A Christmas Carolus

It was the Saturday night before the Writers’ Club December meeting and sitting at his computer, Adam Carpenter was at a loss about what he was going to write for the ghost story competition. He’d not had much experience of ‘supernatural phenomena’ in his life, because that sort of stuff generally didn’t really happen, especially to him. Any bumps in the night were almost certainly some books falling over after days of teetering and as a de facto teetotaller, he didn’t tend to encounter any drinking spirits, let along the kind that went ‘woo’.

 

He was considering writing a story involving Sunita Kumar, his science fiction heroine, encountering Demi Moore doing pottery, but realised there wasn’t much of a story. There were many one trick ponies out of there, but not all of them were Pegasus. Demi Moore certainly wasn’t Pegasus. She couldn’t fly for one thing.

 

He was drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea when suddenly, a chill wind blew through the room, which was very odd because the windows were shut. He turned to see what the thing was and found himself confronted with a shimmery form of a middle-aged man with a beard dressed in Victorian clothing. He was pretty sure that there hadn’t been anything wrong with the Paracetamol he’d taken earlier for his cold…

 

“What the actual…?”

 

“I am most awfully sorry about this”, the shimmery form said, “I was trying to get back home via the Gateway for Humans Outside Space-Time and I appear to have operated the system incorrectly. Hopefully someone will bring me back. 29thcentury technology is so hard to understand when you come from the 19th...”

 

“Sorry, who are you?” Adam asked, “You look like Charles Dickens.”

 

“That is because I am! Pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir! Are you a reader of my books?”

 

This was probably a hallucination of some form, so Adam decided to be honest.

 

“A bit. It’s because of you that I’ve got to do this stupid story. And we get all those Christmas cards with snow filled landscapes because you had a few white Christmases growing up. Not that we ever get those these days. Thank you, climate change.”

 

Adam didn’t mention that he’d once been depicted as the Ghost of Christmas Past in a short story written by a club he was in back during Junior School. Mainly because he’d not remembered that at this point.

 

Charles Dickens looked distinctly unimpressed, his eyes lowering and his face turning stern.

 

“You do not sound much like you enjoy your work.”

 

Adam felt a bit uncomfortable here. It might be a hallucination, but he was someone who couldn’t bring himself to be horrible to videogame characters.

 

“Sorry, that came out wrong. I have read several of your works. They’re good but they are a bit of a slog to get through. Prose these days is a bit punchier in 2019.”

 

“A bit of a slog? Doesn’t that mean a hard strike?”

 

“No… of course, no… semantics have changed, haven’t they?”

 

“Yes, they almost certainly have. Explain your view of me.”

 

Adam looked rather confused at all this. He was having a conversation with one of the premier authors of the English language – no, any language. Or thinking that he was in any event… now he was being asked for his opinion. Just go with it.

 

“Your works are rich in detail and provide an excellent visualisation of the time period in which you set them in… but you certainly can take a real while to get going…”

 

“I guess you people have a lot less time on your hands. You aren’t as patient.”

 

“Well, you’re very wordy, you know that. When I was at school, I did a project on male vs. female writing. Oddly enough, when I ran your writing, you came out like a 21st century woman.”

 

“Are you saying that I write like a girl?”

 

“That’s not an insult. We’ve had two female Prime Ministers as of 2019. Proved that women can be just as bad politicians as men…”

 

“I see nothing has changed yet. Even in the 29th century…”

 

Adam held up a hand.

 

“I don’t really want any spoilers, thanks.”

 

“Well, in that case…”

 

Adam lowered his hand. He did want to know something that had been playing on his mind for a while… and if this was real, he might be able to make some money off it.

 

“I’ll have a couple then. Who wins the general election in December?”

 

“Sorry, how would I know that? I am an author, young not the Encyclopaedia Britannica”.

 

“I am not a young man”, Adam snapped, then turned to his computer, “I am in my 30s…”

 

He brought up an article on Charles Dickens from Wikipedia and did some counting.

 

“You had written six novels and three novellas by then…”

 

Dickens looked at the screen and went white. Adam looked confused.

 

“What’s wrong? Are you?”

 

He turned back, looking at the screen.

 

The bibliography of Charles Dickens (1812–70).

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

 

He turned in time just to see Dickens and reflected no-one was ever going to believe what had just happened. Charles Dickens had turned up out of the blue in the middle of his writing, he’d had a conversation and then had managed to commit a massive faux pas in the world of time travel by revealing when Dickens died.

 

I’ll write that. Likely won’t win anyway.

 

He was also glad that he’d not found out any ‘spoilers’. When he’d been at school he’d read a story about a time traveller who uses his knowledge of ‘future’ events to make a load of money… and due to his warnings about the oncoming Second World War, managed to persuade his parents not to have him.

 

With that, he started to write. Well, not straight away. He wanted to look at something on Reddit first.