WORDYSOD : Michael Lawrence                                    www.wordysod.com

A Writer's Website                                                                                                

I wrote this story in 1998, but have never published it, though I’m very fond of it. Anyone familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will know all about the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge who is so mean and tight-fisted that he lives in what appears to be poverty, despises everyone, and resents giving his clerk one day off a year. He sees the error of his ways only when visited by three ‘Spirits’, and becomes a much better, more generous man as a result.

My story is about Ebenezer as a boy, obliged to remain at his gloomy boarding school during the holidays because his father doesn’t want him at home. It is here, alone in the classroom, that the unhappy lad is visited by a succession of Spirits who show him the dismal future in store for him if he doesn’t watch out. The story had been on my mind for some time before I got around to writing it. I’d just cleared the decks to start work on it when I received a phone call from an editor asking if I would be interested in adapting A Christmas Carol for children. Well, the coincidence was too great to ignore, but the day after I finished the adaptation I began work on Ebenezer’s Ghosts, all the time feeling (or imagining) the spirit of Mr Dickens himself standing at my shoulder, egging me on.









One agent who read this told me that editors would jump at it.

If they did, they jumped over or past it, because I never received an offer for it.



The first Ghosts came in August. They came on an overcast afternoon late in the month, to Ebenezer Scrooge, the only boy still at the school. Lonely, and excruciatingly bored, Ebenezer had gone to the deserted schoolroom to imagine his classmates still at their desks, heads bent over their work, or exchanging sly jokes at the master's expense. He was sitting at his usual desk, doodling, when an odd sound caught his ear. A sound like… well, a hesitant stick on cobbles.

     Tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap.

     Ebenezer got up and went to the window. The courtyard was deserted, yet the sound continued – tap, tap-tap, tap-tap-tap – until it reached the wall below the window where he stood.

     Now you might suppose that an invisible tapper would stop at a solid brick wall, but this one did not. There was a small pause, and then – tap, tap-tap, tap-tap-tap – it was through, inside, and crossing the room, a hesitant stick on floorboards. Ebenezer gaped in surprise and alarm, but he remained by the window as the eerie sound made its way to the master's desk, where…

     But wait. The scene should be properly set before the tale is told.

     Picture a room. A schoolroom, long and high and melancholy. Fragments of plaster have long since come loose from the ceiling and been kicked into untidy heaps in corners. Great cobwebs hang like untangling funeral shawls from the beams above the rows of desks which divide the room into stuttering lines. This is just one classroom in the kind of school to which boys were once sent to study and live all the year round, returning to their homes for short breaks just three or four times every twelvemonth. This one hadn't always been a school. For generations it had been the home of a well-to-do family called Collings, but when their fortunes took a tumble they were forced to sell up. For forty-one years since then, the property had been known as 'Pettifer's School of Boys'. Over these years, the house and grounds had become quite dilapidated, but the fees were modest, which is why gentlemen of reduced circumstances (like Ebenezer's father) sent their sons there. It was a rare son who remained there during the holidays, but this was no choice of Ebenezer's. The plain fact is that he wasn't welcome at home.

     Tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap.

     Stepping from the window in the wake of the eerie tapping, Ebenezer did not immediately catch the movement behind him. But when he glanced back he saw a blanket of grey fathomlessness leaking in, over the sill, and spilling on the floor, where it spread like an eager stain until it covered a fair portion of the room.

     This was too much for the poor boy. He ran to the door. He grabbed the handle. He turned it. Tugged.

     The door refused to open!

     A whimper of terror escaped him as a figure rose out of the grey mass on the floor and drew a third of the greyness about him like a cloak. Then a second figure stood up, pulled a second third of the greyness to him, and when yet another rose he took up the last of the stain. They were human in shape and size, these three, if not in substance – the maps on the walls could be seen through them. They had human faces, too, but very mournful expressions.

     Ebenezer pressed his back against the unyielding door. 'What... what...' he stammered, took a breath, and tried again. 'What are you?'

     'We are the Heralds,' said one of the Wraiths in a sorrowful voice.

     'We are the Messengers,' said another, in similar tones.

     'We are the Harbingers,' said the third, in an equally cheerless way.

     'Har... har... har?' said the boy, who nevertheless was not amused.

     'We come to prepare you, Ebenezer.'

     'You are to be visited by Three Spirits.'

     'Who will show you what may be.'

     'Three S-spirits?' said he. 'Do you mean ghosts? Like you?'

     'Heed them well, Ebenezer,' said the first.

     'For you are set on a path that will end badly,' said the second.

     'And not only for you, laddie,' said the third.

     'When will they come, these three?' inquired the agitated youth.

     'The first, tonight.'

     'The second, before long.'

     'The third, in due course.'

     'But why three more?' Ebenezer demanded with sudden boldness. 'Can't you three tell me what's so important?'

     'We are merely Heralds,' answered the first Wraith.

     'Messengers,' answered the second.

     'The bringers of tidings,' answered the third.

     With this the three dwindled down, like a trio of Ghostly Dribbles, into the inkwells of three desks, and were no more.

     Tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap.

     Ebenezer had forgotten the hesitant stick, but now the unseen object tapped its way back the way it had come across the bare boards. Reaching the wall it paused, as if gathering strength for some sort of push; then it was through, on the other side, and tap-tap-tapping across the cobbled yard until it was nothing but a hesitant memory.

     With the schoolroom returned to its former moody tranquillity, Ebenezer tried the door once more. This time it opened, and he leapt through it with relief. But with fear, too, of the terrible visitors he'd been warned to expect.

     The first, to come to him that very night.