By Lisa McCourt Hollar
“Second star to the right and straight on towards morning.”
Johnny stared into the one good eye of the Traveler. He’d met the man in the pub the night before. He’d regaled him with stories of adventures in faraway places. Different worlds.
“Your pulling my leg,” Johnny had hiccupped. “No one has been any farther than the moon and then only astronauts. You aint no astronaut.”
“No, I’m more than those limited thinkers and so are you. You have the gift. I can see it in your eyes.”
Now, standing outside the man’s ship, Johnny wondered. It didn’t look like much, but it was parked in the harbor.
“I’m ready to retire. She’s all yours…”
“I don’ have no money.” Johnny barely mumbled the words loud enough to be heard but the man cackled, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
“I’m not selling you the ol’ girl. I’m givin’ her to ya.”
“Because someone has to continue the adventure.”
“Second star to the right,” Johnny repeated.
“And straight on till morning.”
Johnny looked at the man, his one eye and then the hook that replaced a missing hand. He shook his head. It couldn’t be.
“Your crew is awaiting you.” He motioned with his good hand towards the deck. Johnny could see activity on board he hadn’t noticed before. “Her name is The Jolly Roger.”
“I have responsibilities… a wife…”
“Who you were trying to forget just last night; isn’t she the reason you avoid going home?”
“Is the reason you have failed at everything. She never believed in you. She squashed your dreams that day you told her you wanted to be a pirate. Now you can be. And she can’t stop you.”
Johnny swallowed. This man knew everything about him, his fears, his regrets and his dreams. The Traveler motioned towards the ship. Johnny took his first step up the gangway and his new life.
“With all due respect,” Smee said, glaring at Johnny, “you were told to take the second star to the right, not the left.”
“I signed on for adventure. I know where the star on the right goes.”
“That’s always been your problem. You never listen to a thing anyone says. Always have to try and do it your way.”
Johnny turned and stared at his wife. “What are you doing here?” He complained. “This is supposed to be my new start.”
“For better or worse until death do us part. That was the vow you took. You can’t sneak away from me that easy.”
Now he saw that Heather… a pretty name for someone that turned out to be such a shrew, had a red stain on her white blouse. He puzzled on it for a moment while his wife barked orders to the crew.
“Stop it!” Johnny said. “This is my adventure, my crew. I tell them what to do.”
His wife laughed. He covered his ears to block it while looking around for something to make her stop. He saw the hook that had belonged to the Traveler and picked it up. It felt right. Raising it he brought it down against his wife’s chest. It sunk in catching hold of her heart. Then she vanished.
“I’ve done this before,” he thought. “At the house before I went to the bar.”
It was his mother’s voice. She came out of the Captains Galley, swinging her rolling pin at him. Johnny lifted the hook to block the blow. Her face was rotting, flesh falling off. A maggot wiggled in the corner of her lips and she slipped out a tongue and pulled it into her mouth.
“I killed you,” he said. “I buried you in the back yard.”
“But you still collect my social security checks.”
“NO! This isn’t happening, it’s not real.” Johnny swung the hook again, vanquishing his mother to the bowels of hell. He noticed that the weapon had now become a part of his hand.
“Captain,” Smee said, “Crocodile ahead at three O’clock.”
“Crocodile? In space?”
“The Galax Sea is large. You would be surprised at what you will find here.”
“Little boys that never grow up?”
“Oh but they do, Peter. Eventually.”
“My name is not Peter, it’s Johnny.”
“Whatever you say, Captain.”
The crock had two heads and made tick tock sounds. Johnny wondered if it had eaten a clock. When it opened its huge maw, taking a chunk out of the boats side, he saw his wife’s face looking back at him.
“What is this madness?” He asked.
“No one ever really leaves Neverland,” Smee said. “Isn’t that right, Peter?”
“I told you, I’m not Peter.”
“You thought you could escape, but old Hook, he found you. Trapped you in your own nightmare.”
“Peter, wake up.”
“Tink, is that you?”
Johnny/Peter looked around. He could see her fairy light, far off in the distance.
“The second star to the right,” he whispered. He turned the wheel, steering the ship back towards Neverland.”
“It’s too late,” Hook said. “You chose the left. You cannot alter your coarse.”
A black hole opened in front of him. Johnny tried to steer away but the ship was caught in the currents. Around him he heard the voices of the Lost Boys, his friends. He had killed them, attempting to escape Neverland. Wendy became his mother. Then he killed her. Heather reminded him of Tink. Only she’d done nothing but bitch. Growing up wasn’t what he had thought. Drinking, he could go back in his mind, but it never lasted. Why couldn’t it last? He closed his eyes and wished for the magic of Neverland again.
“Peter, wake up.” He opened his eyes.
She smiled down at him, her blond hair falling into her eyes. He should have stayed.
Her eyes changed, becoming dark. They reminded him of the black hole. He smile was now savage, her teeth jagged and sharp. Behind her he heard Cubby. He said he was tired of imaginary food.