Jim Davis blinked, dazed, at his surroundings. The mist was gone. He was in his own bedroom, kneeling beside his own bed, and morning light was streaming through the curtains.
"I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future," Davis repeated joyfully, and he rushed to the window to look out upon the new world.
And then, halfway there, he paused.
What did it mean, anyway? How did one live in the Past, the Present, and the Future? Didn't he already do that? Had the Ghost been implying he should change something? Give something up? Something...like Garfield?
"That's absurd," said Davis aloud to the empty room. "I've worked hard on that comic. Why should I give it up?"
Don't, then, the Ghost of Comics Past seemed to whisper in his ear. But remember little Jimmy.
"Little Jimmy was a bit of an idiot," said Davis. Already, the visions he had seen were fading, dying out in the stark light of the new day. "Children are naive. They grow up. They realise the real ticket to success is a solid business model. You don't get that by mooning over comic strips.
Remember the young man who wants to be a cartoonist, whispered the Ghost of Comics Present.
Davis felt a pang, but he counted to ten, and it passed. "Also naive," he said, "not to mention selfish. Why should people indulge him if he isn't willing to conform to industry standards? He has talent; he should give the syndicates what they want."
A spectral Ghost of Comics Yet to Come pointed forbiddingly at a phantom remainders table.
"Uh-huh," said Davis. "Come on...Garfield will never be remaindered in my lifetime. It's exactly what people want...no more...no less. The perfect formula. People who complain about it are cynical discontents. And I hardly have to lift a finger to make it happen."
As he moved towards the door, Davis thought, for an instant, that he saw all three Ghosts floating before him in the air, gazing at him reproachfully. "Oh, lighten up," said Davis. "You guys sure know how to ruin a punchline by hanging around for one panel too many."
And so, heart considerably lighter than it had been ten minutes before, Jim Davis left his bedroom at last.
The Ghosts stared disconsolately after him. "Well," said Johnny Hart, materialising, "another one bites the dust."
"We've tried this chap," said the Ghost of Comics Past. "We've tried Bil Keane, Cathy Guisewite, Lynn Johnston, the entire Walker clan. Every time it's the same: a ten-second epiphany, then bam! Right back to the drawin' board. Why the &^*$ does it happen?
"Cartoonists," explained the Ghost of Comics Present wearily. "They all have amazing capacities for ignoring stark reality."
The Ghost of Comics Yet to Come, exuding menace from every pore, extended a forefinger and pointed out the window. The other Ghosts, following the finger, noticed a pub across the street.
"Yeah, all right," said Johnny Hart. "To tell you the truth, I could do with a drink."
And the four of them faded out, leaving as evidence of their visit only a slight chill in the air...
...plus, tucked neatly under Jim Davis's pillow, a copy of the first Garfield collection, already out of print.
P.S.: A random online name-origin dictionary reveals that "Garfield" means "triangle field" in Old English, but I have chosen to take my favourite meaning of "gar," "spear," and translate it forward into Middle English. "Trianglefeld" just doesn't have the same ring as "Sperefeld."
Why the heck would it matter whether Garfield had stolen Jon's pants? He never needs his pants; he's always stuck behind that counter thingy. I'm also a bit* curious as to how Garfield managed to swipe Jon's pants, which Jon was presumably wearing at the time.
I do not particularly want to think about the fact that Jon apparently owns only one pair of pants.
P.P.S.: I'm afraid marking has once again taken over my life, and I'll have to take another break. With luck, I'll be back in a couple of days.
Stupid, stupid marking.
*Not a big bit.