Behold! A maze of tombs unfurls.
One cannot see the surface of the planet Memoriam from space. It is covered by the necropolis, the great mausoleum city. The city rises nearly a mile above the planet’s surface and descends deep into its crust. The whole planet is a jigsaw web of crypts, tombstones, and houses of the dead, jutting forth at odd angles from one another. It is a monument to death.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s ship descends, passing through great kilometer-wide arches and weaving around tall towers. It lands on the roof of the Forsaken Seas Reminiscence Center. Scrooge gets out. His feet clank on the stone of the Center’s roof. His body has been almost entirely replaced with metal and circuitry. One eye burns a cold computerized red. He is the CyberScrooge now—defender of the 5th Millennium!
Scrooge walks to the door. He goes inside. He does not knock.
His entrance triggers more than one alarm. Everywhere on the planet, lights flash and strange sounds peal. And the ghost answers.
The ghost stands in Scrooge’s way, in the middle of a hall, long and bony finger pointed at Scrooge’s chest. His face is hooded. His voice is cold.
Scrooge smiles. “I knew,” he says, “that I would find you here.”
“YOU TRESPASS,” the ghost says.
Scrooge glances over the ghost’s shoulder, down the hall. “Is that where you’re keeping him?”
The ghost hesitates. “WHAT DO YOU WANT, SCROOGE?”
Scrooge pauses. He adjusts the volume of his marvelous cyber-ear.
“Well?” the ghost asks.
“I need your help,” Scrooge says.
The ghost looks away.
“The ghost of Christmas present,” Scrooge says, “must die. Blackmail and financial manipulation are too easy for him. He has built a corrupt empire of fear and greed.”
Christmas Future looks down. He hedges. “I have heard such rumors,” he says, “but I cannot imagine that it is so. For his unnatural prescience applies only on Christmas; and Christmas comes but once a year.”
“On Earth, perhaps,” says Scrooge. “But on Omnicron Beta Prime, the Tinsel Planet, it is always Christmas. Your brother reigns there on a throne of corpses, an omniscient and unopposable Christmas God.”
“I will not help,” says the ghost. “You do not understand the true meaning of Christmas.”
Scrooge clanks forward. An assembly in his left shoulder hums with ominous power.
“Wait,” says the ghost.
Scrooge looks up.
“You are the richest man alive,” says the ghost. “I have nothing but an empty world. Do not do this to me.”
Scrooge looks back down and continues forward. He pushes past the ghost. He comes to the chamber where Little Timmy hangs, connected to a thousand wires and tubes, his life endlessly and unnaturally prolonged. Scrooge lifts his hand. He prepares the Proton Charge.
“God bless us,” whispers Timmy. “God bless us, every one.”
His eyes do not focus.
“Do you know who I am?” asks Scrooge.
“Every one,” Timmy says. His hair is long and white and brushes against the ground below his feet. “I like the turkey-flavored concentrate. Merry Christmas.”
Scrooge looks over his shoulder at the ghost.
The ghost of Christmas Future almost seems ashamed. “He is all I have left,” the ghost says. “He is my only future. I have done what I must. Please, Scrooge. Have you no kindness in your heart?”
“Bah,” says Scrooge. “And humbug.”
Timmy’s eyes focus. “And bless you, Mr. Scrooge,” he whispers.
Scrooge fires. The last heartbeat on Memoriam ends. There is only the electric ticking of Scrooge’s support systems and the cold, sepulchral essence of the ghost.
The ghost slumps, under its black robes. It looks defeated. “Ah, Scrooge,” it says.
Scrooge does not turn. “Memoriam died because of you,” he says. “Its people could think of nothing save future Christmases. You turned their thoughts to endless melancholy mourning and contemplation of the Christmases of their death. They bankrupted themselves building this tomb planet. Then they walked into their tombs to die. And that would have been the last Christmas on Memoriam, had not your brothers pitied you, and sent you slaves, to labor in your service until your black-robed Christmas claimed them. And I should show you kindness?”
“It does not matter,” says the ghost. “Timmy was the last slave they will send. I am dead weight to them. I am a future they no longer care for. And it seems that Memoriam has had its last Christmas. If the dead celebrate in their tombs, I do not know of it.”
“Talk,” he says.
“What do you want to know?”
“You’re right,” Scrooge says. “I don’t know the true meaning of Christmas. When I saw your vision of my sad and lonely death, I froze myself in the Christmas snow and had myself revived by trained Easter professionals in the 5th millennium of the world. Compound interest had been kind. I injected a symbiote into my brain to cure the black depression and malice that plagued me and replaced my frail body with powerful cyberware. In this fashion I have become the most powerful and effective hero alive; but I still do not understand what Christmas means. And I cannot develop a defense against it.”
The ghost sighs.
“I am as damned as Marley,” it says. “You shall have your answer, Scrooge.”
The ghost drifts to the wall. It touches buttons on a panel. A holographic display manifests.
“Christmas,” the ghost says, “is a secondary layer to the universe—a subspace, if you will. The Christmas universe overlaps our own, but in a folded and twisted fashion, so that point singularities that collapse the boundary between our universe and Christmas also form connections between distant places and times. It is the cheat code of our universe. It is the source of my power. On Earth, Christmas connections skewed several days past the solstice; on the Tinsel Planet, reality and Christmas interpenetrate like a sea of libidinous rabbits. Yet the most important location for Christmas is in the hearts and minds of men. That is why we hated you, Scrooge, and sought to destroy your mind—because you were closed to Christmas, its negation and antithesis, even as Little Timmy was its avatar.”
Scrooge smiles a little. “That’s all I needed to know,” he says.
“Then go, Scrooge,” the ghost says. “Leave me to the emptiness of a world without Christmas future.”
“You could make zombies,” Scrooge points out. “Build Christmas capacitators into their hearts, so that they would love tinsel and kindness as well as brains.”
“It seems unlikely,” says the ghost.
So Scrooge departs.