No one conjures up the sense and spirit of the Victorian era or, indeed, the traditional Christmas like Charles Dickens – probably the best loved author of his time and far beyond. Tremendously successful in his own lifetime, he nevertheless had to publish his famous ghost story ‘A Christmas Carol’, himself and made little money out of it, despite its immense popularity.
The finished work appeared in 1843. It seems, though, that he was tinkering with the idea at least a year beforehand. At that point, the focus of the tale was a small, seedy little forensic shop, somewhere in the midst of England’s dark, satanic mills. Here the main protagonist, Ebenezer Scrotes, plied his dubious trade.
That Dickens knew anything of digital forensics has shocked literary circles. Yet the distinctive style of the master in this previously unknown manuscript, has convinced many that it is, indeed, by that illustrious author’s own hand.
Now read on…
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Business was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt about that. The phones lay silent. Outside, the snow more silent still. It twinkled, irritatingly, in the last, thin light of the sun. At least it was irritating to Scrotes, who was seated in a large chair near to the office window. He looked on the scene and glowered.
The Rotary Club sleigh had pulled up at the pavement opposite and now started to blast out carols from its tinny little speakers. Someone wearing a Santa hat got out of the front of the float and stood on the street, beaming. Scrotes could see him mouthing: ‘Merry Christmas!’ to passers by who stopped to exchange pleasantries and drop a few pence into the offered collection pot.
‘Bah,’ said Scrotes, ‘Humbug.’
In the room behind, the one member of staff made to stay on duty past midday, who, until then, had been totally absorbed in a game of Angry Birds, raised his gaze. He, too, looked outside and smiled, wistfully. He was thinking of the excitement that would be going on at home, at that moment. The children squealing with delighted anticipation. He wife, run ragged, desperately trying to get them to watch ‘The Snowman’ DVD for the fourteen millionth time.
‘Can’t wait to be with my wonderful little family’ , he Tweeted, as quietly as he could, keeping the Android under the lip of his desk.
‘Christmas a humbug, Mr Scrotes?’ he ventured, ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure.’
‘I do,’ said Scrotes and he made a fist of his right hand and shook it without bothering to lift it from the arm rest, ‘Bloody religion. Hate it. Cause of all the world’s problems… and all of mine.. ‘
Oh dear, thought Smallbutt – for that was his name – here we go. It’ll be the off-colour Pope jokes again in a minute.
‘Christmas isn’t just about religion, anyway,’ Scrotes ranted. And, thinking the observation marvelously erudite, Tweeted it, on the instant.
‘Come, now,’ tried Smallbutt, amiably, ‘There is no need to be dismal. We have every chance of winning that LE contract that Kraptech have just lost…’
Scrotes’ pudgy fingers were punching something out on the keyboard in front of him. Smallbutt glanced at the Twitter feed.
‘Hardly time to to s**t , here, we’re so busy. Busy, busy, busy.. ‘
That would fool the opposition. In any event, he’d relied upon similar updates doing so the rest of the year.
‘Humm.. Kraptech.. yes..’ Scrotes suddenly replied and his hard-bitten, bully-boy features started to warm, for if he had known what it meant, he’d have invented the term Schadenfreude and sold it on to the Germans. ‘Serves the silly b*st*rds right.’
Privately, though, Scrotes had had a grudging admiration for Kraptech’s tactics on that contract bid. It took balls to get analysts you’d just fired to come back in for the day of the Police look-around in order to give the impression of a thriving, fully-staffed lab.
‘They almost got away with it, though,’ he said, now, out loud, ‘If that bloke hadn’t turned up for interview with the same Force and let the cat out of the bag… ‘
He mused on the idea for a moment or two before adding, ‘Well, we’d better bloody well get a look-in. I had enough coppers drinking my Sake at F3. Best futsuu it was. Not that that lot would appreciate it. They owe me for those Faraday bags I gave them, too..’
He was interrupted by a knock at the door. Before Smallbutt could extract his corpulent frame from behind the desk and go to answer it, the sound of young voices started to waft in:
‘God rest ye merry, Gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay.. ‘
‘Merry?’ bellowed Scrotes, leaping up, ‘What right have you to be Merry? What reason?’
He threw open the door to reveal four kiddies, not one above the age of ten and all muffled up against the bitter cold, for an icy fog was descending. They shrank together at the sight of the great mountain of a man before them, face flushed in anger, the glare from the strip lighting above bouncing wildly off his bald pate.
‘Please, Sir,’ started one, voice trembling, ‘Collecting for the homeless.’
‘Tell ‘em to go to the Sally Army,’ returned Scrotes, and slammed the door.
‘That’s a bit harsh,’ said Smallbutt.
‘I give to charity when I please,’ said Scrotes, ‘Bloody Seasonal blackmail.’
He shuffled back to his chair and settled into it, feeling rather more self righteous than before.
‘Bah,’ he said, at length, and then, ‘Humbug !’
And as the darkness closed in and the last shoppers scurried away and Smallbutt finally headed out into fresh falling snow towards a noisy, welcoming home, he thought of the carol singers, and their astonished, innocent faces. Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he looked back towards the office door. It was ghostly, now, half lost in the thickening fog. He thought of those Christmases yet to come and shook his head.
‘God help us, every one!’