Wednesday, December 24, 2008

About "Ebenezer"

“Ebenezer” is I Saw Lightning Fall’s second 100-word Christmas story and hopefully the start of an Advent tradition. (You can read the first one, “Magi,” by clicking here.) I shamelessly stole the idea from the inimitable Neil Gaiman who recast Santa Claus as a horror-story victim in “Nicholas Was.”

Back in July, I knew I wanted to do something with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but the hook kept escaping me. Then about a month ago I was listening to an interview with former horror-writer Anne Rice, during which she specifically brought up the piece as an example of a wholesome gothic. “Three ghosts come to [Scrooge],” she said. “Four ghosts, if you count Marley.”

Four? Well, then, why not five?

Some notes for those who haven’t read the original in a while. The last paragraph of Dickens’ little novel reads, “He had no further intercourse with Spirits.” The appearance of Marley’s shade is heralded by “a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant's cellar.” Later, Scrooge beholds his former partner with a shackle coiled “about him like a tail; and it was made … of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” For his part, Marley says, “‘I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you? … Or would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

The dilemma my Scrooge faces is the same as ours. No matter how pure our current actions, we cannot undo the evils of our past. We cannot make all things new. That is the work of another.

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