"I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar.”
These were the last words uttered by ace pilot Wash before he dramatically shuffled off this mortal coil. When he opened his eyes again he was floating in a black expanse of nothingness.
“HOBAN WASHBURNE,” a deep, disembodied voice bellowed.
“W-who’s there?” asked Wash.
“I AM THE CREATOR, THE ONE WHO MADE THE UNIVERSE AS YOU KNOW OF IT. AND YOU, HOBAN WASHBURNE, HAVE MET A MOST TRAGIC FATE.”
“Tragic? Wait a minute…am I dead?”
“THAT IS CORRECT,” boomed the ethereal voice.
“Shénshèng de gǒu shǐ…” the man muttered under his breath.
“YES, A MOST TRAGIC OF FATES,”repeated the voice. “BUT DO NOT DESPAIR. HOBAN WASHBURNE, YOU SHALL BE GRANTED THE HONOUR OF SELF-JUDGMENT.”
“Self-judgment?” he pondered the notion for a moment. “Well, if it’s all the same to you, Mr. Booming Disembodied Voice, I would like to not be sent to the place with the fire and brimstone and little men in red pajamas with pitchforks. I’ve lived an honest-enough life, I’ve paid my taxes…most of the time…”
“SILENCE!” commanded the voice. “THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT. YOUR SELF-JUDGMENT SHALL COME IN THE FORM OF REINCARNATION. YOUR LIFE WILL RESET, AND YOU SHALL CONTINUE TO EXIST, WITH NO MEMORY OF YOUR PRIOR LIFE. HOBAN WASHBURNE: DO YOU ACCEPT?”
“THEN IT IS WRITTEN. HOBAN WASHBURNE….BEHOLD YOUR NEW LIFE.”
There was a bright flash of light. Wash shielded his face until he felt his very being dissipate.
He opened his eyes again, this time to the low hum of several voices talking.
“You’re on, Mr. Tudyk,” he heard someone say, then pat him on the back.
Wash walked forward onto the stage of a massive auditorium, and the low murmurings instantly swelled into a loud roar of cheering and applause.
“And here he is, the star of the hit television series Wash and Co. and the movie Wash vs. the Universe, Alan Tudyk!”
The audience reached a fever pitch as he walked to the center of the stage, befuddled. In front of him were thousands of adoring fans; behind him hung a massive banner for the show of which he was apparently the star. A handler escorted him to his seat at the center of the panel. The other guests were already seated; on his immediate left sat a rugged-looking Caucasian man; on his immediate right sat an an attractive caramel-skinned actress. Wash stared intently; there was something about this woman. For some reason he couldn’t take his eyes off her…
“Huh?” Wash turned to face the audience, where a young woman dressed as a Reaver was standing with a microphone. She repeated her question: “I said, to what do you attribute your success in the industry?”
Wash squinted, and raised a hand to his face to shield his eyes from the bright lights gleaming down on the panel. He still felt very disoriented. “I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a star…”
“Ever humble, this guy,” said the woman next to him, who gave him a playful shove on the shoulder. The audience took this as a humorous response and laughed, then continued on with the questions. As the gentleman next to him fielded a query about the rigors of being on set, Wash stole another quick glance at the woman, who took a sip of water from the glass in front of her.
The questions eventually ended and there was a 15-minute intermission to allow everyone to stretch their legs. In the green room, the cast stood and conversed. Wash (or Alan, as he was apparently called), stared intently at the punch bowl in the center of the concession table. Out of his peripheral vision, he caught the view of a cake designed to look like the hull of some sort of spaceship. In a strange way it almost resembled a lightning bug…
“You alright, Alan?” Wash looked up; it was the woman again, concern painting her face. “You seemed a bit out of it back there.”
Wash stood up straight and rubbed his face with his hands. “Uh yeah…I’m just fighting a cold right now. The medication’s got me a bit woozy. But, you were great out there. That was a quick-thinking shutdown response for that one fan.”
“Ah, you mean the one that asked about my bra size?” She sucked in air through her teeth and let out a quick chuckle. “After all the conventions I’ve paneled, you learn to develop a thick skin and a witty retort muscle. Call it a defense mechanism.”
Wash chuckled along with her. A little tune started playing seemingly out of nowhere, and the woman pulled out a phone from her pocket. When she lifted it to her ear, Wash noticed that she had a wedding band on her finger. He was disappointed….why was he disappointed?
“Hello?” answered the woman. She covered the phone briefly and looked apologetically at Wash. “Sorry, I’ve got to take this.”
He could only nod as she turned away to continue the conversation. He looked out in a daze.
The intermission ended and the cast made their way back to their seats on main stage. Wash intercepted the woman, who had just finished her phone conversation and placed the phone back in her pocket.
“Yeah, Alan – what is it?”
“I just…I mean, I have to ask…are you happy?”
She gave him a perplexed look. “Excuse me?”
“Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you were given the chance to hit the reset button on your life. Suppose you could start all over, with no memory of your past life. Would you take it, or would keep things the way they are?"
“Where is this coming from?”
“I don’t know,” said Alan, exasperated. “But…don’t you think we’re meant to be more than…this?”
“Alan…you need a vacation. Seriously. I think the convention circuit is finally getting to you.”
“Look, I’ve got to get out there. We’re already starting late.”
She walked briskly away. Alan swore under his breath, then exhaled and reluctantly joined the others back at the panel.
Now that the question portion of the panel was completed, the exclusive content from the latest Wash and Co. film was to be revealed.
“Thanks for your patience, folks,” said the panel moderator. “Now what you’ve all been waiting for! Here is the world premiere trailer for the newest installment in the Wash and Co. saga – Wash and Co.: War Against the Alliance!”
The crowd lost their minds in excitement. The auditorium lights dimmed and a giant screen lowered behind the cast.
A gravelly-voiced male announcer set the tone. “In a world where anarchy and chaos reign supreme, one man has what it takes to unite those that have lost all hope…”
As the announcer spoke, scenes from the upcoming movie sped across the screen in rapid succession. A scene involving Alan’s character Wash single-handedly piloting the giant lightning bug ship. Another scene of Wash rescuing his crew mates from a gang of bandits on a barren moon. Another scene of Wash opposite his leading lady, infiltrating Alliance headquarters, gun a-blazing, kissing passionately when they achieved their objective.
“But this isn’t real,” said Alan over the din of the trailer.
“You okay there, buddy?” asked his square-jawed co-star.
Alan stood up, casting a shadow on the trailers so that the majority of the screen was obscured by a massive black outline of his figure. “This isn’t real. None of this is real!”
He went to the edge of the stage and waved his arms wildly, trying to get the attention of whoever was running the projection. “Stop! I want you to stop! I don’t want this! I didn’t ask for this!”
The light source shut off, leaving him alone in the stifling darkness. There was no more audience. There was no more cast. There was no more Alan Tudyk. There was just Wash, back where he had started. Back before the end.
“HOBAN WASHBURNE…” the disembodied voice returned, this time more sober in tone. “Think carefully on your decision…”
An image appeared before Wash, grainy and sepia-toned, as though he were viewing it through a vat of molasses. He was looking at himself, impaled through the chest, struggling with his last breaths within the ship Serenity. His friend and captain, Mal was there; so was his co-captain, Zoe, heartbroken and afraid, pleading for his life.
“This is what you’ve become. Your time is soon forefeit. Is this what you truly want?”
Wash continued watching the scene. Watched as his grieving wife left with Mal, leaving him at the mercy of the Reavers. Though he couldn’t see himself, he could feel eyes well with tears.
“Yes…” he finally choked out. “And do you know why? Because even though it’s over, I had a damn good run. I got to fly an amazing spaceship. I was part of a crew that was like family. I had a beautiful, brilliant wife…I’d rather it all come to an end now than I go on living a life that’s not this one.”
“Very well. HOBAN WASHBURNE, you have chosen your fate. I hope you are satisfied. Good luck…and goodbye…”
The voice finally went silent, leaving Wash alone with his thoughts, if only for a short while longer. The image before him became more and more of a blur, until he could no longer distinguish himself, until the scene began to dissolve and fade to black. And even as he bore witness to his imminent demise, Wash couldn’t help but smile.
“Shénshèng de gǒu shǐ…what a wild ride.”