A Present for the Ghost of Christmas Present
Sharp eyed citizens (or those haunted by seven-years'-dead business partners) might catch a special holiday sight today at the local mall. The Ghost of Christmas Present is back!
Yes, the massive, jolly, be-robed spirit is walking amongst the populace, strolling in and out of the cheerfully decorated stores, from the Williams-Sonoma to the Eddie Bauer, from one anchor department store to the other. Less noticeable are his two companions, an emaciated young boy and girl who even the cheeriest shoppers don’t seem to see.
“Merry Christmas!!” the Ghost booms to all, though only a few souls will ever hear his voice in the back of their conscious minds. “Come and know me better! It’s my one day to walk and talk with you all, and by midnight, I’ll be dead! Ho, ho! What a time to be alive!”
Outside the Anthropologie, a man on a bench is hunched over his smartphone. Leaning over, the Ghost whispers, “That’s a great score on Threes, but your time would be better spent by calling up the nursing home to tell them you want to pick up your dad for Christmas dinner. Last chance, buddy. Just sayin.” The man shivers and quickly starts to listen to a podcast.
Undaunted, Ghost continues his journey through the mall until he sees a woman weighed down with shopping bags. “You’re a mom!! Come meet my friends!” the Ghost says. “This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. There’s a reason I bring ‘em out on days like this. Hey, lady, look at those fifteen sweaters you just grabbed on the killer sale at Ann Taylor. You could toss one of them to Iggy here. He’s cold all the time.“
The woman brushes by, and the Ghost continues, "No? Okay. Well, enjoy storing those in your closet and then the offsite unit, never to be worn until you die, and then your kids sell the unit sight unseen. Did I mention that I can see the shadows of possible futures? True. Your daughter doesn’t want another cashmere sweater. She just wanted you to come over that one day last month. She has something to tell you.”
As the hours pass, the Ghost ages visibly, his hair growing grey. Still he tirelessly introduces Ignorance and Want to the shoppers, who inevitably pass by without acknowledging the mystic, terrifying beings standing between them and the nearest Starbucks.
“Stay positive,” The Ghost tells himself out loud at one point, just after passing Hot Topic. “It’s the season of love and forgiveness. Your 2000-plus brothers could do it. So can you. Okay, let’s go!"
Then, just outside the mall, a homeless punk rocker finally sees the holiday sprits. “Hey, kid, why do you have “DOOM” written on your forehead?”
“I dunno,” says Ignorance.
“Well, it’s pretty sick. You want some coffee? I fish the cups out of the trash and the baristas have to give me free refills.”
Ignorance takes the offered cup of steaming hobo coffee and shares it with Want. Just at the stroke of midnight, the dying Ghost laughs and says, “Best present ever. Merry Christmas, everyone!" before all three vanish in a fog.
(Note: This story originally appeared in 2014 in The Grimm Report, a satrical fairytale newssite edited by Eric Wilder. I'm reposting it here because TGR is, alas, no more.)