The clanging bells of Scrooge’s clock awoke him with a start. “What?! What’s this?” He cried, glancing over to the timepiece, its first and second hands currently resting at 12. “Blasted alarm. Once again something else that needs to be fixed in my life!”
“And it’s not even the most important thing that needs to be fixed, Zachariah.” A voice from the ether said. It was a woman’s voice. Delicate. Lilting. Scrooge would have found it relaxing, if there had been a body to place with such a heavenly sound. Instead, he clutched the worn sheets of his bed to his body, hiding the lower half of his face.
“W-who’s there? Show yourself!” He cried, with more terror than anger in his voice.
“Calm yourself, Scrooge,” The soothing voice said. Out of the darkness, a woman appeared. She was petite, with brown hair that draped over her shoulders. Her face was one of kindness, with a genuine smile for the miser. “I am the first spirit of Comedy your dear friend Thomas mentioned to you.”
Scrooge slowly let the sheet down from his face, his body still tense as he rested against the large headboard. “Oh, yes. Of course.” His eyes narrowed as he studied the spirit before him. “You look…familiar.”
The spirit smiled, her arms lifting from her lithe body slowly, then brushing her hands downward. “We spirits take on a form that can be found comforting. I believe the woman you are seeing was from a television show, with new episodes still being played to this day. A show that is found late at night on Saturdays.”
“Yes, well,” Scrooge muttered, sitting further up in bed. “Let’s get on with it then. Are you here to show me slides or give some speech about how comedy was simpler when you were around?”
“Nothing like that, Zachariah.” The spirit whispered softly, gliding to the side of his bed. She reached out with her right arm toward Scrooge, who shrunk back, his hands clutching his sheet tighter. The spirit laughed. “Zachariah, I am here to take you back to when you first started comedy. To a more innocent time, when laughter was all you needed.”
Scrooge’s eyes darted down to the spirit’s hand, then back to her face. Though he had spent the past few years of his life with the inability to trust anyone, he found the spirit calming, genuine. Tentatively, he held his right hand out. The spirit grasped it gently, whispering thanks.
Suddenly, Scrooge found himself no longer in his bedroom, but on a black stage. He peered out into the darkness, instantly recognizing the faded blue upholstery on the seats in the audience section. “But, it can’t be…” He muttered, stepping forward onto the stage.
“Yes, Zachariah,” The spirit clasped her hands in front of her, floating serenely in the upper left portion of the stage. “This is your old high school.”
“My God!” Scrooge cried, his bare feet padding along the stage. “It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen this place!” He turned around, his eyes wide as he took in the architecture. “I spent so much time in here. It was like a second home.”
“And you can’t have a home without a family.” The spirit said just as the doors from the hallway opened. Scrooge’s mouth went agape as he saw himself from 11 years ago. Hair curled high, a hawaiian shirt, and ill-fitting jeans. His hand ran over his head, kept clean by a #1.5 razor. “Good lord, look at me. Not a care in the world.”
The door swung open again, three more people entering. The first was a tall young man, with straight red hair in a bowl-cut that extended to just above his ears. “Nathan!” Scrooge exclaimed. The second, another young man, around Scrooge’s 5’5″ height, with dark blond curls piled on his head. “West!” He exclaimed again, a hint of joy beginning to stir within his soul. And the third was a young woman. Straight black hair pulled into a ponytail. At the sight of this girl, Scrooge stumbled back slightly. “…Laura.” He whispered. Scrooge shook his head, the back of his hand reaching up to his eyes, wiping them quickly before spinning to face the spirit. “We must hide, spirit! I’ve seen enough of those time-travel movies that I know if my past-self sees me, then my future-self could no longer exist!”
The spirit laughed kindly, raising a hand up. “Relax, Zachariah. We are merely spirits, the same ghosts that haunt all theaters. We will not be noticed.” Scrooge’s body relaxed slightly as he joined the spirit at her side, growing silent. The four young people in front of Scrooge all moved to the stage. Nathan was the first to speak, stepping into the middle of the circle, the clap of his hands echoing throughout the auditorium.
“All right, guys, we got a competition to get ready for this Friday! It’s time we showed those fools over at Wayville that Lee High is as talented as they are!” The four of them nodded vigorously. Scrooge couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his younger self, balancing on the balls of his feet, bouncing his body slightly side to side. “Look, spirit! Look at that! I remember this! It was the practice before my first improv competition.” He couldn’t help but smile slightly at the memory. “It was an exciting time. A new time.” The sound of the group warming up brought his focus back to them.
The four young people were in a circle, tossing an imaginary ball around. “Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! West, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”
“Laura…” Scrooge chuckled under his breath, turning to the spirit. “Behold, spirit, the girl who got me into comedy in the first place.”
The spirit laughed, tilting her head. “Is that so, Zachariah?” Scrooge smiled and nodded, turning his attention back to the group.
“Indeed, spirit. I always had an interest in comedy. But, it was when I found out that she…” He gestured toward Laura. “…Was joining this improvisation group…You couldn’t sign me up fast enough.” He grinned at the thought, shaking his head ahead. “I was a young man in foolish puppy love.”
“Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”
The spirit turned toward Scrooge. “What happened to these people, Zachariah?”
The joy in Scrooge’s eyes faded slightly, the smile from his face eroding slowly. “…I don’t know. After graduation, we all went our separate ways. Nathan went north. West stayed within the area. Laura went south, then north. And I…” Scrooge shrugged. “…I went my own way. I thought I had to get as far away from this place as possible. Become my own man and all that. And I did. I did become my own man.” He laughed bitterly. “My own man who isn’t able to keep in contact with people in his life.”
The spirit said nothing, her eyes softening as she reached her hand out, placing it gently on Scrooge’s shoulder. “Come, Zachariah. I believe you’ve seen enough.”
Scrooge looked at the spirit’s hand, then into her eyes. “Please, spirit. Let’s stay a while longer?” He could feel the spirit’s hand squeeze his shoulder, and knew her response before she even spoke.
“I am sorry, Zachariah. But what’s in the past is in the past. And, if all you think about is the past, then you won’t see the opportunities you have in the future.”
Scrooge nodded sadly. “Yes, spirit. Of course.” He stood up straight, hands smoothing out the front of his wrinkled nightgown before once again wiping his eyes. “Take me away, spirit. There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.”
The spirit smiled softly, and within an instant Scrooge was back in his bed, under the covers. He sat up with a start, looking over to the clock. It only read five minutes past the midnight hour. “A dream,” he said, laying slowly back into bed. “Nothing but a…wonderful dream.”
He rolled onto his side, staring at the wall. His own words echoed through his mind. “There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.” He whispered, before sleep finally overtook him.
To Be Continued…