The Ghost of Fearless Future — A Christmas Parody

The Ghost of Fearless Future — A Christmas Parody December 9, 2023

The Ghost of Fearless Future
Image by John Leech, 1843, Wikimedia Commons.

What miraculous things might happen if we conquer our fears?

 

Christmas Eve.

“It’s so cold, I can barely move my fingers,” says Rob Ratchet. “Can we please turn up the heat?”

Rob is working overtime, helping you meet the December quota.

“It’s too late for that,” you say. “We’ll be done soon enough.”

“You’re such a Scrooge,” he says, ripping off a piece of packing tape. “Always pinching pennies.”

Abruptly, the front door opens with a creaking of hinges and flurry of snowflakes.

“Holy crap,” you say, your gut muscles tightening. “I thought you locked the door!”

Before Ratchet can answer, two sturdy women with red coats, navy ties and bright smiles step in.

“Donations for the poor?” one asks, holding up a red pail.

“I’m sorry,” you say, walking toward the door. “We have nothing to spare.”

Their smiles don’t fade. “That’s okay, sir,” one says.

“We wish you a merry Christmas,” says the other. They step out the door.

Latching the deadbolt, you breathe a sigh of relief. Within the hour, you complete your work and bid Ratchet farewell.

~~~~~~

That night while shivering in the sheets, a kid of about 12 with a backpack and carrot-red hair appears at the foot of your bed. He’s so goofy looking that you don’t even reach for your nine millimeter.

“I am the Ghost of Fearful Past,” he says. “Come with me.”

In a flash, you are swept from your bed. You find yourself standing in an old-style elementary school classroom.

“They can’t see you,” he says.

Your eyes widen.

“I recognize this place,” you say. “And that … that’s my third grade teacher!”

“I give him snacks all the time,” a boy tells the teacher, “but he’s so greedy he never shares.”

You recognize the boy as Rob Ratchet and without question, you know that he is talking about you.

“It’s not so much that he’s greedy,” your teacher says with a note of compassion. “He’s just afraid that others will take advantage of him. He’s been bullied. It’s made him kind of a loner.”

“He’s a greedy bastard,” says Ratchet.

“Mind your vocabulary!” says the teacher. “He’s just a frightened kid.”

~~~~~~

In a dizzying whirl, the classroom disappears. You find yourself standing in your high school homeroom, beside a post-pubescent Ratchet.

“You can’t trust all those terrorist nations,” says a pimpled kid you recognize as yourself.

“Just because they’re Muslim doesn’t mean they’re terrorists,” pleads Ratchet.

“They blew up the Trade Centers, didn’t they? We’d be foolish to negotiate with them. Tanks and missiles are the only language they understand. Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.”

“So you’d rather fight a war than sit down and try to come to a reasonable solution,” says Ratchet.

“That’s right,” says your teenage self. “The biggest, strongest kid on the block doesn’t have to answer to nobody.”

“You’d have a lot less worries if you weren’t so afraid of everybody who’s different from you,” says Ratchet.

~~~~~~

Once more, the air blurs. Your feet touch carpet. You are face-to-face with your mother, whose hair is wrapped in that stupid bandana she wore throughout your college years.

“I won’t have it!” she yells, her face red. “The hunting rifle can stay. But no pistols! No semi-automatics! No … I don’t even know what to call those things, but get them out of my house! You hear me? I will not allow you to have your own private militia here. Get it out!”

~~~~~~

With an icy grip on your arm, the Ghost of Fearful Past lifts you through the ceiling. You fly like the wind across the city, circling a sketchy quarter of town that looks like a dark splotch on a map.

“Wanna come to my house after school?” you hear little Ratchet begging in your ear. “I built a bike track in that vacant lot. And I got a new porch swing. We can hunt for treasure in that abandoned warehouse.”

“Your neighborhood is too sketchy,” you hear yourself say.

The ghost takes you faster and lower, rushing past power lines, rooftops and billboards.

Looks as bad as I remember.

“I bought an old house for a song,” says 30-ish Ratchet. “Wanna help me fix it up? It’s on nearly half an acre. I wanna make an urban garden for the whole neighborhood.”

I never went to visit him, you think. It’s just not safe there. Not with all those scary people.

~~~~~~

With a whoosh like the flushing of a toilet, the cityscape dissolves. Two young women sit holding mugs at your favorite campus coffee shop. Your heart flutters to see pretty Tara … and regrets flood your mind.

“My world is so much bigger than his,” Tara says to the other woman. “If I say, ‘I’d love to go to Mexico,’ he tells me all the reasons I’ll get killed there. If I even mention having a kid someday, he’s like, ‘You can’t afford kids anymore,’ or ‘It’s a shitty world to bring kids into.’ I have these dreams and passions but his world is so small. All that paranoia will probably kill him.”

“So it’s ‘Hasta la vista, baby’,” says the other woman.

“Dear John,” says Tara. “He’s kind of cute but he’s not the one for me.”

~~~~~~

The Ghost of Fearful Past pulls you backwards, through walls and ceilings, clouds and galaxies.

“Why would you take a job that you hate,”  a school counselor says, “when you have so much talent? If you follow your passions, you’ll be a success for sure. Think of all the people who need what you have to offer. Don’t sell yourself short.”

“It’s too risky,” you hear yourself saying. “I need a steady paycheck. And benefits.”

“I’m telling you, this job will suck the life out of you.”

“I have some dental work coming up,” you insist. “I’d be a fool not to take the insurance package. It’s a big company. With promotions, I’ll be set for the rest of my life.”

For the rest of my life, you hear the wind call.

For the rest of my life, echoes the sky.

For the rest of my life, groans your heart.

~~~~~~

You are back in bed. The kid with the backpack is gone. In his place stands a grinning giant, his head bumping into your plaster ceiling.

“Let’s go,” he bellows. His voice rattles the windows.

“Who are you?” you holler, as his hairy fingers wrap around your leg.

“The Ghost of Fearful Present,” he says.

In the blink of an eye, you land in a heap on the floor of Rob Ratchet’s kitchen. His family is gathered around a sparse Christmas dinner. Their heads are bowed and their disabled son, Tiny Tom, is praying.

“… and God bless Daddy’s boss for giving Daddy a job when he was out of work. We know you’ll forgive him for making Daddy work such long hours for so little money. He doesn’t mean to be cruel. He’s just afraid he’ll lose everything. Help him not to say that every stranger is bad. He must be really lonely, God, so bless him and give him a happy Christmas.”

With another whoosh, you find yourself alone in bed again.

~~~~~~

You scan the dark corners of your bedroom, hoping the ghostly intruders are gone once and for all. Your heart sinks as you hear the rattling of chains and distant howling of wolves. A theatrical mist rises and with it appears a sorry figure of about 70 with sunken cheeks and a stringy comb-over.

“Boo,” he says.

“Super scary,” you say with a chuckle. “Hey, didn’t I see you at that Eighth Street pawnshop the other day?”

“Shut up,” he says. A black sheet is draped over his shoulder. He pulls some wax fangs from his shirt pocket and presses them into his mouth.

“I … am,” he says, breathing heavily, “the … Ghost …”

He pauses to emit emphysemic gasps of air.

“of … Fearless … Future.”

More gasps.

“You can cut out all that cheesy Darth Vader crap,” you say.

Your bedroom disappears as the spirit leads you into ever increasing darkness. As if you are speeding through a dark tunnel on an amusement park ride, images come and go, fading in and out of your vision.

“The opposite of fear is not courage, but love,” says the voice of Morgan Freeman.

“Perfect love drives out fear,” echoes David Attenborough.

“There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others,” says Mother Teresa.

“Fear makes your world so small,” says Oprah Winfrey, “while fearless love enables you to overcome every obstacle that stands in your way.”

A projected image on a rippling white sheet shows you giving notice to your boss, then going on to start your own business. You are freed from financial worries. All of your bills are paid and you’re not even sure how.

You fearlessly hug strangers and volunteer at a soup kitchen.

You propose to pretty Tara and start a family.

Rob Ratchet becomes a partner in business, sharing your rewards. His son, Tiny Tom, gets the treatment he needs to improve his health.

You are embraced by nieces, nephews and restaurant servers because of your generosity. You invite a man and woman with strange accents and clothes to a neighborhood potluck. You take an exotic journey with Tara.

You spend less time reading brochures about extended warranty plans. Phone solicitors hang up when their fear-inducing tactics don’t work on you. You fearlessly visit prison inmates to share love and encouragement.

You regularly volunteer at  Ratchet’s urban farm. His neighborhood sparkles and shines, not with gentrifying yuppies, but with proud folk who — thanks to you — have been given the tools and opportunities they need to thrive.

A metalworker converts your guns into gardening implements for the urban farm. Local gang members do the same with their weapons.

The visions fade to blackness as the ghoul’s wheezing breath fills your ears.

“How could these things be true?” you ask, eyes wide and spirits lifted. “Or is it only a fantasy?”

“Don’t get your hopes up,” he says. “It’s one possible outcome for your life. But from what I’ve seen, you’re not likely to get there. On the other hand, I’m about to show you the darker consequences of the road you are currently traveling …”

“No! No! No!” you shout. “I want that first outcome! Please, spirit … I reject the road I’m on. I want the future you showed me! Please, spirit! Please …”

~~~~~~

Your next conscious thoughts are of awakening from a deep slumber. You throw off the blankets and run to the window, seeing a bright world covered anew with freshly-fallen snow.

Out of darkness … into the fearless future.

“Christmas morning!” you shout with glee.

You hastily get dressed and go out, performing more acts of kindness than you ever thought possible. While delivering gifts to the Ratchet family, you get invited to Christmas dinner.

After Rob Ratchet blesses the meal, Tiny Tom reaches over, squeezes your hand and says, “God bless us, everyone … especially you, Uncle!”

~~~~~~

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” — Jesus, Matthew 6:25-26

 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — 1 John 4:18

 

 


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