Jet Lag: A Cautionary Tale

Mark Guthrie

“Do you know how I like my doughnuts?”

I peeled my head from the sweat soaked pillow and looked down at the figure perched on top of my still unpacked suitcase.

“With Jammin’?”

“Heard it before?”

“What do you want Bob?”

“You shouldn’t sleep now, you know?”

The mists of 6000 miles of airplane exhaust swirled about the bedroom floor, dancing in the light of the midday sunshine that had crept in through the inadequate curtains.

“I’m fucking knackered Bob, what do you want?”

Marley wrapped a rattling dreadlock around a long finger absentmindedly, his face in a dismal light like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.

“I’m here to warn you that you shouldn’t be sleeping. You should stay awake, sort out your body clock, beat the jetlag.”

“Fuck that, I need sleep now.”

“Don’t say you weren’t warned, for you will be visited by three ghosts to show you the error of your ways. An ambush in the night, if you will.”

And with that he was gone and I allowed the smoke to swallow me down into the depths of sleep once more.

“You shouldn’t sleep now, you know?”

I awoke again and found, to my horror a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now twenty legs, now a head without a body.

“What on earth are you?”

“I am the Ghost of Jetlag past. Um, did Marley not mention me? I am at the right place aren’t I?”

“He may have said something.”

“Thank Christ for that. He smokes a lot of dope you know. He gets quite forgetful.”

The shape shifted once again, the body of which dissolving parts, no outline was visible in the dense gloom where they melted away.

“So I shouldn’t sleep?”


“Why not?”

“I thought you would never ask.”

The exhaust smoke swirled from the tatami floor and ensconced the entire room until I was no longer there, but looking in through the window of a suburban, New England home.

“Where am I?”

“Do you not recognize the scene?”

I gazed at the characters before me, framed by mosquito netting and felt a prick of recollection.

“That’s me on the sofa isn’t it?”

“That’s you?” asked the Ghost of Jetlag Past.

“You were a cute kid.”

“I mean, what the fuck happened? Have you had a hard life?”

“Not especially.”

“Bloody hell.”

“And that’s my mum.”

“Your mum’s hot.”

“Fuck off!”

“Look, I may be a shape shifting ghost, but I’d tap it.”

“Is that why we’re here Ghostie?”



“My name’s Frank, not Ghostie.”

“So is that why we’re here Frank? For you to perv on my mum?”

“No. Do you recall what you are seeing?”
I stared at the tableau before me. “We had just moved from England to America. Maybe a couple of days before. It was my first long journey and I was really jetlagged.”

Frank nodded his head momentarily before it vanished into the ether. “You were really ill, weren’t you?”

As if on cue I saw my eleven year old self vomit into a bucket as my mother tenderly smoothed my hair. “Yeah, I was fucked.”

“What about her?”

I hadn’t noticed my sister sat playing with her My Little Ponies on the living room floor.

“Kate was fine I think.”

“Do you remember why?”

I wasn’t sure, but I seemed to recall her excitedly pestering me whilst I tried to sleep, but just as the thought began to formulate, the exhaust fumes swirled about me and I found myself once again alone in my bedroom, the Nagoyan humidity soaking my sheets, the gentle hum of the electric fan lulling me back into the depths of slumber.

But the slumber did not last long, for I was soon awoken again by a new figure reclining on my suitcase. This new intruder was immense, seemingly filling my tiny Freebell bedroom, his deep emerald Kimono absorbing the remaining light like a black hole wrapped in an obi.

“Ghost of Jetlag Present I presume?”

“Are you not afraid?”

“Nah. I’ve read my Dickens. Well, I haven’t, but I’ve seen the Muppets.”


“Where to now then… sorry, what should I call you? Calling you The Ghost of Jetlag Present is going to eat into my word count quite considerably.”

“Shinji’s fine.”

“Come on then Shinji, let’s get on with it.”

The Ghost of Jetlag Present looked crestfallen.

“Are you sure you’re not even a little bit scared?”

“Would you prefer it if I was?”


I sat up in my bed and gripped my face like Macaulay Culkin.

“Oh heaven help me, when will this nightmare end? I be so affeared!”

“There’s no need to take the piss.”

Before I could apologize, the exhaust fumes took us over.

“Why have you taken me to The Hub, Shinji? Gonna shout me a pint?”


Again, as if on cue – it seemed that these ghosts were good with cues – a group of my friends wandered in and ordered Happy Hour cocktails.

“Should I call Mark?” asked Hunter.

“No, I think he’s sleeping,” Tiny Tim replied.

“He shouldn’t sleep. He’ll be fucked by the jetlag. Maybe I should call him.”

“No, he expressly told me that he wanted to sleep. It’s a shame, it’s going to be a cracking night.”

I looked to Shinji. He looked at me.

“So Mark, what do you think?”

“They’ll probably have a shit night. I’ll catch up with them tomorrow or something.”

Shinji shook his head.

“You’re a real pain in the arse you are. Do you not realize that if these shadows remain unaltered by the future, Tim will die.”

“Really? Fucking hell!”

“No, not really. I just put that in for dramatic effect. Come on, don’t you know you’re supposed to have an epiphany or something?”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m saving it for the final act.”

“Suit yourself.”

Again the exhaust fumes swirled and I was back in my room.

By the time the Ghost of Jetlag Yet To Come arrived the light had gone and I was playing Candy Crush on my iPhone.

“You’re the one that doesn’t speak, right?”

The creature in the black hood nodded.

“And you’re the one that’s supposed to show me the error of my ways, to show me that I should try and fix my body clock, right?”

Again the creature in the black hood nodded.

“H’way then.”

The creature in the black hood shrugged.

“What do you mean you can’t be arsed?”

The creature in the black hood shrugged.

“You’ve had a hard day? What about me?”

The creature in the black hood picked up my phone and, having failed to complete level 127, stirred the smoke and we were gone.

“A chemists?”

Again the creature in the black hood shrugged and pointed his long bony finger towards a packet of sleeping tablets behind the girl at the checkout.

The pretty girl with a birthmark on her cheek dutifully bagged the box and handed it over with a smile.

“What the fuck? Aren’t you supposed to show me the future, show me that my friends are all miserable because I didn’t take care of my jetlag, followed by a trip to the cemetery to see my unkempt grave?

“Look Mark,” the creature in the black hood seemed to say, squatting with exhaustion to his ghostly haunches outside the pharmacy. “Do you know how many times I’ve done that? Just today you are my 3,006th visitation. But do you buggers listen? Do you give a fuck? All you have to do is take a couple of these, sleep ‘til tomorrow morning and you’ll be right as rain.”

“But I don’t think I’ve had my epiphany yet.”

The creature in the black hood shrugged, and for the final time the airplane exhaust fumes engulfed me.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I awoke the next day, the early morning sunshine once again streaming through the window. I looked around for the likelihood of another visitation, for the exhaust fumes, but found nothing.

I was unsure of what had happened the previous day. Had it been nothing more than a dream? But even so, I felt joy at the fact that I had seemingly shaken any impending jetlag. I felt so joyous, in fact, that I thought to donate a Christmas turkey to a needy family.

Then I remembered that it was September and nigh on impossible to buy turkey in Japan, so I got up and had breakfast instead. Tea and doughnuts since you ask. With jam in.

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