December 13, 2014

Before Scrooge: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote as part of an online writers group.  If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, I'm open to revisions!

“Now please, do try and remember to keep straight the list of people you have to visit tonight… Christmas Eve only comes once a year and ‘twould be disastrous if you were to make a mess of things.”
“Of course Father, you know that I am organized and thoughtful and…”
“Far too prone to dwelling on the past for a tad too long, my dear Ghost.  Now go along.”

                She took a breath and stepped into the room, glancing lightly around as she did so.  Christmas Eve was always such a busy time.  A busy time, but an exciting time.  A time when lives were to be changed.  Her eyes fell on the figure sleeping in the bed, widening slightly as they took in the disheveled, dirty covers, the paper thin clothing, the pale, drawn skin.   The story Father Christmas had outlined for her had not quite prepared her for the poverty that she saw.
                She had taken a look into the past, and was saddened by the pain that she saw there in this once beautiful young woman.  To grow up such an unhappy child, so neglected and abused… and then to become such a hopeless young woman.  To be scorned and rejected by a suitor she loved, who could not face her past. To think that the only life she had open to her was one of selling her services to men who cared nothing of her… To be so hardened to happiness, and to hope.
                The figure in the bed stirred and then sat up with a start, eyes wide and blinking in the radiant white light that danced about the room.
                She took another breath, smiled gently and took a step forward.  “Do not be frightened child.  I am the Ghost of Christmas Past…”

“Now my dear, you remember who you are to visit?  Your elder sister is finishing her time with the first, please do not allow yourself to become distracted and caught up in the moment.”
“I know Father – but it is so difficult to be focused!  Christmas is such a bright, happy time and it is so easy to just be swept along in it all and the sights of all the red and green and the snow and the smells of the turkeys and hams and puddings and pies… and oh the sound of the caroling!”
“Yes, I know what joy this day brings to you my child, and it is good to enjoy it all.  Yet you must remember!  This is an important day for those you are to visit.  Now hurry, it is your time….”

She burst into the room, twirling around and admiring the golden glint of her new gown as it made a delightful swish around her ankles.  A laugh of delight bubbled up to her lips and she clasped her hands eagerly, looking about to admire the decorations for Christmastime.  The laugh quickly died as she realized that the brick room was bare and cold.
                Sadness touched her eyes briefly as she recalled circumstances of this poor woman she was visiting.  As quickly as it came, it was gone and with a merry laugh bursting forth she snapped her fingers at the corner of the room.  A massive, gaily decorated Christmas tree appeared with a pop and silver glitter rained down, coating the room.
                The young woman she had come to visit shot up out of bed with a gasp and stood, frozen, her eyes darting from the tree and back again to herself. 
                She watched the young woman, clapping her hands together in delight.  Oh, what wonderful things they were about to see…. As sad, and desperate as this poor girl’s past had been, she would soon realize there were still those who cared about her.  Far away, across London, was a family who still loved and cared for her.  In an apartment just ‘cross from the Cathedral was a young man who had never visited this young woman, but whose heart had been captured by a rare smile.
                “Greetings, my child!  Do not be frightened – laugh, be happy!  I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!”

“And now, for your tasks this day, the youngest of my children.  You are aware of the missions you must complete?”
“I am.”
“This is not an easy task, I realize, and every year I feel sorrow for what you must show to those that you visit.  You must not forget though, my dear,  that your task is in some ways the most important… for it is you who causes your charge to decide the road they will take.”
“Yes, Father.”
“It is time…”

                The air in the room fell several degrees colder as she entered, an effect she was well aware followed her wherever she went.  Her lips pressed in a thin line as she surveyed the room from the depths of her dark cloak.  As dreary and sad a place as any she had visited.
                Her task was the most unpleasant of the three she and her sisters were assigned to every Christmas Eve.  Yet that was the way of the world, and it must be done.  There was no choice but to continue from year to year, until such time that her prophecies became truth and her role was handed on to a younger ghost.
                The young woman she had come to see was already awake, a shawl wrapped around her thin shoulders as she sat shivering at the edge of her bed.  The woman looked warily at her, but said nothing.  Waiting for her to speak first.
                She would say nothing, only lead her forth and show her the shadows that may come to pass should nothing change.  More men, more money, more heartbreak, more pain.  A child, a birth alone in this cold room.  The death of a child.  Alcohol.  Sickness. More men.  Then finally, a young death, alone.  It was bitter and cold, but it was not her doing.  She only showed what may lay ahead.  She was the Ghost of Christmas Future.

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