2014 Dickens Contest Finalist: “A Dead Man at Christmas”

The following is the third-place entry for our Second Annual Dickens Christmas Contest. The second-place entry will appear on Monday, December 22, and the winner will appear on Tuesday, December 23.

“A Dead Man at Christmas” by Matthew Wilson

Once upon a time–of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve–Charles Dickens sat busy in his house, desperately trying to come up with another story. His doctor advised rest after four books in as many years, but his daughter wanted a rocking horse. If Dickens made the office before early closing, his editor might let him have another £10 for an outline.

“Not now,” he moaned when someone knocked his attic door. The sign said do not disturb. “I’ll play with the children later, darling.” Writers worked, even on holidays.

“Don’t be such a misery,” said the dead man standing in the dimming candlelight of this grim day.

Dickens knocked his chair over as he stood in mortal fear. He’d gotten the house so cheap because of the ghost stories, he’d even used the tales as inspiration–but he’d never believed.

“I was a writer like you,” said the dead man with life in his eyes, “but much less successful than you before they laid me in a paupers grave that time destroyed and built this house upon.”

Dickens tried to swallow but gave up. “You have come to destroy me, sir?”

“No,” said the dead man, “I’ve seen you give your name to history as you scratch away on paper these many holidays, but not so much as a moment to your children at Christmas.”

“My characters feed my children,” Dickens said defiantly, but the dead man wasn’t convinced.

“Your Twists and Copperfields have their happy endings,” the dead man said. ”Put down the pen and spend time with your children. Neglecting my own was my greatest regret in life.”

Dickens found some strength in his voice as the dead man turned around and headed through the door.

“Wait. I will have your name, sir, if you are to float about my floors.”

“Scrooge,” said the corpse and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Dickens was freed from whatever freezing spell seeing the dead man had installed in him, and found that he could move again. His fertile imagination turned some gears and a smile came to his face.

“Scrooge? What a wonderful name,” he said, dreamily as he grabbed a coat and headed downstairs to the sweet laughter of his children.

There was a story there after all, rubbing his hands in excitement. He would let it percolate before heading out to tell his editor the wonderful news, and determined to spend the best Christmas ever with his family, threw a coin at a passing boy by his window and told him to fetch him a turkey.

The biggest one they had in the shop.

Matthew Wilson’s writing has appeared in such places as Horror Zine, Star*Line, Spellbound, Illumen, Apokrupha Press, and many more. He is currently editing his first novel. He can be found on Twitter @matthew94544267.

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