Your persistance in your read is appreaciated, but it would do you a world of if you read these exerpts in order, previous
The Phantom painstakingly ebbed, like ink on a black blotter, toward Cratchit. When it came, Cratchit bent down upon his knee; a genuflect and homage paid to seek mercy immediately. for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it smelt like sulphur mines in hell, and to all which were in it's presence withered and died.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, and although those of fashion perceptions, stating you can't go wrong with basic black, clearly one could go wrong here. A hood covered it's head, further masking its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand, that too, covered with the long sleeve of the cloak, perhaps a tailor's last mistake. There blending into the night sky, floating above the ground, like a hole, a dark hole ripped into the scene of view.
Cratchit felt the presence next to him. Cratchit felt his bowels uneasy with this spirit. He was glad that the offending odor was it rather than him, for fear of upsetting this Spirit in any comportment could not go well. He felt in the presence of death
"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Cratchit.
The Spirit answered not, but placed what may have been it's finger, on where it may have had a nose, then nodded.
"You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Cratchit pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?"
Again, the procedure by the spirit was, maybe the finger to maybe the nose and nod. Cratchit buoyed by two successive, positive affirmations by the spirit, felt he was on a roll. Perhaps a lightening of the mood thought Cratchit.
"Is it bigger than a bread box?" Cratchit asked
The spirit was not easily amused. Cratchit stood in the silence, knowing full well he had bombed. He bombed in the moment, he bombed in life.
The Spirit moved indicating Cratchit to follow with a nod of his hoodie.
Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Cratchit feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit pauses a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover, as much as to say, if the spirit spoke, "Slaggard"
But Cratchit was all the worse for this. It filled him with such dread and horror, that Spirit may think of him in this manner, as Cratchit tried to keep up with the Ghost's gliding. What? He thought to ask the spirit. You want me to jog to my own demise?
"Ghost of the Future!" he exclaimed trying to slow it up, maybe a stop for a chat, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?" Cratchit thought if he just laid it out as elementary as he saw it, maybe the ghost would cut him some slack. Not so with the ghost.
It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
"Lead on," said Cratchit. "Lead on. The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit. I'll catch up, not to worry, do spirits of your ilk worry? I mean do you worry about, death, I mean taxes and such," Cratchit continued babbling trying to establish a rapport with the Ghost.
The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Cratchit followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along. Nice flow, thought Cratchit, but the material was for want, certainly worked for this spirit.
They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to be upon them and encompass them of its own act. But there they were, the shareholder's meeting of S&M, it certainly wasn't the one scheduled for Christmas Day, couldn't be, as Cratchit didn't see his likeness there at all..
The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of shareholders. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Cratchit assumed correctly that this is what the spirit wanted. He was tempted to place his finger on his nose and nod, but he didn't wisely.
"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."
"Why, what was the matter with him? Didn't even know he was sick." asked a third, swilling a brandy in arm and waist with a two schilling hooker. "Makes our vote a might easier."
"God knows," said the first, with a yawn, bored of it all, counting his money in his head.
"What has he done with his money?" asked a red-faced gentleman already slurring as he generally was always the first to slur at these conventions.
"I haven't heard," said the man with the large chin, yawning again. "Left it to his nasty bitch wife, perhaps. Wouldn't figure they're be much, he nearly drove this place under, with such verve, you'd of thought he had help. "
This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.
"It's likely to be a very cheap funeral," said the same speaker; "the company is certainly not going to spring for this tab, maybe donate him for medical science? We could recoup a loss."
"I don't mind going if a lunch is provided," observed the gentleman portly and having appearance of never missing a meal "But I must be fed, if I make one. And no Oriental, I still have the scats from the rice last week. God. "
"Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all," said the first speaker," for I never wear black gloves, I like to match my scarf and I never eat lunch, goes straight to my thighs. I wouldn't mind eating an Oriental though," he laughed, they all laughed at his crude witticism. "keep me in touch of the group's intention, I'll concede to the majority. Tata chaps"
Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with other groups. Cratchit knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an explanation.
The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting. Cratchit listened again, thinking that the explanation might lie here.
He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of aye business: very wealthy, and of great importance. Their shares of S&M could sway any vote and block other's. They were pragmatic in their thought, but logical in decision.
He had made a point always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.
"How are you?" said one.
"How are you?" returned the other.
"Well!" said the first. "Makes for difficult decision now hey? To what? Nominate and install yet another fool? This one worse, he'd steal the gold from his dead mother's mouth, if he hasn't already."
"So I am told," returned the second. "Cold, isn't it?."
"Ahh, snow finally stopped, tis cold though."
"No. No. Something else to think of. Not the weather, the task at hand."
Both locked eyes and words were exchanged, but neither uttered a sound.
Not another word. That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.
Cratchit was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach such importance to conversations apparently so trivial; Cratchit thought, what was the big deal with that? But feeling assured that they must have some hidden purpose, some secret illusion, that he certainly wasn't going to get out of Mr. Silent as a Tomb, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be. They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the death of Mr.Marley, Cratchit's old partner, his name still on the sign for product recognition. Because that was Past, and this Ghost's province was the Future. Nor could he think of any one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could apply them.
Lets do this by deductive reasoning. Certainly it was to mean something. Men, talking of someone's death. Someone very close to me? Because it's suppose to mean something to my future. Someone the shareholders know. Cratchit searched his thoughts.
The Phantom seemed to sigh, shake it's hood, and moved on.
Cratchit followed up behind the Spirit.
He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.
I must be at S&M, busy after saving the company from disaster, yes, yes that's it.
Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, the spirit pointed to other areas, clues, as to the solution Cratchit sought. The Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. As if to say, "Do you get it?" "Hello?" "Hello??" It made him shudder, and feel very cold.
They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the town, where Cratchit only ventured for evening meal as they had a special for early birds. Though he recognized its situation, and its bad repute, food was good, service was fair. 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 filth, and misery. But for that, as all realtors know, location, location, location.
Far into this den of infamous resort, there was a booth where Cratchit often secured his post for meal and ale. If you never bothered one, nor would one bother you. A code of sorts amongst thieves. The Cock and Swallow was the owners play on words, and as much as all would enjoy the sordid side, the fact is the owner had a rooster and a canary as pets. This is not saying there was not a draw to his darkened hovel by men seeking release, or by women walking the wild side.
Cratchit and the Phantom came into the presence of the men in the booth.
Both hurriedly wolfing down left over Christmas pudding that was the day's special.
"No 'e weren't offed by Holly Jolley, seems he just keeled over, probably petrified of his shadow, ' the first man laughed.
"Sad they found 'im face down in 'is nighty an all, but then there was no tell tale holly up 'is arse eh?"
"No sir, just dead in the street, funny though, they found 'im 'e's face down in some horse plop, authorities had to wipe 'is face to identify 'im. Imagine that go out 'shatfaced', he laughed and took a hardy gulp from his tankard.
Cratchit studied this conversation, as the spirit appeared to be satisfied that a conclusive response could be had. Cratchit shook his head in slow bewilderment. Surely there was a connection, just what exactly was the spirit indicating.
""Such the dignity of the man, die in ya undies, face down in some shat, 'ow'd they finally figure who 'e was? I mean, could have been a mental patient who escaped. Could of wandered and caught the death of cold."
The man dobbed his bread in his pudding and placed his friend in anticipation of the answer. He glanced around at the other tables and booths, but just in case one may have been following with interest his conversation he covered his mouth and leaned closer to his mate to reply.
Although Cratchit and the Dark Ghost were standing but an arms length away, and even though Cratchit leaned forward to catch the name of this unfortunate, no revealing was heard. The man sat back waiting his friend's reaction. Which was quick in forthcoming, with surprise and wide eyes.
"You don't say? Honestly? One of them?" The man pointed, with the jerk of his thumb in the general direction of the small booths in the back. Cratchit strained forward to see exactly who or what the man was indicating. But it was in general direction of the curtained booths down the hallway across from the lavatory. A smelly, smoke filled alcove with an indication of space behind the covering. Men, on occasion women, slipped behind the curtain after settling up some business with the tavern keep. Some stayed behind the curtain for an extended time while some were in and out in moments. Cratchit, never paying mind to it as it was not his business nor did he intend to make it so.
The conversation continued with Cratchit more perplexed with the mystery than before this information was gleaned.
"Speaking of which," said the talkative man, "I think I'll go get me horn waxed a bit, you game?"
"What? They're working? Swallowing the jam when the ol man found dead in the street?"
"What? You think that stops commerce?" He laughed, "What say you then?"
"Good lord, not for me, I fear to get a tug never mind some skull, no telling what those two have contracted. I wouldn't venture to squirt in their face for fear of some disease. Not me, I value me dangling dan, and you? Don't blame me if yours falls off." He sat and sipped his beer.
The other one stood up and adjusted his cap, "I'll be a minute, I hear tell their only charge, for today and today only, is." And he left the conversation hang a beat, his friend indicated to tell him, Cratchit leaned forward to straining to hear.
"One Bob," the man laughed.
The other rolled his eyes and shook his head but it gave him more than an unsettling thoughts toward the occupants of the back booth.
Cratchit looked at the dark spectre for explanation and before his expression could convey any question as to what this all means he seemed to have floated across the pub, down the small hallway, and was positioned in front of thick worn curtains of the seeming confessionals.
He was startled at the immediacy of delivery to the answer, to what may have been his question. For the scene had changed, and now he felt the darkness of revelation behind the shroud-like curtains in front of him. The room was very dark, Cratchit glanced around, perhaps there was something else he should attend to first, leave this matter second, or not at all, such was the ominous feeling he perceived.
It was as if the entire room had now vanished except for this point. A glow of light, not warming or welcoming, but harsh and unkind to the eye, stabbing from a crack beneath the cloaking drapes.
Cratchit glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed to draw back the curtain. The covers was so adjusted that the slightest brush of it, the motion of a finger upon Cratchit's part, would have parted them both. He thought of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it; but was terrified at this proposition, he was frozen.
Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up my demise here, at this point as your powers over mortals can determine their time. But take me before I see whatever is your desire, to shock me to my death in a sight most frightening. Don't have me open these curtains, however blind I was, to reveal to me such, only to take me anyway. Strike me down now, be done with my torment.
No voice pronounced these words in Cratchit's ears, and yet he heard them in his head. What man makes of himself is what or what not that is followed. Inaction, is in itself, an action to which others grow. Ineffectualness, letting it sort itself, not standing for principle or self, is cause and effect, and that is wayward of man, to anarchy.
Cratchit did not dare to think, trembling and watching the phantom as to what it's command of him be.
"Spirit,." he said, "this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go."
Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the curtains, and the strange strangling sounds from behind them.
"I understand you," Cratchit returned, "and I would do it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have not the power. What beast or beasts are hidden, let them stay that way, for if they are to eat me would I be any better of to endure such pain?Strike me dead now."
Again it seemed to look upon him.
"If there is any person in the town, who could show me what I need to understand, other than seeking behind these curtains," said Cratchit quite agonized, "show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you."
The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a moment, seemed to shrug an indifference as to where or whence Cratchit finally is clued in. Then like a wing of a dark bird, it covered Cratchit and then opened like a theater performance, it revealed a room by daylight, where a mother and her children were.
She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness; she glanced at the door, then the clock, then the window for a sign. Moments to minutes and then the expected knock.
The woman's husband entered and shook off the weather from his top coat and muffler.
He sat down to the dinner, set before him, and pushed at his food. and when she asked him quietly what news there was (which was not until after a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.
"Is it good." she said, "or bad?" -- to help him.
"Bad," he answered.
"Oh dear, what? You have to work"
"Yes Caroline, I know it's the Holiday, and I'd so want to be home with you and the children, but his death needs attending, his funeral arrangements must be hastened as to his preparation.."
"Oh dear," she said, resigned, "but here again, it's less than your standard services, the City pays you half of what is your price. Were it not for Holly Jolly and his contributions your business we'd be broke."
"Well you can't just go drum up the dead," said her husband. "People will pass and they'll need service, and who knows, someone somewhere may remember this deed I do for him. The hole to dig is in the paupers section, that'll be a mornin's work, if I don't hit ledge."
She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.
"I am sorry he died, poor blighter, and the circumstances of his death, but I so miss you and the children do too, and for you to offer your services from such the price…" she stopped and saw the trouble look of her husband.
"He may have been more troubled to be out in his nightshirt in these times, his physical condition was poor, and being half frozen it took a great deal into getting the body into the coach. Smelled, something wretched, as he went face done in horse droppings. All that must be cleaned, a respectable suit to be clothed, I have my work before me."
"But the city will pay?"
"I don't know. They are quick to drop one the body, but slow on the check and voucher to pay for it's internment. It's too bad his company wouldn't pick up the tab, but I understand there is a reorganization of personnel there, and no one offered a farthing,nor much like they felt it was needed."
"But, let's sleep tonight, not worry on the morrow, remember business is business, we have a roof over our head, heat, food, and love."
Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter. The children's faces hushed, and clustered round to hear what they so little understood, were brighter; and it was a happier house for this man's death. The only emotion that the Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of pleasure.
"Let me see some tenderness connected with a death," said Cratchit; "or that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left just now, will be for ever present to me."
The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet; and as they went along, Cratchit looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered a small rooming house off the alley, to which Cratchit knew of his son's residence.
Quiet. Very quiet. And the residents all sat round the parlor fire, reflecting on the senselessness of it all, it being Christmas, and a death among them.
"And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them."
Where had Cratchit heard those words? He had not dreamed them. The spirit placed these words in his head.
The landlady of the rooming house, made tea for herself and offered a cup of solace to anyone who so sought.
"He was a quiet man" she said, to no one and to all.
"Who knows what goes through a man's head, or in their soul, to seek such as the only alternative to life" she said.
"Yes, indeed, a quiet man, gentle in his way, always courteous and gentlemanly, never had issue with him," said another.
They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:
"He had that way, as, poor thing, crippled from scoliosis you know, of always appearing to leap out at you."
"Yes," laughed one. "Often he'd almost frighten you, if you saw him on the corner of the stairwell."
"Always thought him to be muttering something or some sort," exclaimed another. So had all. "Bumplot? Buttplot, oh I have it yes Bumplug, that's what he'd say," satisfied he completed his puzzle
"But he was very kind and orderly, prompt on payment of monthly due," she resumed, intent upon her work, "sad that he never had much to do with his family and such!"
They all agreed on that. Young man of such potential, lost for want of direction they agreed. Never seemed he had anything, if anything going. Yet he paid his freight, and was most civil to all, handsome, well spoken, and seemed to leap at one, they all agreed positively.
"I suppose one should contact his father, perhaps the constable could make a stop. Terrible heartache to bring to a parent. His mother went off to join the suffrage movement, he once told me, not so much that it bothered him either way."
"I suppose we should remove what few things he had left and store them, should someone inquire as to his personal effects, you know we'd have them ready" She said, but hadn't the heart or the fortitude, to go into the room just yet. The method of demise had been removed by the constable. The rope twined from ivy, took some skill and preparation, this was indeed an act thought out for some time. The heating pipe held his weight, no sag or bend, so at least he didn't cost anyone in repair in his worldly departure.
"I'm sure he's a good soul," said the landlady
They all agreed, nodded and sipped their thoughts in a cup.
"Well we certainly won't forget Ol' Tim now, soon will we?" said the landlady, as if to sum it up, and to move on.
But however and when ever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tim -- shall we -- or this first parting that there was among us."
"Never," said a few, agreement with nods from others.
"And I know," the landlady, "I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a a bit odd, we'll all reflect on his gentle soul and to be like him in his way, to emulate, to carry on his deed and manner."
There was a general agreement of murmurs.
The landlady made a silent toast with her tea and spied Tim's walking cane, bludgeoning cudgel, there in the corner of the stairwell. She wiped away a tear.
"Spectre," said Cratchit, "something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how. Tell me what was behind the curtain, both one and two.
Would I have spared my soul from the torment of a dead son had I chosen either? Was this a deal in the making?"
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before -- though at a different time, he thought: there was no pattern to which these future shadows appeared, there was nothing to prevent the chain of events to these conclusions, while they were transpiring, this was the scenarios to how all would be played out with current chain in place.
"We're in my neighborhood" said Cratchit," through which we hurry now, there is my place of work, let me see my future. I see S&M, let's just stop by. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to come."
The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed not in the business of S&M, but deeper into darker mists.
"The house is yonder," Cratchit exclaimed. "Why do you point away? Ha, I know where my employ is."
The spirit gave Cratchit the finger, to Cratchit wondering what it meant.
Cratchit hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself.
The figure had hands on the back of someone's head and was working that someone's head in his lap.
The Phantom pointed as before.
Cratchit caught up with the ghost, looking back at S&M, and wondering why and whither he had gone. Troubled he was trying to reason the shadows and he accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. Cratchit looked up at the spirit, perplexed, but continued to follow.
A churchyard. The pauper's section, for the poor souls who were nameless, or may as well have been. Rows of mounds and heavy stone covering those who were not known, who died alone, who died by their own hand and hands of others, who died in alleys and underpasses, and face down in horse manure in the street.
Here, then, finally, thought Cratchit, the final puzzle piece, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a desolate, unkept place. No one tread a path to stand and morn these souls, no one placed flowers or remembrances to their monuments, it lied fallow except for the bodies planted there.
The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. Cratchit, questioned whether to move toward the marker. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, it appeared to touch it's nose and nodded. "I suppose that is yes in your game of torment". Another touch of the nose and a nod. Cratchit hesitantly moved toward the stone.
"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Cratchit, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
Cratchit heard from within," That was two questions." He shivered at the voice.
"Men's lives are twisted paths, they can lead to all manner of result, some more disastrous than others," said Cratchit. "But if these paths can be departed from, the results, they too are not the same . Say it is thus with what you show me."
The Spirit was immovable as ever, kind of shrugged, then nodded, then had more a 'bored with it all' demeanor, as if it had a better place to be and to get this over with soon.
Cratchit crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, ROBERT CRATCHIT.
"Am I that man wholly in the street, gasping my last breaths through horse dung?" he cried, upon his knees.
The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again, then gave the finger to Cratchit.
"No, Spirit! Oh no, no!"
The finger still was there.
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be that man portrayed by these shadows. Why show me this, if I am past all hope? What's the purpose, just to bust my bullocks? Cut me some slack."
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "You have a kind heart, pity me, cut me leeway and I vow to change. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life. You have my word."
The kind hand trembled.
"I will have the self respect and fortitude to end the improprities projected on me, my family,and society and keep it so all year long. I will remember my past for the lessons learned and use the present to remedy those that warrant, and the future to encourage others to make something of their whining wussey selves. I will not shut out the lessons the spirits have taught. There's no free ride. Oh please spirit tell me I may wipe away these letters of my doom as I cleanse my soul ."
In his agony, Cratchit grabbed the spirit's robe and tried to hang on to prevent from falling in his grave. He pulled hard, fighting death itself in his determination. Then his hand grabbed where most earthy men keep their extreme individuality, their genitals. Then you'll come with me you balless bastard, I won't let go, you'll come with me, you'll come with me. Cratchit pulled hard. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.
And then , it was over.
Cratchit was there on his bed, the soiled bedsheets, his scrotum turning blue in his tightly clutched hands. But he had balls, his.