A Questmas Carol
Tommy was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
After years of maintaining his withered heart through dark arts, Tommy’s body one day crumbled into a small pool of useless sludge.
His fashion empire, a tower built on tasteless hats, was left in full to his co-conspirator, one Evenezer Scrooge.
“Bah, humbug [Ugh, whatever?],” Scrooge let out, as a tall strand of black hair fell over his face. “Questmas is the worst time of year.”
“I think it’s rather nice, sir!” Jesse Cratchit chimed in. “It’s a time to go out on adventures and bring back Numenera for those who aren’t so fortunate.”
“Are there no Gendarme positions? Are there no piPod stands!?”
“We-well yes sir, but…” Jesse’s voice trailed off.
Jesse shuffled in their chair, summoning the courage to gather their coat. After a moment, the small squeaks of a moving chair were interrupted by Evenezer’s grumbling.
“Ugh. What are you doing, Cratchit?”
“It’s the end of the work day, sir,” Jesse pointed to a large ticking clock in the corner.
Evenezer eyed the archaic machine for a moment, and pretended to understand what it said.
He relented, “Yeah, okay, whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“But tomorrow’s Questmas, sir!” “And?”
“And, well, I promised Mr. Mako and Ms. Mauve I’d go out adventuring with them! Tiny Joe was really excited to go adventuring with you, too.”
Evenezer’s nostrils flared at the mention of Joe. More strands of hair fell on top of his face, and his shoulders scrunched upwards.
“Fine, I guess! Just be here on time the morning after.”
“Thank you, thank you, sir! Merry Questmas!”
II. A Ghastly Visit
Evenezer walked through the silent streets of Fasten at night. Not a soul could be seen, heard, or smelt.
After a brisk stroll (made longer by the lack of any streetlight), Evenezer found the way home; it was the largest wooden structure in the whole town, with only small amounts of hay left behind by its former residents.
The door groaned as Evenezer made his way inside, wind whipping at his heels. The chill was good; it would make his bed feel even warmer. However, as Everett drifted off to sleep, he felt a dampness on his foot, and he opened his eyes to a horrifying vision.
It couldn’t have been Tommy Funbuck. Tommy was dead. Dead as a doornail. And yet here, in front of Evenezer, that puddle had reformed itself into a projection of his former partner.
The projection spoke. “Hey, it’s me, Tommy Funbuck!”
Evenezer rolled his eyes, although he could not tell if it was from instinct or fear. “What do you want, Tommy?”
“Hope you have fun in my casino! Check out the hotel and win some cash, cash, cash! Spend it SYSTEM REBOOTING. … … ….. PLAYING QuestmasSpirits.wav.”
Tommy’s voice changed. It was deeper and more menacing than Evenezer had ever heard before. It bellowed, “EVENEZER SCROOGE! You have lived your life with a hatred of Questmas and a disdain for everything fun and wholesome!”
“Not everything. Just everything that I know about. It’s different.”
“To prevent you from growing into a stodgy old codger, you will be visited thrice by spirits representing Questmas Past, Present, and Future! Only then will you understand the true value of Questmas! FILE STOPPED.”
And with that, Tommy returned again to the puddle he once was, and Evenezer turned in his bed.
It was probably just the calzune he ate for dinner.
III. A Hop, Skip, and Jump into the Past
The bell in the town’s center chimed, and, just as Tommy had promised, a spectral form manifested in the doorway of Evenezer’s room. He was slouched and dusty, with a wide-brimmed hat covering both of his eyes.
Fear struck Evenezer’s heart. “Are you the Ghost of Questmas Past?”
"Hop's fine," the spirit replied.
“I-I-I don’t think I really want to do this, spirit.”
The spirit insisted, "No really, my name is Hop. Come on, I’m gonna show you your past."
The Ghost of Questmas Past led Evenezer to the doorway through which he came, and suddenly the quiet night of Fasten gave way to a hot summer’s day. Around the pair of travelers was a bare town filled with houses of transparent glass. In front of them, a crowd of schoolchildren were assembled around a rotting wooden stage.
Evenezer scoffed. “I’ve never even been here.”
“Can you just - can you just try for one second!? There’s only you and me here, this has to be your memoh no.” A ghastly look fell upon the spirit’s face.
Evenezer followed the spirit’s gaze towards two children. The boy, wearing a fashionable nightcap, was dorkily grinning at a confident girl standing in roller blades and hiding a shard of ice behind her back. When Evenezer looked back, the spirit was sitting on the ground, a glass of scotch clutched in his left hand.
Evenezer sat down next to the sad man.
“God, what a crummy holiday,” the spirit grumbled in acknowledgement.
The two sat in silence together for one moment.
Then a second.
Then a third.
Eventually, Evenezer eeked out, “So uh, I don’t like, really care, but aren’t you supposed to be teaching me about the value of Questmas or something like that?”
The spirit continued to stare forward, motionless. He raised the scotch to his lips. “Yes.”
And not another word was spoken between the two.
IV. The Ghosts of Questmas Presents
"Evenezer Scrooge, what is the point of the tree?"
The Ghosts of Questmas Present looked at Evenezer expectantly. Shortly after he had excused himself from The Ghost of Questmas Past’s company, Evenezer had found himself confronted by two spirits who break so easily. One wore dark blue robes and displayed an inquisitiveness that Evenezer would have found disquieting, were it not so completely dwarfed by the boundless curiosity exhibited by the other, a colossal android who quickly pulled Everett out onto Fasten’s streets in pursuit of “finding all of the human things.”
“M.I.S.H.A. J.A.R.V.I.S., I think this tree might be a way to get food during the winter, since so many plants die around this time,” the robed spirit confidently explained. “Oh,” the android’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. “I see.”
“Bu-but I’m sure there’s a version for androids, too! Maybe that star is meant to be a power source!” The spirit put one hand on the android’s shoulder and used his other to point to a brightly glowing star resting on top of the tree.
“I do believe that you are correct! But how am I supposed to get the energy? Perhaps I can reach it with my bat.”
To Evenezer’s horror, the android pulled out a large bat filled with a haphazard assortment of rusting nails and started to poke at the star on top of the tree.
Evenezer burst out, “No!”
“What is wrong, An Individual? Is there a different way to get the star from the tree?”
“Ugh, no, you’re not-you’re not supposed to take the star off of the tree.”
The android frowned, and their brow furrowed over a red eye (the other eye was covered by a green piece of paper, as “green and red are the customary Questmas colors.”) “But how am I supposed to obtain the nutrition?”
“You don’t use the tree for food. It’s like, supposed to be something you gather around, and the star helps everyone find it. Then we all share presents from under the tree.”
The robed spirit piped in, “Wait, then if you don’t eat from it, why do you all go to the tree? I wasn't able to find any Numenera on it.” He started to poke at the many lights wrapped around the tree.
“And what is this ‘present’ you speak of?” the android added.
“Wait you-you guys grew up without presents, too?”
A few hours later, Evenezer leaned forward in stressful anticipation, as he watched the Ghosts of Questmas Present open two boxes covered by wads of dact-taped paper. Simultaneously, they reached in and pulled out two fuzzy sweaters.
The android stared at their sweater with curiosity, their hand rubbing across it. “I have not felt anything like this before, An Individual. It is scratching my exterior, but not in a painful way. Thank you very much for this ‘present.’”
The other spirit beamed. “It’s absolutely hideous!”
V. The Hauntings Become Spooky
Evenezer settled into his bed and let out a contented sigh. One spirit had done absolutely nothing, and the second pair had received their first ever presents. Perhaps this night wouldn’t be so bad after all. But as Fasten’s bells chimed, Evenezer’s mind was struck with a realization. If Hop was the Ghost of Questmas Past, and Xoc and Misha were the Ghosts of Questmas Present, then the Ghost of Questmas Future would be…
The last chime echoed through Evenezer’s chambers. It had long since passed when Everett’s ears finally stopped ringing, leaving behind a lonely silence.
A few seconds passed.
Then, in an instant, the doorframe burst into splinters as the door slammed to the ground, a small, angry woman surfing on top of it. Evenezer let out a terrified scream, but his pleas were overcome by the specter’s yelling.
“COME ON KID I GOTTA SHOW YOU HOW EVERYTHING IN YOUR LIFE IS GONNA GO WRONG.”
Evenezer sank to the ground. “Well, uh-uh… you can’t know that!”
The specter raised her eyebrows. “Trust me, I know.”
Evenzer was horrified by the things the specter told him, terrible visions we dare not repeat in full here.
His business would fail.
His hats would unravel.
And, worst of all, Jesse would spend every Questmas Adventure worrying about whether or not Evenezer was okay.
Evenezer turned away from the paper mache tombstone with the words “Propeller Beanie” etched on in parmanent marker, and he looked at the specter.
“Why show me this?” The boy choked out.
The specter stood silent for a second, then let its words out carefully. “If I’m gonna be honest, I don’t really know what’s going on here.”
“Am I really past all hope? Is Questmas really ruined for Je-Cratchit forever?” The specter shrugged. “What am I, some future seer?”
Evenezer’s vision grew damp and cloudy. The specter let out a tense breath, and then Evenezer felt a light hand hover over his shoulder.
“Listen, kid, you’re gonna be fine. I get it, holidays can suck, and it doesn’t fit the ‘cool dude’ aesthetic you’re going for, but… they suck a lot less if you’re doing them with folks you care about. Alright? Don’t-don’t do what I’ve been doing.”
Evenezer fell into the specter’s unintentional embrace.
“You promise?” “Everett, I can’t... Sure, yeah. I promise.”
The first slits of morning light warmed Evenezer’s cheeks, and he leapt out of bed. The spirits were right (except for Questmas Past, but he seemed to be working through a lot of stuff)! Questmas was a wonderful day! Evenezer skipped to his window and threw open the shades.
“You!” he shouted to a hapless passerby, “girl with the blue hair!”
“Oh, hi Everett! Have you seen Elee?”
Everett threw his entire bag of two shins to the girl, who dropped her book to grab it.
“I need you to go to the store and grab the biggest hat you can! And not a single one smaller!”
“Okay!” The girl ran off into the town square, not pausing to consider if Fasten even had a hat store and, if so, how she was to purchase “the biggest hat” with only two shins.
The first part of his plan put into motion, Evenezer rubbed his hands together and danced with excitement. Then, remembering himself, he planted his feet and scoffed at the silliness. Dancing in place? No, no.
He could much more easily hide his dancing while running to meet Jesse.
Evenezer crested the hill alongside the rising sun, and saw to his excitement Jesse, Mako, Mauve, and even Tiny Joe all waiting for him.
Mauve immediately started yelling in worry, “Everett, darling, where is your jacket? You’re going to catch an awful cold if you go out adventuring in your footies!”
“I got it!” Mako and Jesse simultaneously blurted out, as they each revealed parts of a complete winter outfit. Evenezer could see Mauve raise a knowing eyebrow to the pair, although he wasn’t sure what exactly they did to earn that expression.
“Are you ready to go, Mr. Evenezer Scrooge, sir?” Jesse Cratchit smiled.
Evenezer picked Tiny Joe up over his shoulders, before reaching out a hand for Jesse’s. “Bah, humbug!”
Jesse laughed. “That’s not what that means.”
And so Evenezer Scrooge learned not to love Questmas, but to love those he spent Questmas with. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Questmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Joe observed:
[Awkward thumbs up with an expressionless face]