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As a gift for the 2010 holiday season, Sunshine would like to present A Wikia Carol! The classic Charles Dickens tale of a stingy old man discovering the true meaning of Christmas with the help of three spirits, humorously reimagined and retold by our favorite crazy little pixie!

Starring...

Nalyd Renrut as Ebenezer Scrooge

Matt Tollin as Bob Cratchit

Shane as Fred

Devon “Spenny” Joseph as Charity Man

Nonny as Jacob Marley

Sunshine Pasti as The Ghost of Christmas Past

Gigi as Fan

Grandpa Omar as Mr. Fezziwig

Ravioli Pasti as Belle

Owe as The Ghost of Christmas Present

Tdifan as Mrs. Cratchit

Pig as Tiny Tim

Zak Koroen as Ignorance

Chimmy Charific as Want

Stephen Nelson as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Salami, Beef, and Cheese as Funeral Attendees

Kenzen and Sprinklemist as Gravediggers

Greg as Random Child

The Story

Jacob Nonny was dead as a doornail. No one was really sure why, as it honestly seemed to come out of the blue, but that’s not the point here. The point is, the day was Christmas Eve, seven years after Nonny’s untimely demise. On this particular evening, snow was falling over the small village as Nalyd Ebenezer Renrut-Scrooge- better known as simply Mr. Renrut-Scrooge, or Rennie if you wished to annoy him- trudged through the increasingly deep piles of slightly muddied snow on his usual route to the counting house he owned. Pausing to chuckle morbidly at the presence of his deceased partner’s name on the sign, he strolled in and took his place behind his mahogany-wood desk, meticulously counting the gold coins piled up in front of him.

In the adjacent room, Mr. Renrut-Scrooge’s much-abused employee Matt Cratchit sat at a far less elegant desk, shivering slightly as he recorded names and numbers in a dog-eared notebook. He stopped briefly to clasp his hands together and breathe on them in an attempt to warm up, giving the locked coal box a brief longing glance. He returned to his work rather abruptly as he noted the displeased glare of his employer, who looked as if he might put serious consideration into firing the man simply for the momentary pause in productivity. Reassured that he was getting all the work possible out of Cratchit, Renrut-Scrooge nodded to himself and resumed his counting.

Suddenly, the door burst open, and a cheerful-looking figure bounded in. “Merry Christmas Eve, Uncle Rennie!” The man squealed, slamming the door behind him in his excitement. “And a merry Christmas Eve to you to, Mr. Cratchit,” he added, smiling at Matt and tipping his hat towards him, a motion reciprocated by the hatless employee.

“Christmas,” Nalyd scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Humbug. And don’t you dare call me Rennie, Shane.”

“Christmas a humbug?” Shane laughed incredulously, shaking his head in disbelief. He paused, turned to Matt, and asked, “What is a humbug, anyways?” Matt shrugged in response, and Shane turned back to his uncle. “Uncle Rennie, Christmas is one of the happiest and most cheerful times of the year! People get together and laugh and exchange gifts and eat and it’s wonderful!”

“I hate getting together with people, I find little funny, I’m not going to waste any of my hard-earned money on anyone I know, and rich holiday food upsets my stomach,” retorted Renrut-Scrooge. “It’s all a humbug.”

“You’re no fun, Uncle Rennie,” Shane sighed.

“Yeah, Mister Rennie, you’re no fun,” Matt affirmed.

“Stop calling me that!” Nalyd screamed. Pointing first at Shane, then at Cratchit, he shouted, “You, go away, and you, don’t make me fire you!!” Matt’s eyes widened, and he sheepishly returned to his work, while Shane simply rolled his eyes.

“Lighten up, Uncle,” Shane pleaded. “I’m having a big Christmas party at my house tomorrow; you’re more than welcome to come!”

“I’d sooner leap into the street and let myself be run over by a horse-drawn cart,” Renrut-Scrooge replied in a deadpan tone.

Shane scoffed, walking back to the door. “Well, my invitation stands. I sincerely hope you change your mind, since you’ll be missing the most totally epic party of the holiday season.” Waving goodbye first to his uncle, then to Matt, Shane cheerfully bounded out of the counting house with little more than a disgruntled “harrumph” of acknowledgement from Renrut-Scrooge.

Less than three seconds after Shane had made his exit, an equally cheery man in a thick winter coat and a top hat strolled in, with Matt respectfully pointing out the way to Mr. Renrut-Scrooge’s office (conveniently located within plain sight of the door). “Good afternoon, sir, I’m Mr. Joseph,” the man explained, tipping his hat and offering a handshake, which was promptly ignored. “Do I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Renrut-Scrooge or Mr. Nonny?”

“Nonny died seven years ago this very day,” Nalyd chuckled morbidly, catching Mr. Joseph off-guard.

“Er… well then, a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Renrut-Scrooge,” the man replied slightly nervously. “Um, to get to the point, I’m part of a group of businessmen who have decided to use their wealth and influence to gather funds for the homeless and lower-class this holiday season. Our goal is to provide every family with a fire and a hot meal, but of course, we can’t do that without donations from our fellow upper-class.”

“How lovely,” Renrut-Scrooge commented in a deadpan, disinterested manner. “Can’t you just save some money by putting them in homeless shelters or workhouses or something?”

Mr. Joseph gave Nalyd a worried glance. “Eh… well, you see, sir, all the shelters have long since been filled. And the workhouses… my goodness, those things are terrible. It’s a throwback to the days of slavery, except with poor people.” Noting that he was not getting the faintest hint of interest, or even emotion, he quickly brought himself back on track and tentatively asked, “So how much may I put you down for?”

“Nothing,” Renrut-Scrooge quickly replied.

Slightly taken aback, Mr. Joseph looked up from his record of donations. “Oh, um, do you wish to remain anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone!” Nalyd snapped, standing up from his desk abruptly. “Now kindly exit my office and take your little charity routine to some other poor sap!” Mr. Joseph gave him a stunned stare for a moment, then sheepishly tucked away his record and left the premises.

“Bah, humbug,” Renrut-Scrooge muttered to himself as the man left the counting house. “Homeless people are homeless for a reason… ought to just let them pass on and decrease the surplus population…”

Nalyd’s grumbling was interrupted by the resounding gong of the grandfather clock in the corner of his office, a message to all in the building that the workday was completed, which was rather odd considering Renrut-Scrooge had just barely arrived. “I suppose you’ll want the whole day off tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit,” he commented in a disgruntled manner, grabbing his coat and slipping it on.

“Well, yeah, sir,” Matt replied. “I mean, it’s Christmas and all, dude-” pausing at the sight of his employer’s glare, he corrected, “I mean… sir…”

“No excuse for picking a man’s pocket once a year,” Nalyd grumbled, grabbing his hat and sulking out the door. “I’ll expect you to be here early on the twenty-sixth, Cratchit!”

“Yes, sir,” Matt sighed, grabbing his own light, tattered coat and following his boss out the door, glancing up at the lightly falling snow with a look of tentative cheer. With that, the two started off for their respective homes; Cratchit strolling along the snowy sidewalk, smiling at the sight of Christmas wreaths and children sliding over the ice with whoops and hollers of delight, Renrut-Scrooge locking up the counting house and walking in the opposite direction as he glared at carolers with such intensity that they trailed off in the middle of their songs.

By the time Nalyd reached his colossal, if rather gloomy mansion, night had just begun to fall over the village. Grumbling irritably at the sight of the clear wintery sky, stars twinkling brightly in the chilled air, he fished into his pocket for his keys. The glittery gold keychain slipped from his fingers and clattered to the stone steps, with Renrut-Scrooge’s muttering growing louder as a result. He knelt down to grab the dropped item, glancing up as he was about to stand again.

The face of his deceased partner stared back at him from the place a knocker had once been.

Nalyd emitted a girlish scream and lurched backwards, dropping his keys again and tumbling down his front steps with a cry of “Ow, my spine!!” When he collected himself and looked up once more, however, the knocker was back in place as it should have been. Suspicious and rather frightened, Renrut-Scrooge glanced from side to side, then stood and quickly made his way into his home.

Finding he was too shaken from his apparent hallucination to enjoy his usual bland, tasteless evening meal, Nalyd immediately made his way to his spacious bedchamber. Changing into his usual nightdress and matching hat (which, some would debate, made him look rather like a pallid young woman) as quickly as humanly possible, he leapt into bed and drew the curtains around it closed as if doing so would protect him from the eerie sense of dread he felt. Blowing out the candle that lit the room (he was far too cheap to spring for electricity), he huddled under the blankets and shut his eyes tight, wishing for sleep to free him from this unearthly foreboding.

As he lay there in the unnerving silence of his empty estate, Renrut-Scrooge suddenly became painfully aware of a faint, spooky noise that seemed to be coming from far down the hallway. The sound resembled that of a plastic water bottle rolling down the pavement, only a hundredfold, as if several trucks filled with empty plastic water bottles had tipped over and spilled their contents across a highway. This noise mixed with an unearthly series of haunting moans and groans that sounded utterly foreign to Nalyd, yet at the same time, eerily familiar. “Ohhh geez,” the ghostly voice whined, “this place is filthy! Germs! Germs everywhere! Ugh, I can’t believe I have to do this!! Doesn’t he ever clean this place?!

Cautiously, Nalyd peered out from behind the curtains, glancing at the triple-locked door with a sense of faint alarm. Suddenly, a series of phantom makeshift chains (they appeared to be a series of tissues and wet wipes woven together and tied to empty bottles of hand sanitizer) burst through the doorway as if they were made of air. Terrified, Renrut-Scrooge retreated back behind the curtains, instead watching the spectacle through a thin opening. A pale, ghostly figure with several similar “chains” wrapped around his body floated through the door with a glazed look on his face, dragging dozens more chains behind him. As Nalyd looked over the supernatural figure, he found himself having to stifle a gasp as he realized he recognized this apparition. As if it wasn’t obvious enough from the appearance of his face at the door and the fact that it was mentioned early on that today was the anniversary of his death, it was none other than Jacob Nonny!

“N-N-Nonny?!” Renrut-Scrooge stammered fearfully, allowing himself to peer out further from behind the curtain. “Wh-what on earth are you doing here? You’re dead! Wait, of course you’re dead, you’re a ghost! But ghosts don’t exist! Wait, what? This makes no sense!!”

Take it easy, Rennie,” the ghostly figure that was apparently Nonny reassured his former partner. “And for goodness sake, clean up your house. This place is a death trap of germs.” He shuddered slightly, causing a flickering bluish light to illuminate the room momentarily, before continuing, “Anyways, I’ve got something to tell you. I’m going to make it as quick as possible, because your horrible housekeeping sort of disgusts me, but that’s not the point.

“You shouldn’t be able to tell me anything; you’re dead!” Nalyd screeched, still uncomprehending as to how it was possible that Nonny’s ghost was able to visit him.

Nonny rolled his bespectacled eyes, ignoring the cries of his living companion. “Basically, Rennie, you’re not exactly the greatest person. You’re pretty greedy and selfish, you have no sense of humor, you hate everybody, you’re obviously terrible at keeping your house clean, and all that bad stuff. So you’ve got to turn it around, or otherwise you’ll end up like me.” He rattled the “chains” wrapped around him to prove his point, explaining, “I unwittingly made these in life, with my lack of compassion for mankind and my obsessive-compulsive need to cleanse everything around me. Mostly the latter. I pretty much ended up sterilizing myself straight into eternal unrest.

“There’s no such thing as eternal unrest, because there’s no such thing as ghosts!” Nalyd continued to protest. “You’re dead! I’m hallucinating or something!”

You wish,” Nonny scoffed. “So anyways, there’s still time to save your soul and all, so a bunch of spirits are going to visit you tonight and teach you how to be compassionate by showing you the true meaning of Christmas. Which, I must admit, is kind of weird. Aren’t you Jewish?” Shrugging it off, he finished, “So… in summary, you’re a terrible person, if you don’t change your wicked ways you’ll end up like me, some other ghosts are going to show up tonight and help you; I’m pretty sure there’s three, or maybe four, or it could be seven. I always forget.

“Do I have to?” Nalyd questioned sheepishly.

Yeah,” Nonny nodded nonchalantly. “Good luck with all that; I’m getting out of here before all the terrible, terrible germs in your poorly cleaned house make me die again.” With little more than a wave goodbye, the ghostly figure dragged his sanitary chains to the window and dived out, leaving Nalyd looking after him in shock. Terrified, he leapt out of bed and ran out the window, expecting to see someone dressed up startlingly similar to his old partner flat on the ground, only to see the empty street adjacent to his home.

Eyes wide, he cautiously made his way back to bed, drawing all the curtains closed and pulling the covers around him like a protective cocoon. “Cratchit must have slipped something weird into my coffee today,” he nervously reasoned, forcing out a chuckle in a poor attempt to reassure himself. Covering his face with the bedsheets, Nalyd shut his eyes and prayed for sleep to take him, or otherwise for him to awaken from this terrible, terrible nightmare.

The next thing he knew, Renrut-Scrooge was being awakened by the painfully loud noise of the grandfather clock he’d foolishly placed in his bedroom, announcing that it was twelve o’ clock, midnight. Wait, midnight? Nalyd suddenly thought, confused. It had barely been nine-thirty when he last checked the clock, just before he went to bed, and there was certainly no way two and a half hours had already passed. Recalling what he hoped was a dream about the visit of Nonny’s ghost and his decree that spirits would visit him within the night, Nalyd shuddered fearfully and peered out from behind the curtains cautiously. He was just imagining things, he reasoned, or the clock was broken again. Nothing strange was happening-

Renrut-Scrooge emitted his girlish scream and fell straight out of bed as he found himself face-to-face with a mysterious entity. The figure giggled at his surprised reaction, and he glanced up from his uncomfortable position face-down on the wood floor. Standing there, hovering a few inches off the ground, was a divine-seeming creature that bore the appearance of a young girl. She had a long dress that, oddly, resembled a large piece of ravioli, skin so pale it seemed almost translucent, and pixie-esque wings. At first glance he thought her head was a ball of flame, but then he realized this was not the case; she simply had thick, wavy hair that was an unnaturally bright shade of orange.

Nonny was right,” the figure chuckled in her girlish tone. “You are funny, Rennie!

Stunned, Nalyd forced himself to an upright position, stammering, “W-who are you? How do you know my name? Why are you here? How do you know Nonny? What’s going on? Don’t call me Rennie!!”

I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Past-a, silly,” the spirit explained with a cheerful expression, waving a wand with a piece of ravioli at the end in the air, “and I’m going to show you the true meaning of Christmas, and compassion, and good will towards all men and women, and all that stuff. Nonny told you I was coming, remember?

“Uhh…” Nalyd blinked a few times in rapid succession, as if believing the visitor was but a trick of the light, before admitting, “He did say something about three ghosts visiting. Or four. Or maybe seven. But I figured that was a dream, since, y’know, ghosts don’t exist!!”

Of course ghosts exist, Rennie,” the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Everyone knows that. But never mind that little piece of common sense; we’ve got some sightseeing to do! Lots to do, little time to do it, don’t you know!

“I’m sorry, what?” Nalyd questioned, confused, only to suddenly be pelted with a fistful of glittery powder. “Oh god, my eyes!!” He wailed, clutching at his face as the spirit laughed at his misfortune.

Once the pain had cleared, Renrut-Scrooge rubbed his eyes and blinked as he adjusted to seeing once more. “Why does the floor seem so far away?” He commented, only to glance around and realize that his feet were no longer on solid ground- he was floating. Subsequently, he gave his trademark girlish scream and flailed his arms spastically, in a manner similar to a drowning person in the middle of open ocean.

You really do scream like a girl!” The Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a squealed in delight, floating up to Renrut-Scrooge and grabbing his arm. “Now come on, Rennie, we have no time to waste!

“No time to waste for what?!” Nalyd exclaimed, still seeming horrified at the concept of him floating. Suddenly, his bedroom disappeared from sight with a blur, and Renrut-Scrooge found himself being tugged through space at a frightening velocity by the pixie-esque apparition. “What are we doing?!” He screamed, clinging to the spirit’s arm for dear life.

Merely what my name would suggest, Rennie!” The Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a shouted back. “We’re going to see the past! Christmas past! Your Christmas past! And we’ll probably eat some pasta along the way!!

A sudden bright light drove Nalyd to clench his eyes shut, and when he opened them, he found himself in a very different place than where he and the spirit had left mere moments before. Below them lay a snowy landscape, interrupted solely by the occasional bare tree or path created from horses and men walking upon the snow. He felt he faintly recognized it, and as the apparition gracefully glided down to the ground, leaving herself and Renrut-Scrooge floating a few inches above the snow, the sight of a familiar building in the distance brought the memories flooding to the forefront of his mind.

“This is my old school!” He exclaimed, pointing excitedly at the boarding school at which he had spent much of his childhood. The sudden arrival of a horse-drawn cart practically plowing over him took him aback momentarily, but his joy returned as he saw several familiar faces in the carriage. “Those are all my old friends!” He exclaimed, bearing a smile so wide one might think it could shatter his face, especially considering the fact that he was believed to have long lost use of the muscles needed to smile. Waving after the cart, he shouted, “Devon! Jake! Gary! It’s me, Nalyd, except all old and stuff!” His smile faded as he watched the horse-drawn carriage ramble on over the snow-covered path, with no sign of his old companions turning to acknowledge him.

This is but a shadow of things that have been,” the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a explained as she eyed Renrut-Scrooge’s disappointment. “We cannot interact with these visions.” She paused, then commented, “That was really ridiculously dramatic sounding... cool.” With that, she led Nalyd over the glittering new-fallen snow towards the boarding school.

“Why are we going to the school?” Renrut-Scrooge questioned as the pixie-esque apparition aided him in hovering up to one of the windows, floating through as if the glass panes were utterly nonexistent. “All the kids are going home for the holidays, aren’t they?”

That’s right,” the spirit affirmed with a slight nod, “home to their loving families and warm fires and big, tasty meals, and all that holiday fun.” Turning Nalyd so that he faced a lone figure still sitting at a desk, she added, “all but one sad, lonely little girl.

A faintly remorseful look on his face, Renrut-Scrooge cautiously ventured closer to the abandoned child, only for his expression to turn sour. “Wait a minute… this isn’t a little girl, this is me!!”

Really? I honestly thought it was a girl…” The ghost shrugged off her mistake, then grabbed Nalyd by the shoulders and spun him in a circle, turning the room momentarily into a whirlwind of blurred images. When he finally managed to steady himself and recover from the dizziness, the room had changed quite a bit. The younger version of himself was now at least a year older, and instead of an empty classroom, he was in a classroom that was quickly being emptied as the children excitedly rushed out the door, ready to go home for the holidays. The young Renrut-Scrooge, conversely, was gathering his things slowly with a desolate expression on his face, apparently having grimly accepted the fact that he would be abandoned there for yet another year.

“Nalyd!” A voice suddenly piped up, catching the young boy and his invisible, older self by surprise. Both turned to see a familiar figure in the doorway, a tender smile on her face and a red notebook tucked under her arm.

“Fan!” Exclaimed the young Renrut-Scrooge, dropping his things and dashing across the room to embrace his visitor. The older Nalyd watched silently, slightly slack-jawed and his eyes wide, while the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a gave a knowing smile.

Your sister,” the spirit noted, eying the young Nalyd’s obvious joy at being reunited with his sibling warmly.

“Yes,” Renrut-Scrooge affirmed, a nostalgic look on his face as his eyes turned glassy with tears. Trying to hide the sudden display of emotion from the ghost that accompanied him, Nalyd turned his head so that his face was hidden from sight, watching the familiar memory play out in front of him.

“What are you doing here, Fan?” Questioned young Nalyd, looking honestly surprised at her presence.

“I’m bringing you home, you goof,” Fan laughed in her cheerful, musical tone. “Mom wants you to be with us this year!” Young Renrut-Scrooge’s eyes widened, lighting up with astonishment and elation. “R… really?”

“Yes, really,” assured Fan, grinning. “She found out that being the primary caregiver for children gives you a credit on your taxes or something like that, so she’s really into the whole parenting thing now. She wants you to come home, Nalyd!”

“I can’t believe it,” young Nalyd breathed, his expression full of wonder. “I don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘Gee, that’s great, I’ll get my things’?” Fan sarcastically suggested, playfully elbowing her brother. Smirking in response, the young Nalyd Renrut-Scrooge quickly gathered his belongings and dashed out the door after her sister. They cheered and laughed as they ran down the empty halls of the boarding school, unaware of the older Nalyd and his spiritual companion that watched them.

Fan passed away young, didn’t she?” The Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a commented, breaking the silence that was left by the young Nalyd and Fan’s departure.

“Y-yes,” Renrut-Scrooge managed to choke out, his tone pained. “She died in childbirth several years ago.”

Her son is a lot like her, isn’t he?” The apparition continued, a faint grin on her face. “Little Shane. All full of joy and Christmas spirit, never saying a bad thing about anyone…” Nalyd said nothing, shutting his eyes in a desperate attempt to hide the tears welling up within them. The spirit’s smirk grew clearer, and she gently grabbed her companion’s arm, explaining, “We’ve still got plenty more to see, Rennie.

Merely giving a faint nod of acknowledgement, Nalyd allowed himself to be led out the classroom door by the ghost, only to find himself stunned as they entered another place entirely. He recognized this new location as well- there was no mistaking the décor, the architectural structure, or the crazy fat man dancing on top of his desk across the room. “This is old Omar Fezziwig’s shop!” He squealed, pointing out the dancing asylum escapee cheerfully. “I apprenticed for him until he got taken into custody by the National Guard!! This is incredible!”

You really haven’t comprehended yet that all the places we’re going are from your past, have you?” Commented the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a, shaking her head slightly as she watched Renrut-Scrooge’s repetitive excitement.

The grandfather clock behind Omar Fezziwig suddenly gonged out the hour, catching the senile old man’s attention. “Woohoo! No more work!!” He cheered, doing a cartwheel off his desk and landing on his abundant stomach. “Come on, kids! Set up for a party! It’s Easter, or Christmas, or some other holiday!!” He gave a holler of delight, and then made a rather unsuccessful attempt to hoist himself into an upright position.

“Look, look! That’s me!” Nalyd exclaimed, pointing out what looked to be himself as a young man, cheerful and anxious to take on the world. As another boy joined the younger Renrut-Scrooge in setting up a long table, the older Nalyd continued, “and him! He was my roommate! I forget his name… actually, I don’t think I ever knew his name!!”

This is really boring,” the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a sighed, folding her arms in disdain. Obviously disinterested, the pixie-esque spirit grabbed Renrut-Scrooge’s arm and whirled them both around, transforming the quiet scene into a much livelier one. The long tables that young Nalyd and his companion had been setting up were now covered with plates of rich food, and the large empty floor was now filled with people dancing festively. A band stood around Fezziwig’s desk playing a chipper tune, Fezziwig himself was stuffing his face with food, Renrut-Scrooge’s old roommate was dancing wildly in the middle of the floor with a lampshade on his head, and young Nalyd was hiding out in the corner, tapping his foot lightly to the music.

As the young Renrut-Scrooge glanced tentatively around him, he caught sight of a violet-haired girl standing nearby, looking rather disinterested in the celebrations. A goofy grin appearing on his face, he gave her a nervous wave and stammered, “H-h-hi, Ravibelle…”

“Hey,” she greeted him in reply, not bothering to look his way. Nalyd’s grin grew wider simply at the fact that she had acknowledged his existence, and he tentatively scooted closer to her, wiping some beads of perspiration from his brow.

As the band finished up their tune, the dance floor burst into applause, and the group bowed in appreciation before starting up another tune. “This is our song,” young Renrut-Scrooge whispered to Ravibelle, making a poor attempt at a sly smile.

“…Since when?” Ravibelle questioned, giving him a worried glance.

“Since… just now when I made that up,” Nalyd admitted, nervously twiddling his thumbs and glancing away from her.

Ravibelle sighed, shaking her head and closing her eyes at his earnest stupidity. “Care to dance?” She finally asked unenthusiastically, offering him her hand.

“Yes,” Renrut-Scrooge replied a bit too eagerly, latching on to her arm and cautiously leading her onto the dance floor. Ravibelle followed disinterestedly, looking a little taken aback when his sweaty palm closed around her hand, but nonetheless allowed him to dance with her to “their song”.

Aw, you guys are so cute together!” Crooned the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a, clasping her hands together and gazing over the young couple in a girlish fashion.

“Ravibelle hated everyone and everything,” the older Renrut-Scrooge sighed nostalgically. “Everyone and everything but me, who she only moderately disliked.”

You two were engaged for a while, weren’t you?” The spirit commented, cocking an eyebrow in a curious expression. Nalyd’s shoulders tensed, and he glanced away from the apparition.

“I… I guess so, yeah,” he admitted, silently praying that the question wouldn’t be trailed by the obvious follow-up: “So, what happened?” Thankfully, the spirit said nothing, instead grabbing his shoulders and gently turning him around to view another memory.

This time, Nalyd found himself back in his own counting house, though the furniture was new and the floorboards not as worn. He found his younger self, somewhat older than how they had previously seen him, sitting at his desk and meticulously counting his gold. He heard the front door creak open, though he noted that the younger Renrut-Scrooge did not so much as glance up, and an irritated Ravibelle strolled in. Glaring down at her inattentive fiancé, she impatiently cleared her throat to gain his attention. “You said you’d meet me for lunch,” she reminded him in an accusatory tone.

“And I will,” Nalyd retorted, still not looking up from his coins.

“It’s five o’ clock, Nalyd.”

“I’ll meet you for dinner, then.”

“Nalyd Renrut-Scrooge!” Ravibelle snapped, glaring down at her fiancé. “You won’t end up meeting me and you know it! You’ve missed every date I’ve made, you keep postponing our wedding, and whenever I do see you, all you do is complain about money! Well, I’ve had enough of money getting between us, Nalyd! You’ve got plenty of money!”

“Plenty, yet not enough,” he interrupted dismissively.

Ravibelle’s glare heated, her brows furrowing and fists clenching. “Fine then. Keep your money, if you love it so. I’m finished with you.” With that, she turned on her heel and stormed out the door, not once looking back. Still, Nalyd barely bothered to glance up, as if her ultimatum was nothing less than relieving him of her complaints.

The elder Renrut-Scrooge watched the scene before him in disbelief. “What are you doing, you idiot?!” He shouted, though the cry inevitably fell upon deaf ears. “Go after her! Apologize! Beg for forgiveness! Otherwise you’re just going to end up with nothing but your irritating nephew and that idiotic kid that works for you!!”

You’re talking to yourself,” the Ghost of Christmas Past and Past-a giggled. Donning a more serious expression, she added, “Seriously though, he can’t hear you. It’s like shouting advice to the characters in the movie theater. It doesn’t really work.

“You shut up!” Nalyd snapped, whirling around to face the spirit. “And get me out of here; I just want to go ho-” He suddenly trailed off, finding that the apparition had vanished, leaving not the faintest of traces. Stunned, Nalyd glanced around him, only to find that the vision of the counting house had disappeared as well. He was alone, floating in an empty darkness, with nothing to accompany him but the all-too-fresh memories of all he had left behind in his blind rush to become what society defined as successful.

The loud gong of the grandfather clock caused Renrut-Scrooge to snap awake, back in his bead, the curtains drawn around him just as he’d left them.

Remarkably confused, as well as still somewhat heartbroken from what the first spirit had shown him- no, what he had dreamed; there was no such thing as spirits- Nalyd cautiously peered out from behind the curtains, half-expecting to see the ghost’s face awaiting him just as it had been before. Instead, he saw his usual empty chamber… but with a strange golden light filtering in from underneath the door. Uncomprehending and slightly afraid, he stepped out of bed and tentatively crept over, pressing his ear to the wood in an attempt to determine what lay beyond. All he could hear was a faint tinkling resembling sleigh bells, accompanied by a hearty laugh and several “om nom nom” sounds. More perplexed than ever, Renrut-Scrooge cautiously lifted his head, fumbled momentarily with the locks on the door, and creaked it open.

Golden light flooded his vision for a moment, but when his eyes adjusted, he found himself standing in front of a veritable holiday cornucopia; cakes and pies, suckling pigs, cooked goose, vegetables, and several varieties of hamburgers spilled across the floor in a gargantuan pile. Atop of this plethora sat a large young man, a crown of holly around his brown hair, a green robe around his plump figure, and a hamburger shoved into his mouth. “H’lo,” he greeted, voice muffled by the obstruction of the sandwich. He gulped down a rather large portion, then momentarily set his meal aside and grabbed a torch that bore great resemblance to a cornucopia (hence the feast, Nalyd figured). Sliding down over the mountain of food, torch in one hand and burger in the other, he finally reached Renrut-Scrooge and stood beside him nonchalantly, towering over him. “What’s up?” He asked casually, munching on his sandwich once more. Nalyd simply stared up at the pot-bellied giant, slack jawed.

“Who… are… you…?!” Renrut-Scrooge slowly questioned, stunned. “How… did… you… fit… in… my… house…?!”

I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present. And hamburgers.” He paused to swallow down the rest of his burger, then continued, “I’m the second of the spirits that’s going to, hopefully, make you a better person. We’re going to go see how Christmas is for some of the people you’re less than fond of.

“That sounds less than lovely,” Nalyd sarcastically replied. “Also, why is it that all of you spirits also seem to be the ghost of some food product?”

The big guy wanted to economize by combining some of the jobs. You of all people know how bad the economy is,” the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers explained. “Burger?” Raising an eyebrow in confusion, Renrut-Scrooge reluctantly accepted the rather large sandwich, taking a bite just to be polite.

“So…” he began. “I assume I have no choice whether or not I’m going to be doing this, so, how exactly are we going to go about it?”

Simple,” the spirit shrugged. He knelt down and scooped Nalyd up in his rather large palm, causing the man to, as expected, scream like a girl. Apparently unfazed, the apparition returned to a standing position and leisurely strolled through the wall, leaving them in the snow-covered streets. The sky was bright, people were out and about, and church bells were ringing. Somehow, Renrut-Scrooge realized, it was Christmas Day already.

“What the- how is it the middle of Christmas Day all of a sudden?!” Renrut-Scrooge questioned, stunned. “Two minutes ago, it was midnight!”

I’m a magical ghost, Nalyd,” the spirit sighed, “in spite of your insistence that I’m but a figment of your sick, twisted imagination. Changing the time of day isn’t all that difficult.” He turned his attention back to strolling cautiously among the numerous houses, buildings, and pedestrians, stepping over them as a parent might step over their child’s scattered playthings.

“So… uh…” Nalyd began after a long pause, awkwardly attempting to make small-talk. “Why do you have an empty sword scabbard?”

Peace on earth,” replied the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers. “Goodwill towards man. Plus, it gives me more space to keep burgers.” With that, he reached into the empty scabbard with his free hand and pulled out a fresh sandwich, cheerfully chowing down on it.

“O…kay then…” Renrut-Scrooge trailed off, looking somewhat worried about the spirit’s apparent hamburger obsession. “Er… where exactly are we going?”

To a party,” the apparition explained, finishing off his hamburger. “We’re going to see how your nephew Shane is enjoying his holiday.

“Aw, Shane?!” Nalyd whined, obviously displeased with the concept of being forced to see his hated nephew. “Can’t we just skip him?”

I’m afraid not,” the spirit retorted. “That would throw off the entire story. And besides, we’re almost there now.” Pouting, Renrut-Scrooge stubbornly folded his arms, awaiting what he considered the torture of being forced to visit Shane.

A few short minutes passed before the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers apparently reached their destination, kneeling down before the large window of a modest, yet decent, home. The building was decorated rather extravagantly, and as the spirit placed him down upon the snow to peer through the window, Nalyd could see a large evergreen in the corner of the sitting room, covered head-to-toe with tinsel and ornaments. Besides the Christmas tree, Nalyd could see several young men and women- apparently friends of Shane and his wife- gathered around, chatting and laughing. “This is pointless,” Renrut-Scrooge complained, watching the goings-on disinterestedly.

Shh,” insisted the spirit, gesturing for Nalyd to listen in on the happenings. Rolling his eyes, he did as he was instructed, pressing his ear to the glass so as to better hear what was going on.

“Is it an animal?” One of the guests’ muffled voices asked Shane cheerfully.

“Yes,” Shane replied. They were playing some sort of pointless party game, it seemed.

“Does it live in this village?” Someone else questioned, sounding curious.

“Yes, it does.”

“A dog?” Another voice piped up.

“No,” Shane answered, shaking his head.

“A bird?”

“Nope, not a bird.”

“A rat?”

Shane paused a minute before answering. “Yes and no,” he decided, causing laughter to break out among his guests.

“How can it both be a rat and not be a rat?” Chuckled one voice,

“Oh, oh!” Someone suddenly interrupted, standing up off her chair and wildly waving her hand. “I know what it is! It’s your Uncle Rennie!”

“That’s right!!” Shane cheered, throwing his arms up into the air in delight and causing wild laughter and applause to ring out throughout his audience. Nalyd’s face suddenly soured, his eyebrows furrowing in dejection.

“He knows I hate being called Rennie,” Renrut-Scrooge lied, trying to hide the obvious hurt in his eyes from being taunted by his own nephew. Did everyone joke about him like that, he wondered? Not just his nephew, but his employees, his clients, that charity man and the carolers he so loved to yell at?

“Seriously, though,” Shane finally interrupted, causing the laughter to quiet somewhat. “I’d like to propose a toast for old Uncle Rennie.”

“Is this another joke?” Someone piped up. “Because if it is, I don’t get it.”

“I said, ‘seriously, though’; that should be a hint that I’m not joking,” Shane replied, cocking an eyebrow in concern.

“But he’s a jerk,” another voice commented nonchalantly. “He didn’t even come to your awesome party!”

“Yeah, and he’s missing out on your pudding!” Someone else cried out.

“And pasta!”

“And hamburgers!”

They have hamburgers?!” The spirit suddenly gasped, pressing his face to the window. Nalyd sighed, rolled his eyes, and continued to listen in.

“Sure, Uncle Rennie’s missing out on the most awesomely epic holiday party ever,” Shane conceded, “but that’s just why we should give him a toast. We should hope that he stays in good enough health that he wizens up and comes to my even more epic holiday party next year!” There was a series of various mumbled agreements, and Shane subsequently grinned and raised his glass. “To Uncle Rennie!”

“To Uncle Rennie,” the others repeated, though slightly less enthusiastically, as they tapped their champagne glasses together. Amazed, Nalyd found he had to turn away from the window, eyes moist with emotion.

“I have something in my eye,” he stated quickly, before the spirit could comment.

Sure you do,” the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers laughed, scooping Renrut-Scrooge up in his palm once more. “Now come on, we’ve got a long ways to go before we reach our next stop.

“Where do I have to go this time?” Nalyd sighed, now expecting the sudden lift from an overweight giant and subsequently restraining his girlish scream.

To the other side of the tracks,” the apparition replied, starting off on his journey over the buildings and homes, leaving large, ignored footsteps in the snowy streets. “We’re going to see your employee, Matt Cratchit, and his family.

“He has a family?” Renrut-Scrooge commented incredulously, apparently having not known this simple fact about his own employee. Pausing for a moment, he added, “His name’s Matt?”

Yes, Nalyd, his name’s Matt,” the spirit sighed, shaking his head. “And he’s been working for you for years.

“Well, he never told me,” Nalyd insisted. “And if he did, I was too busy retaining more important information.” He was silent for a few minutes after this statement, staring down at the far-away ground, before asking, “Hey, uh, how exactly is it that no one seems to notice us?”

Ghosts, Nalyd,” the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers replied. “Get with the program.

“Ghosts don’t exist,” Renrut-Scrooge muttered under his breath, though he had to admit he was becoming increasingly unsure of this fact.

The sunset was just barely beginning to tint the sky by the time Nalyd and his ghostly companion reached the small, run-down excuse for a home half-buried in snow. “This is it,” the apparition explained, placing Renrut-Scrooge down beside the far smaller window than their last location.

“This old shack?” Nalyd commented disdainfully, peering inside. It was not much better- the floorboards were loose and mismatched, the table looked like it had been saved from the street, the rest of the furniture was not much better. A young brunette woman was dishing something that looked like a multicolored breakfast cereal onto several worn plates, though each plate received less than a handful of such. Once she had completed this task, she instructed a young girl- her daughter, probably- to fill up the chipped, filthy glasses. She did so, though the beverage of choice was simply water, which had apparently been chilled by the snow (as evidenced by the snow all around the pitcher). Another girl began dishing out small portions of cheap-looking mystery greens, while a very young boy and girl ran up to their mother and clutched at her skirt.

“Mama, when’s daddy coming with the goose?” The boy questioned, his brown eyes big and innocent.

“Soon, hopefully,” she replied, tenderly stroking her child’s hair. “Now why don’t you and your sister keep decorating the tree?” The children nodded and ran off, while Renrut-Scrooge glanced around the room in search of anything remotely resembling a Christmas tree. After a moment, he realized the “tree” was actually a paper cutout taped to the wall, which the youngsters were “decorating” with crayons and scraps of paper.

After a few minutes of Nalyd staring at the Cratchit’s home, stunned, the door burst open and Matt strolled in, face aglow with Christmas cheer. A piglet sat cheerfully on his shoulder, eyes blank black dots, a fez on his head and a crutch held between his hooves. “I got the bird, dudes!” Matt announced, proudly displaying a negligible excuse for a cooked goose. The pig on his shoulder squealed with delight, and the family all gathered around his purchase as if it were the most wonderful thing they’d ever seen.

“It’s even bigger than last year, daddy!” One of the girls cheered, clapping with sheer joy.

“I know, right? I got it cheap since the butcher was just going to feed it to his dog anyways,” Cratchit explained, grinning.

“And you got Puny Pig from his doctor’s appointment on your way home, I see,” Mrs. Cratchit smiled, lifting the piglet from her husband’s shoulder and helping it into its seat. Puny Pig squealed cheerfully, waving his front limbs like an expressive speaker who might gesticulate with their hands as they spoke. “Really, he said you’re doing that well? You must be proud!”

“Their child is a pig,” Nalyd commented incredulously, looking at his employee through the window with a look of deep concern.

To each his own, right?” The spirit shrugged, gesturing for silence so they might continue to observe the family.

“All right, little dudes and dudettes, let’s sit down and eat before this awesome goose thing gets cold,” Matt instructed, the many children happily bounding into their seats for their Christmas “feast”.

“We have to say grace before we eat, right?” The youngest daughter inquired, tugging at her mother’s sleeve.

“That’s right, honey,” she nodded, joining hands with her husband and children. “Your father will make the blessing, right?”

“Yup,” Matt nodded, though he eyed the cooked goose with a longing expression. Closing his eyes, he began, “Um… thank you, higher being dude or dudette, for this totally awesome meal of Froot Loops and goose and tasty green stuff. Also, thanks for Puny Pig’s continued health, and may he get all better someday and stuff. Also, thanks to Mister Renrut-Scrooge-”

“You must be joking,” Mrs. Cratchit scoffed. “If it wasn’t for him, we might actually be able to have meals like this every day, if not better…”

“Aw, come on, dudette, lighten up,” Matt insisted. “At least he occasionally remembers to pay me. And besides, it’s Christmas. Peace on earth and goodwill towards man, right?” Puny Pig squealed in agreement.

Cratchit’s wife sighed, reluctantly nodding. “To Mister Renrut-Scrooge,” she half-heartedly cheered, raising her glass.

“To Mister Renrut-Scrooge,” the rest of the family echoed, cheerfully tapping their glasses together, with Matt’s shattering in his hand from the minor impact. Nalyd was silent for a moment, watching the impoverished family as they joyfully ate their meager meal.

“So, uh, spirit guy,” he finally began, an expression faintly resembling concern on his face. “What’s wrong with Puny Pig, exactly? You know, other than the fact that he’s a pig…”

He is ill with an ambiguous and potentially fatal disease,” the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers explained, shaking his head with pity for the pig-child.

“But, uh, he’s going to be okay, right?” Renrut-Scrooge inquired desperately, grinning as if he were certain Puny Pig would be healed as if nothing were ever really the matter.

He could live,” the spirit admitted, “should he be given the proper care… and should his family be given the funds to give him the proper care. But if nothing is changed… I see an empty seat at that table, and a crutch without an owner.

“Seriously?” Nalyd sighed, gazing in at the innocent animal. “But, he seems really nice for a pig! Nice people shouldn’t have to go and die, right?”

It would decrease the surplus population,” retorted the apparition.

“But that’s-” he paused for a moment, thinking. “Wait a minute, I said that! Dang it, don’t use my own idiotic grumblings against me!!”

Nalyd turned to face the spirit, intending to tell him off, but was surprised to find he was no longer outside the Cratchit’s home. As he glanced at the dark, dreary, faintly mechanical surroundings, he realized he was inside of a clock tower, with one entire wall filled with the faintly illuminated outline of the giant clock face. Judging by the shadowy positions of the numbers and hands, he figured it was just about a few minutes to midnight. Confused, he turned to ask the apparition what exactly was going on, only to find that, to his horror, the young man appeared to have aged around eighty years within the past few seconds. “What the heck just happened here?!” He screeched, lurching backwards.

Oh, this?” The spirit stated casually, as if just talking about a new article of clothing with a friend. “Well, you see, since I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present, I only get to exist for one day- the present Christmas day.

“So you’re going to die?!” Renrut-Scrooge exclaimed.

What? No, I just lose the whole holiday getup,” the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers replied. “I still have my whole ‘Ghost of Hamburgers’ thing to do, you know.

“Oh.” Nalyd glanced around as the conversation died off, only to emit his trademark girlish scream. “Holy scones!! There’s a claw under your robe!!”

Oh, right,” the spirit replied nonchalantly, lifting the robe to reveal the claw’s owner. Nalyd screamed again and practically fell backwards as two bestial children lunged at him. The first was a boy with sandy blond hair, snarling and advancing on him like a feral beast. The second was a golden-haired girl with giant blue eyes, shuffling nervously forward and whimpering in a needy manner. “The boy is Ignorance, and the girl is Want,” the ghost explained, gesturing to each child in turn.

“A-are they yours?!” Renrut-Scrooge inquired, cautiously backing up as if expecting the children to attack at any moment.

No,” the spirit gravely retorted, “they are yours. They are the creations of mankind, who for years have destroying themselves slowly with these sins. Beware the boy especially, for I see that your ignorance haunts you greatly.

“Wait, what?” Before Nalyd could have the apparition clarify, the painfully loud gong sound of the massive clock tower striking twelve shattered the previously quiet air, forcing him to cover his ears for fear of his eardrums being shattered. The bestial children yelped at the sound and scuffled back into the shadows, while the ghost suddenly gave a grunt of pain and clutched at his chest.

Too… much… cholesterol…” the spirit choked out, staggering backwards. “Chest pain…” The great being’s eyes closed, and he fell with so great a thud that it made the entire clock tower quake, knocking Nalyd off his feet and to the ground. The floorboards still trembling from the tower’s chime and the giant’s fall, he did not even attempt to regain his footing, just closing his eyes and protecting his ears from the onslaught of deafening noise until, suddenly, all went silent.

Confused and afraid, Renrut-Scrooge slowly steadied himself and rose to a standing position, trembling from the sheer horror of what had just occurred. The terrible, ear-shattering noise of the ringing clock tower had seemingly vanished into thin air, the children had disappeared into the shadows, and the spirit was nowhere to be found. “You have but one more spirit to face, Nalyd,” he heard the eerie disembodied voice of the Ghost of Christmas Present and Hamburgers state, sending a chill down his spine. “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come…

A looming shadow suddenly extended over Renrut-Scrooge, and he made a vain attempt to swallow back his fear, a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that this would be the worst spirit yet.

Trembling slightly, Nalyd turned to see this mysterious apparition, wringing his hands nervously. The ghost before him was a tall, looming figure in a dark cloak that fell over his face, leaving only the faint outline of a red mohawk and the barest glimpse of dark eyes set in a disapproving glare. “Umm… hi…” he greeted tentatively. “Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” The spirit gave a grave nod, but was otherwise silent. “Are you the ghost of some random food product too?” The apparition extended a bony hand, holding a taco. “Oh. Well… that’s really random…”

Wordlessly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (and tacos, apparently) drifted across the floor like a mist, beaconing for Nalyd to follow. Reluctantly, Renrut-Scrooge tailed the spirit into the shadows, finding himself walking through an empty, silent darkness. When the seemingly endless parade of nothingness finally gave way to light, Nalyd found himself and his ghoulish companion strolling through the village, through a dreary alleyway. “Is this… the future?” He gasped, glancing up at the grey, cloudy sky and the buildings that looked far more worn than in his own time. The spirit nodded slowly, leading him out of the alleyway and down the snowy streets. “That’s awesome! Are there going to be jetpacks and flying cars like everyone says?!” The ghost gave no answer, so Nalyd gave up on the rather foolish question and followed the apparition in silence.

“So, uh… where are we going?” Nalyd questioned, glancing around at buildings he did not quite recognize. Again, the spirit did not answer, worrying him. Suddenly, the ghoul halted in its tracks, leading Renrut-Scrooge to fearfully do the same. He glanced around, unsure of what it might be that the ghost was trying to show him, when he saw three men- one tall and lean, one muscular, and one short and bulky- walking their way, chuckling mean-spiritedly.

“What a funeral, eh, guys?” The short, bulky man leading the group chortled.

“Don’t I know it,” the skinniest man agreed. “Barely a soul there, and those that showed up were mostly ones that wanted to tell ‘im off before he got laid to rest.”

“Even the speaker could barely find a good thing to say ‘bout him,” the first man added, causing the whole group to burst out in laughter.

“I’m just glad we got a free lunch outta it,” the burly man commented in a dense tone.

“Course we did! It’s the only reason we went!” The shot man reminded his follower, leaving the three to continue on their way in a fit of mean-spirited chortles, unaware of their invisible observers.

“Ugh, those people!” Nalyd declared in disgust, glaring after the funeral attendees. “They’re treating a fellow man’s death like it’s nothing!” The spirit continued to give his disapproving stare, causing Renrut-Scrooge to quiet momentarily and admit, “Oh… I guess I kind of did that when Nonny died, huh?” The ghost gave his grave nod, causing Nalyd to sigh, “Right. Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m starting to learn something from all this insanity.”

Without a word, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Tacos turned and continued to glide over the snowy streets, followed reluctantly by an increasingly reflective Renrut-Scrooge. Now that he really thought about it; now that he went back and saw his life before him; now that he saw how kind the people he hated could be and how cruel people of his socio-economic class were capable of being to their fellow men… the spirits were right. He truly was a selfish, greedy, heartless person. He considered that charity man, trying so earnestly and selflessly to help those in need, that he had brushed off as foolish; his nephew, who he was so cruel to, who still found it in his giant heart to give a toast to his welfare; his own employee, whose kind pig-son could very well be dying simply because of how stingy Nalyd was with his wages. And Ravibelle, his dear Ravibelle! She was beautiful, and he cared for her more than he had cared for anyone, and he had let her go without a thought because of his accursed money! Even old Omar Fezziwig had suffered due to his greed; he recalled noting at one point that he had more than enough money to give the crazy old coot the medical care and therapy he so obviously needed, but had deemed it better just to accumulate wealth for himself, which very well might have been part of the reason Fezziwig went certifiably insane and was taken away by the military. And all these years, he had thought nothing of it, thinking that what he was doing was right all along. Only now did he see how terrible it all was- how terrible he was.

Finally allowing himself to slip away from his thoughts and view reality again, he found the spirit had led him to a morbid place to match his morbid thoughts- they were at the gates to the local pet cemetery (something the city had frivolously built when they found they had some extra cash on hand), and the ghoul was silently leading him in.

“Er… what exactly are we doing here?” Nalyd sheepishly questioned, reluctantly following the apparition. As expected, no answer came from the spirit, so Renrut-Scrooge was forced to follow in silence as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Tacos led him past the miniature gravestones.

After several long, quiet minutes, the apparition finally halted and extended his bony hand, pointing out the next scene of interest. Cautious, Renrut-Scrooge took a few steps forward to get a better look, surprised to see Cratchit atop a small hill a few feet away. He and his family were gathered around a gravestone, all bearing downcast expression, with the youngest children letting tears fall freely from their eyes. Reluctantly, Mrs. Cratchit took her children by the shoulders and led them away, leaving her husband by the grave. He stood there for several moments afterwards, a crushed expression on his face, before leaving something by the headstone and downheartedly following after the rest of his family. Unsure of what was happening, Nalyd crept closer to the grave, only for his eyes to widen hi horror as he eyed the grave and finally comprehended what had occurred: lying against the cheaply-made headstone was a familiar crutch and fez.

“No! Not Puny Pig!” Renrut-Scrooge wailed, dropping to his knees. “He was so young, I think, and he was so deserving of life! Why did this have to happen?!” Pausing for a moment to think, he commented, “Oh, right, of course. He couldn’t get treatment because I never really pay Cratchit. Dang it, Nalyd!!”

A stony expression on his face, the spirit glided over and gestured for Nalyd to rise and follow him, which he reluctantly did, eying Puny Pig’s grave with a look of pity. The ghoul did not go far this time, stopping a few feet away from another grave that looked to be in the process of being dug. Two gravediggers stood by the half-finished hole, one brunette and attacking the ground with a shovel, the other standing over the edge with a sketchbook. “Come on, Sprink; get your shovel in gear!” The brown-haired gravedigger shouted, glaring impatiently at his comrade.

“Just a minute, Kenny,” the blonde protested. “I’m taking a figure drawing class in night school and I forgot to do my homework.”

“So you draw the first corpse we have to dig a hole for?” The first man sighed. Placing his shovel aside, he shrugged, “Well, I guess he’s not going anywhere; might as well take a quick break.”

“I almost feel bad for the dude,” the blond commented, shaking his head. “No one even came to see him buried. Must be pretty sad.”

“He’s dead, dude,” the brunette sighed. “He’s not gonna feel anything anymore. Now come on; I want to see if the boss has any dynamite we can use to get this hole made fast.” With that, the two strolled away, leaving Nalyd to cautiously creep over to peer down into the half-finished grave.

“This is the guy that group of jerks were talking about, huh?” Nalyd murmured, staring down at the coffin that had been sloppily shoved down into the unfinished hole. The spirit nodded slowly, and Renrut-Scrooge sighed and shook his head slowly. “The poor man. Who was he, anyways?”

Slowly, the ghoul drifted over to the headstone and lifted his bony hand, pointing to the writing upon the stone. Fearfully, Nalyd shuffled forward to get a better look at the writing, only to lurch backwards with his girlish scream; the writing on the gravestone read, “NALYD EBENEZER RENRUT-SCROOGE – DIED DECEMBER 25TH”.

“What the heck?!” Renrut-Scrooge screeched, falling backwards and scuttling as far away from the grave as he could. “I’m dead?! B-but that’s no fair! I went on this stupid spiritual journey and learned all about what I’d done wrong and stuff!”

Sucks for you,” the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Tacos chuckled morbidly, speaking for the first time on their journey. With that, he shoved Nalyd forward with his foot, sending him tumbling into the grave with a long, loud girlish scream. Down and down he tumbled, far further than the grave had been dug, which instantly erased all doubts in his mind of the existence of ghosts. He saw himself getting closer to the coffin, which was opening up to meet him, and he knew he was about to hit its bottom-

He very suddenly found himself falling face-first into the wood floor of his bedchamber, the bedsheets tangled around his legs. Stunned, he glanced around, slowly untangling his legs and forcing himself upwards. Light was filtering through the window, the room was quiet, and all seemed completely tranquil. Finally comprehending that the spirits had been merciful and returned him home, Nalyd did what anyone in his situation would do: he danced around the room, laughing like a maniac.

Once his brief moment of insanity was done with, Renrut-Scrooge ran to the window and pulled it open, noticing a young boy with a wagon strolling down the snowy street. “You there, conveniently placed child!” Nalyd screamed to the boy. The child stared up at him with a worried expression, glanced from side to side, and then pointed at himself with a questioning look. “Yes, you! Do you see any other conveniently placed children around you? Anyways, what day is it today?”

“Uh… it’s Christmas Day, mister,” the child replied, giving Renrut-Scrooge a confused look. “Duh.”

“Christmas Day,” Nalyd gasped, his eyes lighting up. “Christmas Day! It’s Christmas Day! The spirits brought me back in time for Christmas Day!” Whooping and cheering with delight, he resumed laughing manically and dancing randomly for a few minutes, much to the disturbance of the child, who attempted to run away as fast as possible.

“No, no, wait, don’t leave yet!” Renrut-Scrooge screamed after him. “I’m not crazy! Wait, that’s what crazy people say!! Oh, never mind… look, I need you to run down to the butcher’s and buy that prize goose hanging in the window. Here, take this money!” He pulled some gold coins out of his cap (he always kept some one him), and threw them out the window, where they scattered on the snow next to the boy. The child stared down at them for a moment, and then looked up at Nalyd incredulously.

“Look, just run down and buy it as fast as you can. I’ll pay you two gold coins if you bring it here in less than ten minutes!” The blank stare remained, so Nalyd sighed and amended, “All right, three.” With that, the boy nodded, scooped up the money, and ran off in the direction of the butcher shop. Renrut-Scrooge cheerfully giggled before rushing out of his bedchamber to start a new, happy Christmas Day.

By the time he had sloppily dressed himself and rushed cheerfully out the door, slipping on his front steps in the process, the boy was waiting with his hand outstretched with the butcher by his side, holding an enormous goose. “Ah, splendid!” He cheered, giving the boy his promised coins. The child grinned and ran off, while Nalyd turned to the butcher and scribbled down an address- that of the Cratchit’s home. “Take this goose to this address, please, sir,” he explained, giving a random coin to the butcher, “but please don’t let them know who it’s from.” The man shrugged, loading the goose into his car and driving off. Renrut-Scrooge began laughing cheerfully, dancing down the snowy street on his way into town.

Those who saw Nalyd Ebenezer Renrut-Scrooge from that day on would not be able to connect him with the man he once was. After that remarkable and rather insane Christmas Eve journey, he was a kinder and happier man, who would give everyone a smile and, if they would allow him, a little help. He gave Matt Cratchit a generous raise the day after Christmas, and worked hard to support his large family, especially Puny Pig. In fact, he became a second father to that little piglet, who became healthy again with Renrut-Scrooge’s financial support. Nalyd even became friendly with his hated nephew Shane, going to that year’s holiday party and every one after that, and the two became legendary within their family and friends for their comedy act. He even reconnected with Ravibelle after stalking her on the internet for several months, and the two started a tentative relationship again (though she refuses to forget their previous failed relationship and enjoys rubbing it in his face, especially when she wants to guilt him into buying her something). He became a true embodiment of the Christmas spirit in every way, and just as Puny Pig once squealed, not understood by those around him who were not fluent in his native tongue, “Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. Also, eat less bacon; pigs are our friends. Peace out.”

THE END

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