Part Four – The Ghost of Ameobi Yet to Come
…In the last instalment, Ebeneezer Ashley was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. The ghost showed him the work Christmas party, which Ashley had not gone to. Ashley was shocked to find out that Bob Pardew and the lads would be getting him a Christmas present, and would forgive him for his tight-fisted ways…
Ashley found himself back in bed. What did it all mean? The team had clubbed together to buy him a present and said they would forgive him for the way he had behaved in the past. He didn’t like many of them, and in fact he thought of them as nothing more than assets in part of his corporate machine, but to hear them speak of him in such friendly terms touched his heart somewhat. Maybe they weren’t such bad lads after all. Maybe even Pardew was ok.
He lay awake, waiting for the next ghost to visit. And he didn’t have to wait long. Hovering above his bed was a tall, thin figure, his features covered by a dark robe and shadows.
“You must be the other Ameobi…”
The figure continued to hover.
“Sammy. That’s the name. The young one.”
A dark hand stretched out from the darkness, beckoning Ashley to get up.
“You don’t speak?”
The ghost pulled its hand back into the shadows and waited for Ashley to get out of bed.
“I guess not… This should be interesting. I mean, how will the writer be able to hit the target word count if it’s just me talking to a shadow?” Ashley muttered, breaking the fourth wall. He slowly dragged himself up, an act which I should really describe in more detail to fill space and hit said word count… Of course, Ashley then confounded the writer (me) by moving quickly towards the ghost. This is getting quite confusing, as I am blurring the line between fiction and reality. Well, my imagined reality. Unless this all actually really happened… Anyway…
Ashley stood by the apparition. Even from this close distance, nothing about the figure was distinguishable. Ashley was starting to get a bit nervous – no longer certain he was hallucinating, at least the other ghosts were human in nature. With this one, he could not tell. It could be a speedy winger hidden within the black shroud, or it could be a wolf riding a unicycle while holding a severed human hand. He had no way of knowing.
Within a flash of light, Ashley and his new ghostly companion were in a gentleman’s club. Not that kind. A classy member’s only bar, I mean. Three men were talking, and Ashley knew them all. Fellow sweatshop owner Dave Whelan, Ellis Short, the American owner of a laughing stock of a company (which saw itself as competition for Ashley’s own company), and Phil Gartside, a chubby Lancastrian mouthpiece. They were laughing and swilling expensive champagne.
“Classless. All I have to say about the man” said Short.
“Aye, he were that. Crass as well. Boor of a man. Coming up north to try and steal our business” agreed Whelan.
Gartside nodded his agreement. He was distracted by a draft plan on his lap, one which would ensure that his company, a small and unproductive little outfit, would retain its seat on the trade association’s top table, at the expense of bigger, more productive outfits.
“I’m glad he’s gone” continued Whelan. “Doubt he left anything for the funeral. Though, I guess no one will go anyway…”
“I would go if there was food on…” opined Short. They all laughed at that one.
“Who are they talking about?” asked Ashley. He had no sooner finished asking the question when he found himself, alongside his ghostly companion, in a morgue. One large body lay under a green plastic blanket, framed by a circle of pale light. Ashley felt a chill in his bones. The ghost floated over towards the table. Once again the dark hand reached out, pausing above the blanket, poised to reveal the dead man.
“No!” shouted Ashley, overcome by fear. “I no longer want to know. Take me away from here!” he commanded.
They were now in Bob Pardew’s living room. Pardew was sat in armchair with a glass of whiskey in his hand, staring out the window at the gently falling snow.
A woman, Ashley assumed it must be Pardew’s wife, stuck her head through the door. “You coming to bed, Pards?”
His wife called him ‘Pards’. Ashley added this to the mental list of reasons why he disliked Pardew. It was a long list, despite his kind words about Ashley at the Christmas party.
“Yeah, doll. After this drink.”
“I know it’s not what you want to hear, but he was a terrible man.”
“He saved my career.”
“No. You saved your career. He ruined the company, and you’re better off now. The new company is so much better. Better money, better staff, and a much better, and kinder, owner.”
Ashley winced. Could they be talking about him? Pardew had white hair, but he had had white hair when Ashley had hired him. He looked older, but it was hard to tell how much.
“True, but he’s dead now, and it’s just such a waste.”
“Come to bed, Pards.”
Pardew took a long look at his glass, drained it and headed for the door. He flicked a finger back in to the room to turn the light off, and shut the door behind him. As the door clicked shut, Ashley and the ghost were in a snowy graveyard. It would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for the headstones and the eerie calm of the cold night air. He was stood at the foot of a fresh grave. The shadow was between him and the headstone, seemingly waiting for him.
Ashley swallowed his fear and nodded his head slowly The ghost drifted to the side, allowing Ashley to focus on the headstone. Made of cheap stone, it read simply:
1964 – 2014
That was it. His life summed up as the hyphen between two dates. No words of remembrance, and a cheap headstone. A pauper’s grave. And the date – 2014 was just over two years away.
Overcome by shock, he dropped to his knees. He looked back to the ghost, who was now perched over his right shoulder. “But this hasn’t happened, right? I mean,” he pointed at the grave, “that is based on this current present. If I change, this changes, don’t it? I can change. I can change… I can change…” he pleaded into the cool, still air.
To be continued…