Ebony Scrooge, an Agony Aunt who is bitter and scornful has been visited by 3 ghosts so far, her old mentor Marley Jackson [here] Her college roomie Miri who reminded her that kink could be fun [by NeroBlack here] Her best friend Judy whose message was that she used to be tolerant but her current scorn could damage people’s lives [by May_More here]. Read on to see how Ebony’s future might play out.
The church clock chimes the hour, jolting Ebony from troubling dreams. She sat up in bed, and barely had time to pull on worn slippers before realising she was not alone in her room.
Standing silently in the corner was a person dressed in the emo style – black clothes, heavy soled boots and a beanie hat pulled over long dark hair which hung in a way to obscure their face.
“I’m guessing you’re the ghost who is going to show me my future,” Quaking, Ebony addressed the figure whose message she dreaded the most. “I’m ready.”
The room shimmered around them, before reinstating itself as the Magazine’s head office. A busy room filled with a maze of journalists’ cubicles. All the managers’ offices ran round the edges of the room and Ebony saw the door to one of them, the one which had once been Marley’s office, swing open. Her current boss Zoe emerged looking very chummy with a 20-something journo whose face seemed familiar.
“You have to break new ground and fast,” Zoe expounded, “the reputation of our Magazine is at stake. Whatever you can do to distance the agony column from the taint of your predecessor, the better.”
“Absolutely,” the bearded young man nodded. “I can recommend workshops, therapists – there’s a wealth of sex positive blogs out there I’ll be tapping into.”
“No kink shaming,” Zoe counted off on fingers with long manicured nails, “Promote body positivity, support all genders, be mindful of people’s pronouns.”
Ducking into the cubicle which Ebony usually occupied, the young man pushed a cardboard archive box carelessly out into the corridor with his trainer. She winced to see her well-thumbed Thesaurus and her pink “The Answer is No!” mug treated so carelessly, piled haphazardly as they were amongst other items in the carton.
“Mr Wilkins will get Building Services to dispose of that,” Zoe indicated the box with disdain. “Now Troy, is there anything else you need to get you started?”
“No, I’m good. Keep the strong coffee coming, I’ll put my airpods in and get cracking.”
“Great, I appreciate it’s short notice, but with your track record I believe you’re the shot in the arm this page needs.”
Ebony cringed at the cold, slithery sensation in the pit of her stomach, yet still she asked, “Spirit, why are you showing me this? I don’t know that journalist.”
The dark gothic figure of the spirit stayed silent, but turned 90 degrees on the spot, causing their surroundings to change again. Ebony recognised the interior of a dark yet noisy pub round the corner from her Kings Road office. Most of her colleagues from the Magazine frequented it at one time or another. It was a place to kick back and relax after days with their nose to the grindstone.
A group from work was gathered in the casual seating near the fireplace, noisily expounding their opinions.
“She had to go! So freaking rude.” The girl who’d spoken tossed her blonde hair and took a gulp of her drink.
“For the twenty-first century her attitudes are archaic.” An older woman agreed, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“The bitch kept dead naming me,” claimed a person with rainbow coloured hair. “I can excuse a few mistakes, but she was consistent.” This earned them some comforting words from their colleagues.
“Have you heard who’s replacing her?” the blonde turned to the person on her left.
“Yes, quite a coup, poached from Grazia I hear!” There were murmurs of enthusiasm.
“I’m expecting big changes.”
“It’ll be like switching from black and white TV to colour!”
“You’re showing your age, Trudy!” the owner of the rainbow hair nudged the woman with glasses.
“At least I move with the times,” she giggled, her long earrings swinging.
“She’s being dogpiled on Twitter!” Someone remarked with glee. They all tapped at their phones to see for themselves.
“Does she even have a presence on Twitter?”
“Hardly!” scoffed the journo with the coloured tresses. “She’ll have no clue as to the negativity swarming round her.”
“I don’t agree with cancel culture,” Trudy looked earnestly at her colleagues, “but she’s going to find it impossible to land even a job reporting on the cutest kitty at a parish fete after this debacle!”
“Good riddance! She tore people down rather than build them up.” Their colleague with the rainbow hair defied anyone to disagree. Ebony racked her brain, but their name escaped her.
“Spirit I want to leave,” Ebony’s knees were knocking. She wasn’t certain who they were discussing, but all the clues pointed to it being her.
Wordlessly the spirit moved forward drawing Ebony in its wake. Wind whipped around them, as if they were travelling at speed. Once the air stopped swirling they seemed to be in a frost encrusted cemetery which Ebony recognised from her cider-drinking teenage years. The emo figure raised its arm, leather coat creaking, to point towards a familiar gravestone, the one shared by her mother and father. Puzzled at being directed to the spot where her parents lay buried, she noticed the grass alongside was marked out with wooden pegs and rope, demarcating a rectangle where someone had begun to dig.
The squirming in her stomach solidified into a knot of fear, heavy and hopeless, but she forced herself to ask.
“Spirit, please clarify, are you showing me the truth? Will these events definitely happen?”
No answer came, the spirit continued to point towards the freshly dug turf.
“Is it too late? Marley said I should learn from you and the other two ghosts. I’ve taken many lessons from what you’ve all shown and told me – surely I have a chance to change?”
Still she got no answer, but the ghost lowered its arm, resting its hand on Ebony’s shoulder instead. The weight of their arm was heavy, its cold penetrated the fabric of her dressing gown, chilling her to the bones, making her feel incredibly weary.
“I can be so much better,” Ebony implored as anguished tears squeezed from the corners of her eyes. She swiped them away with her hand. “My heart is more tender, my mind has been opened. Live and let live is my new motto.” She tried to grab at the drab clothes the ghost wore, but being insubstantial, her efforts instead made her fall to her knees.
“Give me another chance spirit, be merciful please. I can embrace what I used to abhor, encourage those I used to scorn. Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK!” Chanting this mantra, Ebony raised her fist and punched the air. “Please, I’ll show you that I’ve changed.” She sobbed in earnest as the wind gusted again, whipping grains of earth up so she needed to scrunch up her face to protect her eyes.
That’s when she heard the distant clock chime once more.
The final part of this story collaboration is coming very soon …
Watch out for it to be posted on Wicked Wednesday, as this one is – the prompt is after all Christmas!