Jeremy Phillips and his co-worker Bill were shown the remains. Had it not been for the bloodied feathers and the wallet left behind, no one would be able to even remotely guess that they were of Reggie Middleton, formerly known as "Chester Owl". The two men stared at the grisly pile of flesh, speechless.
"It's like the poor fellow was chewed by some giant dog or something," said the coroner, replacing the sheet. "What we can't figure out is how the bites are so clean and sharp. When a dog or other animal devours food, the bites are ragged, torn, and uneven. But not this one. In fact, the bites more closely remember those of a person with perfect teeth. But no one could have jaws as wide as that."
As Jeremy and Bill walked back to the car, Bill muttered, "It's over. No more Chester Owl, and probably no more kid shows for a long time. We can stand by reruns for awhile, but there's no denying the media will jump on this one. I've got a statement prepared already, it's just a matter of finding a respectable reporter who isn't going to have every family in America scared to death."
"It won't be hard, Reggie's death was the most horrendous," replied Jeremy, scratching his neck. "God, Bill, what kind of creature does a thing like that to a man? His head was chewed to bits, not even a full dental record could be obtained. We're dealing with a lethal maniac or deranged animal of some sort, and the police should be notified. How many kid-show emcees are left in the area?"
"About five more, assuming they still want to go on the air. There's Flubo the Clown, Ricky Rabbit, Sally Strawberry, the like. I think they're all pretty much into revised contract negotiations, bargaining for more security."
"You know, there was a time where a certain kid's show host would look great getting his skull broken and chewed up on the air."
"Only you were too young to know better," chuckled Bill. "Jeremy, how you survived that killer dino is beyond me. Then again, I'm glad I survived myself. However, what Marshall said yesterday is true, I'm afraid. There are some skeptics, all young and cocky as hell, who are saying the Purple Holocaust never occurred."
"I know," said Jeremy, unlocking the station wagon. "But that's the price for removing all evidence that it ever occurred. Every Barney song, video, toy, and suit has all been outlawed and burnt. We're not talking censorship, Bill, we're talking about keeping a lethal beast from Hell away from our children."
"I think Marshall would like to put the fat purple ass back on the tube," grumbled the older man, "his kind scares me. Where is he today anyway?"
Thorton Marshall called the receptionist, and said he wasn't feeling right and would be gone all day. Actually, he was calling from the basement of the studio and hadn't felt better. Upon hanging up, he gleefully made his way back to his secret vault and foraged through his forbidden collection of Barney and Baby Bop paraphernalia.
He slid a copy of "Barney and Friends" into the VCR and watched enraptured for several hours. Occasionally he had to stop the tape as he would begin hyperventilating and spastically wriggle in perverse glee at the purple dinosaur's antics. More than once he would wrap his arms around the television set and smother the screen with kisses, or he would caress his plush purple Barney doll softly and lovingly.
"Barney, Barney, oh my one and special friend Barney," cooed the middle-aged man, his thick glasses steaming over. His hot sweat drenched the little doll and he would teasingly wrap the Baby Bop blanket over its eyes, playing "peek-a-boo" for several hours more. Finally, once he had exhausted all possible yet unspeakable pleasures from the videos and doll, he collapsed upon the floor and eyed the tall wooden box in the corner.
It was time.
The man rose and began tearing away his clothes. Stripped bare, he flung himself towards the box and unlocked it. Upon seeing the contents the man sighed loudly then giggled. With a child's glee, he hurriedly slid into the Barney costume and donned the headpiece.
"Our fun and learning never ends!" he cackled.
Lana sat on the couch, watching the news. The anchorwoman announced the death of Reggie Middleton, and the newscamera rudely focused in on the poor man's remains. Lana disgustedly turned away from the screen and decided it was time to check on her children, Stacy and Mark. She didn't know where Jeremy was, he had missed dinner and hadn't called to say where he would be. She checked her watch and decided it was time to put the kids to bed. Maybe afterwards she could call Jeremy's sister Fran and see if she knew what became of him.
Fran sat before the gravestone and placed the flowers upon the cold, marbled stone. Jeremy had told her that one day she would have to get over it but she couldn't. She had hoped for so many years that they would find their parents alive and well following the Purple Holocaust, yet when the phone rang it wasn't them. It was the coroner who had discovered the remains in a destroyed section of Baltimore.
The couple had been shopping in a toy store when the Great Act of Love occurred. Packs of frenzied, mindless children had broken through the front doors and made off with every available Barney toy they could find. And, true to the spirit of the Great Act, they killed any adult they could lay their clutching hands on. All the coroner could say to console Fran and Jeremy was that it appeared to be quick. But she could never forgive herself for being so swayed by Barney, at least she was there to pull the trigger when Barney attempted to kill her brother. She could still feel the recoil of the pistol and the sight of the bullet disappearing between the fat reptile's shoulder blades.
She sat another moment in silence and made her way out of the cemetery. When she got back she could call her boyfriend, then maybe drop a line to Jeremy and see how he was doing in light of the whole kid-show murders. The radio blared the violent and gruesome murder of Chester Owl, she wondered who would be so cruel and insane to do such a gruesome act.
"I'm not sure if this is going to work, but it's worth a shot," said Bill, holding the recorder and portable television. He walked ahead of Jeremy as the two men made their way down to the vaults.
"The resolution on the players are pretty good, I think we stand a chance," answered Jeremy. "We gotta see what Marshall's been into down here, and I could care less about company privacy. He's up to something."
On Jeremy's cue, Bill turned on the television and the recorder. He hit "simultaneous play" for both machines and faced them towards the retina/voice access unit for the vault. Thorton Marshall's wiry, bespectacled face appeared on the screen, and the player muttered, "Thorton Marshall."
The two men held their breath. The access unit hummed and scanned the screen. It chirped and green lights began flickering. The next instant the vault door unbolted and slowly pried itself open.
"Hot damn!" whispered Bill. "I knew Marshall's video resume tape would have merit someday!"
Jeremy nodded in agreement and the two men stepped into the vault. Jeremy beamed the flashlight and stared aghast at what he saw. Bill gaped in disbelief himself.
Barney and Baby Bop paraphernalia littered the floor, covered the walls, and hung from the ceiling. Every available doll, book, toy, party favor, video, and clothing known in existence. In the center of this disorder stood a tall, empty box, it's latch undone and its contents . . . gone.
"That sick S.O.B," muttered Bill, "he's got a whole stockpile of Barney crap down here."
For Jeremy, it had been years since he last saw a Barney doll. The sight of it made him feel creepy and hollow inside. Just twenty years ago, he used to sleep with one just like it. Staring into its dead, evil eyes made him shudder. He picked it up and hurled it against the vault wall, where it bounced back upon the floor.
"Call the police," said Jeremy. "We've got a lunatic collecting forbidden material here."
Lana looked back in the bedroom. Stacy and Mark were fast asleep, tucked firmly into their beds. When Stacy turned seven next year, she'd get her own bedroom. Mark, who was five, would probably like the idea. They were beautiful children, she thought Jeremy had done a great job being a father for them. She blew the two children a kiss and went downstairs to make herself some dinner and watch TV.
Moments later, the children were awakened by a curious scratching at the window. In the faint moonlight they could see a curious silhouette pawing at the latch. The two kids stared at each other for a moment, then steadily approached the figure. Upon a closer look, they saw it was a fat, smiling, purple dinosaur. It was smearing blood upon the glass.