THE LEGACY - An alternative Dickens style sequel to 'A Christmas Carol', by Stephen Henig
Timothy Cratchit walked briskly from his bank in the city through the dark, narrow streets of London. The road was crowded with hurrying figures, indistinct, as a near blizzard blanketed the pavements and rooftops with snow. It was Christmas Eve and there was a drift outside his home. Above the door were the words Scrooge, Marley and Cratchit. Marley and Scrooge had begun the firm and it had prospered but he, Timothy, had the imagination and ruthlessness to make the business unbelievably successful.
Timothy owed a lot to Scrooge. He had indeed been plucked from a poor home where he had had some wasting disease and was slowly dying, sent to the best doctors by a repentant Scrooge and nursed back to health. Although he limped, he had become a strong, tall man but the angelic temperament he’d had as a child had vanished. When was the last time he had said, “God bless us, everyone?”
He feigned friendship with Ebenezer Scrooge and the reformed Scrooge had adopted him when Bob Cratchit died. He had studied his benefactor and read through the firm records about the previously ruthless Scrooge, the miser, before the ridiculous blackmailing ghosts ruined him.
One Christmas Eve, five years ago, when Scrooge had died, loved by all, Timothy looked at a mirror and prayed to the god of money. He would lend at wicked rates of interest and dispossess and break those who defaulted. So he recruited an army of bailiffs from the older boys at Fagin’s establishment. Bill Sykes was in charge of the young thugs and had left one man, a debtor, horribly maimed as an example to others; Tim Cratchit became the most feared man in London.
So it was Christmas and the doorknob of his house had taken the form of the founder, Jacob Marley. Timothy thought he could hear the scraping of a chain. He looked fearlessly at the ghostly bust. “You won’t get a friendly welcome here,” he warned.
Timothy thought of his family whom he had sent to India to manage an overseas branch of his bank. A storm sank the ship, drowning them all. He hardly cared. He had hated the way that they had carried him around as a youngster, pretending he was a child saint. Christmas was better without them.
He opened his door and entered his lavish home. Servants fawned about him. Timothy went out later. There were two boys singing carols. He called a constable and insisted they had tried to break into his dining room. They hadn’t but the constable believed him. So the boys would spend Christmas in a cell. Timothy strode towards the Thames where a lame boy was resting on a stick, begging. Timothy put a farthing in the pewter cup but contrived to kick away the stick so that the child fell badly and howled in pain. He could not raise himself. Timothy left him bleeding in the snow. By the riverside, Timothy saw an old woman covered with sacking, drinking rum and shivering. He plucked away the sacking and left her to freeze.
On London Bridge, at the height of the Christmas blizzard, as Big Ben struck twelve, Timothy met the three Christmas ghosts without astonishment, nostalgia or fear. Their faces glowed above him in the falling snow.
“We are the ghosts of Christmas,” they chorused as if in a Drury Lane Comic opera.
“Get away, the pack of you,” Timothy snarled. “You are more self-centred than I, with your indulgent annual feast, the undeserved presents and your perverse celebrations and nauseating hypocrisy. You bunch of blackmailing Pagan tricksters. Good never prevails for long against evil. Only you and your kind dare to think so. You weaken our species. You never had power over Father Scrooge. It was his own fear that corrupted him. I will avenge him. You told Scrooge to spare me. You fools! Why?”
The three ghosts glanced at each other in dismay as their indistinct forms were blown towards the Thames and were diluted in the blizzard. The power they had usurped, crumpled. They would never be seen again. They quailed before Timothy whom they had nurtured and spared from the grave. Timothy was now a giant and his shadow fell over London Town with the terror reserved for cholera.
“Happy Christmas!” cried Timothy with sincerity as he stared with delight at his fleet of merchant ships packed with Chinese opium. Christmas yet to come.