A Christmas Carol
Scrooge rubbed his hands together with a chilly disdain, and moved over to the fireplace. Working the embers with a fan, he began to pump up the flames, and tenderly restarted the fire which had burnt out so long ago. The tendrils of fire slowly winded out of the ashes and began to lick eagerly at the long, thick logs of the fireplace, and after some careful moments there was a roaring, flickering fire going.
Partially satisfied, Scrooge warmed his crackled fingers against the heat, rubbing his arms to instil a little more warmth into them. It was going to be a long night indeed, he knew. The night before Christmas Day was when Scrooge worked his hardest, toiling away with his books as he whittled away the hours until the sun rose up above the smoky rooftops and signalled the beginning stages of Christmas itself.
Only last year, Scrooge had been visited by four deadly spectres, ghosts of life and death who had opened his eyes to the World around, and showed him visions of past, present and future. The experience had left him shaken, but he’d vowed from then on that life should never be as it was before. He would change his ways and live life to the fullest, as much as possible, celebrating human life above fiscal profit. It had given him a new perspective, and his business had gone into administration shortly afterwards, putting everyone out of work.
Scrooge had taken this as an opportunity; he could finally devote his life to the things that had eluded him thus far. Joy, happiness, a swelling in the heart which signified love. Above all, he wished to celebrate Christmas to the fullest – and his acts of kindness had sounded around the walls of this broken town here and back again, ringing in support of his changed ways. He was a beloved figure, and he’d done it all within the space of a year.
He still took up some small pieces of work to keep him busy; chief among them the running of Bob Cratchit’s finances, which were in a dire state last year but now thrived like never before. With a little application and work, anything could be bettered – a statement which, he reflected with a wry humour, was accurate for himself as well. Those three ghosts – past, present, and future – had fixed him, too, in a way. He’d never felt as alive and merry as he did now, and he looked back at his past sins with an intense regret. That was a different him, a man who was corrupted by money and ambition which blinded his senses and…
“Ebeneeeeeeeeeezer,” said a familiar voice.
An icy chill summoned across the room, and winds whipped in from the east window, which had swung open. “Marley?” he asked, his voice as timid as the grave. “Marley, my old friend, is that you?”
There was a knock at the door.
“Jacob Marley, I’m not opening the door unless I can hear your voice. Is that you, returned from the grave once more?”
There was a second knock at the door, and Scrooge stood up out of his chair to judge the situation. The fire spittled out, fizzing into nothingness once again.
There was a third knock, before the door smashed open into splintered, breaking into pieces as the parts of wood fell to the floor with a hollow crash, and Scrooge found himself stood before Jacob Marley for the second time since his old business-partner had died. Marley hadn’t changed. There were less chains holding him back, but he was still weighted down by them as they hung over his neck and shoulders, pulling his body into an awkward, inhuman contortion. He was ghastly, pale, and covered with a dry pain which seemed to radiate out of his heart.
“Ebenezer, I have come to deliver to you a warning. Again.”
Scrooge tentatively moved forwards. “What is it, old friend? Haven’t I done well this year, and heeding the cautionary visions you gave me previously?”
“You did indeed, and it was a great release to me that you managed to free yourself from the heavy chains which you were forging for yourself. However, there is still one more thing that you need to do, Scrooge, in order to free yourself.”
“What is it, Marley? I’ll do anything, anything!”
Marley’s face looked stern. “Bend over, Scrooge.”