@travellingjack is a project I started back in 2011 when I left Canada to move to the Netherlands. The stuffed doll, a likeness of Captain Jack Sparrow, was a parting gift to me from my good friend Melanie Cassidy on the condition that I take him everywhere. I have since done my best to fulfill her request, taking Jack to places like London, Paris, Hamburg, Copenhagen, and Iceland, not to mention all over the Netherlands. Think of him like a travelling gnome, but more awesome.
The following is written by Melanie, in an effort to fill a sort of backstory for Jack's existence. If you were curious as to Jack's path in life, a mission if you will, this is it.
When he was born, his name was Tom. It was a dull name for a dull boy who would one day grow to be a dull man. As a child, Tom did not run or jump or rough-house with the other boys, and he very seldom found any reason to get excited. He spent much of his time sitting in the grass, in his family's small gray Ottawa house, watching the trees shed their leaves. The neighborhood boys would occasionally notice Tom's predilection for sitting still, but their attention would soon be recaptured by the excitement of running and jumping.
As a teenager Tom retained his fondness for the slow pace of life. While the other boys were busy looking at girls, speaking with girls, and occasionally kissing girls, Tom kept his nose buried firmly in his books. He read less for academic reasons, as his string of steady C's could attest, and more for the privacy it afforded him. He found that as long as he carried a book with him wherever he went, and occasionally gazed into its pages, people would avoid speaking to him and he was free to just sit quietly on his own.
Upon adulthood little had changed for Tom. If anything, he had grown into an even duller human being than he had ever been as a young boy or a teenager. He spent his days as an adjustment worker for the city tax office, and in the evenings he watched the news and did the occasional crossword puzzle. He owned five identical sets of the same gray suit, one for each day of the working week, and on weekends he worked through a collection of four casual charcoal t-shirts and slacks. He ate tuna fish for lunch every day, and on Friday's he stopped at a local cafe for dinner. It was on one such Friday that Tom met Ellie.
On the morning of the day that Tom met Ellie, he was preparing his lunch of tuna fish and humming the opening theme music to his favourite news program. He was in pleasant spirits and looking forward to a weekend of laundry, solitaire, and sitting in a comfortable chair. The wind was so amused by Tom's good humour that it crept in through a crack in the window and circled around him, picking up the tune he was humming and carrying it away. The wind rushed through the trees and the grass, along the pavement and across the rooftops; it bounced off of walls and flitted delicately among the ears of passers-by. Finally the wind found its way to a place both near and far where it wrapped itself around a young Fate.
Fate was surprised to be hugged so by the wind and she listened carefully to the tune it had brought. Following the sound back to its owner, Fate found herself noticing, for the first time, the round and gray man who called himself Tom. The humming had ceased and Fate watched as Tom set out for work with his usual look of grim determination.
The walk to work took anywhere from 21-25 minutes, depending on the traffic lights, and Tom spent the entire time with his eyes on the pavement. A few blocks in, Fate convinced a cat to jump into Tom's path, but Tom did not notice. Several blocks later, Fate bumped into a beautiful young woman, causing her purse to spill on the ground, but Tom simply stepped over her lipstick and kept on walking. In desperation, Fate rerouted a car to crash into a lamppost; this time Tom spared a glance at the commotion, but his pace never slowed and soon his eyes were downcast once more.
Fate spent the entire day with Tom, routinely causing distracting events in an effort to bring some excitement to his life. If Tom noticed the unusual events of the day, he did not let on. He simply kept his head down, focused on his work, and took the occasional break to sit and stare vacantly into space. Fate felt personally insulted by Tom's unwillingness to embrace the excitement she had forced upon him. He was some sort of aberration, she told herself. It's simply not normal.
After a long day of watching Tom work, and stare, and eat his tuna sandwich, and stare some more, Fate was about ready to give up. Never had she met a more dull human being in all of her eternity on Earth, yet somehow she was captivated by him. So engrossed in Tom's life was Fate that she failed to attend to her usual duties; all around the world accidents were not being caused by distraction, lotteries were not being played and won on impulse, and people were not crossing paths during a new route home and falling in love. Fate was distraught, and the world was suffering for it.
That evening Tom went to his favourite cafe for dinner, just as he had done every Friday evening for the last ten years. Fate followed along, disheartened, unsure of what else to do. He walked into the cafe, Fate trailing behind him, and laid eyes for the first time on Ellie.
Ellie was everything that Tom was not. She had long red hair that bounced as she spoke. She sat on a stool at the counter, surrounded by people, eagerly engaging in conversation. Her eyes shone brightly and she laughed freely, smacking the countertop in punctuation. Her clothes were made of various bright colours that would not have matched on any other person, but on her they looked brilliant and beautiful. She smiled freely, at everyone around her, her face a cascade of emotion. Ellie was a girl whose every thought and feeling were written on her face for the world to see, and she did not seem to mind this in the slightest.
In an instant everything changed. Fate felt a shifting in the wind, and knew at once that she had found her moment. Tom stared, dumbfounded, at the vivacious girl sitting at the counter: he was frozen with fear. Carefully Fate placed her hands on Tom's back and pushed him in Ellie's direction, and his feet began to move. He glided, as if on a cloud, towards Ellie and as he approached she looked up at him. Their eyes met, and Ellie smiled.
Just as Tom was about to open his mouth and speak to this vision, the crowd of people surrounding her grabbed her arms and carried her towards the door of the cafe. They laughed as they moved, en masse, out of the cafe and away from Tom. Ellie looked started as the crowd carried her on, but also as though she were having a wonderful time. It was clear that this sort of spontaneous departure was not unusual for her. Then, as suddenly as she had come into his life, she was gone from it.
Tom moved as if to call her name, but when he opened his voice nothing came out. He gripped his throat and tried to make a sound, but succeeded only in squeaking impotently. Confused, he looked around for help, and it was only then that he noticed how dark the cafe was, and how the other people were not moving. Slowly a figure came into sight, a thin and translucent being of roughly human shape, took form before him. She seemed to be there, and not be there, all at once, and Tom found it difficult to look directly at her.
"I've had just about enough of you," the figure said, sternly. "You've been quite difficult all day, young man, but I believe I've got you now!"
Tom said nothing. He assumed that whoever she was, she would carry on regardless of whether he asked any questions or not. He shaded his eyes and stared in the general area of the figure.
"I am Fate." said the figure. "You like her, eh?"
At this Tom perked up, for possibly the first time in his life. "Oh yes," he said breathlessly. "She was lovely. Who is she? Where did she go? When can I see her again?"
Fate smiled smugly. Tom could not see the smugness of her smile, but there was no mistaking the tone of her voice. "You can't. You will never see her again," here she paused. "That is, unless you do as I say."
Tom was anxious. He felt nervous and sweaty, and a chill ran down his spine. In the back of his mind he registered vaguely that he had never felt this way before. He felt at once tired and energetic, nervous and calm, thrilled yet frightened. Was this love? He had read about the emotion many times before, and had idly wondered once or twice what it might be like to be in love, but he had never felt anything like this before. If this was love, he did not like it. And yet, he did like it.
"You must prove yourself," Fate finally added. She had been waiting and watching as Tom reviewed his feelings and she knew what he was only beginning to discover: that he was in love. This was not something she had arranged, but she could use it. After spending a day showering Tom in her charms, only to be refused at every turn, Fate was eager to bend the man to her will. She would show him who was in charge, even if it took all of her power to do it. "You must complete a challenge before you see the girl again."
"What would you have me do?" Tom asked, quietly.
"You must live," Fate spoke with relish. "You must experience the world, as you never have before. Visit every major city in the world, engage with people, and when you have done that, return here and I will tell you were to find the girl."
"Oh, is that all?" Tom spoke with the finality of someone who had finished a crossword puzzle too quickly. He was a little bored with the figure who called herself Fate, and he wished to move things along as quickly as possible. "Fine. I'll get started right away."
Fate scowled and stomped her foot, angrily. "Is that not exciting enough for you, then?" she asked. She thought quickly, her eyes darting around the cafe. On a small wire shelf atop the counter, there sat rows of small stuffed pirates, encased in plastic bags. Fate's eyes twinkled wickedly. "Very well. Lets make this a little more challenging then, shall we?"
Before Tom had a chance to blink or shrug or stare or shift his own gaze to where Fate was looking, he was engulfed in a tingling sensation. He felt, rather than saw, brilliant lights weave through his body, and it seemed as though the world were becoming larger. He closed his eyes tightly, and when the feelings passed, he opened them again and looked around.
He was standing on top of the cafe countertop. Formerly people sized, he was now a good 4 or 5 inches in height, and his body felt light and stiff. He looked down and saw that his clothes had changed, and they looked far wilder than anything he'd ever worn before. He felt his face and there was hair there where there hadn't been before. His hands traveled further up his head, noticing a pony tale and a bandanna. He wasn't himself anymore.
"Who am I?" he asked.
"You're..." Fate thought about it for a moment, and then: "You're Jack. You're Jack now, and you're a pirate."
Tom, now Jack, felt dismayed but it didn't show on his face. In the past he hadn't felt much for his face to display, and now that he was feeling something he felt trapped without a means to express it. "I don't want to be a pirate."
"Nevertheless," said Fate. "You are Jack the Pirate, and you must travel the world, visiting all major cities if you are ever to find your lady-love." And before Jack could say another word, before he could even ask Why Him? Fate disappeared in the same slow shimmering in which she had appeared.
Jack sat on the counter and wished he could cry. It had been such a normal day up until he'd walked into the cafe. The last few moments of his life as Tom had been more excitement than all the rest of it put together. He wasn't quite sure what to do with himself. How exactly do small soft pirates travel the world?
As he was feeling sorry for himself, the cafe around him started to come back to life, and a blond woman walked through the door. She picked Jack up off of the counter top and hummed to herself softly. "How much for this?" She called to the lady behind the counter, waving Jack in the air.
"Oh, uh, $2.50?" the lady said uncertainly. The blond woman pulled the change out of her pocket, placed it on the counter, and waved to the lady. She smiled at Jack and then stuffed him into the back pocket of her bag. At home in Toronto, she pulled him out of her bag and smiled at him again and playfully said hello. Jack stayed silent and immobile. The woman put him on a shelf in her kitchen, where he sat for a year or so. Eventually, the blond woman packed Jack into a box and moved him across the country. After a long and rough journey, Jack found himself being pulled out of the box and placed on another shelf.
"Welcome to Vancouver," said the blond woman. And Jack, elated at being a tiny bit closer to his goal, sat happily on the shelf. He had successfully traveled from Ottawa to Toronto to Vancouver. He had several cities left to visit before he could find the woman he loved, but at least he was making progress. It wasn't much, but it was a start.
One day, the blond woman took him off of his shelf and placed him into the open palm of a brown-haired boy. "You should take him with you," She said.
....to be continued on twitter.