“Welcome to ESP Network Christmas Eve haunting. I am the Ghost of Christmas Now. These are my co-hosts, Christmas Past and Christmas Future. And it’s time for the Super Haunting of all hauntings. What can you tell us about these two contestants, CP?”
“Merry Christmas CN And CF. We’ve had some great years together. The visiting team is the Inner Demons. These guys are nasty and have a reputation for pulling out all the stops. I don’t expect anything different tonight.
“What can you say about this guy, Ebenboozer? Team after team seems to win the battle, but none of them have won the war, including ourselves.”
“He drove us into retirement, that’s for sure,” says CN. “What’s your spin, CF?”
“Merry Christmas and I hope many more to come, CP and CN. The Inner Demons have taken it way beyond a traditional shaming. Their playbook is new, fresh, and scary. A big victory tonight for the Inner Demons could change the future of the game. A lot is riding on this one.”
CN says to the viewing audience, “Okay. Mary Frickin Christmas is down on the field with the Inner Demons.
CN touches the spiritual transceiver in his left ear. He says, “Mary Frickin Christmas?”
She responds with, “Right back at you.”
CN asks, “Whose the setup person this haunting?”
“The Inner Demons have chosen to go without a setup person. They say they don’t need one.”
CP frowns, “I don’t like it. That’s just the way it is done. It’s fundamentals.”
Mary Fricken Christmas holds the mike up to the invisible and asks, “What’s your strategy going into the first half, Inner Demons?”
Her eyes roll up into her head, and her body shakes. In a demonic voice that is not her own, she says, “It’s all about the time of possession. They who control the time of possession, control the outcome of the game.”
Mary’s body snaps forward like someone just gave it back. She says, “I’m a believer. Back to you.”
CN says, “Let’s go over to Holly Daze reporting for the home team. Holly?”
“The only Christmas in this house is on the big screen and Ebenboozer is watching the Grinch on his phone.”
In the background, Ebenboozer is sliding into the semi-consciousness of first sleep on his lounge chair. The narrator is commenting on the disposition of the Grinch,
“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
Holly Daze says, “He has places to go if he wants to. He just don’t want to. Back to you.”
CN says, “We have a great show coming your way.”
Ebenboozer is standing on the deck of a wooden ship with its sails furled. The ice has trapped the ship. There is nothing but blowing snowdrifts for as far as the eye can see. He shouts to a muffled, barren landscape. “Is anyone out there?” No one responds.
He finds no one on the ship. He finds a room that must belong to the captain and enters. He does not recognize the reflection in the mirror on the dresser. The man in the reflection wears a torn, woolen cap and has a weathered, at sea look to him.
Ebenboozer settles for a smaller room next to it on the chance the captain returns. Besides, he figures, the smaller room will be easier to heat. He finds provisions in the crates and barrels of a lower deck. He starts a fire in an iron stove. The insulation of his room is good.
The sun dips below the horizon and then resurfaces for a brief partial appearance before disappearing again. Then there is nothing but glow below the horizon followed by darkness. Only the ship’s creaking in the ice pack and the howling winds break the monotony of the eternal night.
A month passes in the time it takes a shooting star to cross the sky. Sometimes Ebenboozer hears the voices between his ears; sometimes, he hears them in the distance. Whenever his eyes chase the hallucinations, they vanish.
The second month passes in stillness. Ebenboozer sees the captain on the deck, not remembering when he returned. He asks the captain if he has plotted a course out of their icy death trap. The captain paces himself into invisibleness and disappears. Ebenboozer sees fleeting images of the crew on the deck conversing. Whenever he walks toward them, they vanish. The hallucinations are getting worse.
The third month passes in darkness. Beautiful naked women parade on the deck, oblivious to the deadly chill. One winks at Ebenboozer and asks him, “Would you like me to warm you up?” He reaches out toward her. Her face turns the ghostly blue of death and then into a skull. The skull rushes his face with a roar opening its mouth to engulf Ebenboozer.
Ebenboozer wakes with a scream. He is back on his lounge chair in front of the heatless image of a fireplace on his big screen. He takes comfort in its realness. His blanket lies on the floor, and a chill runs through his body. He breathes a sigh of relief, then shouts at the ceiling, “What was the point of that? Show yourself, you cowardly ghost.” There is no response.
He says, “It must be my hyperactive amygdala, that source of fear and anxiety in the brain.” He pulls the third layer of socks over his cold feet and puts on his already too-tight shoes, covers himself with the blanket, and falls asleep.
The camera cuts from the living room to the studio for the halftime report.
CN says, “I’m not sure I understand the strategy. Sure, the Inner Demons won on time of possession. They were on offense the whole half. But I’m not sure if they scored. Will the imprint of a bad memory make the change permanent?”
CP jumps in, “It’s not his memory and he will know it. Change comes through shame. Shame comes from prior actions. Ebenboozer has never been to Antarctica. This strategy is a loser.”
CF confirms, “And he will never go. It is not even one of his possible futures. I’m with CP.”
CN responds to an incoming message on his spiritual transceiver. “What are they saying in the locker room, Mary Frickin’ Christmas.”
She responds, “The Inner Demons say they will stick to the game plan. They seem to be totally happy with the results of the first half.”
“Holly Daze, what’s going on in the home team’s locker room?”
“Nothing but snores and the silence of a roaring fire on the big screen, here. Ebenboozer seems to be sleeping off the first half.”
CN says, “Well, somehow the Inner Demons won the coin toss and will start off on offense in the second half, again.”
CF offers, “Maybe they will play for a tie.”
CP responds, “That would be the lamest haunting in the history of Christmas hauntings.”
With everyone scratching their Christmas heads, CN says, “A game can’t end in a tie. Stay tuned and let’s see where this takes us. Back in a few moments for the second half.”
Ebeneezer stares at the fluorescent light on the ceiling, wondering where he is. He smells the odors of disinfectants and hears intermittent beeping in the background.
His neck hurts from a stiffness like a long night sleeping in the wrong position. When he tries to shift positions, nothing happens. He tells his head to lift. Still, nothing happens. He focuses all his mental energy on the image of his neck muscles contracting to tilt his head forward. Still, nothing. He is exhausted from the effort of not moving.
He attempts to slap his face. If his hand moves, he can’t detect it. If he slaps his cheek, he can’t feel it. In his mind, he shouts at his hand to obey his orders. When nothing happens, he panics. When he panics, nothing happens.
He feels something on his cheek. It itches. The itch consumes his cheek and then his whole face. His hyperactive amygdala is about to enter a nine alarm rage when he sees a nurse walk into the room out of the corner of his eye. He shouts, “Help me. Please, help me. I’m begging you, help me.”
She looks at a chart. She looks at Ebenboozer.
Ebenboozer shouts, “For Christ’s sake, help me. I can’t get rid of this itch. It’s driving me crazy. Just a little scratch on the cheek. I’m begging you.”
She looks at her watch. She leaves the room.
Then it hits him. His mind can process inputs but can’t facilitate outputs. He is locked in, a prisoner of his own body. He screams the scream of outer space, a terror without sound.
He wakes with a start. He lifts his head to see the unaromatic smell of a large screen Christmas tree. He takes comfort in its realness. He feels his legs, arms, stomach, and chest and taps his fingers on his cheeks.
Ebenboozer shouts. “Show yourself, you miserable ghost. That’s the closest I’ve come to pure terror.” He wipes a lone tear from under his eye.
He cracks his neck before reclining back into his chair. He sleeps fitfully, trying to massage out the muscles in his neck to get comfortable.
CN says, “Clearly there is no winner here. Looks like they will play on into overtime to win this one.”
CF confirms, “Yep, the slightest score will win the game. I think either way, it will be a moral victory for Ebenboozer.”
CP divulges, “First time in haunting history for overtime.”
On one of the monitors, the trio watches as Holly Daze slips out of the ersatz Christmas scene on the TV into the living room of Ebenboozer. He loosens the laces of his shoes and slips a pillow behind his head to straighten his neck before merging back into the big screen.
In the background, the narrator to the Grinch finishes up his analysis.
And what happened then? Well…in Whoville, they say,
That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!
Ebenboozer wakes with a start. He looks at his watch and smiles. “It’s not too late. I can still make it out for the end of Christmas dinner.”
He throws off the blanket and jumps out of his chair. He fills up a couple of Christmas boxes with wine and chocolates before running out the door.
The ghostly trio of commentators is stunned and speechless for the first time in their commentating, post-haunting careers.
CN says, “Thoughts?” without offering one of his own.
CP says, “I think the winner is Holly Daze. She straightened out his head so that it was screwed on just right and she loosened his laces so that his shoes weren’t too tight.”
CF counters, “I suspect an examination of his heart will show that it grew three sizes that play.”
Holly chimes in, “This just in from the medical team. No changes to his heart size. It’s the same size it has always been. But you might find this interesting, his amygdala shrank two sizes that day.”
CF and CP look at each other and say in ghostly synchronicity, “What the hell is an amygdala?”
CN wraps up, “Well whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he is out on Christmas eve, celebrating with booze.”
All members of the crew and team members wave as the program fades to black.