‘t is the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la. So, on the third day of Christmas, this writer gives to you: part 4 of a modern Christmas Carol.
Part one of this story can be found here.
Anyway, this story is of course completely fictional and meant as an attempt at humor. Any resemblance to actual persons is a coincidence. Really.
The Last of the Spirits
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge trembled; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
Knowing not what else to do, Scrooge grabbed the hand. As was his custom, he shook the hand wildly, pulling the apparition in an embrace to show his dominance.
It did not work. He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.
The apparition pulled back its hood, revealing a female face with thick blond hair and wearing glasses. “Yes. And I have a plan for that.”
“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,…” Scrooge pursued. “……Is that so, Spirit?”
“No matter how rich you are, no matter how loud you are, no matter how famous you are,” she replied. “You can be held accountable.”
“Lead on!…” said Scrooge. “…Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, even though I only sleep an hour or four, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”
The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him, Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.
They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. But there they were, in the heart of it.
The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men.
“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s dead.”
“When did he die?” inquired another.
“Last night, I believe.”
“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said another speaker; “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”
“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. “Like as not, it will be happy meals though.”
Another laugh. Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with other groups.
Scrooge was inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so trivial.
“What are you getting at, Pocahontas?” he told the Ghost.
Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. Scrooge relented.
They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before, although he recognized its situation, and its bad repute. The ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched; the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offenses of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with oxycodon, and misery. His father had built some of these housings, long ago.
Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of an old man, an undertaker, just as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the shop. The old man raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and having trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night), with the stem of his pipe, put it in his mouth again.
While he did this, the woman who had already spoken, threw her bundle on the floor and sat down.
“Very well, then!” cried the woman. “Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose.”
“No, indeed,” said the old man, laughing. “What do you call this?”
“Ah!” returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. “Bed-curtains!”
“You don’t mean to say you took ’em down, rings and all, with him lying there?” said the man.
“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “If I hadn’t done it, one of his ex-wives or one o’ those porn stars would’ve.”
“Well,” said the undertaker, “at least he’s getting the funeral he wanted, instead of a mass grave. But will he thank me for it? No.”
The woman laughed. “Fortunately, he’s gone now. Gone on to greener pastures—or perhaps far less green pastures. But he’s gone. He’s gone, Bill. I’m very happy he’s gone.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the undertaker. “True enough, true enough.”
“Spirit!…” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “….I see, I see. You mean the case of this unhappy man might be my own. But that can never happen. I am the most beloved man alive.”
He recoiled in terror, for suddenly the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful language. It was overweight even in death, and the one thing not stolen was a toupee on the night stand, alongside a half-eaten burger. If this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts?
He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him.
“Spirit!…..” he said, “..this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, believe me. Let us go!”
The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered the United Nations Headquarters; the dwelling he had visited before; mostly to berate. He’d once said in these halls that ‘Each of you has the absolute right to protect your borders, and so, of course, does our country.’
There was an air of quiet. As they walked into the main room, he saw all the representatives, they were as still as statues. They were holding a vigil, a moment of silence to remember somebody who had departed. Was it the man in the empty house, whom he’d recoiled from not long before?
“A new record number of deaths in Florida this year,” the US representative said. “Over half of it has now disappeared beneath the waves after the autumn storms.”
“The same in Europe,” another representative said. “The Netherlands is gone. England and Scotland are at war after the famine. And Sweden was hit by more landslides and floods.”
“That’s how he died,” said the Swedish representative. “A landslide. Poor Tiny Tim.”
Those present recounted the sad journey of Tiny Tim. He’d left his family home, traveling to Europe on a sailing ship to campaign and help against climate change. His words had been met with promises of action, but not with action itself. One of the biggest polluting countries of the world was turning a blind eye, rejecting the Paris accords, and that caused envy and strife, and so none acted. Now they would reap what they had sown. Scrooge turned away.
“Spectre,…” said Scrooge, “….I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. This could have been prevented if those countries had just reduced the trade deficit. Made a fair deal instead of robbing us. But something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how. Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before.
A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses; decorated by gold, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place!
The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,…” said Scrooge. “….I am not to blame for things going awry. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name: Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Good Spirit,…” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it, “…Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. You have seen I am deserving of a better end!”
The kind hand trembled. “No, Ebenezer, what you have been doing is a total disgrace! You, Ebenezer Scrooge, are a total disgrace.”
“Well, I do think there is blame…,” Scrooge said. “…yes, there’s blame on both sides. You look at – you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides.”
The hand pointed at him. “We will not allow a small, insecure, thin-skinned wannabe tyrant to destroy the rule of law. To enrich himself while pertaining to lead.”
“Covfefe!” Scrooge roared. In his anger, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.
Scrooge found himself on the ground, next to his bed, staring at his bedpost. Fox & Friends was on in the background.
The final part will appear on the morrow, showing what the ghostly visits have wrought.