Wednesday, December 28, 2011

REPLAY: PCC's Ghosts of Christmases Yet to Come

Three chimes. I didn’t have the stomach to go through this again. But I knew I had no choice.  I needed to see this through.

In front of me, the ghost loomed, somehow darker than the others, as if the void inside the hood was deeper and blacker than the darkness around it. On the robe, flames ignited and flared out in a random pattern, sparking the air around the figure.

This wasn’t a frail, sweet Bronte sister or DeFoe. This was creepy. “Who are you?”

He didn’t answer, just smoldered.

“Please don’t.” I pressed a hand to my aching chest. “I can’t take this again.”

He raised a white, skeletal hand and pointed to the door. There was nothing to do but follow, to see what he had to show me. I followed out the door and up the stairs to deck.

A cool breeze fluttered against my skin, but even that held a hint of danger. The soft December sunlight didn’t fully light the deck, leaving ominous shadows in the corners and around the dusty bar.

Dust?  Since when have a bunch of pirates let a bar sit idle enough to go dusty? As the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come floated past the bar, dust and ash stirred into the air and ignited, then slowly drifted back down to sizzle against the wood. Where was the string of penis lights?  Where was our collection of rum bottles from around the world?  But no decorations remained.  Not the framed pictures of Playgirl layouts, not even the glitter-covered fireman’s pole. No sign of our old raucous ways.

“Where is everyone?”

A bird squalled overhead, circled twice, and descended fast toward the ghost. I took another giant step backward, but the bird only landed on the ghosts shoulder.

“What is that? A crow? In the ocean?” Then I looked closer. It was a raven. A fucking raven. “Oh shit. You’re Edgar Allen Poe.”

He thumped the deck of the ship with a cane in a perfect “ba-bum, ba-bum” heart-beat rhythm. “A simple yes would have done the trick,” I muttered. Where’d he even get the cane anyway?

He pointed again, below deck.

The wenches were below?

Probably keeping busy with the hotties.  I smiled.  That was more like it.

But as the ghost, raven on the shoulder and all, drifted down the stairs toward the cabins, there was no trace of sassy giggling or lewd innuendo.  Instead, the soft hum of typing was the only sound in the air.

Each of the wenches was in their cabins, hunched over their desks, as page after page flew from the rollers of printers nearby. Paper littered the floor everywhere:  stacks lined the wall, throw-away sheets crumpled into balls, and shreds drifted down the hallway like forsaken tumbleweed.

Wait.  They’d finally followed my directions and gone below to write?

I clapped a hand over my mouth. “They did it! Look how much they’ve all written!”

But the ghost just continued to drift and kept pointing.

“What is this? I need to keep looking?” The scene didn’t change. Keys tapped, papers floated down to land on stacks already leaning precariously to the side. The clacks of the keys mixed with the splash of the waves, creating the soundtrack I’d always loved most.

But every time I’d achieved that perfect sound, it’d been broken by laughing pirates or smashing bottles or screeching undead monkeys, by some new distraction waiting to drag me from my work.

Suddenly, the silence seemed obscene.

I looked over at Ghost-man, but he was no help. A sheet of paper fluttered past my face. I snatched it out of the air and smoothed out the crinkles. Words, and words, and words.

But that’s all they were. Words. This wasn’t a story. There was no emotion, no spark.

Just words.

I watched as Sin kept typing. The passion in her face, the passion for the story, was gone. She stayed hunched over, typing word after word. “What happened to you?”

No answer. She only typed. I checked each of the other cabins. I could barely find Lisa, Terri, and Marn past their stacks of paper. Mo and Hal were writing by hand, and Santa and JP were hunched over one typewriter, collaborating.

They’d finally done as I’d asked.

And I’d killed their laughter, their creativity. Their passion.

“This can’t be right.  This isn’t what I wanted, not what I asked for.”
My hand shook as I turned the knob of my cabin, pushing the door open.  Its creak told me how long it’d been since I’d had company.

Inside, the stacks of paper, the crumpled discards, were deeper and higher than the other pirates.  And in the deep recesses of the room, by the light of lone candle, I sat tapping on my laptop.  The sexy corset I’d worn for Jack—in tatters and covered in ink smudges.  My sassy haircut?  Grown out.

“Where’s Jack?”

No response.  And I knew.  Gone.  Jack was gone, off to find his bliss somewhere else.

I dropped down on a teetering stack of papers.  “This can’t be what I asked them for.  I just wanted them to write more, not lose themselves in their writing.” My head got heavy and I cradled it in my palms.  “There is no story without our voices, without our laughter.  There’s no joy in what we do if we have no joy ourselves.  I know I’ve said that before.  I’m sure I did.  Didn’t I?”

This time, when I got no response, I knew the answer.  Maybe not enough.  But that was going to change.

“I’m going to change.  It’s important we write, but it’s just as important that we stay who we are, that we embrace the things that make us pirates, make us wenches, make us fierce!” I shot to my feet and took the stairs to the upper deck two at a time.

The bar was still dusty and unused, undecorated. The ghost hovered behind me. “Never again." I slapped the bar and left a handprint in the dust. “Take me back, Eddie. I’ve got work to do.”

The raven crowed and flew into the air, the smoke around Poe swirled, the clocks chimed, and I was back in my cabin. There were a few grains of sand on the keyboard of my laptop, and two crumpled sheets of paper lie at my feet.

It’d been real. And now I had work to do.

Question for you wenches! If you could see Christmas five years from now, what would it look like? Who’d show it to you? What moment are you most looking forward to this year — the presents, the food, the stockings, the Mass, what?