skeet he’s tripping, over and over and over again. You fuckin’ know the government’s hiding shit from us, bro.

Motherfucking Smoking Man himself, Skeeter’d just toast a bowl up into the resin caked 2L gravity. He’d take it down, hold up. Then fill the living room with that dank haze.

True that, he says, hacking. But don’t need no complicated conspiracy to do it. Shit. Most motherfuckers don’t want to believe nothing. Like those fucks over in the bar. Soaking up the piss. Fuckin’ tourists, going in debt to get the itch from the lake a week or two every summer. Fuckin’ happy knowing nothin but the sweet fuck all. Makes me wanna puke.

Bitter he may be, but Skeeter’s not wrong. ‘Bout that, anyways.

Not like me and you, Skeeter’d say, credits cutting into the opening of another episode. Me, I just nod. It’s not like me and Skeet was ever best friends or nothing. But in a way we was too. Not many people around here worth a half-a-shit. Or anywhere, I guess.

 Not like me and you, bud, he’d say. We know shit’s out there. Eh, bud?

Fuckin’ right it’s out there. All that weird shit and worse is out there waiting in the woods. Shit that show never even hinted at. When you stare up into the night sky long enough out here, away from the lights, nothing but woods and fields and bogs all around, you know you ain’t alone and you ain’t special. Hanging with a buddy, even one as fucked as Skeeter, blazing, watching old fuckin’ X-Files episodes beats staring out into that emptiness alone, that’s for sure. But nobody wants to talk about shit like that.

Better believe it, bud, I’ll tell Skeet. Believe it.

Sheldon Birnie is a writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada who can be found online @badguybirnie

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