A COVID Carol
A Christmas Ghost Story of COVID-19
Scrooge felt fine: to begin with. He had spent all morning reviewing accounts and was pleased to see his investment in toilet paper paying off.
Then his clerk Bob Cratchit ruined everything.
“I’m sick, Mr. Scrooge,” he said with a cough. “It’s the Corona, I’m sure.”
“A liberal hoax,” Scrooge replied. “You merely have the flu, or a common cold. Perhaps a spot of indigestion from that potato you indulged in two days ago.”
“I haven’t eaten since,” Cratchit moaned. “No appetite.”
“Hmph.” Scrooge glowered over his Fox newspaper. “Then you don’t need money for food. Go if you must, but I’ll not pay for your vacation.”
Cratchit was too weak to argue. “Thank you, sir,” he said, wobbling for the door. “I’ll pray for you.”
He turned and coughed loudly in Scrooge’s direction. “Wouldn’t want you to get sick as well.”
Despite his clerk’s thoughts and prayers, Scrooge soon felt unwell himself. He climbed to his chambers with difficulty, and the room spun as he flopped into bed.
When it came to a halt, he was not alone.
“Having a masque, are we?” Scrooge wheezed. Three costumed freaks had appeared: a sickly child, a giant laborer, and a specter in dark robes. “That’s not good social distancing.”
The child spoke. “We are the Ghosts of Pandemics Past — ”
“Present — ” said the giant.
The third spirit loomed in a loud silence. “And Future doesn’t say much,” Past said.
“So I gather.” Scrooge coughed and struggled out of bed. “But shouldn’t we spread this out over a few nights? Flatten the spirit curve, so to speak?”
Past clucked his tongue at him. He waved his tiny hands, and the room disappeared.
“Look familiar?” the spirit said.
A young boy appeared before them, romping around an unkempt home in his underwear, ignoring his mother’s shouts.
Scrooge gasped. “I … I had forgotten. They closed the school. Fear of the pox, as I recall.”
“It was marvelous. I didn’t wear pants for weeks.”
They watched young Scrooge scream at a potted plant for some reason while his mother worked her way through a box of wine. “Isolation for everyone’s benefit,” Past said.
“Pfft.” Scrooge made a wanking motion. “We sat home and loafed on the dole.”
“What? Your mother sacrificed to keep you safe and healthy!”
“My mother was disincentivized to work, you do-gooding liberal!”
The spirit considered disincentivizing Scrooge to breathe, but instead just snapped his fingers and jumped them back home.
“Well?” said Present. “How’d it go?”
Past grumbled and tagged his partner’s beefy hand. “You’re up.”
“Oh! Better wash that hand, Spirit!” Scrooge cackled. “I’ll sell you some sanitizer for £50.”
Present laughed and cracked his giant knuckles. “This should be fun,” he said.
The wind whipped around them as he whisked Scrooge through the sky above town. “Look below,” he said. “What do you see?”
“Nothing. The streets are empty.”
“Exactly. One man at a factory fell ill, but he needed money, so he continued to work. He gave the virus to his friends, and they took it home to their families. Soon the whole city was sick. Do you see how the world is interconnected?”
“I do indeed!” Scrooge cried. “Some Chinese virus has shut down our workhouses, and now my tenants won’t pay their rent! I’m losing a fortune!”
“But people are dying!”
“They can die just as well on the street,” said Scrooge. “My properties are for paying customers only.”
The spirit was gobsmacked. He snapped his fingers, and Scrooge dropped screaming from the sky back to his bed at home.
Past was waiting for them with a smug look on his face. “Well?” he said.
“Selfish bastard,” Present replied.
“I prefer Libertarian,” said Scrooge. He rose and glared at the third spirit. “And what will you show me, then? My poor bank accounts a month hence, as skeletal as you are?”
Future said nothing, of course. Scrooge’s bedroom wavered. Only … it remained his bedroom. And someone strange slept in his bed, looking unnervingly deflated.
“What is this? Who — “
“Scrooge, you son of a bitch!” someone shouted from the hallway; he sounded very drunk. “I’m coming for you!”
Scrooge and the spirit exchanged a glance. “This could be about a lot of things,” Scrooge said.
Bob Cratchit slammed open the chamber door. He staggered into the room, then stopped to look at the man in the bed. “It can’t be …” he slurred.
Realization hit Scrooge like that doctor he’d corrected about infection statistics this morning. “Am I … dead?” he said.
“Yes!” cried Cratchit. He danced around the room for joy, stopping briefly to wait out a coughing fit. “There is a God!”
“Hmph.” Scrooge sniffed. “A bit excessive. But I get your point, Spirit. If I die of this disease — “
“IF?” Future croaked.
Scrooge paled. “There’s no going back, is there?”
“Nope!” said a young boy on crutches beside them.
“What the devil? Wait … you’re Cratchit’s boy, aren’t you? Tiny Tim. What are you doing here?”
“I’m immunally compromised!” Tiny Tim said. “Well … I was.” He shrugged.
“I see.” Scrooge shrugged back. “So, now what?”
“Um … you could try learning from the experience.”
Scrooge frowned. “What do you mean — Good Lord!”
He leapt for Cratchit, who had climbed onto the bed and was gaily urinating on his corpse. “Stop, fiend!” he shouted. His ghostly hands passed right through the clerk. “Why would you do such a thing?”
“Maybe you should have been less of an arsehole,” Tiny Tim suggested.
“Maybe you should have been less crippled,” Scrooge snarled back.
Tiny Tim just rolled his eyes. “Okay, boomer.”
He took Scrooge’s hand and placed it gently into Future’s skeletal one, and together they all faded away.
Cratchit, alone in the room, saw none of this, but he felt unaccountably better anyway. He pulled up his trousers and, moved by some spirit, threw open a window and shouted out to the empty street.
“The bastard’s dead! COVID bless us, everyone!”
Like this story? Aw, thanks! Then why not read some more of my satire in The Haven?