Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Time Watch: In Honor of Ghosts and Grim Reapers


In week #2, a slight modification (already!) to last week's idea of a regular Saturday Time Watch blog. You see, I realize I narrowed the scope too far. I suggested my "Time Watch" would be inspired by songs or poems related to time and love. Now granted, there is an endless supply of inspiration I haven't even begun to explore, but still, make the perameters too defined or the focus too sharp and I look longingly to the fuzzy edges.

So to broaden the focus, the concept of Time and Love on its own has lots of "fuzzy edges" to explore. It's the basis of an entire genre, of course; paranormal romance. You never know, maybe even a ghost or a grim reaper may be lurking. And what better time is there than this weekend, on the eve of Halloween, to pay attention when a ghost says, "I'm not ready to let go...I need more time to be with my love." And a grim reaper says..."It's time to go."

Here's my excerpt on Time and Love from my WIP River of Tears  (since renamed Ghost of a Promise and chapter one is here). Ben Riley, a ghost who has not adjusted to his new circumstance, has been given a gift of time from the grim reaper. He is about to enter his house where his wife waits. There are terms of course...

Through the open window of the cab, Ben could hear the sounds of the night. Crickets chirped in the warm, muggy air, and a cat in heat wailed its hoarse, god awful cry. His neighbors, sequestered inside air conditioned homes, probably didn’t even notice the cacophony of nature right outside their doors. But he did. To him, the noise was a reminder. Ignored or not, life went on.

Just not for him.

“If I do say so, Mr. Riley,” said Alex [the cab driver], “you’ve accepted your death quite well. Some take much longer.” The cat wailed again, eliciting a growl from the cabbie’s scruffy terrier. The dog stood on his hind legs, his front paws digging at the gap in the passenger window. Alex leaned over and patted the dog’s head. “Easy Chester, those days are gone.”

Ben released his breath on a hiss and glared up at the ceiling. He didn’t even want to look at Alex - - the cabbie who was so obviously not just a cabbie. It stood to reason that neither was the dog.

“What are you?”

“I thought you’d figured that out, Mr. Riley.” Alex answered him in the disappointed tone a teacher used when a prize student got an answer wrong.

“Humor me.”

After a brief pause, Alex said, “I think the best way to describe my function is that of a guide. I’ve been called different things.”

“Grim reaper?”

Alex sighed. “An unfortunate title.”

Ben absorbed the implied confirmation. He turned his head and looked at his house, dark and empty. Beth was in the hospital while he sat making pointless conversation in a cab outside their home. He needed to get back to her. “Why am I here? I’m dead. I get it. Your job is done.”
“No, Mr. Riley. Your journey has just begun.”

Alex’s calm voice, and the suggestion that he was about to abandon his life in order move on in some “journey,” enraged him. He lunged forward across the seat and grabbed Alex by the shirt collar. “If you’re here to point me in the direction of the white light, forget it. I’m not going anywhere and I’m not in the mood for a line of peace-and-love bullshit.”

Alex didn’t attempt to break free. Even with his shirt bunched up to his chin, he managed to look amused. “You seem to know how this works. Have you died before?”

Ben almost shot back, have you? But his gaze became locked in the black, fathomless depths of Alex’s eyes, and he saw an answer to his unspoken question.

He released his hold on Alex and sat back. Unease replaced his anger as he realized he might have to plead his case. Leaving Beth was out of the question, but how much choice did he have?
The air inside the cab was suddenly stifling and Ben felt a trickle of sweat between his shoulder blades. He forced his voice to sound reasonable - - friendly, even. “I have unfinished business, Alex. That counts as a reason to stay, doesn’t it?”

“It does, actually,” Alex agreed.

Relief washed over him in a wave. “Then take me back to the hospital.”

Alex shook his head. “You don’t want to do that yet.”

Ben slammed his hand against the door. “Like hell I don’t! Tell me how I can do it myself and I’m gone. Go torment some other fool. I’m sure there’s some idiot getting hit by a bus as we speak.”

“Mr. Riley, I understand your frustration - -"

Ben gave a snort of disbelief.

“And if you would listen, you might find I can help.”

“I doubt that.” There was only one thing he wanted. “Can you give me back my life?”

“I already have.”

Ben sucked in his breath. “What?”

Alex nodded toward the house. “Beth is inside. She’s waiting for you.”

“Did you torture prisoners of war in a former life, Alex?” He bit his words out through clenched teeth. “I know damn well where my wife is. She’s in a hospital room with her hands tied to the bed like a dog to a post!”

“This is not going well,” Alex said with a sigh. “No, Mr. Riley. Not here. Not now. You might remember this night. Your last birthday.”

His last birthday. Beth in a bunny suit.

Ben shook his head. He couldn’t keep up with the roller coaster of emotions. “Are you’re saying I’ve gone back in time?”

Alex shrugged. “Backwards, forwards, sideways - - it’s all relative. For the purpose of keeping things simple, yes, you’ve gone backwards.”

Ben grasped on to a new possibility. “That means I’m not dead.”

“Well, yes and no.”

His hopes were dashed before they’d even taken root. He glared at Alex. “Are you new at this job?”

Alex seemed to consider his question. “In a way. I’ve only been at it a few hundred years, give or take.”

“A few hundred years,” Ben repeated.

“Give or take.”

He was speechless and Alex jumped in to take advantage. “We’ve found a visit to happier times helps with the transition.”

“What do you mean by visit?”

“I mean your time here is temporary, but I hope you’ll consider it a gift.”

It sounded more like a cruel joke than a gift, but he wanted it. Badly.

He swallowed hard. “Will she be able to see me? Touch me?”

“Of course.”

A shudder of longing went through him. He looked at the house, wanting to go to her, but held back at the thought of what this meant. If he was real, could he get to Matt? His hand clenched into a fist. Vengeance had a much nicer ring to it than acceptance. “So you can take me somewhere else?”

Alex arched a bushy eyebrow and pinned him with those black eyes. “Is the satisfaction of confronting your former friend worth wasting your gift?”

“It wouldn’t be a waste if it would protect Beth.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Riley, but it won’t. While you are here, you cannot change anything in the future. It’s no use to even try.”

Nothing could be changed. His heart sank as the finality hit home. But he wasn’t ready to give up yet. “Just let me do one thing, Alex. Let me move some papers from Matt’s office and give them to my sister. She’ll know what to do.”

“Mr. Riley - -"

“If it makes you feel better, I promise I won’t lay a hand on him. You have my word.”

“That’s not it - -"

“I’m not asking for my life! Do what you want with me. Just let me fix this for Beth.”

“Mr. Riley!” Alex shouted. He looked startled at the sound of his own raised voice. “I’m not refusing. I’m just saying it can’t be done.”

“Why not?”

Alex sighed and took off his cap. Without it, the bald top of his head almost made him look like an ordinary old man. “Have you always had such little faith, Mr. Riley? We will resolve your issues. I promise. For now, I advise you to accept your gift. One more day, even one more hour with a loved one is a precious thing. Don’t you agree?”

Ben gave a jerky nod. Without sparing Alex a second glance, he reached for the door handle.
“Wait, Mr. Riley. Don’t you want to know how long you have?”

Ben glared at Alex. Half of him didn’t want to know, but the other half knew not knowing would be torture. “How long?”

“You can only stay in this form until midnight.”

The cliché sparked an incredulous bark of a laugh. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Alex didn’t smile.

“Fine. Midnight it is. Then what happens?”

“You return to where you left.”

“Back to being a ghost you mean.”

“I’m afraid so.”

Ben looked at his watch. It was a little past nine. Almost three hours. As insane as this was, he wasn’t going to waste another minute.

He got out of the cab and looked at the cabbie. Alex touched his hand to his hat. “Good luck to you, Sir.”

Ben slammed the door.

*** ***

That's a bit of how I see time can be a big part of a love story. Time is all we want.

Happy Halloween everyone! :)

2 comments:

  1. Oooh, that gave me shivers! I so want Ben to have his life back! Thanks for sharing that. I really do like this story. :)

    And it's a great reminder of how we take time for granted when we're with our loved ones, thinking it'll last forever. Sigh.

    Great post, Melissa!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Donna. :) I want Ben to have his life back too and I feel bad I've left him in limbo with an unfinished story! Poor guy!

    I hope you're having a great weekend and getting ready for NaNo!

    ReplyDelete

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