King of the Hill was a great show, but awhile ago, as I was lazily shopping a thrift store... I began to notice something wrong with the series. I think everybody knows what King of the Hill is... the 1997-2010 series that served as sort of a Southern-fried Simpsons on the surface, but actually had its own personality unlike any other animated sitcom to date, taking realistic situations and just making them... really, really funny. You can still find the program on Adult Swim: Cartoon Network, during nights.Anyway, I was shopping the thrift store with one hand in my pocket, and the other one giving a peace sign to my hippie buddy Bob who served the store counter, while looking for some 99 cent NES games to add to my ever-growing retro video game collection. I didn't find anything out of the ordinary... mostly a bunch of copies of Gyromite and third rate football titles... so I strutted my stuff to the VHS section in the rear end of the store, as I'm not the kind of guy to care too much about picture quality. Video tapes are cheap to buy, time is money, and we're all short on time, if you know what I'm saying. ... Yeah.
After passing a few covers that didn't really catch my eye, I glimpsed a VHS 2-pack sporting George Jetson's face on its cover. Now, I wasn't really a big fan of the Jetsons, but at the price of 27 cents for 1 tape and 42 cents for 2, I wasn't about ready to say no. Besides, I knew that my girlfriend was into Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and it's my mission as a man to keep my baby angel smiling, so I snatched up the 2-pack... ...only for some postcard-sized slip of paper to fall out from between the two tapes. I just assumed it was an advertisement for other Hanna-Barbera animated classics, but instead... well, I'm kind of embarrassed saying it, but there was a picture of cartoon testicles. Really hairy, dangling ones, kinda obnoxious-like, impossible for the eye to miss. "250 Front Street West, Toronto Ontario, M5V 3G5", it said in Comic Sans font, bold and centered so that the animated genitals would be impossible to miss. I bought it anyway, figuring it was just a prank that Bob's co-worker, Nicholas, was playing on whatever unknown customer would end up picking up this VHS tape collection. I even kept the slip that fell out, thinking my girlie and I could have a nice laugh at it. Heh... cartoon balls.
When I arrived home, I realized that my hunny was out. "Sorry, baby, it's a girl's night out thing. Put some delicious Campbell's soup in the fridge for you.", the kitchen counter note read. Yeah, well, whatever. I might just be an ordinary average Joe guy, but I could heat up my own soup. I decided to save the grub for later. Instead of eating, I went to work, uncoiling my VCR's co-ax cables--used to goofily refer to them as coax cables, when I was a kid and didn't know any better--and it was 'VCR's all-set-up time', baby! Once everything was ready to go, I popped in the first tape, which was labeled 'TJKOTH S1E1NR'. ... Now wait, wait a minute...
"Koth? You mean, like, King of the Hill?", I thought to myself as the tape played, static cleared, a couple seconds of some creepy pirate show played, and then... the real episode began.
As you may have expected, this wasn't The Jetsons. At all. The King of the Hill intro played, except for instead of that gritty Southern guitar rock riffage song, an 80s-style hip hop beat played to lyrics about tacos and other southern-style foods, and the Mountain Dew logo flashed in the corner, bright as the sun or something, until it went back down to normal. I figured that maybe this tape was some sort of extra that Taco Bell restaurants sold in the 90s, perhaps as the result of an advertising deal with the creator of King of the Hill, Mike Judge. Well, after that little rumination, a skeleton wearing a top hat and a monacle randomly popped up onto the screen, briefly replacing the circle with Hank in it. It scared the crap out of me until I laughed to myself and just shrugged it off. Nice try, Taco Bell. Like that really was going to get me to buy fast food tacos... ha. All this nonsensical commercialistic stuff was just funny to me.
After all that, a camera panned over the downtown of the Hill family's city of Arlen. Everything was in black and white, with maybe half a second of distorted static sound coming in and out every couple seconds.
... That was when I realized I was watching a kinda eerie, ghetto-quality revision of the original King of the Hill episode.
Bobby was playing baseball, with his father yapping at him as he failed, as usual. I half-smiled to myself, having already seen this episode a couple times before, other than it not having that strange opening sequence. Whatever, I pulled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my fanny pack, and felt really, really happy to have something to watch and eat. Ah... TV and a snack, plus soup in the fridge. I knew I could take care of myself before Judy came home.
Again, what I was watching wasn't the actual pilot episode of King of the Hill. For example, on the car ride back to the Hill residence, Hank mumbled to himself something about being upset that nobody got the mail today, and how getting it at the time it's delivered is the happiest moment of his daily life, outside of selling propane. Well, okay then, Mr. Hill. Then he took out a cigarette, perhaps to relieve the stress and get his mind off of that and the baseball game. "I'll tell ya what... nothing's better than a smooth faggot when life's got ya down.", Hank said. Now, I felt a little offended by the use of the word faggot, but since Hank was talking about a cigarette, I shrugged it off and took another bite out of my sandwich.
"Dad... I don't appreciate you calling me a faggot.", Bobby mumbled to himself. Hank swiftly put his hand into the air as if he was threatening to back hand Bobby, but... Peggy stared at Hank with... fully bloodshot eyes. After that, there were two, perhaps three minutes of pure silence, and Hank continued driving the car despite his head being turned to face Bobby the entire time. He had a look on his face that reminded me of the American Gothic painting, with the farmer and all that. I wondered how he could drive like this, without snapping his neck or crashing into another car or the sidewalk. Made me think of the little girl from the exorcist, you know.
After the Hills walked into the house, Hank went back to yelling at Bobby. "If I've told you once, I've told you 576 times", he started. "Always give the 110%!" Hank picked up a baseball, and his eyes briefly disappeared and reappeared somehow, like the animators forgot to put them in or something. Hank sighed. "They took my eyes, Bobby. They took... my eyes." Hank sat down at the table and, in a rare showing of emotion, sobbed to himself while Peggy held onto his shoulder.
The bit of bread and peanut flavored butter that was in my mouth... well, I stopped chewing. I mean, I wasn't afraid, this was probably some Jr. High School film project gone wrong or something, but I felt uncomfortable with the sudden display of emotion and use of non-sequitors. It wasn't like Hank to freak out over something as little as a baseball game. Well... it kind of was, but not to this extent.
That's when I found out that there was much more to what led to his emotional state... than that.
Hank stopped, wiped his eyes and his nose. "Peggy... the Yeti came back." He suddenly got up and stormed out of the room, heading straight to bed. There was... I don't know, it, it was like a European art show or something, with the video swirling around kind of crazy in a light brown and blue tinge, as Hank's eyes disappeared again, reappared bloodshot, and he slowly shut them and went back to sleep, all while the camera was zoomed in so close to his face that you could witness a vein seemingly... start to snap. The screen went to black, and then I... I spit out my food.
The words... the words that displayed... were morbid.
"We're all on a bus, spiraling straight into the sun. What will you do when you run out of food? Won't you come along for this final, fateful ride? Please don't hurt yourself. Just... go to sleep."
I hit the stop button. Then I screamed. I laughed maniacally. I screamed some more. I stepped all over the half-chewed bits and pieces of sandwich. I unfastened my fanny pack and ran downstairs. Damn it, man... I had an anxiety disorder to begin with, so this... this was just too much. I exhaled loudly. "This is all in your head, Tim. Your head's not on straight. Only you can fix it. Remember what your therapist said." I said all that to reassure myself, and it worked well enough. I huffed and puffed, inhaled, exhaled. I laughed at how silly I was for responding this way to somebody's crude prank. I went back upstairs. I realized that the only way to behave, you know, healthfully or whatever, was to watch the rest of this tape and overcome my ridiculous anxieties. Realize that they were ill-founded... you know. And then I could enjoy life for what it's truly worth.
I put the tape back on. The eery text faded, and King of the Hill zoomed back in. The animation, coloring, and so on looked like a typical King of the Hill episode. It was the Hill residence... their living room, it seemed. Peggy went to sit down on the sofa. Some show about a cartoon manatee who loved shoes was on, or something, I don't know... I didn't really care. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Peggy got up and answered. A person dressed in white doctor's clothes appeared.
You might expect Peggy to finally say something at this point, given it was her house too, but no, nothing. "Ah, Mrs. Hill. Dr. Renaldo is here to assist you, as always. I recall you speaking to me on the phone about Mr. Hill's Yeti problem."
Suddenly, the scene from the real pilot of King of the Hill, with Hank telling off the social worker and all, played in a dream-like flashback kind of way, all in black and white with a hazy texture layered on top of the video. "Will it happen again? Or will he learn? Is he the bus, or is he the sun?"... that text again, this time layered on top of the show itself! The audio was the King of the Hill theme song in a slow, sad, somber musical key, in slightly lower volume now. I felt like gulping.
The bedroom door opened. Hank walked out, without glasses on. He came so close to Dr. Renaldo that he could probably feel his breath on him if he was an actual person.
"Are you here... to stop those terrible dreams?", Hank said to Renaldo in a low, muffled tone.
"Yes, Peter. You knew fully well what you were doing when you jumped through the portal."
Okay, that was it. I had enough of this stupid, phony, college prankish bootleg episode of King of the Hill. Peter? What is this, Family Guy? His name was Hank! Dr. Renaldo? There was no Dr. Renaldo in King of the Hill! Use of the word faggot? That's nothing they'd do on this show! All the crazy colors and audio? The pirate show footage? I'm sorry, but that was it. Enough was enough. I didn't bother to hit stop this time. I ripped the VHS tape out of the player. I opened a kitchen drawer and found a matchbook. I ripped a match out and was prepared to strike. Forget the tape, the VHS player, Bob, Nicholas, the thrift store, whoever! I was going to burn down the house and take myself down with it. Let's face it, I spent my entire life wishing I was dead, my girlfriend wasn't even a real person, I don't know where I even just ran down to, seeing as how I live in an apartment and there's no real downstairs here... yes, I'm crazy. I was crazy from the start. I'm raving mad like
a lunatic. You know those old Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Fuck Woody, call me Screwy. I'm a screwball. I was born this way. It's nobody's fault. Or maybe it's mine. Or maybe it's yours. But nothing I've told you has any real meaning or purpose. The bus, the sun. George Jetson. My name isn't Tim, I can tell you that.
I continued viewing the VHS tape. Dr. Renaldo was rubbing Hank's back as his face continued to get redder and redder. I don't know why he said it, but he stopped, grabbed Renaldo's hand, and... you know how Hank Hill is always threatening to kick people's asses? Well, he punched Renaldo square in the balls. You'd think Renaldo would be the one reacting violently at this point, but it was Hank who grasped Renaldo by the neck, and howled out: "YOU GONNA GET MORE OF THOSE TWIG BOYS OVER HERE TO PUT ME IN PRISON AND TAKE MY BOY AWAY?!" The scene just... cut to Hank dragging Dr. Renaldo by the back of the neck, down the hallway and to the backyard. Hank took a propane tank off of the grill, and shoved the valve into Renaldo's mouth.
The video then went silent for a minute, simply showing the propane valve in Renaldo's mouth. When the scene started moving again, Renaldo's eyes slowly close, and a voice was heard. "Buck Strickland, forgive me for using Propane for this." The only problem was that when Hank said this, Hank didn't even sound like Mike Judge, the creator of the show who voiced Hank. It sounded like an older and deeper voice.
The screen went black after this. I fast forwarded through the rest of the tape, to make sure there was no more content on it. There was none. I thought to myself, "Why so much wasted space?", and at this point I was really shaken up. I went to grab a coffee, remembered my sandwich, and microwaved the soup that my baby girl had left me in the fridge.
When I got back, I popped in the second tape. It was just a black screen. I fast forwarded to check for content, and eventually came across some stuff that was really starting to scare me. It was a funeral, but there were very few colors: only various forms of gray and black, and the colors of peoples' faces. It simply did not seem like a real King of the Hill episode.
The funeral was for Dr. Renaldo. Attending it were all of the Hills' neighbors, including some friends like Bill, and Dale. Even Hank was there, claiming that Dr. Renaldo had committed suicide. As Dr. Renaldo's coffin was lowered into the hole, it faded into an overhead view of it being lowered.
This part... really scared the shit out of me.
It was a semi-highly-realistic image of Dr. Renaldo in the coffin. The reason I say semi, is because it looked real, but still appeared to be drawn, and not a real person. It was just a lifelike cartoon. The scene then cut to Bobby, Hank, and Ladybird sitting on a porch. Bobby had a queasy face, and Hank had one hand on the propane tank that he used to commit the murder. Bobby turned to his father.
"Why...did you do it dad?" he asked, in a humble voice.
"I don't know, son," Hank responded. He almost sounded like he was crying. He then stood up and walked inside, leaving Bobby and Ladybird who were still on the porch.
It once again cut to a very dull scene, with nothing but black, gray, and the skin colors. It was a scene that literally made me sick to my stomach. It was Hank, hanging from the ceiling, with a note pinned on him. It just stayed focused on him swinging back and forth for two minutes or so. The camera zoomed in on the note:
"If you have your secret decoder ring, solve the puzzle now. Solve the puzzle... and you will know the answer... to all of the Lost Episodes."
An Illuminati eye appeared underneath these words. The video then cut to the ending credits, with the normal outro and theme music.
I was actually laughing on the inside, at the fact that the show was playing the regular ending credits and theme, after all of that stuff happened. I was more confused than creeped out at it... but I was fascinated. I went on some forums, but found nothing about the episode.
I did come across someone on Yahoo Answers who had a similar occurrence to mine, however. She received a similar tape at a thrift shop in Burlington County in southern New Jersey; a place around 20 miles away from where I got mine. I managed to get on AIM with this person, but I got no answers. I was really curious at this point, so I drove over 800 miles and went right down to Cartoon Network/Turner Broadcasting HQ. I knew that Fox Broadcasting made the show, but I assumed Cartoon Network had every episode on record, as they aired them all.
Beforehand, I did some research, and figured out who was in charge of broadcasting KOTH. I found a receptionist in the studio, and demanded to talk to him. Unfortunately, I needed a guest pass of some sort. Completely pissed off but unshakably determined, I drove back home and put on my old movie theater usher's uniform (I was a movie theater usher in Burlington County about three years ago), thinking it would somehow make me look more like an authority figure. I went back, and although it was unlawful, I flashed him my ID, with a fake badge on it.
When I got into his office, he was just sitting at his desk talking on his phone. I walked up to him, threw the tapes on his desk, and I made my demand.
"I have the tapes, and I see you're giving somebody... a ring. Time to put down that phone... and give me a ring."
He dropped the phone immediately, and grasped the tapes from me. I followed him to another office on the other side of the building. There was a small safe in this office. He opened it up, put the tapes in, locked it... and demanded that I leave. But before he did, he made a demand to me:
"Seinfeld. Home Improvement. Frasier. Droopy Dog. They're all out there. You must find them... and you must bring them... to the Canadian office. You must speak...
... to George Jetson."
I felt sick. I knew George Jetson was a real person, and I knew in my heart that I should've taken the trip to Canada. And now... I didn't want to act like an authority figure anymore, because I knew I was in enough trouble as I was. The insane bastard danced the Macarena, the Harlem Shuffle, and some other dances I couldn't be bothered to recognize. Enough with his demands. I wanted to have a normal life again...
I drove home again, and I flipped on the TV. Adult Swim was on, and I was relieved to see a real episode of King of the Hill. To this day, there are only two copies of this episode on four tapes, that I can find anything about on the Internet. One of them, I assume is still locked up in Cartoon Network Studios. Maybe, just maybe... you might come across more of them in thrift shops throughout the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
'Head for the Hills' is dedicated to Nicholas Costi, and is a spinoff of both his works and The King of the Hill Lost Episode. Original portions written by Cjaymarch84.