"It is probably wise dear reader, to keep the continuity, to read from the beginning...which is here..."
After several turns, like a dog finding his place, he sat down again, adjusting a cheek for release of his stomach's affluence. As he lolled his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a cane, a disused cane, perhaps one of Tiny Tims old canes, this one left in the corner as a decorative piece by Mrs. Cratchit. It was with great astonishment, and with a clenching of stomach and anus again, that as he looked, he saw this cane begin to swing. It swung so softly in it's tapping lightly on floor then table; but soon it rapped sharply, and so did every cane left in the house.
This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The canes ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the deck of a ship, a sinking ship. Cratchit then remembered Scrooge having told of this event that all thought he imagined.
The cellar-door flew open with a slam, and then he heard the noise much louder, dragging thru the hall; then coming up the stairs; then coming to a halt outside the bedroom door. Quiet, still.
"Bumplug!" said Cratchit, as if the word could dispel what he thought. "I don't, I won't, this is unbelievable."
His sphincter strained for release, when, without hesitation to barrier, it came on through the heavy door, and wafted into the room before his wide strained eyes. Cratchit no longer contained in his rational, social or mental, released a long solo note from beneath his nightgown.
The same face: the very same, told of, apparition by Scrooge not seven years ago. Marley in his pigtail, a woman's Brunswick ,petticoat tights and thigh high boots; tassels on his chest, simulating extensions of his nipples, and like his pigtail, and his linens, and the hair upon his head, all wavy and transparent The chain he drew was clasped about his middle, with dangling locks and straps with metal buttons across his groin. They wound about him like a tail; and it was made (As Cratchit half covered his eyes) of cast iron phallic implements, assorted balls, padlocks, cuffs and leg irons of bondage , and heavy debris wrought in steel. His body so transparent that Cratchit, observing him, and looking through his petticoat, could see the tight woman's panties wedged deeply in Marley's phantom crack..
Cratchit had often heard, from Scrooge, it said ,that Marley had no bowels: High praise from the man as to his not giving scat about anything, but he had never believed it until now.
No, nor did he believe this happening, now. Even while Marley stood before him, Cratchit kept thinking, it's but a dream, I'll wake. He seemed compelled and drawn to its made up but death-cold eyes; and he was drawn to the very texture of the ball in it's mouth and the gag keeping it in, made from some rubber, not observed before: he was still dismissing the apparition in his rational thought, and not believing his senses.
"Are you there? Really, there?!" said Cratchit, hesitant for the affirmation. "What do you want with me?" stammered Cratchit.
"Much!" -- Marley's voice, or as he remembered it.
"Are you…are you Marley?"
"Ask me who I was."
"Who were you then?" said Cratchit, complying to the directive like a riddle.
"In life I Scrooge's partner, Jacob Marley."
"Well, Scrooge doesn't live here anymore, perhaps I can give you his address" asked Cratchit, looking doubtfully at him. "A cup of tea perhaps?"
"No. I came for you. "
"Oh dear, I was afraid of that, would you like a seat?."
Cratchit asked the question, because he didn't know how long this could take and didn't want to offend the ethereal spirit, but he wondered would the ghost actually set in a chair or set through the chair, to the floor. But the ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.
"You don't believe in me," observed the Ghost.
"Oh by all means, whatever you say, Scrooge had told me of your appearing to him some time ago, I always though he was off a bit but apparently." said Cratchit as he trailed off.
"What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?"
""That's what I mean dear sir, just I find it odd," said Cratchit.
"Why do you doubt your senses?"
"Because," said Cratchit, "a little thing affects them. I have some bowel issues, perhaps a hernia, gaseousness and most embarrassing. You may be some of my stewed prunes, my pub special dinner, remnants of swill from my ale. There's more of resonance than of residence about you, whatever you are!"
Cratchit was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, he was terrified, but often in his terror he spoke glibly as to convince himself and the listener that he was secure in thought.
To sit, staring at those painted eyes, in silence for a moment, drive him over the edge as to being with Scrooge and his ramblings.. There was something very disturbing as to it's presence, while Cratchit fidgeted about trying to keep his wits about with normal course of events; the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still wafting to and fro like a tidal pool.
"You see this prune pit?" said Cratchit, attempting to control what little he did not, and hoping to alleviate the staring, piercing, made up eyes of Marley.
"Prune pit, as your position in life, chewed and spat out" replied the Ghost.
"You are not looking at it," said Cratchit, as if to perform some extraordinary feat of magic himself..
"But I see it," said the Ghost, humoring Cratchit, "notwithstanding."
"Well!" returned Cratchit, proud to win the following point, "I have but to swallow this, and then, all manner of hobgoblins will plague me, doctors and surgeon bills not withstanding, but its all of my own creation. So? Bumplug, I tell you! Bumplug! I'm letting my imagination get to me, with the stress of the business and what not, I.."
Cratchit was stopped in mid sentence.
The spirit started a low groan that increased in volume and intensity, till it reached of wail of pain and anguish, and Cratchit cowered as if to shield himself from bodily harm. But the hearing horror was replaced by the visual, as the phantom released it's self of the ball and gag, removed it's blouse and petticoat in one piece. It's mouth agape with white sores of mucous throughout and purple lesions covering it's wispy body. It wailed again.
Cratchit fell upon his knees, and defecated into his nightshirt.
"Don't hurt me, please, I beg thee, take what's left of my salary, my watch.!" he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?"
"Frightened man, apprentice that never learned!" replied the Ghost, "do you believe in me now?"
"I do, I do, I do," said Cratchit, each pronouncement like a vow. "I must. But, If I may, why haunt me? What have I done to offend you"
"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should drive him to excel, to travel farther, wider than those before him; and if that spirit does not set the mark, does not leave the path for those to follow, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through all eternity - bumplug me! -- and witness what it cannot right, but might have set straight on earth, and turned it to a productive, successful map to follow for greater progress!"
Again the spectra raised a wailing banshee howl, and Cratchit emptied his bladder.
"You are bound," said Cratchit, trembling and trying to change the subject at hand. "Tell me why?"
"I wear the chain I forged in life, along with some minor baubles I added for personal flash fawney, not bad, but" replied the Ghost. "Every decision, shame or success is hand made and crafted by me. I am not a vain apparition but, it is mine alone. Is its pattern strange to you?"
Cratchit trembled more and more, his stomach was now clenched to rebel.
"Or do you care," pursued the Ghost, "that every turn of your cheek, abuse of your integrity, lowering of self respect to enable some other blighter full use of your arse without the action, lessoned you, degraded you, made you less than God's intention. It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
Cratchit glanced about him on the floor, fully expecting to see the said chain muddled in a pool of his excretement and urine. But only the two latter were congealing there.
"Oh dear, Mr. Marley," he said, imploringly. "Mr. Marley. Forsake me not, what can I do? Give me your advice."
"I have none to give," the Ghost replied. "It comes from other regions, Robert Cratchit, and is revealed to you by those that carry this doctrine, to other kinds of men.
Nor can I tell you what I would do, it is for you to recognize in yourself. I may have spoke to much as it is, all very exclusive. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never revealed beyond our counting-house and Ebenezer's and my boudoir -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole, I never was, who we were; and weary journeys lie before me!"
It was a habit with Cratchit, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but removed them as they became soiled with his waste, he wiped his hands secretly hoping Marley had not witnessed his faux pas.
"You must have been very slow about it, Mr. Marley," Cratchit observed, hoping the conversation would divert the Ghost's glance at his hands.
"Slow?" the Ghost repeated.
"Well, seven years dead?," mused Cratchit. "And travelling all the time?"
"Yes sir, The whole time," said the Ghost. "No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse."
"Incessant torture and remorse, you say?" said Cratchit. 'Traveling all the time? Hmmm?"
"On the wings of the wind," replied the Ghost.
"On the wings of the wind? How's that?, because you know, if one could just get there quicker, but then you have that incessant torture, " said Cratchit
The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, a wail that shook the walls and plaster, a loud ear piercing, stomach churning howl, shaking it's chains with wrath.
"Oh! Little worm of a man," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labor, by lesser spirits on earth, for this earth to pass into the eternity of the good which it is susceptible if all is developed to it's full potential. Not to know that any spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, would gladly trade places to be back mortal again, if only but a moment. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! When you're gone, you are gone. Yet such was I! Oh! such was I! Whoa bumplug."
"But you were always a good man of business, Mr. Marley," faltered Cratchit, "I mean you were frugal, yes, uncharitable, yes, conniving, yes, but, still, S&M, Scrooge and Marley, ran in the black for years."
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, someone else's business. What? You think my task easy? The dealings of my trade, my commerce, put roofs over my employees heads, food on their tables, clothes on their backs. Wealth and health to them. But that is not true to myself, not true to my potential, my destiny, and for that I am condemned, because I was too afraid to step out, I was afraid of the creators greatest gift, free will, self determination."
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them for fear they would see in my eyes who I really am. Was not another out there who could accept me for whom I was? Without regard or judgment to whom I love? How I like to dress? What satiates my loins? My self?"
Cratchit was very much alarmed to hear the spectre revealing so much at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.
"Hear me!" cried the Ghost. "My time is nearly gone."
"Anything you say," whimpered Cratchit, for quick settlement and resolve . "But don't get hard on me! Don't be flowery, Mr. Marley Pray!"
"How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day. Wanting to tell you of Ebenezer's and my life, our love."
It was not an agreeable idea. Cratchit shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.
"There is no time off for good behavior, I contracted an illness on safari, liaison with a primate, thought it all in capital fun ,"pursued the Ghost. " Dastardly effects, Eb and I stopped our usual abominations of man with each other and in due course became bitter and estranged. Not connected. Losing that connection, I lost business savvy, guts, grit, fortitude. This is what little chance I see I present for thee."
"You were always a good boss to me," said Cratchit. "Thank `ee!"
"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Spirits."
Cratchit's shoulders slumped. He thought this would be the end of his ordeal.
"Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Mr. Marley?".
"I -- I think I'd rather not," said Cratchit , "I'm soiled and way past my sleep hour, can't we just put this another time?"
"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one."
"One? Oh dear, I am really out of sorts when I haven't my full measure of sleep?" hinted Cratchit.
"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"
"Three nights? Mr. Marley? Is there a way we can have a group? I recognize what passed between us, quite rank odor, I am sorry, indeed, it's my stomach, all my intestinal strength isn't really there, didn't know that spirits can smell."
But as Cratchit apologized for his being or lack there of.
The spectre took its ball and gag from the table, and stuffed it's mouth and wrapped its head. Cratchit knew this, by the sucking sound of his mouth, with the gagging, choking back sound of the bind. He slowly to raised his eyes from their averted position, and there his supernatural visitor was hoisting his petticoats with an erect attitude, pulling his own chain as well as the one he wound in life.
The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, and every stroke he made, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Cratchit to come, which it did when they were within two paces of each other. Steamy ghostly puddles on the cold floor. Marley's Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Cratchit stopped.
Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising of the hand, he realized his wetness and stench may have offended even the dead. Then he heard moaning and groaning of regret; wailings of inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out into the bleak, dark night.
Cratchit followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity and to relieve his senses with fresh air.. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms, wisping hand wringing, soil stained spirits, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some cross dressed in his manner, other' some few (they might be guilty governments or devious carnal group) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Cratchit in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to his very testicles, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman who begged and moaned for her own carnal needs beside him. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever, because they never acted.
Slowly the darkened shroud of their world covered them all, and the last vestiges faded together, at once. And abruptly Cratchit stood alone at the window and it was his scent that brought him to his senses.
Cratchit closed and locked the window, and gingerly tip toed back to his area, careful to avoid both his leavings and Marley's on the floor He removed his garments and washed in the loo, all the while trying to fathom what had transpired. He tried to say "Bumplug!" but stopped at the first syllable. Glancing around once more to check the order of things he drifted off from the fatigue of the day. Rearranging thought of the events, as to come to rational order, dismissing all as a bout with his bowels and the prunes, he fell fast asleep