8D I'm such a neeeeerd...
Okay, so there are only, like, five fanfics for this play. And three don't even have anything to do with the play. This simply will not do. It's my favourite play of all time, and I've wanted to write a Stage-Manager-centric thing for a while now, ever since I played him a couple of years ago. (Even though I'm a girl.) Because you know something? He's often portrayed as the 'everyone's grandfather' type, but, well, think about it. Some of the stuff he does would leave a bit of a scar on his conscious.
Warning: depression and stuff. :/
Thanks for reading, and please review! Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
I don't like doing it, you know.
Taking ghosts back in time, I mean.
You see, I have a strange existence in this world. I'm not quite human, but not quite...not. I can go through walls, I can assume the lives of other people, I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Grover's Corners and more...and I can manipulate time.
I don't quite know when it started or anything, but one day I just found myself with this knowledge and these abilities and no memories prior to Grover's Corners. Sometimes I think I'm the spirit of the town itself, but other cities and towns don't have anything like me, at least that I know of. But back to taking ghosts back in time. I first did it about three or four years after the foundation of the town—three or four years after my first memory. It was an older woman, in about her late fifties. She was so upset about having a vision of being 'home' that I gave in and used my recently-discovered time travelling abilities to help her.
Almost immediately, I regretted it.
I hadn't realised that no one would be able to see or hear her. How was I to know it would hurt her so much? After that incident, she went back to the cemetery and waited with the rest of them. She's still waiting there to this day.
She'd been dead, but she'd still been so full of life when she first showed up. Most ghosts, when they die, they become detached from the world—but not her. When she went back, her soul as dead as her body, I swore to myself I'd never do it again.
About ten years later, I broke that promise. There was another, this time younger—so much younger. He was just a boy! He couldn't have been more than twelve! And he was so upset. He kept crying and asking for his mother. I wanted to help him, but I couldn't.
Then it happened. He realised that he could go back momentarily. He looked to me for help, and I couldn't say no. I just couldn't. How could I tell him he'd just wind up even more miserable than before?
And that's exactly what happened. When we returned to the present, it was like blankness had settled over him as he returned to his seat on his grave. And once again I swore, never again.
Over the years, I broke that promise over and over. While most ghosts become detached, every once in a while one will come along that was so connected that it's nigh impossible to sever that connection without visual and emotional aid.
One such case—my least favourite—was that of Emily Webb.
Emily's brother Wally had died a few years prior—a ruptured appendix on a Boy Scout camping trip—and he'd adjusted quite well to being dead. He didn't even acknowledge his sister as she hopped up onto her gravestone next to her mother-in-law.
I watched from near the funeral procession. Knowing Emily like I know everyone, I knew she'd be one of the ones. The ones who need to go back. I was dreading it, but I knew it would come. How? I know everything about everyone in this town. One of my more useful powers, I think, but one of the most awkward at times, and certainly one of the most invasive.
Sure enough, not five minutes after she'd been there, after they'd finished singing "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" (which no longer made me cry, you get used to it after a while), she said, "I can go back there and live all those days over again...why not?"
That was my cue to get over there.
"All I can say is, Emily, don't," Mrs. Gibbs said, not even looking at her or changing the tone of her voice.
Emily seemed to notice me and stood up, approaching me. "But it's true, isn't it? I can go and live...back there...again."
I took her by the arm and gently led her back to her seat. "Yes, some have tried," I said gently, "but they soon come back here."
Both Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Soames tried to convince her it was a bad idea, to no avail. "But I won't live over a sad day," she said naively. "I'll choose a happy one—I'll choose the day I first knew that I loved George." She turned to me. "Why should that be painful?"
I took a deep breath, searching for the right words. "You not only live it," I finally said, slowly, "but you watch yourself living it." Emily looked confused. "And as you watch it, you see the thing that they—down there," and here I indicated where you could see Grover's Corners from atop the mountain, "never know. You see the future. You know what's going to happen afterwards."
Emily still looked confused. "But is that—painful?" I nodded, desperately wanting to get the message through so I wouldn't have to watch yet another young soul be crushed. "Why?" she asked.
Ah, why—one of the most important questions of human existence. Emily certainly hadn't let go of that part of her life, that was for sure.
I'd hesitated too long with my answer, and now Emily was arguing with Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Soames again. I sighed. This was getting us nowhere. Emily was still not back on her grave, where I needed her to be. Finally, she turned to me, declaring that she had chosen her twelfth birthday, and I had no choice but to oblige her.
Watching her relive her chosen day was even harder than watching most of the others. Remember what I said about getting used to "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" and how it doesn't make me cry anymore? Well, apparently you never get desensitized to watching humans learn the truth about life. Quite the opposite, actually; it just gets worse and worse. Seeing her finally understand that people never really see each other, know what they have, or express how they feel was almost too much. But I held it together. I'm the Stage Manager, after all. I can't just break down and cry.
"I can't," she finally said. "I can't go on, it goes so fast, we don't have time to look at one another!"
I quickly brought us back to 1913 and moved towards her. She seemed...more together than some of the others had been. Of course, she was still broken up. Who wouldn't be?
"I didn't realise," she was saying. "So all that was going on and we never noticed." She was right—who notices the little things the first time? And there rarely is a second time. "Take me back," she instructed, turning to me. "Up the hill—to my grave." I nodded and started to move towards her again, when she held up a hand. "But first: wait! One more look?" My heart softened for her, and I nodded.
As Emily said her goodbyes to the nuances of life, I turned my thoughts to people in the past who had done what she had tonight. I should have known she'd be stronger. Emily was always a strong young woman. But as I watched, the life seemed to go out of her, and she became more of a ghost than she was when she'd first entered the graveyard.
Then I realised she was talking to me. "Do human beings ever realise life while they live it?" she was asking. "Every, every minute?"
I took a breath. "No," I admitted. It came out much blunter than I'd intended. "The saints and poets, maybe," I added as an afterthought. No one had ever asked me that before and I didn't really have an answer prepared. "They do some."
She nodded, and seemed to come to terms with something. "I'm ready to go back."
I nodded, and then we were back in the cemetery. Wordlessly, she walked over to her grave and sat on it. But instead of looking straight ahead like the others, she looked down at her hands. Maybe Emily would be different, after all.
I turned and started to walk away. I didn't need to be there; I knew what would happen. Emily would continue to become more accustomed to being a ghost, and eventually start to forget about the very nuances of life she'd said goodbye to not moments ago.
Sometimes I wonder if whoever or whatever it was that made me has a sadistic sense of humour. I don't like making people sad. I don't like helping people lose their humanity. Emily Gibbs was just another sad story in a long line of them—and the line led back to me.