A chapter from “Astral Projects”. Mike had suggested this as a homework title in the summer, which naturally caused outrage, but Write Said Fred went with it. What a crazy bunch we must be.
Rob woke with a jolt , wiping some drool from his face as white noise emanated from the television screen, the TV static like a snowstorm flickering and artificially illuminating the murky darkness of the Man Cave.
For a few seconds his head was stuck at a bizarre angle, from the position of alcoholic unconsciousness he had landed in, a few deep breaths and he was gingerly able to move it into a more traditional position on his shoulders. It had once got stuck diagonally for three days, leading to much hilarity in The Belly Of The Whale.
He then stood on an upturned can, skidded, and fell behind the sofa.
A giggle erupted, seeming to come from the TV screen.
Rob clambered up from the floor and scrutinised the Samsung suspiciously.
“Is somebody there?” he ventured cautiously, inadvertently channelling Doris Stokes.
“Just me!” shrieked an unearthly reply, causing the hairs on the back of his neck to rise.
“Eric! Is this you taking the piss? Just because I always say you look like a ventriloquist’s dummy you want to get revenge at stupid o’ clock?”
“Listen, ya great lummox.” said the TV, “haven’t you ever heard of EVP?”
“That would be a no.”
“Electronic voice phenomena. Dead people talking through electronic devices. It is what John Logie Baird was trying to do when he invented television in the first place.”
“Are you talking about the judges panel on Britain’s Got Talent?”
“Is this what it means when your telly gets repossessed?”
“Shut up you idiot. I was actually hoping you might be able to help me. Death’s not a bowl of cherries you know.”
“Maybe black cherries?”
“Shut up. It is horrible only being able to chat to a clot who begins each day salivating at Susanna Read on Good Morning Britain.”
By Pavlovian reflex, Rob was drooling again.
“Yuck. Now. You have to get me out of here so I can move on into the afterlife.”
“And how do I do that?”
“You have to get me to go on a date with you.”
“Uh, well, okay, will you come out on a date with me, disembodied voice?”
“My name is Ariel. No, I won’t.”
“What?! I thought you wanted to ascend into the afterlife, Ariel ”
“I do. But I can’t leave the TV that easily.”
“Well, I have heard some excuses from girls. But there is literally nothing on, apart from you, and you don’t have any hair to wash either.”
“Funny. But you don’t know what happened to me, how I died.”
“So tell me.” Rob invited, sitting himself back down on the sofa.
“I was in this little Operatic Society. We were doing Macbeth. Have you heard of it?”
“The Scottish play…” hissed Rob, menacingly.
“Opera this time. But it was murder for me. I was a pretty thing back then, I thought I could just flirt and men came to me. In this case it was the tenor, he was the leading guy. He had a very large male part. I didn’t even fancy him, but it was just knowing I could have him. He was going out with one of the Witches though. How was I to know she was a real witch? She spiked my Lambrini, and then when I was dead, cursed my spirit to haunt this TV set.”
“No wonder I can never get Channel 5”.
“That’s doing you a favour. She didn’t kill her boyfriend at least, but he can only sing soprano now. Anyway, I can only come out of here when the right man asks me in the right way.”
“Sounds like a bit of a fairy story to me.”
Rob replied, before clearing his throat and asserting “Hi, I’m Mr.Right. I heard you were looking for me.”
“Your chat needs a little work?” Ariel suggested.
“I’m a Love Pirate, and I’m here for your booty?”
“I don’t have no body”
“I know, I am here to fix that”
“Are you a parking ticket, because you’ve got fine written all over you”
“You can’t see me, you arse”
“Are your legs tired, you’ve been running through my mind all day?” “No, no legs. Feel my jacket… It’s boyfriend material? Oh, yes, no hands…”
“You’re so sweet you’re giving me diabetes?”
“Now you mention it, you could look after yourself a bit better. All you do recently is sit around watching telly and boozing, eating takeaways”
“Now you do sound like a girlfriend.”
Rob continued to talk to the TV each evening but to no avail.
“I just don’t find you attractive” Ariel explained, sadly. “I do have some self esteem, I can’t go out with just anybody”
Rob spent more and more time in front of the television, talking about his problems, giving it a lovely polish. He would plead with Ariel to come out.
“You know Rob, you are a nice guy, but I can only see us being really good friends.”
Rob was mortified.
“Maybe I do need to sort myself out.” he thought to himself. “This is how Colin must feel, except every day.”
He decided to have a little alcohol detox. Before long he started popping down the gym a few nights a week. He enrolled in a cookery class, and started to meet a few people, including some ladies. He soon was forgetting to turn on the television at all.
He began sleeping in bed at a normal time instead of on the sofa. Occasionally he might bring a lady back, and cook them a meal.
“Hey, Rob…” Ariel would whisper through the static, but he was usually too busy to hear. He was looking good, and feeling great.
“Rob!” squeaked Ariel one day.
This time he turned around. “Hey, Hi there, er… whatever your name is. How’s it going?”
“It’s Ariel, Rob. I see you’ve been busy. Including with some ladies.” she observed, grimly.
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy these days. Busy though. I guess it is partly down to you. Thanks, you have me a bit of a wake up call.”
“You’re welcome. But haven’t you forgotten something?”
“Er, no, I don’t think so. Anyway, got to go out. Maybe I’ll catch up with you sometime.”
“What are you doing this weekend?” said Ariel, pointedly.
“Quite a lot on actually. I have to coach the Brazilian Ladies’ beach volleyball team first thing, and…”
“Because I am free all weekend” she hinted.
“Well of course you are, you are stuck in the TV… oh. Hey, Ariel, I just had a thought. If we are both free for a bit, perhaps we could, you know, hang out together?”
“I thought you would never ask!” Ariel responded.
“Then, Saturday, 8 o’ clock” Rob asserted, and exited the front door, leaving Ariel sighing contentedly, smitten.
Saturday 8 o’ clock came around quickly now Rob actually had a life.
He had fully performed his metrosexual pre-date routine.
Shirt ironed, as fresh as wet paint, face mask, bubble bath… oh well, you get the drift.
He emerged into the living room, resplendent. “Will I do?”
His jaw hit the floor. Standing outside of the television was a phantomesque Ariel.
“But… you’re beautiful…” he stammered.
“Maybe you needed to learn a girl is about more than just her looks. And maybe I did too.”
He embraced her and gently brushed her lips with his.
“Ooh, a bit forward… but I don’t mind.”
“I have some great date night ideas…”
“Ah, I have to be somewhere Rob. Heaven.”
“You’re not talking about the nightclub, are you?”
“Thanks for everything Rob”.
She slowly faded away in his arms.
“Goodbye Ariel.” he said, realising his eyes were damp. “What is happening to me?”
“You are turning into a hero at last.”
said Eric, standing in the doorway.
“Dry your eyes, mate.”
The static on the screen was strangely soft and peaceful as a snowdrift, as Rob turned the TV off.