Written by Schizima.
The world was a lot different when we were kids. “Hey Arnold” was before the internet, and those earlier episodes often gave me what you would call “the spooks” I would become frightened at even the prospect of the some of the episodes. That feeling of being lost in a new York back alley as a kid, an orphan. What a lot of people don’t know is that Hey Arnold! Used real field recordings of the streets and back alleys of Brooklyn to add to the realism.
I had initially found an old package of lunchables from twenty years ago in my garage. I remembered this. The meat was dried out and the corner was fried, signifying that rats or another critter may have picked their way into the food stores that the precious cellophane wrapper protected. As I picked up the ancient package, I noticed a…pair of 3D glasses…that’s right. The 3D glasses were supposed to go with an episode of Hey Arnold! Involving Helga’s love potion. But as far as I remembered, it mysteriously never aired and Nickelodean never explained why.
Nick does a lot of dark things. Some might even say Nick is messed up in the head. But one thing Nick would never do is traumatize people…right? Especially a man pushing 30.
What I saw under the lunchables package gave me a lurching feeling in my stomach. How did this get here? It was a stickered VHS tape that said “For Your Consideration” in laminated lettering, with the nick logo and a tiny picture of a horse in the corner. It looked like an official promotional VHS tape. Now I remembered. My dad had told me that he was going to work for Nickelodean before he left me and mom. He was known as a “buffer” in the industry. When they needed little things like a missing hand fixed, they called him. All I remember was him mumbling something about his boss, Don, being really messed up, and his love interests forcing him to leave mom and my young cousin, Jobriath.
Before we continue going, I must warn you that the contents of the VHS gave me a lurching feeling in my stomach that ultimately caused me to become nauseous alongside the smell of ancient lunchables. I stood up and looked at the window. I pulled a rustic capris sun package off my buttcheek and noticed some Ecto Cooler was sitting by the fridge, that sweet fructose. But the VHS was beckoning me to watch it.
I can’t tell you why I watched it. The 3D glasses had no lenses, so they weren’t 3D. Printed on the side, I saw the words “the real world is in three dimensions. The two dimensional box is a copy.” I didn’t understand yet, but soon I would. The intro was a lot darker, with the characters looking muddled, sloppily drawn and tired. Arnold looked incredibly sad. He had tears within his eyes.
The episode starts with Arnold and his parents, who were never seen or spoken of on the show, going horseback riding. Wait. Arnold’s head is not football shaped. Maybe it’s because he’s younger. They never explained why his head is shaped that way.
One of the horses has incredibly sharp teeth. “I don’t like that horse.” Arnold says. “Let’s stay away from that horse.” The horse teeth glinted. The animators had drawn them more realistically, compositionally drawing sharp incisors precisely interlocked. And the horse had red eyes while the others were brown. It was only when the camera got closer to Arnold that I noticed that he was younger here and maybe this was a dream sequence.
The horse was kept on a leash and the animators had drawn it hooked up to some kind of barn. What’s weird is that you still heard metro sounds, cars and buses even though they were supposed to be in a field. “Stay away from that horse.” Arnold says. “Stay away from that horse!” He repeats it. Something bad seems like it’s going to happen.
It cuts to him waking up on that half-bed he used to sleep in. My VHS tape player started to flicker, so I took it out and fumbled with the tape that encoded the data. After some different approaches were taken, I reloaded it. Now it started at a completely different position. They were back at the barn and Arnold is crying. You just hear screaming as smoke pours from the barn. Someone has knifed the red-eyed horse, but its teeth are still glistening. Arnold’s parents lay on the floor in pieces with other bodies, bleeding from the head.
The horse continues to smile and smile. I felt sick. “Move it, football head.” A voice whispers. And another. “I’m in you.” It says. Arnold begins to look increasingly disheveled as he approaches the horse. “Together we can dissolve the pain body.” The horse says. Its lips don’t move. “I’m inside your head, in fact, I am you. A singular consciousness working toward a goal.” I shuddered. “And that goal is death.” The horse’s smile grew brighter and brighter as it drew Arnold closer. The coldest, darkest and most sinister feeling. The horse had my eyes.
I felt very, very sick now. Maybe they weren’t my eyes. They just looked really, really similar. As Arnold draws closer you hear screaming, murmuring and a snap. I had to stop looking at it because the picture was warping into some kind of sinister smile that was tighter and deeper than smiles. It was something that you couldn’t actually see in real life, like a fourth dimension of evil. We’re only seeing the traces of it here. I felt cold, sick and empty after watching this.
The last shots are still images, as though the animation wasn’t finished. It shows Arnold in the hospital with his crushed skull. They are reassembling the pieces, but he has visible brain damage. His parents were beyond help, dead. The words “For Your Consideration” and “Pilot Test” flashed onscreen before you see his sagging, stitched, football-shaped head. A mark. He’s forced to live with his uncle in a big, empty metropolitan city. I found it really weird that the city was completely empty. You still hear the sounds of cars driving, people chatting, but nobody is there. The still images of Arnold’s house are empty too. I just assume they’re supposedly there. It’s implied. You hear some voice, some talking.
A shudder flippantly took over me as I unplugged the VCR and left the room. Part of me just wished that sad eight year old boy would come back here and put the pieces together for me. I looked out my window. Maybe this was a dream sequence.