Author’s Note: In the spirit of Christmas, I decided to do an homage to a classic Christmas story, written as how the tale might go in the land of monstergirls. On another note, I wonder what sort of monstergirl wife Charles Dickens would have had? Enjoy the read, and Merry Christmas!
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it, too and Scrooge’s name was good upon it, as was anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind you, I don’t mean to say that I know what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge, of course, knew that he was dead. How could he not? They had been partners for so long, both of them had forgotten exactly how many years even when Old Marley was still alive. As far as Scrooge knew, he was Marley’s sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. That wasn’t to say that Scrooge was too cut up by Old Marley’s passing. It wasn’t that sort of friendship. It was the sort of friendship that ended when the clock struck close of business. The sort of friendship that led Scrooge to honor Old Marley’s passing, by getting a good deal on his funeral.
They were both strict men of business, and their friendship consisted of the only warmth Scrooge was capable of giving another human being, which was his patented “nod of acknowledgment” coupled with the occasional grunt. Strictly speaking, it was much better than what Scrooge dallied out to every other person he was forced to deal with on a daily basis, which was a treatment of thinly veiled contempt. This was, in itself, better than what he gave to almost everyone else, IE: open contempt.
Despite his knowledge that Old Marley was, again, dead as a door-nail for any given measure of door-nail deadness, Scrooge had never painted out Old Marley’s name. Some might mistake this as some token of remembrance to an old friend and business partner. These people did not know Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the kind of man who did not change things without reason. Newer customers at the Firm would sometimes call Scrooge by his own name, and sometimes by Marley’s. Scrooge answered to both, it meant no matter to him.
The Firm had always been known as Scrooge and Marley. Why change it? Old Marley being dead hardly seemed to have anything to do with it. Also Scrooge had neither paint, nor ladder. Paint and ladders were expenses, expenses Scrooge labeled as unnecessary, and so the sign remained unchanged. Scrooge and Marley, as it always had been.
Scrooge sat at his desk, writing ledgers, as he did every day. His hand scrawled across the parchment with ink that was close to freezing. The fog outside seeped in through every crack and every keyhole, almost to give an ominous air to anyone that would dare do business with Ebenezer Scrooge. The building’s solitary fire burned low in the clerk’s office as his employees worked their shift, burning so pitifully as if to be made of a single, lonely coal. Coal was another expense, one Scrooge suffered only because otherwise, his employees would freeze in their chairs and he would be forced to deal with the corpses. The coal box was in his office, though no fire burned there. Scrooge liked the cold, he was hard, and sharp as a flint. Secretive, and self-contained. As solitary as an oyster.
The little bell above the door rang as it was pushed open, which caused the clerks to jump a bit. No one expected business today, not on Christmas Eve. Scrooge and Marley’s had to be the only lending house open, a tribute to Scrooge’s holiday spirit. A spirit that was probably choked and drowned, frozen at the bottom of a lake somewhere. They turned and looked at the newcomer, a tall woman in a red dress carrying a bound ledger. She did not walk so much as glide, and Scrooge looked up with his usual silent contempt to see her exchange some words with his Head Clerk, Bob Cratchit. The clerk led her over to Scrooge’s office, though it seemed to only be to try and get some warmth in his legs. The woman smiled, a smile that seemed to warm the room. Bob smiled back with a nod, and returned to his letter copying, shivering a significant amount less than before. Scrooge overheard them exchange christmas pleasantries, which only seemed to harden his expression. “Humbug…” he muttered.
“Humbug?” said the woman, who’d apparently heard him, “On Christmas? Oh, surely you don’t mean that.”
“I do.” countered Scrooge. “What reason has he to be Merry?” he said with a nod toward his clerk. “He’s certainly poor enough.”
“What reason have you to be dismal?” the woman said with her smile, “You’re certainly rich enough.”
Scrooge was at a loss, so answered with only another “Bah! Humbug…” The woman laughed, a laugh as warm as her smile. She was a tall affair, dressed entirely too lightly for the winter air, almost bordering on indecent. Her eyes were a bright, vibrant green, and every movement seemed full of a kind of grace. She sat down in front of Scrooge’s desk, unbidden, and placed her ledger in her lap. His expression hardened again, almost threatening to break along the faults of his aged face. Scrooge wasn’t an old man, though none would know from looking. He was taken on by Jacob Marley at a young age, having shown himself a promising youth in the world of business. Years of bitter solitude had aged him prematurely.
“Oh, don’t be cross, Mister Scrooge.” the woman said after she was done laughing. Scrooge was growing angrier by the second.
“What else can I be,” he returned, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas!” he said with an acidic mirth dripping with molten sarcasm, “What’s Christmas time but a time for paying bills without money? A time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer? A time for balancing your books and having every item in them through a round dozen of months presented dead against you?”
Ebenezer’s voice grew low and malicious, “If I could work my will,” he indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, would be cooked with his own turkey, and buried, with a stake of holly through his heart…”
“Mister Scrooge…” the woman said, her smile faltering slightly.
“Madam.” he retorted. “Keep Christmas in your own way. And let me keep it in mine.”
“Keep it?” she said, “It sounds like you hardly keep it at all.”
“Then let me leave it alone!” snapped Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good has it ever done anyone!”
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the woman. “Christmas among the rest. I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time. A kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. It is the only time I know of, when men and women seem to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them. Think of them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, Mister Scrooge, though it has never put a scrap of gold in my purse, or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Bob Cratchit was beaming behind the woman, having stopped his copying to listen to the woman’s heartfelt speech. Scrooge caught his eye and if looks could kill, poor Bob would have been struck dead on the spot. It was a look that clearly said ‘If you don’t get back to work this very instant, I will make good on my promise to boil your with your own turkey, holly stake and all.’ Bob returned to his work with a fervor, and Scrooge turned back to the woman.
“Do you have business with me, or did you just come to waste my time with idealistic prattle?” Scrooge said sourly.
The woman took a deep breath. “As it were, I do have business with you.” The door behind her closed. Scrooge was about to protest, but his breath caught in his throat at her next words, “You are sitting in my chair.” So taken aback was Scrooge that he did not even think that the door behind her closed of its own accord.
“I beg your pardon!?” snapped Scrooge, his expression narrowing. “This is my chair. This is my office, my firm. By what leave of your senses do you claim this chair?”
The woman smiled again, this time it unnerved the man. “Not just the chair, I’m afraid. But everything you just listed.”
Scrooge shook with cold, indignant rage. “What is the meaning of this drivel?” he demanded. She calmly opened her ledger, and produced several documents.
“Jacob Marley’s last will and testament.” she said, presenting the letters on Scrooge’s desk. “I understand you acted upon his will when he died. Unfortunately, you did not know that it was an outdated one. I present his revised will and testament, dated later than the document you have.”
Scrooge did not believe his ears, how could he? He reached over and read the parchments in their entirety. It was all there, clear as ink. Old Marley had left everything, including the controlling shares of The Firm to his brother, Robert Marley. Scrooge read that Robert’s will was to be exacted by an executor. “Jaylin…Marley?” Scrooge asked.
The woman nodded, beaming her smile again, “Uncle Jacob left a note there for you, too.” Scrooge’s eyes scanned the paper, and located a little scrawled note at the bottom. It was definitely Old Marley’s handwriting, Ebenezer would know it anywhere. ‘For your own good.’ it read. Scrooge shoved the papers back across his desk with such venom that they spilled onto the floor. “This is a farce.” he said sternly, “You can’t expect me to believe this. Get out of my Firm.”
“Ah, but you’ll see by the official seal of the courts,” the woman said, “It’s all very legal. Which makes it my father’s firm, and I am acting in accordance to his will. So you’ll want to be speaking a little nicer if you don’t want me to throw you out.”
“I will not stand for this!” Scrooge yelled, standing up in his chair in a blatant display of contradiction. “Get out of my Firm or I will contact the authorities to have you thrown out! And I will tell them to not be gentle!”
The woman shook her head. “Ebenezer,” she started. “You will address me as Mister Scrooge!” Scrooge demanded. The woman shot him a look that froze the miser in place. “Ebenezer.” she said, all warmth drained from her voice. “Call the authorities now and they will throw YOU out at my behest. I have the documents right here.” she said, gesturing to the papers on the floor. Scrooge gave them a look, contemplating ripping the papers up. He made a grab for them, and suddenly found himself impacting the wall behind him with a bodily thud.
Winded, Ebenezer tried to scramble to his feet, but once he managed to get his wind back, the woman was gone. On his hands and knees he beheld a strange creature. The middle seemed to be that of a girl in her late teens. His eyes seemed to squint, he did not believe them. “You… what are you?”
The girl laughed, the brown pointed ears on the top of her head wiggling with mirth. She seemed to bounce from side to side in her laughing, the fluffy fur on her legs moving back and forth. “Never seen one of my kind before? The monsters?” she said, lowering her voice and raising her arms as if to be intimidating. The striped, poofy tail wagged behind her. She laughed again, dropping the pose.
Ebenezer was at a loss. “I’ve heard tales… but where is miss Marley?” he said, looking around. “Can you not tell?” the monster asked giddily. She batted her eyes at him, and Scrooge saw the same striking green as Jaylin. He looked perplexed for a moment, then glared.
He got to his feet uneasily, “This isn’t happening.” he said, starting to pace behind his desk. “This isn’t real. This is a nightmare I will wake up from any second. Monsters don’t exist.” he said defiantly. The girl tilted her head inquisitively. “Why do you doubt your senses?”
“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them! A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat! You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato!” he continued, as if desperate to convince himself. “Yes…” he said, as if he had managed to done so, and waggled a finger at the girl, “There’s more of mold than of monster about you, whatever you are!”
Jaylin laughed heartily, “Ha! More of mold than of monster!” she repeated, dissolving into a fit of giggles until she was forced to wipe a tear from her eye. “Where do you get that?” she said, her voice back to its first cheer. “You’re too funny.”
Scrooge grabbed his ink bottle from the desk and brandished it. “Do you see this? Do you see it!?” he said, his voice cracking and growing frantic. Jaylin tilted her head again, “I do.” she answered simply. “Well!” he said, “I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug, I tell you! HUMBUG!”
Jaylin shook her head, her smile fading again. Scrooge’s voice was half-crazed, his eyes wide and shocked. She kept shaking her head, averting her gaze. To her credit, she did not want to see him like this. “Uncle said you would probably be like this. He said you would never take it well.”
“Humbug!” shouted Scrooge. “Never had I known Jacob to have any family. You expect me to believe you are his relation?” Jaylin looked at Scrooge sternly, “Would you have believed him if he told you? Here you see me in person and yet you call me mold and threaten to drink your ink bottle. How well would you have taken him telling you of the existence of monsters? Of his step-sister and niece?” Scrooge glared and started to speak, but was cut off by Jaylin, “Humbug?” she asked, then nodded. “Yes, I thought it would be that.”
Scrooge threw the bottle against the wall, shattering it. He walked over to his chair, and sank into it, defeatedly. Being thrown into the wall once was enough. He didn’t figure he could overpower her if she could throw him so easily. He hadn’t even seen her move. He could force her out, and she was right. If he called the authorities, all she had to do was show them the will. Sure, the sign might say Scrooge and Marley, but the seal of the courts was plain as day upon the parchment. Legal, and binding.
The monster had turned his own armor against him. Legal and binding, the two words he used in his own dealings. Plenty of people had tried to renegotiate the terms of their loan or lease, stating that they could not afford to keep their payments. Scrooge never accepted renegotiation. They accepted the terms when they first borrowed from him, why should he care if they failed to have a proper amount of foresight. Was it the fault of Ebenezer Scrooge that they lost whatever gamble they played? Scrooge always collected, never giving an inch. He held all the power, power kept in place by those words. Legal, and binding. People had to obey something legal and binding. Only now did Scrooge truly understand the weight of the word binding, it tightened around his neck like a noose, and threatened to strangle him. “Dreadful apparition,” he said, his voice low and hollow, “Why do you trouble me?”
“For your own good.” Jaylin said, echoing the words of her uncle. “My own good…” repeated Ebenezer, “Humbug. How is it good for me, that you show up to take everything I have?” he said, looking at the paperwork on his desk. Paperwork that had seemed so important just so earlier, now was just so much ink and scraps of paper. He was silent for a moment, then huffed. “All of my assets, tied into this firm. Everything I have… Everything I had…” He trailed off, then looked up, glaring with pure hatred. “Is THIS for my own good!?” he roared, “Leaving me penniless!? I am ruined! Destitute! I’ll be in the poorhouse by tomorrow!”
“Ebenezer,” Jaylin said, “Don’t be dramatic. Uncle Jacob left me his house.”
“So you are to take the roof over my head, too?” spat Scrooge. Jaylin tilted her head again, “You live in Uncle’s house?”
Ebenezer looked down. He had come to own Jacob Marley’s house after the will. He moved in right after Old Marley’s death, as Marley’s house was paid for. Unlike the house he was renting before. It seemed a good business move. It wasn’t as if his old partner still needed it, after all.
“Well, that is wonderful news!” Jaylin said, “I had honestly been afraid you’d sold it.”
“Oh yes, how terrible that would have been for you.” Ebenezer said hotly, looking away. “Humbug on Old Marley. My own good, indeed.” Scrooge looked at the monster girl defeatedly, slumping in his chair. “Has my old partner no comfort to speak to me?”
Jaylin was suddenly by Scrooge’s side, though he’d not seen her move from her position on the other side of his desk. “More than you know, Ebenezer.” she said softly, putting her hand on his shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. He pulled away, “Humbug!”
Jaylin shook her head, and went to open the door. The clerks were out in the other office, cleaning up their stations for the day. It was if they’d heard none of the goings on, even through the dilapidated wooden door. Bob Cratchit seemed to notice the door open once again, and approached the office. “Everything all right, Mister Scrooge?” he asked. Scrooge noted that Jaylin was once again the visage of the tall woman, and rolled his eyes. “Apparently Mister Marley saw fit to leave his part of the firm to his niece.” he said bitterly, “Bob Cratchit, this is Jaylin Marley. She will be with us from now on.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Bob Cratchit.” she said, shaking his hand. “I have been abroad these last few years, but I will say that I am looking forward to working with you.” Bob smiled and nodded, before turning once again to Scrooge. “We’re all done cleaning up, Mister Scrooge. We’ll be seeing you tomorrow.” he said, with a tentative air.
Jaylin looked at Scrooge, then back at Bob Cratchit. “You’re coming to work on Christmas?”
“Yes, Madam Marley, as we do every year.” Bob said with a regretful tone.
“Well, things are different now that I’m here. Take the day off.” she said happily. Bob looked warily at Scrooge, “Th-The entire day?”
Scrooge glared at Bob, but was met with a stern look from Jaylin behind his clerk that told him there would be trouble to countermand her decision. “It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December… but seeing as how I am the only one around here that knows that… fine. Take the day off.” he said with a wave of his hand.
There was a cheer from the clerks, and a round of thank yous and merry christmases before the clerks headed off for the day. Scrooge was left alone with Jaylin, who had returned to her monstrous guise. They sat in silence for a long while. It was the quiet, defeated silence of a man who had just seen his world crumble around him, and is picking through the pieces to see if there was anything salvageable. Jaylin let him look, and squeezed his shoulder again when he heaved the sigh of a man who found nothing. “I’m not going to take everything from you, Ebenezer. You were a friend of my uncle’s. It would be dishonorable to his memory to mistreat you.”
“Humbug to his memory.” Scrooge crumbled, “The memory that took everything from me with a piece of paper…” Jaylin shook her head again before tugging on his sleeve. “Let’s go.” she said. Scrooge laughed, “Go where? I have no home!” he said with the manic air of someone who finds no humor in the situation. The laugh of a man who laughs only to keep himself from crying. Jaylin rolled her eyes, “You’ll live with me.” she said plainly.
“I refuse.” Scrooge said stubbornly. “Bad enough you’ve taken everything, I should not think my dignity to be burned upon your altar.” Jaylin shook her head, crossing her arms. “Really, Ebenezer, must you be so dramatic? The house is huge. Do you really need all of it to yourself? Come on, we can stay in the house and never have to see each other if you want. I know how big Uncle Jacob’s place is… Unless you WANT to go to the poor house.”
Scrooge was silent for a while, before he relented. Wordlessly, he got up, put on his jacket and scarf, and snuffed out the candle. He locked up the office and set off to his former home, with the danuki in tow. He noticed her walking close beside him, even leaning on him as they turned corners together.
Nobody ever talked to Scrooge as he walked, everyone always avoided him. Some would even cross the street in order to avoid passing him on the sidewalk. So the evening was relatively undisturbed as the duo walked home. It was only after about halfway home did Jaylin stop and grab ahold of Scrooge’s coat. He was yanked back and glared, “What?” he demanded indignantly.
“Let’s go this way.” Jaylin said. Scrooge squinted down the path, “Why?”
“Dunno, just a feeling.” she said before leading him off. Scrooge felt the urge to just go home and lock the doors before she got back, but decided against it. He shook his head, heaved a sigh, then set off behind the danuki. They walked along in silence until they passed an old building. Scrooge stopped in his tracks when he saw it. Jaylin stopped beside him. “Something on your mind?”
“My old schoolhouse.” answered Scrooge. “I spent many years there.”
“And Christmases, I expect.” Jaylin said. Scrooge went silent. It was true enough. How many years passed him by as a child, when everyone went home with Merry Christmas on their lips while Scrooge sat alone, reading by a dismal fire. They stood there quietly for a long while, Scrooge remembering his childhood. They were not happy memories. “Your lip is trembling,” said Jaylin, “and what is that on your cheek?”
Scrooge wiped his eyes and face on his sleeve, muttering something about a pimple before he set off again. Jaylin could have sworn she heard a sniffle. Of course, he could have just been cold. It was a rather chilly night.
They walked, though not in any particularly thought out direction, just away from the abandoned schoolhouse. Perhaps by coincidence, or some hidden magic, Scrooge’s footsteps led him through another path he’d not taken in many many years. Jaylin kept pace behind him, but left him to his thoughts. The pair found themselves before a warehouse, not abandoned, but devoid of people. A storage unit. In particular, it was the storage unit his old boss used to use to house the Christmas parties of his youth. An old sign still hung over the large doorways, the name Fezziwig in peeling paint. Scrooge once again stood silent and staring, as if they memories of his past played out through those faded letters.
Jaylin did not interrupt this time, letting Scrooge think. She was sure he was having a trying day, and decided to let his mind go where it would. Perhaps to a happier time? “I apprenticed under Fezziwig, you know?” he said at length. “He was such a happy man. It was impossible to be miserable when working for him. He didn’t spend a lot, I know. I did his books. But for three or four pounds he could shower everyone with so much happiness that it seemed to cost a fortune.”
Jaylin approached to stand beside Ebenezer, and looked at the sign. “He sounds like a wonderful man.” she said, and the pair returned to silence. At least, silence on their part. A group of carolers passed by, singing a chorus of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. They did not break song, but they smiled to Jaylin and Scrooge. The danuki reached into her pocket, and dropped several coins into their offering tin. Jaylin smiled back, Scrooge just sort of… nodded, feeling awkward. “Poor boy…” he said, as an afterthought. The monster girl looked at him curiously, “Something the matter?”
Scrooge shook his head. “There was a boy singing at my doorstep earlier… I should have liked to give him something… It is too late now.”
Jaylin nodded, smiling inwardly at herself. “Let’s get on, Ebenezer.” she said.
The pair walked on again, seemingly wandering aimless in the deserted streets. It was fully dark now, the lamps on the street burning to try and stave off the darkness, with only little success. “Uncle Marley said you had a sister.” the monster said, “Do you not see her at Christmas?” Scrooge shook his head. “She has passed on.” he said with an air of sadness. “Oh, I am sorry.” Jaylin said, looking away again. Scrooge walked on for a bit, then continued, looking toward the stars.
“She was a delicate creature.” he said, “Sometimes I thought just breathing on her might cause her to wither. But her heart was big. Probably the biggest I’ve ever seen.”
“She had children, if I remember right.” said Jaylin.
“One child.” answered Scrooge. “A boy.”
“Do you not see your Nephew oh Christmas?”
Scrooge paused guiltily, before shaking his head. “He always invites me, every year on Christmas, but I never go…”
“You should.” said the monster plainly. Scrooge went quiet again, and Jaylin assumed he was contemplating it. She looked over and saw him looking around, as if suddenly lost or confused. “How did we get here?” he demanded, his voice growing fearful. She patted his shoulder, “What’s the matter?”
“We’re in her neighborhood.” Scrooge said grimly. The sound of cheering erupted from one of the houses, and both man and monster looked in. A family, a large family with plenty of kids, filled with holiday cheer gathered in front of the fire in a communal happiness that dripped with christmas cheer. Scrooge approached the window, and then turned away. “Let’s get out of here before they see.”
“They won’t.” said Jaylin, in a tone that suggested no argument. Ebenezer recollected tales of the monsters and their strange abilities. However, whether he believed her, or just wanted to believe her, Scrooge turned in to look through the window. He looked on more attentively than ever, seeing the master of the house. The man’s daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside. When he thought that a girl like that, quite as graceful and full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, Scrooge’s expression grew very grim indeed.
“Old friend?” asked Jaylin, looking in on the happy family. Scrooge tore himself away from the window, and walked back into the cold dark of night. “No.” he lied.
“Belle.” came the man’s voice from inside. “I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.”
“Who was it?” the wife asked.
“Guess!” said the man playfully.
“How can I? Tut, don’t I know,” she added in the same breath, laughing as he laughed. “Mr. Scrooge.” she said knowingly.
“Mr. Scrooge it was! I passed his office window, and it was not shut up.He had a candle inside, so I could scarcely help seeing him. His partner is dead, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in the world, I do believe.”
“I’m leaving.” Scrooge said to Jaylin at the sound of the laughter from inside, and started heading off. She placed herself in front of him. “Why?”
“I cannot bear the sight of them.” he said pitifully.
“Let me leave this place! It’s bad enough you brought me here!”
“These are the shadows of YOUR past, YOU lead the way here.” Jaylin said sternly. “That they are what they are, do not blame me.”
“Just leave me alone, vex me no longer!” Scrooge said, before storming off. He walked and he walked, again not caring where he ended up. He only stopped when he realized he was in a part of the city he’d never been to. Why his feet led him there he could not hazard a guess, though he did not the monster’s absence. He paced around, for a bit, trying to gain his bearings, when he caught sight of her.
“She meant a lot to you, didn’t she?” Jaylin asked. Scrooge sighed. The memory was less painful when it wasn’t staring you in the face. “A man I used to be loved the girl she used to be, and the same in reverse.” he said lowly, leaning over a railing to look at the frozen stream below. “She left you for another?” asked the monster. Scrooge sighed again. It seems he could not escape the questions. Running did little, and he did not have it in him to lie. “No.” he said, plowing through the razor fields of sour memory. “She said I left her for another.”
The danuki tilted her head again, clearly not understanding. “She said I left her for gold. Money was my true love, and she saw it in me. She challenged me with it, asked me if the man I was would still fight for her love, even if it meant poverty. I swore I loved her, but even now I remember how hollow the words felt on my lips.” Scrooge’s voice came shaking as the memory washed over him, and how seeing the daughter borne from the love of his old flame and her new husband. Well, not new husband. It had been so long ago that Scrooge was almost another person. That this was the first time Scrooge saw him could hardly be counted as a new development.
“And is money your love still?” came the voice of Jaylin. Scrooge pondered this for a moment, then shook his head. “Money has no love to give nor capacity to hold it. There is no warmth in money.”
“Apparently you are said to like the cold, Ebenezer.” Jaylin said, “Cold is cheap, and so keeps you close to your love.”
“It is not my love!” snapped Scrooge, more bile in his voice than he intended. “Is it my fault that the world condemns greed yet punishes poverty more harshly?”
“And yet you fear the word so harshly that you throw everything to the side in fleeing from it. You gave up everything to be above the threat of poverty. Tell me, Ebenezer. Are you happy with the life you have chosen?” Scrooge had no answer to this, so she continued. “Was it worth it?”
Again Scrooge did not answer. Well, rather no answer needed to be given. No one could see Scrooge and come to the conclusion that the answer was anything other than a huge, resounding no. He instead looked and headed across the street. “I know this house, too.” he said, eager to get his mind off of the danuki’s words, they rang inside of his head like the toll of haunting bells. She moved to his side, and looked in. “Another house you used to know?”
“No.” he said softly, “It’s Bob Cratchit’s house.” The pair looked in. Within the walls of the shack they called a house, the Cratchit family sat down to a meager feast of goose, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, and boiled pudding. Scrooge could plainly see it was a small affair, but the Cratchit family served it as if it were a grand banquet. None of them complained, and instead sang the blessings of family, hearth, and home. Scrooge watched them, and shook his head. He knew how poor Bob was, and yet here he was with his family, celebrating as if he were the richest man in the world.
“Such a meager feast…” Scrooge said at length. He turned to look Jaylin in the eyes. “I pay Bob so little…” he said guiltily. “God bless us, every one.” came a small voice from inside, met with more rows of blessings from the Cratchit family. Scrooge looked back inside, “I didn’t even know his son was so sickly…” Scrooge paused, turning away from the window. ‘“I do hope he will be all right.” Jaylin moved next to him again, placing a hand once more upon his shoulder. “The future is not written, Ebenezer.” she said mystically.
“To the Founder of the Feast, Mister Scrooge!” came the voice of Bob from inside. Scrooge’s heart skipped a beat, and peered back inside.
“The Founder of the Feast, indeed!” cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. “I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it!”
“My dear,” said Bob, warily, “the children. Christmas Day.”
“It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,” said she, relenting, “on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow.”
“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”
“I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,” said Mrs Cratchit, “not for his. Long life to him. A merry Christmas and a happy new year! He’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!”
The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he didn’t care twopence for it. Scrooge was the boogeyman of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes.
Scrooge came away from the window at last, once the minutes had passed and the Cratchit’s returned to their merry making. Ebenezer stalked away, his shoulders slumped as if with the weight of a great chain. Jaylin was again soon by his side. “Can we please go home?” he asked, his voice cracking. It was the first time Ebenezer Scrooge had pleaded for anything. Jaylin rubbed his back, looking pained. Pained for seeing the man in such a state. Normally Scrooge would have rebuffed such a personal contact, but his mind was so far from the present, mired in sorrow, that he did not mind. It felt good, even, the sensation of contact. “Of course, let us go.”
“He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!” cried a voice from a window the due passed on the way home. Scrooge involuntarily turned to it, his expression somber. Jaylin expected him to be angry, but Scrooge had no energy for anger anymore. “He believed it too.” the voice continued.
“More shame for him, Fred.” came a female voice. Scrooge did not recognize that one, but the first was all too familiar. Fred was his nephew. The same nephew that had bidden Scrooge to come join them for a Christmas dinner. He assumed the female voice was Fred’s wife.
“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “that’s the truth. Not so pleasant as he might be, of course. However, his offenses carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.”
“I’m sure he is very rich, Fred,” hinted Fred’s wife. “At least so you always tell me.”
“What of that, my dear?” said Scrooge’s nephew. “His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He doesn’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t the satisfaction of thinking that he is ever going to benefit us with it.”
“I have no patience with him,” observed the wife. Her sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion. “Oh, I have,” said Scrooge’s nephew. “I feel sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always. Here, he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won’t come and dine with us. What’s the consequence? He don’t lose much of a dinner.”
“Oh, I think he loses a very good dinner,” joked Fred’s wife. Everybody else said the same, though mostly because they had just had dinner; and with the dessert upon the table, were clustered round the fire.
“Well. I’m very glad to hear it,” said Scrooge’s nephew, his voice playful and light “because I haven’t great faith in these young housekeepers.”
“Do go on, Fred,” said his wife, clapping her hands. “He never finishes what he begins to say. He is such a ridiculous fellow.”
Scrooge’s nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was impossible to keep the infection off; though the plump sister tried hard to do it with aromatic vinegar; his example was unanimously followed. Scrooge watched the evening unfold, unable to look away. He watched as they came to a final game, well deep into their cups of wine and brandy.
It was a Game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew had to think of something, and the rest must find out what. Fred could only answer to questions with yes or no. The questioning eventually led that he was thinking of an animal. A live animal, albeit a rather disagreeable one. A savage animal, that growled and grunted sometimes. One that talked sometimes, and lived in London. It walked about the streets,but wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody. It didn’t live in a menagerie, and was never killed in a market. It was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear.
At every fresh question that was put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter; and was so inexpressibly tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stomp his feet for his giddiness. At last the his wife, falling into a similar state, cried out:
“I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!”
“What is it?” cried Fred.
“It’s your Uncle Scrooge!”
Ebenezer walked away at this, almost bent double. Jaylin walked along beside him, silent as the falling snow. She heard him sniffling, looking down. Ebenezer Scrooge walked as if the world was upon him, the truth of it laid bare before his eyes, and unable to cope. He trudged through the snow, as if a ghost. The monster girl walked beside him, one arm on his shoulder. Again the walked along, as if led by some other force. The walked to the outskirts of town, and then to an old church. He walked on, heeding nothing of the world until he collapsed in front of a gravestone. Great sobs broke the wind, and Ebenezer cried.
“I am the poorest man alive.” he said when he had cried himself to a shuddering, miserable wreck. Jayline moved to kneel beside him. “Uncle’s grave.” she said, looking at the writing on the headstone before her. “Even Old Marley had someone to care for him.” Ebenezer said through his tears. “I have nothing. I gave it all up in the name of wealth, and now even that is gone. I have nothing… am, nothing.”
“Old Uncle was never the warmest towards my father.” Jaylin said, looking at the stone with a heavy expression. “Uncle Jacob never approved of his brother marrying a monster. He secluded himself from us, though he sometimes wrote. He would go years without a word, and suddenly we’d get a letter in the mail for a birthday, or a holiday. Father figured Uncle Jacob had simply stopped caring, but I had to learn of the truth. It was with a heavy heart I learned of his passing.”
“He gave your father everything I worked for.” Ebenezer said bitterly, “You gave it all away! Was I not good enough for you!?” Scrooge screamed at the headstone. “Did such hatred you hide from me, boiling in your stomach as you plotted my demise until your death!?”
Jaylin knelt in front of Ebenezer, and hugged him. Scrooge collapsed into her arms, sobbing again. “Old Marley loved you as a son.” Jaylin said. “Remember his words.” Ebenezer scoffed, but did not remove himself from the danuki’s arms. “For my own good… bah! Humbug. A good night’s rest would have done me more good than this…”
Jaylin ran her fingers through his hair. “Your salvation, then.” Scrooge remained silent. “My father… was much like you I am told. Mother told me many tales of him.” she gave a laugh, a choked, pitiful laugh through tears of her own. “Robert Marley was apparently a terror in his youth. Uncle Jacob… saw what his wife changed in him. He did not agree with monsters, but by the end, it was more the rift between he and his brother than anything to do with my mother or I. I remember Uncle Jacob being quite nice the few times I met him. He told me of you, too, Ebenezer.”
“What did he tell you?” asked Scrooge. The danuki still hugged him, her arms around his neck as he knelt in the snow. His arms hung limply by his side. “The same thing I see before me. A man so wrapped in fear and pride, that he strangles himself with a noose made of them.”
“Jacob knew, then.” Ebenezer said, tears once again falling freely, “How poor a man I am. I thought us alike, businessmen to the last. Apparently even Marley had people that cared for him. What have I? Jacob was mourned by his family. There will be no one to mourn the passing of Ebenezer Scrooge. You saw how they laughed at me, I know they will celebrate when I am dead.”
“But you are not dead yet.” Jaylin answered, hugging Scrooge tighter. “And I will mourn you, if you would have me.”
Scrooge blinked tears out of his eyes as Jaylin stood up and looked down at him. He saw her, still in her monstrous guise, a guise no one had apparently noticed during their walks. Some magic was afoot here, he was certain. He gave her a confused expression, and could only ask, “I beg your pardon?”
Jaylin looked down and procured another document. “A marriage contract, Ebenezer. Uncle Jacob saw fit to draft one when I came of age.” She handed the document to him, and allowed him to read it over. “I cannot say I was thrilled about the idea of an arranged marriage. Most people have nothing good to say about you. Still, I wanted to come see you for myself, in honor of Old Uncle Jacob.” she looked around at the snowfallen graveyard. “I think I now see what he meant.”
“Why would you have me? I can offer you nothing.” Scrooge said, looking up at the monster girl. “Can you offer love?” she asked. He thought about this, long and hard. “I don’t know.”
“Then what have you to lose?” she asked, still looking down at him. Scrooge avoided her gaze. “What if I cannot love? You are a young girl… monster… girl. You are a lovely person, I’m sure you could find someone more capable.”
“And if I said I did not want anyone more capable?”
“Then I would say you are a foolish girl.” Ebenezer retorted, “To choose a man gambling on if he can give you what you want. What shell of a marriage would it be, to be so loveless?”
“You did not read the contract. My dowry is everything you stand to lose if you do not accept the marriage.”
Scrooge fell silent again. She was right, if he married her, signed the contract, he would have his money back. Sure, he’d be married, but really, what was that in the face of his wealth? Everything, decided Scrooge. He shook his head, tears still falling. “After everything I have seen tonight, how could I find comfort in gold? A loveless marriage for profit, an empty, hollow thing. Without love, you too, would celebrate my passing. Is it too much to simply want someone to care when my name is etched onto a tombstone?”
Jaylin beamed, then sank to the snow. She threw her arms around him again and hugged him until warmth spread through his body. “Ebenezer. That’s the right answer. Please, you’ve been tired for so long.” She ran a hand through his wispy hair, “Allow me to lighten the burden of your chains.”
“Chains?” asked Scrooge.
“The chains of your pain, of your fear. Monsters… cannot help but love humans, in all their faults. Call it our nature, but I cannot describe the love I feel for you. I’ve seen past the lies you tell yourself, and the lies you tell others, to the man inside. I can understand the love Belle once felt for you, as I feel it now. Reject me, and I will mourn. Even if you cast me aside now, I could not help myself but mourn for Ebenezer Scrooge when his name is carved into a headstone.”
“Yes.” Scrooge said, burying his face into Jaylin’s shoulder. “Fifty times!”
The light around them changed abruptly, and Scrooge looked around in a near shock. His head was in Jaylin’s lap, his cheeks resting against the soft fur. Jaylin stroked his head affectionately. His eyes darted around, no longer were they in the graveyard. No longer was he kneeling in snow. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Jaylin looked down at him, smiling deeply. The clock rang out, striking the hour twelve. “Merry Christmas, Ebenezer.” she said.
“Merry Christmas… Jaylin.” Scrooge choked out. It was awkward, and foreign, but he laughed anyway. “Ah, you said it!” she clapped, rocking a bit on the bed. “That’s step one, you know?”
“Step one for what?” Ebenezer asked. She shook her head, “Never you mind. Now, I have something for you.” She produced what seemed to be a fruit, bright pink, and heart shaped. He sat up, and looked at it curiously. “What is it?”
“You remember how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes when he heard the song? Well, let’s just say that story would be a lot shorter if he’d had one of these.” Jaylin explained. Ebenezer looked at her curiously. “What?” he asked, he hadn’t the slightest clue of what she meant. She just giggled, shaking her head. “Nevermind. We’re going to share it.”
Ebenezer was unsure, but the elation had not worn off. He felt that his soul had been raked across the coals, and now the niece of his old partner was bandaging his burns. “Very well… if it is what you wish.” he said, unsure.
The monster girl smiled, a devious smile that unnerved Ebenezer a bit, and reminded him of her monster heritage. Still, as if to assuage his fears, he watched Jaylin take a large bite. She seemed to take half the heart into her mouth, and the juice beaded on her chin to run down her neck. He watched the bead meet the edge of her festive dress, and the air suddenly grew a bit darker. She offered it to him before he could think too hard. He hesitated for a moment, then figured he literally had nothing left to lose. In for a penny, he thought, and bit down on the other half.
Scrooge felt himself grow hot. Entirely too hot for the chill of the night. He dropped the stem, and dry heaved. Jaylin held him steady, “Don’t worry. Prison Fruit is harmless, it just takes a bit to get used to the energy…” she said assuredly.
Ebenezer clutched at her hands, only to marvel at his own. His cracked skin smoothed, and his scars receded. The blemishes on his arms vanished, too. He made for the nearest mirror, and touched his face if only to ensure the reflection was indeed him. “Is this…” he said with a trembling voice, “Monster magic?”
Jaylin moved to his side, and smiled wide. “Ahh, you look so handsome!” she said, throwing her arms around him and almost hanging on him. He stood there, gazing into the mirror. Indeed, it looked as if ten years of age had fallen off of him. Of course, he’d always looked old for his age, everyone said so. Whatever was in that fruit of hers, it had restored a healthy glow to his gaunt frame. As distracted as he was, he did not notice when she moved, and placed a firm kiss on his lips. She tasted of the fruit.
The change to himself wasn’t the only one he noticed, as suddenly, he felt very aware of Jaylin. The heat of her body, the scent of her on the air, even the taste of the fruit on her lips. He felt urges he had long ago abandoned suddenly flood his being like a wave crashing through a demolished river dam. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, not failing to notice the curvature of her petite body.
Jaylin wrapped her legs around him, lost in the kiss. They did not part, reveling in the taste of the Prisoner’s Fruit. Ebenezer had been overcome with so many forgotten desires, he lost no time in disrobing, eager to consummate his new marriage. Almost as eager, it seemed, as Jaylin. Her monster instincts took over, the time for talk had long since passed. She had an easier time shedding her clothes, mostly because she merely had to magic them off, and suddenly she was naked.
Her exposure only sent him into a further frenzy, and the recently engaged couple fell forward onto the bed. No longer talking, they exchanged passionate looks and the sounds of their lovemaking soon filled the huge manor of late Jacob Marley. Ebenezer sank into her like sinking into a warm bed after a long day. Jaylin accepted him with eager abandon, pulling him closer to join them as deeply as possible. He took her like a man possessed, which, rightly, he was. He clung to her like a sinking passenger clings to a life preserver. He poured his years of loneliness into her, his fears, his pains. She accepted it all, chasing away his demons with the sounds of her affection, her love.
It was not long before he suddenly clutched her close, driving himself as far as he could into her and releasing years of pent up frustration to the sounds of her climax, and then collapsed on top of her. Her hands roamed his back as she finished. “Hmm, that was a lot.” she said with a sultry giggle. He shook his head, “I’m sure you can tell the length of time that has passed since I last shared that embrace.” Jaylin smiled again. “Well, it never has to go like that again.”
Ebenezer looked down at her, “Well, if we are to be married, I should certainly hope not.”
“Well then what is acceptable, then, Mister Scrooge?” she asked playfully. “Every night?” Ebenezer laughed at this, then answered “Perhaps.”
“Well then.” Jaylin said, looking up into his eyes, “You’ll certainly have to if you ever want a daughter. Monsters are notoriously hard to get pregnant~”
He rolled off of her, lying beside her and caressing her hair and ears. “Then I’ll just have to ensure we do enough to beat the odds.”
The couple did not stop there. The first round had gone quick. The second went slow, the couple spending the time to savor every sensation. They explored each other’s body, and became familiar with their new to be spouse. The empty house was soon full of their own particular Christmas revelry, the couple given to sheer felicity as they drank of each other again and again.
Christmas morning found themselves draped over the bed, tangled in one another’s arms one might have thought the use of specialized tools to be required to separate them. The sun shone in through the window, and played across the revitalized face of Ebenezer Scrooge. Gingerly, he extracted himself from his new fiance. He opened the window, letting fresh air into the room. “Grrr, close the window, Ebby.” came the voice of Jaylin, who burrowed deeper into the covers. He laughed, closed it, and walked over. “Merry Christmas, Jaylin.”
“Merry Christmas…” she returned, though her voice suggested she might have adopted Scrooge’s prior feelings toward Christmas. While normally not fond of mornings, she was spent. It seems a decade or two of sexual frustration was a lot to take on in a night. She found herself sore in places she did not know she had, still, she could not deny the change that had taken place in Ebenezer. She looked up from her nest of pillows and blankets. “So what do you want to do today?”
“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and making a perfect lunatic of himself as he tried to pull on his stockings while he danced about. “I am as light as a feather! I am as happy as an angel! I am as merry as a schoolboy! I am as giddy as a drunken man!” He went to the window again and threw it open once more, “A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hello here! Whoop! Hello!”
“Ebby.” called Jaylin with a laugh, “I’m happy that you’re happy, but try not to get committed by scaring the neighbors.”
But Ebenezer could not be stopped. He finished dressing in what his nicest finery, albeit a bit crooked on him from the frenzy in which he dressed. “I should like to take my nephew up on his invitation.” he said, Jaylin fixing his tie. She nodded, “A wonderful idea.”
And so it was, Scrooge visited his long neglected nephew, and within five minutes of his arrival, it seemed as if he were at home. Nothing could have been heartier. It was a wonderful party, with wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, and wonderful happiness!
Bob Cratchit was late to work the next morning, and Jaylin let Scrooge have a bit of a laugh at the Head Clerk. However, by the end of it, Scrooge and Bob were discussing affairs. He raised Bob’s salary, swore to endeavor to help the struggling Cratchit family.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. He became as good a friend, as good a husband, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, in the good old world.
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. For he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened to which some people did not have their fill of laughter. He came to know that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should laugh. He did not care, with his wife by his side, and soon, his own family. His own heart laughed at the wealth of spirit he had finally obtained, and that was quite enough for him.
With his family by his side, he lived a good, long life. He kept Christmas the whole year round, living in happiness, and knew how to keep Christmas well.
May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed:
God Bless Us, Every One!