Scrooge awoke to sunshine streaming through his apartment window. He patted his body and grabbed his scrotum – he seemed to be alive.
‘Alexa, what day is it?’ he called out. The smart speaker lit up upon hearing the wake command.
‘Are you shitting me?’ she asked, ‘It’s Christmas Day, 2020.’ Scrooge leapt out of bed and rushed to the window, seeing nobody about, empty pavements, no cars on the road.
‘I’m alive and everybody is following lockdown rules,’ he said, dancing a jig. He saw two teenagers round the corner, jostling each other. He threw the window open and leaned out.
‘Merry Christmas,’ he shouted to the two young men. ‘And put a fucking mask on.’ He dressed and ran down the stairwell and entered the street, looking left and right before deciding on his first destination. Eventually he found himself outside Bob Cratchit’s front door, which he rapped vigorously. Eventually Bob opened the door a fraction, then upon seeing Scrooge popped his head out further to check nobody was watching.
‘What you doing here boss?’ he asked. He couldn’t see anything that could be a P45, let alone a redundancy payment, although Scrooge’s track record would have put the former more likely than the latter.
‘I wanted to bring you a turkey for your wonderful family,’ shouted Scrooge, forcing Bob to put a finger up to his lips. The net curtain twitchers were particularly active since the lockdown, but Scrooge continued unabated. ‘It seems nowhere appears to be open. I get Tescos closing, but the corner shop?’ Bob didn’t have the heart to mention that the corner shop sold out of Halal turkeys weeks ago, even before the French screwed the UK with its blockade.
‘I’ve got a turkey,’ said Bob, ‘what do you think this is, Victorian England? You pay me to organise your complex diary, don’t you think I might manage to arrange for Asda to deliver my shopping?’ He couldn’t work out what Scrooge was on and given it was a family day wasn’t going to risk asking for a share of it. Scrooge was on a high, that was for certain.
‘I want to do something for you and your family, for Christmas,’ said Scrooge. ‘How about I include you on the private medical insurance as a company benefit? Marley’s entitlement as a company employee is still valid – I’ll pick up the tab and you can pay the benefit in kind,’ he said, feeling generous. Bob considered this carefully: he was opposed to the concept, but if the tax hit wasn’t too big…’
‘Does it include pre-existing conditions?’ Scrooge had to admit it didn’t, that would cost and arm and a leg. There’s redemption and there’s Hell on earth.
‘How about I fund the special needs teacher for Tim,’ he asked. Admittedly through gritted teeth, lifelong habits dying hard and all that. Bob nodded approval, kept his mouth shut, thanked the Lord he’d resisted telling his boss to get the fuck off his doorstep. As Scrooge walked away Bob filled his wife in with the details.
‘Do you think he’ll follow through?’ she asked.
‘No idea, but he stinks of whisky,’ said Bob.
Fred’s front door was as ornate as you might expect: a wreath, a sprig of holly and a PayPay donation 3D barcode for Greenpeace. Scrooge felt particularly proud as PayPay moved fifty pence seamlessly to Greenpeace.
‘Uncle?’ said Fred answering the door in a towel. The kids were on an illegal sleepover and Fred and his wife had decided to spice up the occasion, not expecting the knock on the door.
‘Merry Christmas,’ said Scrooge, looking over Fred’s shoulder hoping his niece-in-law was as scantily clad as Fred was.
‘Merry Christmas to you,’ answered Fred warily, not opening the door further. ‘What can I do for you?’ he asked. Scrooge had only visited a few times, and each time it was to get Fred to sign some document or the other that Fred had felt probably wasn’t strictly Kosher. But even Scrooge hadn’t tried to hit on him on Christmas Day before.
‘I’ve seen the error of my ways and I want to make amends,’ said Scrooge. ‘More importantly I’d like to accept your offer of a free Christmas dinner with your modest turkey.’ Fred wondered how Scrooge knew they had a modest turkey, they’d scaled down once they’d offloaded the kids to the sleepover and in the full knowledge Scrooge would never accept their annual invitation. But here he was, on his doorstep, grinning from ear to ear and with his arms outstretched. Fred stepped forward and embraced his uncle, hoping to high heaven the towel stayed in place.
At the end of the drive stood three socially distanced spirits watching the aging man bear hug his near naked nephew, with neither man sanitising or wearing a facemask. The spirit of coronavirus present gave the spirit of coronavirus past a frowned look after it coughed, before turning to the spirit of coronavirus future.
‘You did mention the bit about changing his habits; social distancing, facemasks and all that?’ he asked, casting another wayward glance at the spirit of coronavirus past who had just coughed again. The spirit of coronavirus future shuffled awkwardly as he answered.
‘I did, honest. But to be fair I did rant on a bit and it looks like that part of the message might have been lost while I was beating him up,’ he admitted. Both men turned to the spirit of coronavirus past as he coughed once again. The spirit of coronavirus present placed an ethereal hand against the spirit’s forehead.
‘Goodness, you must be minus two hundred and thirty degrees, you’re burning up,’ he said, standing back and wrapping some chains around his mouth. ‘It looks like the bloody virus has mutated once again,’ he said, wondering if the vaccine worked on the afterlife.
‘Has his future changed?’ he asked the spirit of coronavirus future. The spirit shook his head, if anything the timetable had been brought forward and Fred’s future wasn’t looking too peachy, either. It had been a total waste of afterlife time. the spirit of coronavirus present shrugged, it had always been a longshot, what with Scrooge being a Brit. ‘Best we all self-isolate then,’ he suggested.