"When Sally Met Jack"
Sally sat silently on the edge of her decrepit old bed, slowly running a black comb through her red yarn hair, her stitched face and wide eyes displaying ever revolving emotions. Apart from the moment that the young rag doll had first opened her eyes to catch her first glimpse of the world around her, today would be the most exciting experience to date. Today . . . today she would receive a visitor.
Now to most, receiving a visitor would hardly seem like anything to get worked up over, of course you may fret over what to serve for tea or if the house is tidy (or messy enough depending on the visitor), but most would not consider it a life altering experience. But for Sally, who had met but two people in her entire life, it was quite an event to be excited about; the visitor would come from . . . outside. Sally had never been outside of the laboratory that she had been assembled in and therefore it was true that Sally had met but two people; her creator Dr. Finklestein, a shriveled, bespectacled old man with a flip-top metallic skull who made his way around on his motorized wheelchair; and Igor, the doctor's humpbacked, simpleminded assistant and first living creation. Yes, they were the only two people that she had ever met, but that didn't mean that they were the only people that she had ever seen. From the barred window of her room, high in the mad scientist's tower, she had seen them. They were who the doctor called "rez-e-dents" of Halloween Town, but they were so small (which the doctor had tried to explain as being an illusion caused by distance) as no one ever came near the lab and she could not see the details of their faces; just an incredible myriad of different moving forms. And then sometimes, . . . sometimes she heard them. A yell, a scream, a booming laugh and Sally's personal favourite, singing. It was during one these songs that she had first heard the name, "The Pumpkin King." Who was he? What did he do? What did "hail" mean? Was he really as great as they were saying? The doctor, to his merit, had tried to be patient at first as he attempted to answer her barrage of questions but eventually his wry patience wore thin and he found himself becoming annoyed with the rag doll. After all, her main concern should be him and not the goings on of Halloween Town and so he eventually, with gruff refusal, stopped answering her questions, unless of course he saw it fit for her to know. But the doctor's sudden silence did not stop Sally's wonderings as she had managed to get her most desperate questions answered before his new stance. She knew who The Pumpkin King was, she knew what he did, she knew what "hail" meant, she knew that he was as great as they said and as an extra bonus, she now knew that "The Pumpkin King" was a title, not his name. His name was Jack. Jack Skellington.
Unfortunately, the moment that she had asked what he looked like was the moment that the doctor had become suspicious and had clammed up, drying out her only tap of information. But that was fine by Sally as it gave her a chance to stretch her "imaginatory" muscles and she would spend countless hours conjuring in her mind what the king could possibly look like. He was called the "Pumpkin King," so perhaps he was a pumpkin of some kind? But what about the name, "Skellington?" It just didn't sound very "pumkin-ish" to her. But for whatever image she conjured of him, Jack Skellington became her favourite fantasy and once she learned by a slip of the doctor that the incredible black tower that loomed over the town and outside of her window belonged to him, her barren and lonely room suddenly became much more pleasant . . .
Sally gently laid her comb on her night table with a small sigh. When the doctor had said that she was going to receive a very important visitor, her heart had nearly leapt from her chest as she had instantly assumed that it would be Jack. The doctor's lip had curled into a cruel grin as he had informed her that the great Pumpkin King did not bother with trifle matters such as welcoming a mad scientist's creation as an official member of Halloween Town, it would be the mayor who did this. Sally had felt her heart sink but was still excited at the prospect of at least meeting the mayor, or anyone from the town for that matter who could answer at least some of the many questions that the doctor had refused to answer. She felt foolish now to have expected the king to be the one who would do this, of course he would have more important things to do, more important things than a crudely constructed rag doll-
The rusty hinges of her door suddenly creaked open followed by the rough voice of her creator. "Sally?"
Sally had jumped clumsily to her feet at the first sound of the door opening, wishing not for the first time that the doctor would practice what he preached about knocking first.
The hum of electricity filled the room as the doctor entered in his electric wheelchair, glancing about for his young creation. "Ah, there you are." He stopped in front of her. "Well are you ready yet?"
Sally nodded with enthusiasm. "Oh, yes. Yes, I am."
Finklestein grunted his approval. "Good, because he'll be here any minute and the last thing I want to do is keep him waiting." Another grunt. " The sooner he's out of here the better, why Jack insists upon this 'welcoming' foolishness is beyond me. It's not like you'll be having much of anything to do with the other Halloweener's anyway."
Sally's eyes lit up. Jack insisted upon welcoming her? It was his idea? She felt a sudden flood of admiration for this Pumpkin King and she realized that for the first time he had directly interacted with her life, changed it and had affected what would happen . . . it was almost a little overwhelming.
Dr. Finklestein eyed his newest creation with suspicion. "Are you sure your ready for this, Sally? You seem . . . distracted."
Sally snapped her attention back to her severe looking creator. "Oh! Oh no, I- I'm fine . . . it's just . . . I-"
The doctor's eyes narrowed behind his dark round glasses. "Just remember to be on your best behaviour, Sally. I don't want you 'worrying' the mayor . . . unnecessarily."
Sally frowned feeling hurt. Why would the doctor think that she would worry the mayor? Just what did he mean by that?
"Doctor, I would never-"
The sudden sound of the bonging doorbell from downstairs cut Sally off in mid sentence and the doctor turned away from her, forcefully twisting on the controls of the wheelchair to point himself in the direction of the door.
"Coming! Coming! I'll be right down!" And then towards the lab in the back, "IGOR! Hurry and get the door!"
Sally could hear the shuffling footsteps of the humpback as he rushed to do his master's bidding, and the doctor turned towards her once more.
"You stay here while I great our . . . -hurumph- . . . guest. Wait until you're called for. And remember, Sally," His eyes narrowed once again, "your best behaviour. That means no pestering the mayor with silly questions either, understand?"
Sally nodded sadly as her creator made his way out of her room, the large iron door closing behind him. Her heart sunk and her previous excitement nearly dwindled completely now that she would be denied the answers that she desperately wanted, no, needed. But at least . . . at least she would meet someone new and surely she would learn at least something about the town.
She turned to slowly walk towards her bed when the sound of voices from the room below caught her attention. Her despair took a back seat to her new found excitement as she rushed to her door to press a stitched ear firmly against its side to listen. She frowned as she heard the fading, yet obviously flustered, voice of the doctor encouraging who must have been the mayor to follow him into the (usefully neglected) sitting room.
The rag doll let out a huff, mentally berating herself for having been wallowing in self pity rather than paying attention to the goings on downstairs. She strained to hear more of the conversation and catch the voice of the mayor, but they had moved too far into the other room for her to hear even a murmur. She sighed deeply and dejectedly sauntered back to her bed to flop down with a huff. "Oh well, I'll just have to wait to meet him, I guess."
As Sally sat waiting for her cue to come downstairs, she entertained herself with trying to imagine what the mayor might look like, much as she often did with Jack Skellington. From what she could gather from the doctor's snide remarks, he must have been (in Sally's much friendlier translation) a somewhat easily distressed/excited man who was on the pudgy side and was also two-faced . . . literally. Whatever "lit-er-ly" meant. The doctor had said it with a snicker so perhaps it was some sort of inside joke? Did he actually have two faces? Why would that be so funny? She tried to imagine what someone with two faces might look like, but couldn't quite get her head around the concept of it. Maybe he-
A sudden, insistent banging on her door snapped her out of her reverie and she sprang unsteadily to her feet. Igor had been sent to fetch her, he was the only one in the house who spared her the courtesy of knocking (albeit a bit too loudly) before entering her room.
Sally moved as fast as her unsteady legs would carry her to the door and shoved it open. She looked down and saw that it was indeed Igor and he looked very excited- or was it anxious? It was always hard to differentiate the two when it came to Igor. He shuffled from foot to foot, wringing his rubber covered hands together with a squeak. "Hur-hurry! They are waiting for you downstairs! Come!" He beckoned her to follow him and he limped ahead, turning every now and then to encourage her to go faster. They were halfway down the spiraled ramp that led to the main floor when Igor spoke to her again.
"Come now! The master and the master's master are waiting for you! You mustn't keep such an honoured guest waiting!"
The master's master? Sally mentally winced as she thought of the doctor's reaction to hearing Igor calling the mayor that, she didn't think that the good doctor would be very pleased. Not very pleased at all. But why would Igor call the mayor that? And why was Igor so . . . so excited? After all, it was not Igor's first time meeting the mayor and Igor was the only one within the household (labhold?) who went into town on a regular basis. If anything, Igor should be the least bothered by the whole affair. But then again, it was Igor and he was probably just winding himself up into a ball of nerves, desperate to please the doctor by making sure that nothing went wrong. Yes, that had to be it.
They were now nearing the bottom of the spiraling ramp, and Sally was beginning to feel more than a little nervous. What would she say to the mayor now that she couldn't ask questions? How should she greet him? Should she shake his hand? What if her hand fell off? What if she tripped over her own feet and bowled the mayor onto the floor? What if she-
Sally stopped dead in her tracks. Voices. She could now just make out the murmurings of the doctor and the mayor, from their place in the sitting room. Not loud enough to determine what was being said and by whom but-
Igor suddenly noticed her lack of progress and began wringing his hands mercilessly. "N-no time to dawdle! Come! Come! We must hurry! Yes! Hurry! This way, this way!" He began tugging on the bottom of her patchwork dress and she found her feet moving forward of their own accord.
The entrance to sitting room drew closer and closer until she was standing at the threshold and she could now hear the voices quite clearly.
The first voice she heard was unmistakably of the doctor's. "Yes, yes that is true of course, but ah- . . . I must warn you that she is exceedingly, how should I say this . . . peculiar. She has no desire whatsoever in being frightening, in fact she spends more time being afraid herself, if you can imagine that."
And then the response; a second voice that she immediately loved and would never, never forget: "Well be that as it may, doctor, there is a place for everyone within Halloween Town. She'll find her niche eventually and besides, a little diversity would be good for the town. Variety is the spice of life, you know."
The doctor did not sound convinced. "Yes, well if you're fond of that sort of thing . . ."
The mayor had defended her! And his voice . . . his voice was so unlike the doctor's . . . it was soft and gentle and warm, yet held an elegance and sense of authority. It was even sweeter than how she had imagined the Pumpkin K-.
Igor chose that moment to plow forward into the sitting room, disrupting Sally's enchanted daze. "Master, she's here. Just as you asked, master . . ." Sally didn't have to see Igor to know that he was nearly doubled over in a humble bow before the doctor.
"Very good, Igor. Sally? Sally, come on in!"
Sally's stomach felt like it had dropped into her feet as she numbly and slowly made her way inside the sitting room. The doctor was the first person that she saw as she entered the room, he was looking at her but his wheelchair was facing a cushion chair that was facing away from Sally.
"Oh, there you are Sally!" The doctor's cheeriness seemed to be quite strained as did his entire demeanor. "Er . . . Sally you should know-"
But the doctor never had a chance to finish for the visitor suddenly stood up from his chair and turned towards Sally with a dazzling smile.
For a moment, Sally's heart ceased to beat within her stitched chest as her wide eyes drank in every inch of the man before her. He was . . . he was so very different from the only other two men that she had ever seen and he most certainly didn't look at all like what the doctor had said. Unlike the doctor and Igor who were both shorter and squatter (especially Igor) than herself, this man was tall, taller than she, and he was most certainly not squat. He was, in fact, incredibly thin which of course made perfect sense as Sally now saw that he was a skeleton. His thin limbs were long in comparison to his torso, yet he was not awkward; he moved instead with a seemingly impossible grace that reminded Sally of a spider that she had once seen nimbly dancing across her window to build its shimmering web. He had no eyes and yet the hollows in their place were just as expressive; as was the rest of his face for his skull, although made from bone, moved and curved as if it were flesh. The skeleton man wore a beautiful black pinstriped pant suit with ragged coat tails and a matching striped bat bow tie to top it all off. All of these things combined created a man that Sally thought was incredibly beautiful, a man she instantly trusted, and a man that she instantly fell hopelessly in love with . . .
The mayor strode over to her with a smile and extended a bony, yet elegant hand towards her in greeting.
"Well, hello, Sally! It's wonderful to finally meet you!"
Sally shyly slid her tiny hand within his, and marveled at how much bigger his hand was as the long, cool fingers curled around her own.
He was now looking at her expectantly and she realized that she had not yet responded to his friendly greeting.
She blushed from embarrassment and finally managed to stutter out a greeting of her own. "I-it's . . . it's wonderful to be meeting you as well, Mr. Mayor . . ."
The mayor's face suddenly looked perplexed and Sally flushed deeper thinking that she must have done something wrong.
Across the room the doctor started to splutter but before he could say anything, the mayor's face suddenly brightened.
"Oh! I see, you wouldn't have known! You couldn't have! -nervous laugh- Oh, you must forgive me, the doctor here didn't know I was coming either or I'm sure he would have told you. Of course you were expecting the mayor but I'm afraid he couldn't make it tonight (allergies to pox of all things) so I came in his place." His smile grew warmer. "My name is Jack. Jack Skellington."
Sally's eyes went impossibly wide and her body went numb from shock, her mind desperately trying to deal with the information that her ears had just informed her of. This . . . this was not the mayor. This was Jack Skellington. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. The Pumpkin King of Halloween. The Pumpkin King of all of her dreams. The Pumpkin King of Halloween was standing in front of her. The Pumpkin King's hand was still firmly grasping her own. She was touching him . . . he was holding her hand.
And suddenly, the weight of realization came forward with a tremendous force that overwhelmed the young rag doll completely. The last thing she saw was the surprised face of Jack Skellington before there was nothing but an engulfing, yet comforting darkness . . .
To be continued?