While having dinner out this past Saturday night with my family, I happened to run into my old friend Julian Frye for the first time in what seemed like forever. 

He looked a little green around the gills and wasn’t acting like his usual flamboyant, “I’m the world’s last authentic playboy” self - and as anyone who has known Julian for as long as I have will almost certainly quickly attest, such behavior on his part is always cause for alarm.

“Why so glum, chum?” I asked him. “You look about as happy as a millipede with terminal athlete’s foot.”

He looked at me with eyes that betrayed a feeling of fatigue… and perhaps a hint of fear. “Can’t help it,” he responded. “Had a pretty rough night last night.” Before I could inquire further, Julian he commenced to telling me about a terrible dream he’d had which lay at the heart of his dismal mood…

Seems Julian had dozed off in his easy chair in front of the boob tube the previous night after an exhausting night of trying to ignore all the political ads airing during his favorite television programs. 

Understandable, I suppose. We’ve probably all done it at least once during this campaign season, given the constant barrage of election news that has even supporters of certain candidates wishing it would stop and just go away. 

But in this particular instance Julian’s sleep proved even less sound than usual, thanks to all the campaign rhetoric buzzing through his head. That rhetoric has been such that, for the first time since he became old enough to do so, Julian had pretty much decided he wouldn’t vote at all this year - and that, apparently, was why he was having trouble sleeping. 

His passage to Snoozeville was a rough one, it seems, and by Julian’s account punctuated by unsettling dreams of candidate debates, political press conferences and Nora O’Donnell in a high school cheerleader uniform. (Never mind…you’d have to know Julian to understand that last part, and I really don’t feel like going there at the moment) 

His subconscious was inundated by sound bites and colorful flashes of bumper stickers, each carrying the name of a different candidate, causing him to thrash about in his recliner and give his poor old dog Padishar a bit of a scare.

“No, I won’t vote,” he mumbled in his sleep. (Julian, not the dog.) “You can’t make me. I’m just so tired of the whole darn thing…”

This apparently went on for a while until finally Julian awoke with a start, his bleary eyes blinking in fright at the sight of the figure which had suddenly materialized there in the dark room. The figure was burdened by heavy chains that held a large ballot box to its shoulders; the glow from the TV screen cast an eerie outline around its form.

“Who are you?” Julian asked. “Why are you here?”

The figure moaned and rattled the chains as it thrust the front page of a 1948 Chicago Tribune out for Julian to read. At the top of the page was a big black headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

“I am the Ghost of Elections Past,” the figure wailed. “The polls said I would win by a landslide. But then Harry went on that whistle stop campaign. Covered 31,000 miles and made 350 speeches. And I lost. If only more people would have voted… Now I’m forced to haunt the minds of dreamers like you, forever looking for new votes.”

The figure faded away, and Julian jumped up out of the chair and grabbed another root beer from the refrigerator. He came back into the living room, switched the television channel, and in no time at all had dozed back off again…

He felt a hand upon his shoulder, and Julian awoke to find a figure in white. She looked slightly familiar; maybe it was the big wooden gavel she held in her hand.

“I am the Ghost of Election Present,” the ghostly visage intoned in her loud, booming Georgian voice. “Julian Frye, don’t you want to see a new greatness for America? Don’t you…?”

“For mercy’s sake, leave me alone!” Julian screamed. “Just what is it that you want from me?”

The spirit called out as she floated backwards and faded into the woodwork. “I want you to vote… to vote… to vote…”

Julian rubbed his eyes again, choked down the last remaining drops of the opened can of root beer that sat on the end table, then fumbled for the remote control and shut off the television. He managed to lumber into his bedroom and climb into bed, but hadn’t even let out with his first decent snore when the room suddenly shook around him.

He opened his eyes to the flash of gunfire. Bombs went off all around him. The room smelled of sulfur and rotting garbage, of death and destruction. A huge figure, dressed in black and looking for all the world like Darth Vader, rode through the bedroom on a huge black stallion named Apocalypse.

“I am the Ghost of Elections Future,” it said in a raspy, evil voice that sent cold shivers up and down Julian’s spine.

“And what do you stand for?” Julian asked from his hiding place beneath the blanket. And the figure laughed - a wickedly deep, baritone guffaw that echoed like it had erupted from the pits of Hades.

“I stand for appeasing the leaders of Russia and North Korea,” the spirit proclaimed with a sneer. “I stand for denying the reality of climate change. I stand for tax breaks for those who can afford to pay higher taxes, for taking away all your rights and for getting rid of all those who I feel do not belong in this nation.”

“But I won’t vote for you,” Julian protested.

“You ALREADY voted for me,” the ghost in black laughed. “You voted for me when you DIDN’T vote; now you can’t vote against me. So few of you were willing to haul yourself up out of your easy chairs and go to your local polling places in 2022 and 2024 that it was decided to do away with the privilege altogether. 

“So we abolished the vote! You’re stuck with me now – and it’s nobody’s fault but your own!”

Julian apparently didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night. Well how could he, with all those ghosts dancing around in his bedroom all night?

I just sat there silently, sipping my unsweet tea and wondering what the rest of my family was talking about as Julian finished sharing the whole ugly story. 

He buried his face in his hands for a moment, then looked back up at me and announced with renewed purpose that he was going to make darn sure that he votes in every election from this point forward, from the local school board to the White House.

“It’s my duty,” Julian said.

He was right. It is his duty - and yours, too. 

This isn’t a partisan appeal to vote one way or the other. I have my set of preferred candidates and you have yours - preferred for reasons that are important to us, to be sure. But at the end of the day, who we vote for and why is only part of the equation; the other part - some will say the most imporant part - is that we vote at all. 

Regardless of who you vote for, your very participation in the process helps keep the Founding Fathers’ Grand Experiment moving forward, in spite of the polls and the deniers and those who would attempt to rob you of the right to cast your ballot.

Don’t let Julian’s nightmare become America’s reality 

Get out there and vote. 

(Copyright © 2022 by John A. Small)