A Late Arrival for Christmas Future

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Late Arrival for Christmas Future

…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?” –Charles Dickens

Jill was a nervous woman, she always had been.  She feared that her jitters were burdens that she would carry for the rest of her life.  While most women in their mid-twenties couldn’t wait to move out of their childhood homes, Jill had found her own residence only because of her parents’ insistence.

As she got ready for bed, she asked herself once again why she had rented a house.  She had searched for a small apartment surrounded by neighbors, but hadn’t found one.  Often, the timid woman pondered the possibility of finding a roommate.  However she worried that they would turn out to be thieves or perverts.  A girl couldn’t be too safe these days.

Walking down the stairs from her bedroom, Jill checked the front door and the windows.  They were all locked, which is how Jill preferred them.  The only time when the door was ever unlatched was when Jill entered or left.  Every other second was one where a stranger could enter and therefore the door had to be secured.  Jill didn’t know how wide the windows would open.  She didn’t want to know.  The house had air conditioning and the windows had bolts.  That was all she needed.

A dog would have been a very welcome companion.  Jill would have adopted a large one, complete with a loud bark and sharp teeth.  However Jill’s allergies simply couldn’t survive any pets.  An electric alarm system wouldn’t do her any good.  If the thieves broke into the house, they would still have time to attack her before the police came.  That didn’t stop her from placing a sticker warning of her non-existent surveillance system in all the front windows.

One light stayed on at the foot of the stairs.  Jill looked at the glowing orb and took comfort in it.  Logically, she argued that having the light on meant that passersby would assume there were people awake and moving in the house.  But on a deeper level, Jill liked knowing that she could control something.  Every time she placed her fingers on the light switch, she felt as if she was in charge of it.  She couldn’t regulate tornados, lightning storms, or drought, but she could decide whether this glassy sphere was allowed to live or not.

Stepping into her bedroom and quickly locking the door behind her, Jill took in the familiar surroundings.  She knew in her head that there were no monsters in her closet, but she had to check just in case.  The same was true of the area under her bed.  A cursory glance at the windows revealed that they, just like all the clear panes in the house, we secured.  She took off her sweatshirt, pulled her hair into a short ponytail, and tucked herself under the covers.  Her black tank top hugged her securely while her green plaid flannel pants gave her a sort, warm feeling.  She pulled her covers close and settled in for her nightly routine.

Even with her Princess Jasmine nightlight on top of her dresser, Jill was consumed with “what if” thoughts and worries.  While her imagination and constant dread made her an excellent safety and accident assessor at work, those same traits made it an ordeal for her to sleep each night.  She lived in the Midwest where nature wasn’t afraid to scorch the earth or cover it in feet of snow.  Her house was further from ambulances and caring neighbors than she liked.  In addition there were the everyday concerns of carbon monoxide poisoning, slipping in the shower, or lead in her water pipes.  Jill did her best to prepare for every eventuality.  At the end of the day, she couldn’t calm herself down until sleep exhausted her.

Just as the toll of her over-active brain started to send her off to sleep, she felt a cold chill fill her room.  Jill’s eyes slammed open.  An intense breeze filled the room.  The wind, Jill tried to believe.  It’s only the wind.  There was a problem with that theory and she knew it.  If the wind was blowing, why were her chimes silent?

With a gust, the light bulb that had rested atop a plastic magic carpet blew out just like a candle.  Jill’s room was plunged into darkness.  The hairs on the back of her neck were rigid and upright.  Her arm lunged out from under her blankets.  With a quickness that only terror can invoke, she grabbed for the industrial strength flashlight that she kept underneath her bedside table.  As quickly as it had gone, Jill pulled her arm back under the covers and clicked the huge flashlight on.

An orange/pink glow filled the little dome that Jill’s body made under the covers.  She pulled her legs in close to her.  Her knees supported her quivering chin as she held the flashlight at her feet pointing up.  She was getting colder and colder.  It was only September; the leaves had just begun to fall.  Yet Jill’s teeth fought to chatter like it was a record-low December.  Also, though she couldn’t explain it, Jill could swear something in the room was moving.

Jill knew it wasn’t possible.  For one thing, other than her sharp breathing that she tried to stifle, the room was silent.  The doors and windows had been locked, she had checked.  Jill did her best to sooth her excited nerves.  I could have sworn…

There it was again.  Jill was sure of it this time.  Some black shape had moved just past her right knee.  It had been tall, wispy figure.  It wasn’t walking around; its movements above her were too quick.  Could it be…floating?  Jill’s eyes were now wide with terror.  She felt the figure right in front of her.  She knew, even with several blankets between them, that a bony hand was reaching towards her.

Jill sent a shrill scream through the room.  She slammed her eyes shut and shrieked as loudly as she could.  Pure panic pierced the dark area and the scream sent the figure reeling back in surprise.  Her breath was running out, so Jill was forced to pause and inhale quickly.  Then she started with another powerful scream.

“Wait.  Wait one minute”, a voice in the room replied.  The tone was curious, to say the least.  It had a sense of wisdom, of long-gestating intelligence and experience that reverberated around every syllable.  Unlike most old voices, there was no rasp or shortness.  The sound came out as ageless and confident.

Jill was about to scream as she realized that the ebony stalks of fingers were pulling the blankets away from her.  The coverings between the woman and the voice were removed.  Jill wanted to screech at the sight in front of her, but she couldn’t.  She was too shocked.

In front of Jill was a phantasm.  A black robe floated in mid-air.  She would have guessed that this wraith was eight-feet tall, but it didn’t have a solid shape.  As the tattered fabric billowed and wavered about in the uncanny breeze, it showed that the creature had no solid form.  There was a skeletal hand that scratched where there should have been a chin.  But the ghost had no face.  The hood of the robe was quite visible from Jill’s flashlight, but there was no face to bathe in light.  Jill could see the night-black fabric and the hand, but nothing else.  She felt herself starting to faint and tried to focus her breathing.

“There must be some sort of mistake”, the figure said.  “Who are you?”

“Ji… Jill”, she managed to say.

“Jill.  But you’re a woman.”

Jill only nodded.  Her eyes refused to blink as they locked onto the figure.

“So… you’re not a man.”

Jill shook her head.

“You’re not Ebenezer Scrooge.”

Jill shook her head again.

The bony hand scratched the side of the hood, and then the back of its “head”.  “All right, I’m officially lost.  This is London, isn’t it?  Come to think of it, I didn’t see any chimney sweeps or carriages outside.  What’s the deal?”

“This… this is London”, Jill managed to reply.  “But it’s London, Ohio.”

“Hold it.  There’s a London, Ohio?”

Jill nodded emphatically.  “Two of them, actually.”

A second bony limb appeared as the ghost threw both arms up in frustration.  The hood pointed up to the ceiling, but still no head was visible.  “How many Londons are there?”

“I don’t know about the rest of the world, but there are about eight in The U.S.”

“Eight?”

“Yeah, twelve if you count the New Londons.”  Jill couldn’t explain it, but an odd calm was starting to take over.  It was almost as if the situation was too bizarre for her to fear.

“Okay, so we’re in The U.S.; the colonies.  But you folks named all these cities after English cities?  You don’t think that’s a little off-putting for the rest of us?”

“It happened before I was born.”

“I suppose that’s fair”, the ghost said as it hovered to the foot of her bed.  It seemed to be taking in its surroundings.  The hood turned to the left quickly, then the right; its robe swooped and flowed with each brief move, trying to keep up.

“You probably want to be in 1843.  Or at least, a time that’s a little bit closer to it.”

“Correct”, the voice said, regaining the confident manner it had first used.  “Are you saying that I am off my mark there as well?”

“By quite a bit”, Jill offered.  “It’s 2012.”

“Oh bother.  Well I’m just entirely out of my destination, aren’t I?”  A sigh came out of the ghost as the temperature in the room warmed noticeably.  “I really must apologize then.  I don’t normally come into a woman’s room.  It is most rude of me.  I promise, were it not my occupation, I would never engage in such activities at all.”

“No, I think I understand”, Jill said.  “You’re The Ghost of Christmas Future.”

“Correct.  And you’re Jill.”  The ghost paused.  “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch your last name.”

“Stooge”, Jill answered.

“Ah ha.  Now we’re starting to get somewhere.”

Jill almost thought she heard the ghost chuckle.

“Well, Jill Stooge, I do apologize for this most unseemly event.  You can understand my confusion, though.  I was assigned to warn a Mr. Scrooge, who I was told lived in a big empty house in London.  Bit of a silly mix-up, I suppose.”

“The details will trip anyone up.”

“Isn’t that the truth?  I’ve always found it to be so”, the ghost replied.

“Still, isn’t one hundred and seventy years a large chunk of time to be off?”

“You have to understand”, the ghost explained.  “Time is a human concept.  Us non-living characters; things are a bit less-defined for us.  When you exist in all moments at once, what’s one year here or there?  They’re all quite accessible.”

“Must be convenient.”

“Oh, most times.  Though, as this unfortunate accident proves, it can be vexing when we try to interact with you folks.”

“We all make mistakes”, Jill offered.

“Indeed we do.  I shall take up no more of your time.  I’m sure you’d like to get back to sleep and I clearly have someplace else I’m supposed to be.  You haven’t seen any other characters around, have you?  A large, jolly fellow with a beard?  A flame-y sort, probably nymph-like?”

“No, just you tonight.”

“Right.  Well, at least the others got their bearings correct.  I do apologize most fervently.”

“Wait!”  Jill reached for the phantom as it made its way out the wall.  The figure had put the top half of its torso up through the ceiling, but now it glided back towards the woman.

“Yes?”

“I wanted… I mean, since you’re here…”

“Did you need something?  I’ve been such a bother to you I’m eager to make amends.”

“I was wondering”, Jill said with reluctance.  “Is there anything I need to know?  Any changes I should make?”

“I’m not really supposed to go into it”, the ghost replied.  “However, I suppose I could make an exception.”

“So, there aren’t any spirits coming to visit me?”

“Of course not.  It’s actually a rather rare event.”

“No one’s going to haunt me or scare me?”

“Oh dear, no.  Who do you think we work for?  We’re just trying to help.”

“I don’t have to worry about anything?  No disasters coming my way?”

“My dear.  I of course can’t guarantee anything.  But nothing’s been brought to our attention.  May I offer a little advice to the living?”

“Please do”, Jill pleaded.

“Live.  That’s it.  Love your neighbor, hug a friend, and make merry.  That’s what I’m going to try and show Scrooge.”

“Fair enough”, Jill said with a smile.

“I’m sorry, but I really have to get going.   I’d like to straighten this whole night out before those other two turn me into an article of ridicule.”

“I understand.  And thank you for your time.”

With that, the specter was gone.  The light bulb on Jill’s lamp turned back on.  Jill smiled and turned off her flashlight.  She reached up and clicked off the lamp.  As the room settled back into quiet darkness, Jill drifted off into peaceful slumber.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

6 Responses to A Late Arrival for Christmas Future

  1. s1ngal says:

    LOL. While going thru the first few paragraphs, i was thinking “Reminds me of uncle Scrooge” comment and it all changed. Darn good, darn funny, darn ponder-ful.

  2. diannegray says:

    Excellent! I know how Jill feels – it’s scary being in a big house alone.

    I loved ““Live. That’s it. Love your neighbor, hug a friend, and make merry” – what a wonderful message 😀

  3. aparnauteur says:

    Loved it! You make the conversations come alive. That’s quite a talent!

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