One bleary eye checks the time. 3 am.
It takes her a moment to realise why she’s awake. Voices. Nearby. Not a voice. A conversation.
It’s the second time in three days, she’s been woken by voices.
Scratching her scalp and fumbling for slippers, she takes a moment to check he’s still asleep. Dead to the world.
She curses her sharp hearing and heads towards the spare room.
The previous time, she now remembers, it was also 3 am. That slows her. She can hear three different voices in the empty back bedroom.
That bloody TV. She’s sure it’s that. Turning itself on at 3 am. Her hand reaches for the door handle and the voices stop. If anything the silence is more profound.
Taking a deep breath, she counts to ten. Still silence. It’s turned itself off. She’ll go back to bed. No need to check. She needs the sleep.
Back in the bedroom, he stirs, turning slightly. As she pulls the duvet over her shoulders, he flips onto his back, his breathing deeper. In less than a minute he’s on his way to the bathroom, returning with the slush slush way he drags his feet through the carpet pile.
Soon, he’s back asleep. Eventually she dozes off.
Morning brings her tea by the bed. He’s already reading something on his phone.
‘Did you hear those voices last night?’
‘Huh?’ It takes him a couple of beats to decouple his attention and turn to her.
‘3 am. Just before you went to the bathroom.’
He frowns, pulling at a sleep dulled memory. ‘You got up. I think I heard something. Did I?’
‘The TV came on again. Like last time. Did you leave it on standby?’
Another frown. ‘Yes. I changed aerial and searched for channels.’
She nods. The little TV came back from their last trip to Suffolk where it wasn’t needed. ‘It never did this in Suffolk.’
‘Probably because we didn’t use an aerial, the signal came from a satellite box.’
She’s not sure. Is the aerial really the issue? She starts. He’s already on his way to check the TV. By the time she catches up, he’s fiddling with. the remote.
‘I’m sure there’s no timer.’ More fiddling. ‘No. It’s not that?’ He scratches his stubbly chin, and then, clearly making a decision, pulls the back off the remote, extracting the two AAA Batteries. ‘They’re good.’ He feels the need to explain, even if she’s ahead of him. ‘Sometimes weak batteries in a remote corrupt the signals it sends.’ With a sad air, he adds, ‘these are fine.’
She waits for him to meet her eye. She’s holding out her phone for him to read. While he was fiddling, she typed:
Why does my TV turn itself on?
The list of Google’s most common similar questions are listed, the first being:
Why does my TV turn itself on at 3am?
‘Both times, it came on at 3 am.’
He laughs. Sort of. ‘That’s weird. Does it say why?’
The answers, she thinks are facile. A rogue timer, the batteries being old are two favourites.
‘Other than ghosts, of course.’ They both laugh at that. Of course they’re too rational. ‘We can’t even blame an algorithm for promoting a favourite search.’
Time for breakfast. He heads downstairs to make some porridge while she turns the power off. She’s been waging a battle against electrical devices left on standby for years. No one, least of all him, will be surprised that she’s turned the power off and pulled out the plug.
What would surprise him, perhaps is the way the voices stopped just as she was about to enter the room. That doesn’t feature amongst those whose TVs also turned themselves on at 3 am. At least no one mentions it.
Plausible deniability. It’s the only way to stay sane, sometimes….
A true story, with the names omitted because we’re still trying to keep on the right side of our spectral house guests and find out why our TV brings them out to play…