"...And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom..."
Ed stared into the camera, trying to focus on the teleprompter and not the fact that SOME ASSHOLE WAS PLAYING HIS GODDAM MUSIC TOO LOUD somewhere in the studio! Frikkin' idiots KNOW that "ON AIR" means SILENCE!
"For we are all Americans, and all of us have always had the blessings of this great nation, founded under God. We are supposed to be identifying ourselves with that, and not by what country we come from or what religion we practice...and to hell with them that try to bring their culture here, with their foreign languages and their customs that don't fit in Christian society..."
The studio seemed to darken...no, it wasdarkening...to black.
"Hullo? Hullo? Am I...am I still on? Barb? Anyone?"
"Hello, Ed..." a whispered voice floated across from behind the camera. A pinpoint of light began to glow and enlarge. It was a man, older, frailer than Ed, with white hair and an immistakable grimace on his face, like his teeth constantly hurt.
"Jack? Jack...Marley?" Ed Hughes was stunned by the site of his friend and predecessor standing in front of him.
Well, not standing. More like floating. And not in front of him, but all around him, even if most of him seemed to be facing Ed.
"I don't have much time, Ed, so let me speak...you never were much of one to follow tradition, were you? I see you've totally changed my set! Anyway, I've been sent with a message for you."
"From whom? Jack, what are you doing here? Am I dreaming? Who the hell slipped mesca--"
"QUIET! Now...let's just say that you've been brought to a certain someone's attention...you will be visited this evening by three ghosts, who will try to right your ways for you. I suggest you listen to them, carefully. I didn't, and look what happened to me."
Ed scanned Jack's body. He seemed to be OK. Well, for a dead guy at any rate. Nothing too bad.
Then Jack slowly turned away from Ed. All around himself, Ed saw the marks...slashes and cuts and stab wounds.
"Ed...they stuck me in...well, nevermind that. Let's just say they have unique ways of making you see the light. I have to go now. Remember...three ghosts..."
And with that, Jack collapsed into a singularity, which disappeared, taking the air with it.
Ed was in pitch black again, until he heard hissing "Ed! The script!"
He had been sitting there, silent, as if he'd had an ischemic attack, staring into the camera for ten seconds, according to the clock. And TV hates dead air.
Scanning the teleprompter, he found a spot that sounded familiar:" Into Christian society...we must be eternally vigilant, but for one more year at least, the war on Christmas has ended in victory for America. This is Ed Hughes saying good night, God bless, and merry, merry Christmas."
The studio went dark again, silent, punctuated by "And we're out!" and the shuffling of feet.
To Chapter Five