Christmas Eve

Phillips was gone, to begin with. His business partner Ebenezer Simms looked around the office with a grim expression on his face. Bob Sarich sat at his desk trying to reach the last of the meagre supply of ink in his well. The sound of his nib scratching across the ledger in front of him made Simms cringe. Bob looked up from his work and spoke timidly to his employer.
“Err… Mr. Simms… I was wondering if, seeing as tomorrow is Christmas Day I may leave a little early today to attend to final preparations the Sarich family festivities. I was also wondering if you would allow me the opportunity of attending those festivities by being so gracious as to grant me a day’s leave of absence for tomorrow.”
“You want to leave early?” Simms asked “Out of the question. Things are hard enough in these straitened times without you abandoning your position. You may leave at 5 o’clock as normal and as for tomorrow, I shall need you here in the morning as I shall be working all day and intend to undertake a full inventory of the equipment the previous owner purchased. It may be of inferior quality but I’m sure I can sell it to Messrs Moran and Black, I’ve always been able to pull the wool over their eyes in the past. Very well, you may, on this occasion have the afternoon off but I want you here at eight o’clock sharp on the 26th do you hear me?”
“Yes, Mr. Simms and thank you Mr. Simms, thank you, thank you” Bob stammered his gratitude.
As five o’clock came and went Bob bid Mr. Simms a farewell that he scarcely heard. He was too busy completing calculations regarding his property portfolios before retiring for the evening. Finally, his work done Ebenezer snuffed out his candle, grabbed his coat, hat and cane and left his office. As he took the short walk from the office to his modest lodgings, he glanced at the sign over the door “Phillips and Simms”. He knew he should change the sign now that Phillips had gone but signs cost money and these were times when frugality was the best option.
It was approaching midnight when Simms looked up from a copy of Champions magazine he had found on the seat of a public carriage the previous week. He had been disturbed by a strange noise from the parlour. He seldom used the parlour and he often considered renting it out to one of those artisans from the Baltic States that seemed so prevalent these days. He was about to return to an article on savings by a Mr. Reiter of Sheffield when he heard the noise again. It was a strange low moaning combined with a strange rattling noise. “This will not do” thought Mr. Simms, “I really should investigate but Mr. Reiter really does appear to know how to save. I’m sure it will be nothing but I believe I should investigate.” He got up from the chair and reached for his candlestick, his nightgown billowing around him. Was it colder? He didn’t bother with the heating and the room could be draughty but it did feel colder. As he walked towards to parlour the sounds grew louder. What could they be? Simms wondered as he grasped the door knob and threw it wide. Simms had not known what the sound was but he would never have guessed what his eyes now saw in his wildest dreams.
Mr. Simms could not believe his eyes. Before him sat his old partner Jacob Phillips. He did not look as Ebenezer remembered him. He appeared in a most ethereal form, the chair he sat in was visible through his body. This was not the most remarkable difference, if you can believe it. His body was swathed from head to foot in chains and padlocks. Each time he moved these chains rattled and jangled against each other.
“J-J-Jacob? Is that you?” He stuttered.
“It is, Ebenezer and I am here with a message of great importance.”
“You can’t be here, you disappeared months ago, leaving me to try and run the business on my own. If it is you, where have you been?”
“I have been in the area known as the Middle East. You may not be able to tell” at this point Phillips looked down through the outline of his body “but the weather there is most temperate and has had quite the effect on me, giving me the most radiant glow. I only have very little time here so you must listen to my message before it is too late.”
“But, but”
“Oh shut your mouth for once and listen. On this night you will be visited by the three spectres of Christmas Past, Present and Futures. They will attempt to convince you of the error of your ways. Deny their visions and you will end up like me, condemned for all eternity to wear these chains of greed, avarice and corruption. They weigh heavy Ebenezer, very heavy”.
“Did you say three spectres? I’ve only heard of Phil but at least he’s in chains at the moment as well.”
“There will be three Ebenezer, whether you have heard of them or not and whether you like it or not. Now I must leave you, but be prepared” With that Phillips faded away into nothingness, the only suggestion that he had ever been there a slight unsettling coldness.
“What a load of rubbish” Simms thought to himself “That didn’t happen. That morsel of Wensleydale I had at supper must have not agreed with me.” He returned to his bedchamber and settled down for a good night’s sleep.

The First Spectre

Tolling of the church clock woke Simms. He counted as the chimes – twelve. Midnight. He’d been asleep for an hour. Why had the clock awoken him? He normally slept like the sleep of the just until six in the morning. Something felt wrong to Ebenezer. He pulled back the bedsheets and winced as his bare feet met the equally bare floorboards. He fumbled on his nightstand for his candlestick and managed to get it lit. He held the weak light in front of him and turned slowly around the room. When the night was over Ebenezer would often marvel that his own fortitude had allowed him to avoid dropping the candle when he saw the figure standing at the foot of his bed. A very familiar figure.
“Mike? What are you doing here?” Simms gasped. “We’ve not seen you here since your return to the dark side all those years ago. Oh what a merry day that news gave us. But, but, what are you doing here?”
“At the end of the day, do I need to tell you? You were warned of my coming by an old friend were you not?” Blaisdell replied
“I don’t know I was told I’d be visited by three spectres and now here you are… standing in front of… Oh”
“Yes, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past so come on, we’ve got things to do.”
“But I’m not dressed” Simms looked around the room to try and find his top coat.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re going you won’t feel the cold and no-one will see or even hear you, but we must hurry for time is getting short” Blaisdell gestured towards the bed chamber door. “And you can leave the candlestick here as well”.
Blaisdell through open the door and Simms gasped. Where the hallway should have been there was a huge expansive room filled with thousands of people and raucous noise. At its very centre was an ice rink where young men cavorted in glee and triumph. Simms voice could be heard over the tumult extolling the crowd to greater levels of excitement.
“Is it?”
“Yes, Ebenezer, it is the end of the Grand Slam season. One of the greatest days that we shared together. Do you remember it?” the spectre asked.
“Of course I do.”
“And do you remember those young men” Blasidell gestured to the ice.
“Of course, of course. There are the two Mikes, Kayle, Jeff, Kent, Warren and Dennis! Oh how I loved to laugh and joke with Dennis, such a sweet, sweet man.” Simms rejoiced. “I remember this day like it was only yesterday. What are we doing here?”
“Look around you, what do you see?”
“The Sheffield Arena, full to the gunnels. There is no finer sight”
“Precisely, look at these people. Look at their faces and mark them well Ebenezer. Mark them well”.
Simms looked around him at the people. When he looked back a Blasidell he was gone and a doorway stood in his place. Simms looked over his shoulder, the people and the arena were fading away. All that was left was the door. There seemed to be no other option, Simms opened the door and saw, with great relief, the familiar surroundings of his bed chamber. He stepped through on to the bare boards and the door disappeared.
“This is a most diverting dream I am having” Simms muttered to himself “I am sure that when I wake up it will be morning and I shall be as rested as ever”.

To be continued in Part 2


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