It was a cold Valentine’s Eve, and I sat alone writing at The Collegian.
I made some coffee and began typing when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw my ex-boss staring at me. He had been dead for years.
“You are in big trouble Josh,” he said gravely. “You’ve given up on Valentine’s Day.”
“Bah,” I said, “Humbug! It’s just an excuse for Hallmark to make money,” I replied. “Everyone who goes around saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ should be boiled in milk chocolate and buried with a red rose stabbed through their heart.”
“You will be visited by three ghosts.”
“I’m on deadline. Can we do this next week?”
“Your soul is at stake!” My boss threw me across the room. I landed in a recycling bin in a cloud of newspapers. When I climbed out and wiped the newsprint off my jeans he was gone.
“I’ve got to stop drinking coffee.”
When the first ghost appeared he looked like a photographer from the 40s.
“I’m the Ghost of Valentine’s Past,” he said.
“Doesn’t this stuff only happen around Christmas?”
“We had a bad year with the recession so the ghosts are working overtime. My Enron 401K vanished overnight.”
The ghost clicked his camera flash and it fired so brightly I had to close my eyes. When I opened them again I was in a familiar schoolroom.
“It’s second grade, but that’s impossible.”
“It’s possible, look over at that boy.”
“That’s me, can he see us?”
“These images are like reprints from an exposed roll of film. You don’t have any effect on them.” The ghost and I walked over to the boy. “Why do you look sad?”
“A girl dumped me the day before Valentine’s Day for my friend. I’m getting detention because we brawled during recess.”
The camera flashed and we were transported to a high school gym decorated with red streamers. I saw an adolescent version of myself in the corner.
“What happened this Valentine’s Day?” the ghost asked.
“A dance. I’m waiting for a girl who never showed up. I didn’t know she started dating someone else the night before. Take me to the newsroom!”
All of a sudden I was back at my desk. No wonder I hated this holiday, those were some of my good memories.
I was running out of time to finish my story when a woman dressed like a Victoria’s Secret cupid appeared next to me.
“Let me guess,” I said, “You’re a ghost.”
“The Ghost of Valentine’s Present,” she said. “You’re wasting your youth Josh. This is what’s going on while you sit in the newsroom,” she said shoving a candy heart down my throat. I began to feel dizzy.
“Great, psychedelic heart candy. What did you lace this with…” I said before falling asleep. I woke up lying in Old Town. The ghost pulled me to my feet and we peered through the window of Bisetti’s. Inside there were several couples on dates. They were nervous.
“See how stressful dating is,” the ghost said, “You’re lucky you’re single.”
“Hey, you’re cute, do you have a date?” I gave the ghost a kiss. She punched me, knocking me out cold.
I woke up in the Collegian morgue, where old newspapers are stored. Inside there was a man wearing a black cloak. I could barely see his face. He looked like a newspaper designer who died from lead poisoning.
“Are you the ghost of Valentine’s future?”
He nodded his head without saying a word. He wielded a huge X-acto knife and motioned for me to watch the television in the corner of the room.
I watched my future on the screen and saw an older version of myself dating a beautiful woman.
“I’m getting married. Wait a minute, is that a minivan I’m driving? Who are those bratty kids?”
Then the reality of my future hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Oh no, I’ve become a yuppie! Can these events be changed?” I fell to my knees. “I want to change!”
Suddenly I was at my desk, the ghost disappeared and my column was finished. It was midnight. Valentine’s Day was here and I still had time to enjoy being single. I headed to the bar and bought drinks for all of my single friends thankfully saying, “God bless us, every one.”
Josh is a senior technical journalism major who will be at Lucky Joe’s tonight drowning his sorrows because he really doesn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. If you have Valentine’s Day horror stories, email them today.