A Christmas Carol #1

A-christmas-carol

Preface

24th December, 2012

Before I narrate this story to you, there’s one thing you need to know.

It’s something you need to remember.

You dare not forget it. Keep it in mind, okay?

Okay. So here’s what I want to tell you:

Marley’s dead.

He’s dead, he kicked the bucket, he’s not alive anymore. I’ll say it again in no uncertain terms; Marley is dead.

Right. Now that we’ve established that fact, we can get on with the story. It’s time to introduce another character to you.

This character, mind you, is the main dude. Scrooge. The name’s Ebenezer Scrooge. If I had to come up with one word which meant selfish, cunning, sinning, miser, stone-hearted, solitary, self-contained, secret, detached, condescending and critical, it would be “Scrooge.” And indeed, the man’s name today is associated with all these undesirable qualities and is used with regards to a person like him. “You’re such a Scrooge!”

Stonier than the stoniest, tight-fisted than the most miserly, more solitary than the most Facebook and Twitter addicts…even in the 21st century, Mr. Scrooge was one of a kind.

One thing that can be said about him, though, is that he cared about Marley. They’d been partners since God knows when at Scrooge and Marley. Even after Marley’s death, Scrooge didn’t remove his name from their banners and business cards. People called their firm Scrooge and Marley, or Scrooge and Scrooge, depending upon their convenience. It didn’t matter to him, though.

He responded both ways. Jacob Marley was probably his sole friend, and vice versa. Scrooge was Marley’s only administrator, his only mourner, his only assign and his only residuary legatee.

Now that we’ve said our hi(s)and hellos to the star of our story, let us carry on with it.

***

Stave I

On a cold, foggy and bitter Christmas eve, the avaricious Scrooge sat in his office, a small radiator by his side. It didn’t do much to dispel the cold, but it definitely didn’t affect him. The door was opened, allowing him to spy on his dismal little secretary who, imprisoned in his cubby hole, wasn’t really enjoying his dismal little job of typing out letters. The cold was harsh and he had a radiator smaller than Scrooge’s which had to be run on lower power, for his boss wouldn’t let him raise the electricity bills any further.

The radiator didn’t do much good, so he wrapped a comforter around himself, making it a turtle shell of sorts.

It was then that Scrooge’s nephew burst in cheerily, wishing his uncle a very merry Christmas. Being a practical man, Scrooge had no desire or time to waste on celebrating something like “Christmas.” He made his opinion clear, and appalled his nephew.

“Christmas, a b*tch?!”

“Yes, of course. Merry Christmas. Why the hell would you be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come on then, why do you act like it’s your time of the month? You’re rich enough.”

And to that smart-aleck retort, Scrooge had no response. All he did was make a rude noise, in response to which his nephew begged him to not get pissed.

“Why would I not be pissed when I live in a world filled with such blithering idiots? All year you crib about being penniless, and along comes Christmas one fine day, where you hang out at your shopping malls and shop for gifts you can’t afford…and they’re sold at inflated prices as it is…the s** of a b**ch thieves these commercialists are…but you pay no heed to that, because it’s Christmas, and apparently that’s reason enough to forgive all foolishness. Bah!”

His nephew’s face just bore an expression of disbelief.

“If I could, I’d line all you morons up and shoot a round each through your skulls. ‘Merry Christmas!’ Ha, we’ll see how merry your Christmas is then!”

And with that, he barked a laugh.

“Uncle!”

“Nephew!”

“This is hopeless.”

“Yes, it is. This generation is hopeless. It’s useless and yet you go in for this idiocy.”

“But I beg to differ. In today’s times when ethics and morals hold no value, when selfishness and greed and corruption prevails, when crime is high and the economic scenario doesn’t look too good, Christmas still brings about a sense of giving and selflessness. Even if it’s now all about hitting the booze hard and partying and what not, there’s still an essence of kindness about it. It’s a time when we’re reminded to be forgiving and gracious, charitable and generous; it teaches us to remain humane.”

And the clerk involuntarily broke into applause. Mr. Nephew’s words touched his heart. But he was aware of how he had just angered his employer, so he switched his radiator off to make amends.

“One more sound from you and you’re fired,” Scrooge growled. “You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir. I wonder why you don’t join the Parliament,” he added frostily to his nephew. “I wonder how long your moral motives and kind ideas of selflessness will last then. At any rate, I hope you prepare to dodge shoes and other objects lobbed at you. Perfecting your aim should be beneficial too.”

Chuckling a little, his nephew told him to quit being mad, and invited him over to dinner, to which he was told that his uncle would see him the next day. And then he received a detailed account of what his facial expressions would be like.

“Why?!” he cried, exasperated.

“Why’d you get married?” his Uncle counter-questioned, as if that were the reason he’d never come to see him.

“Because I fell in love.”

“Oh, pooh!” he snorted. He wondered why they’d survived 21/12 after all; Earth had to be crying oceans of sorrow, for she harboured such useless creatures.

The nephew tried to talk to him further, but all his uncle granted him was a curt good afternoon. The clerk let him out, and let in two gentlemen in, businessmen by the sight of their costly MacBook pros.

As it happened, they were two men requesting Scrooge’s assistance for charity for the needy. By now, we know the man’s character well enough to know the kind of curt and sarcastic replies in the negative that would have driven the two men out of the office.

After that, his clerk managed to wiggle out a holiday on Christmas day without getting any cut in his pay cheque. Needless to say, an unhappy Scrooge granted permission.

Now, Scrooge was all alone in his partner’s living quarters, for that’s where he chose to live. Let’s analyze the businessmen’s visit to Scrooge for a moment. You know that I wouldn’t have mentioned them had they not been essential to the story in some manner. The important thing about this interaction is that they mentioned Marley in passing.

See, Scrooge didn’t think about Marley for like, seven years. Not once in seven years. Except today.

So Scrooge sat in his house. It had been his for generations now, and it was rather old fashioned. The door had a knocker; an absolutely ordinary shiny little thing. Considering it was his house, he knew the details of that knocker. He’d seen it for years now.

So it came as a shock when the knocker morphed into his partner’s face.

Let me tell you that Scrooge was indeed mentally sound. But he was seeing Marley’s face, just as he remembered it, right down to the spectacles and windblown hair. He did not look angry or in pain. He just looked like Jacob Marley.

In such a situation, we often check to see if we’re hallucinating, and as Scrooge gazed fixedly upon the spectacle in front of him, it became a knocker again.

Blood pounding in his veins, he locked his door, turned on the lights and carefully moved to his room. Echoes frightened him this day, and that was not common. But he checked his whole house, floor to ceiling, old fashioned attic to cellar, to look for the ghost. But there was none.

Pacified in the slightest bit, he locked himself in his room and bolted himself in again. He changed into his nightclothes and put on the radiator. The room was full of intricate carvings and images which could distract him, but all Scrooge could focus upon was the apparition he saw.

“B**ch!” he exclaimed and paced across the room. He sat down again and threw his head back. In doing so, he happened to glance at a wind chime.

Old decoration as it might be, he liked it. And it started to chime.

Louder and louder it became, till the noise was unbearable. It lasted barely a minute but it felt like hours. Spooked, Scrooge believed his house to be haunted.

And indeed it was.

Screech. Screech. Metal on metal. Scrooge heard the noise of chains dragging across a floor. The sort of chains and handcuffs serious prisoners are tied up with.

Three guesses as to who stood in front of him.

The room grew hotter for an instant.

“Marley’s ghost!” he cried.

It was the same face, down to the eccentric pigtails and trousers and shirt. The new accessory he adorned was the chains which bound him fully and completely.

The ghost was see-through, and Scrooge couldn’t believe it. But he kept his composure.

“What do you want with me?” he asked in his icy manner.

“A lot!”

“Who are you?”

“Who was I then?”

“Who were you then?”

“Jacob Marley, your partner.”

It took a while for Scrooge to believe in Marley, but ultimately, he did.

“Why?” he asked. “Why do you, as a spirit, walk on Earth?” he said dramatically, uncharacteristic of him.

“Look, I’ll make it short and sweet. When you die, there’s something called ‘afterlife’ where you go. Every man has to walk the Earth. If you did good in your life, you won’t be bound by these chains. But for a man like me…”

And the spirit howled in a ghastly manner.

“Why are you chained?” asked Scrooge, trembling.

“Why do you think? I did it to myself. Isn’t the pattern familiar to you?”

The trembling grew worse.

“Did you know that the coil I wear right now is as strong and heavy as yours was seven Christmas eve’s ago? And you’ve strengthened it further!”

Now Scrooge was terrified for himself.

“Tell me something comforting!”

“There IS nothing comforting! At least, I cannot give comfort to you. It will have to come from other quarters. I cannot stay.”

“But you were such a good man of business…why are you bound? What a brilliant mind!” said Scrooge, failing to understand.

“Business! Mankind was my business! Kindness and humanity, charity, common welfare…that was my business.” The ghost sounded ashamed. “And it’s this time of the year when I suffer most, for this is the time when the greediest of the greedy are generous, but I neglected my duties even then.”

If Scrooge could shiver any harder, he did.

“But listen to me. I have to go in a bit. I can help you, though!”

“Do it then, do it, god dammit! Just tell me, fast!” Scrooge cried, terrified.

“You will be haunted by three spirits.”

The words caused Scrooge to feel faint. It wasn’t a pleasant prospect.

“This is the chance and hope I’ve got? This is my only shot?”

He wiped his brow on his sleeve.

“Yes. It is. And don’t even think about not receiving them, because without them there’s no way you can outlive this curse you’ve bestowed upon yourself. The first spirit will arrive tomorrow when the clock strikes one,” Marley’s spirit said ominously.

“C-can’t I have ‘em all at once?” Scrooge stuttered.

He was ignored. “Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third will come the next night at midnight. For your own sake, Ebenezer, remember this conversation. Save yourself.”

And with those parting words, Jacob Marley’s ghost disappeared.

Sanya Sharma

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