If you think you know the sound of horror, try the unmistakable thump of a bloody pirate demon’s wooden leg coming down the stairs accompanied by the scratch of a hook hand gouging the railing for balance.
Yes, it really is worse than fingernails on a blackboard.
(For younger readers, blackboards were devices used in structured educational situations last century. Chalk was applied to them and … oh, never mind.)
The inevitable “ARRR!” a cry simultaneously inducing terror and communicating pain: The pain of a Cornish pirate captain abandoned by his crew, forever living the pact he formed with the devil as the tide rose on a Caribbean sandbar; the terror of the Pascoe Curse, one of each generation doomed to record the pirate’s feared Olde Pascoe’s Almanacke every New Year’s Eve.
I had become used to the summons of the old sea chest – the sound of rattling chains and jungle drums in the attic, a stink of sulphur, the screams and howling. There was nothing for it but to record the Almanacke’s spidery scrawl written in blood for the year ahead.
But this was December 30. Something was amiss in Hell.
“Ahoy!” I called. “What are you doing out of the attic? We’re not due for 24 hours – I haven’t the results of my PCR test yet.”
If you’re wondering what a 300-year-old undead pirate captain looks like, it’s not nice. Let’s just say that him forgetting to wear a patch over his missing eye was not his worst feature.
The thing peg-legged his way into my study, waving his hook at me, his remaining four teeth in a fixed snarl – and then he collapsed back into an armchair with what might have been a small sob.
“Arrr, stuff it,” he said. “I can’t do it any more, well, not for 2022 anyway. This Morrison crew has crazed me crystal ball, curdled me tea leaves, scattered me chook’s gizzards.
“Oh, I was trying, got fresh blood for the fingernail scratching and all, but what’s the point?
“I mean, I was starting with January, no surprise, and had this fiendish idea that a plague would be let loose upon the nation, that the Prime Ministers and Premiers would start chanting “let it rip” as they danced naked around a giant boiling pot filled with health and aged-care workers – but then I read The New Daily and found it had already happened, more or less.
“So February then, I was going to make rapid antigen tests the new toilet paper – the fun an old pirate author can have with RATs and sinking ships, working in the obvious government MPs quitting. I was going to have the Prime Minister say at a press conference that he ‘had been in the market for RATs since August’ but he’d only managed to pick up some in sample bags left over from the cancelled Brisbane Ekka.
“Well, the blood was barely dry when I looked up at ABC News and there Morrison was at Kirribilli House saying those very words, except the bit about the sample bags was sotto voce.
Morrison: "We've been in the market for RATs since August".
In which case, he wouldn't be judged competent to go to the shop for milk.
— Michael Pascoe (@MichaelPascoe01) December 29, 2021
“Right then, I thought I’d just have to try harder for March. Universities starting back, I thought I’d make someone acting Education Minister who was absolutely unbelievable, someone clearly unqualified, someone with bugger-all credibility, you know, someone responsible for an almighty disaster like Robodebt, someone who had run up a massive IT bill on the taxpayer for their religion side-hustle, someone who had been sacked as a minister over a dodgy trip to China.
“And I was going to have this figure of fun given the power to scrap university research grants that had been approved by a couple of hundred experts and reintroduce the burning of witches.
“Lo and behold, up pops Brother Stuey Robert in the paper having already done it – scrapping the grants anyway. He’s not announcing the witches thing until he works out how to make sure they don’t float.
“And you know what’s already scheduled for the end of March, don’t you? Another Frydenberg budget! More smoke and mirrors and compliant media and dodgy figures and reannounced announcements than a 300-year-old pirate’s unbeating heart could handle, but Frydenberg’s already done it in his MYEFO!
“Then, the horror, the unimaginable horror of knowing what was happening next – the election campaign. You know what it’s like looking into Clive Palmer’s future mind? I wouldn’t let a zombie eat it.
“So that’s it. I’m packing it in for 2022. Given the choice of the corruption and lies, the scare tactics and deceit of Election 2022, no offence Antony Green, but I’ll walk the plank.
“Anyway, I hear Hawaii is nice this time of year, I’m off.”
And with that, he was gone, leaving nothing but the stench of rotting flesh and Old Spice.
As the subject of the Pascoe curse, I was both relieved and fearful.
The New Year’s Eve ceremony with the sea chest, the ooze and the Peter Dutton apparitions had a way of spoiling the fireworks – but what could make an undead pirate captain choose the plank over foretelling the year ahead?
Go carefully into that good night …