"You will be visited by three ghosts," the apparition said as it hovered a foot off the floor.
"Three ghosts,,," repeated the man in the nightcap as his pen scratched across the page in front of him. The candle on the small desk threw off barely enough light to write by, but the ghost's bluish glow provided more than enough. Despite his rumpled nightgown and the disarray of his wire brush beard any of his fans the world over would easily recognize Charles Dickens.
"The first ghost will be the Ghost of Christmas Past, the second will be the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the last..."
"Wait, wait, slow down Marley, you're going too fast," Charles pleaded. He dipped his quill and continued writing. "Ghost of Christmas Present. Okay, go on."
"And the Ghost of Christmas Future. They will teach you the true meaning of Christmas, Charles."
"True meaning of Christmas... wonderful! This is gold Marley, pure gold. I always told everyone you were my favorite editor. Tell me, can you see the future? Will this tale sell well?"
Marley reached up and tore great clumps of hair from his head. "No, Charles, you're missing the point. There is more to life than money!"
Charles stared at the ghost, and an immense smile broke across his face. "That's a fantastic idea! I'll make the protagonist a miserly banker who learns that lesson. This story will sell more copies than any of my other books. If you weren't dead I would pour you a brandy. "
Marley sighed. "You never listened to me in life, why would you listen to me in death?"
"Your character is going to need some work, though. I mean, you hover and glow, but otherwise you look very much as you did when you were alive. You're not very intimidating. Perhaps I'll give you some shackles and chains in the story."
Marley sniffed indignantly. "I think I'm done here." He floated out the door.
"Wait, Marley!" Charles called.
Marley stuck his head back through the door. "Yes Charles?"
"When are these ghosts going to arrive?"
"They arrive when they arrive, Charles. You can't dictate the behaviors of spirits."
"Hmmm, that lacks punch. I'll have them appear on the stroke of each hour, beginning with midnight," Charles began writing again. "What do you think of the title A Christmas Carol? Does it make you want to buy the book?"
"It'll be popular for all eternity, Charles," Marley replied. Then, as he melted away, he muttered, "I hope the Ghost of Christmas Future kicks your ass."
Copyright 2012 John Lance