Part One – A Visit from Beyond
“Doing anything nice this year, guv?”
“What?” replied Ebeneezer Ashley, his highlighter pen hovering over the balance book and his eyes fixed on the source of this impertinent question.
“It’s Christmas, guv! You got any plans?” repeated Bob Pardew, Ashley’s under-manager in his thick London accent.
Ashley fixed him with an icy stare from his dark eyes, which lay buried behind a pair of fat cheeks. He twirled his pink highlighter pen between his porky fingers and shook his round head slowly. He had been lumbered with Pardew after sacking his previous manager, whose major crime had been to be popular with both the employees and the customers. Pardew was the only one who would take the job, and he had proven surprisingly adept at it. In fact, after an initial period of distrust, both the employees and customers were slowly coming to appreciate the job Pardew was doing. Ashley would have to do something about that, but that would have to wait for a later date.
“Christmas?” repeated Ashley slowly, letting the word linger in the air.
“Yeah!” replied Pardew, his head nodding like an excited dog.
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Sorry boss” replied Pardew. His eyes grew big like a puppy waiting for forgiveness.
“It’s all about spending money none of us have…” continued Ashley, ignoring the huge amounts of money currently residing in his bank account.
“So there’ll be no money for strengthening the team?” asked Pardew, his head dropping with sadness.
“Listen, pal, I’ll decide when the time comes.”
“We could get a few people in. We could even strengthen the team in a few key areas without spending any money!
“Do you have any idea how much free costs!?” roared Ashley. “Get out, you little shit! You’ll get what you’re given this year!”
Ashley threw a paperweight after the rapidly fleeing Pardew, only just avoiding hitting him as it shattered against the wall. Ashley grumbled some obscenities and closed the balance books. He had saved the company enough money for one day, and decided to return home and get an early night. The company had a lot of money which could be raised in the new year sales.
After watching Emmerdale with a Chinese takeaway, Ashley lit a candle and went up the stairs of his mansion to bed. No point wasting money on lights when a candle would be fine, even if it did often mean that the last thing he saw before bed was Harry Redknapp’s face in the melted candle wax. He needed a good night’s sleep to prepare his fire sale in January, so he tucked himself up in bed and blew the candle out. No more Redknapp dreams… He closed his eyes…
And heard the rattling of a chain. He opened his eyes. Nothing. He shuffled further down the bed and closed his eyes again, but the rattling started once more. He put a chubby hand to his belly. Nope, it felt ok. It clearly wasn’t that. He threw the blankets off and sat bolt-upright. As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he saw a fatter, older version of himself sat on the edge of the bed eating from a KFC bucket.
“Here, you want a wing, Ashley?” asked the figure perched on the end of the bed.
Ashley held out a hand, and the figure held out the chicken piece, which passed through Ashley’s hand.
“What?” asked Ashley. He tried reaching again, and this time his hand passed through both the succulent piece of chicken and the white sleeve of the figure. He started trembling with fear. “Freddie Marley? I thought… you were… I mean…”
“Settle down, bonnie lad. It’s not really me. Well, I mean it is. But I’m not real. Fuck, man, I’m not explaining this very well. I’m dead to this world now, with the exception of my frequent comments in the press” said Marley through greasy lips. He had sold the company to Ashley several years ago, and was the last person Ashley would ever invite into his house, least of all allow to perch his fat arse on the edge of Ashley’s bed while eating fried chicken and wiping his greasy fingers on the sheets. Or at least it looked like he was wiping his fingers on the sheets. “My soul is not at peace,” continued Marley. “I am condemned to eat fried chicken in limbo for eternity”
“Sounds good…” muttered Ashley, licking his lips.
“Well… aye it is. But I mean, that’s all I can do. No more expensive lesbian shows in Spanish brothels, no more stealing money from the books and no more being treated as Buddha by members of the local press. Just me and this bucket. Been a few years now. I miss the thrill. And the same will happen to you unless you change your ways.”
“You’re trying to tell me how to run my company?”
“It’s not a company, it’s more than that. It belongs to more than just you and your mates. I realise that now, but it was too late for me. You still have a chance to change your ways.”
“What?” scoffed Ashley. “I didn’t get where I am today by listening to others’ opinions. It’s my company. This is how I’m going to run it. Anyone says otherwise can chew a brick.”
“Then you will be doomed.”
“So be it” replied Ashley, growing in confidence. This was obviously a weird, Chinese-food provoked dream.
“Listen here, man, you fuckin idiot. I’m sat here with a bucket of fuckin fried chicken, and I fuckin love it! And I don’t wanna share it with you for eternity. You’re gonna get a chance to change your ways and you’d better fuckin take it, you cockney prick.”
“What? You don’t come into my house and speak to me like that.”
“I’ll do what I fuckin like. Here, watch this…” Freddie Marley stood up, dropped his suit trousers and striped boxer shorts, and started rubbing his arse along Ashley’s linen sheets, much like a dog with worms would do. Ashley launched himself at the fat intruder, passing through both him and the bucket of chicken before crumbling into a blubbery heap on the floor. Laughter rang out across the room. Marley’s voice boomed through the still night air, and the pain in Ashley’s body convinced him he was no longer in a dream: “You will be visited by three visions. You will change your ways. You’re not getting my fuckin chicken.”
To be continued…