The evening waned into a dark foggy night such as the White City had never experienced before. A large house stood on the corner of a dark street, ominous and threatening any who dared to pass. A creaky iron fence surrounded the premises, covered with twisted dying vines. The gate screamed in protest when Sarumezer opened it, the sound echoing deafeningly against the stone silence of the streets. This was his house, a house as dark and empty as the heart in Sarumezer’s withering being.
It was so dark, Sarumezer had to grope with his staff to make his way to the door. The mist wrapped itself around the house like many silver translucent serpents. They bit Sarumezer on his face and nose with their icy fangs as if they personally despised him.
Sarumezer paid no attention. He was hard and sharp as flint and liked the cold even if it didn’t like him. As Sarumezer reached in his pocket for his house keys, it was then he happened to glance up at the brass door knocker hanging above him. Before his astonished eyes, the knocker melted into a new shape, the face of a spectre.
“Marley!” Sarumezer wailed, stumbling backwards with fear. “Gandalf Marley! Dead these seven years!” He covered his eyes with shaking hands, dropping his staff. “Go away! Go away!”
A couple of eerie seconds passed. When Sarumezer dared to uncover his eyes, the knocker had shifted back to normal. He chuckled to himself as he picked up his staff. “Just my imagination. Ghosts. What a bunch of orcbug!”
But the incident at the door made Sarumezer wary. He searched his rooms by the magical glow of his staff for he was too cheap to pay the monthly electric bill. When he came up with nothing, he breathed a sigh of relief, cursed himself for his childish fantasies, and changed into his nightrobes. As he sat by the fire in his bedroom, eating his nightly meal of soggy porridge and moldy bread, Sarumezer nearly chocked when he thought he saw a pair of eyes staring at him from the flames. He closed his eyes, then looked again.
The image was gone.
“It’s the gruel,” he said to himself, placing the tray of food on the table beside him. He crawled into bed and sunk into a troubled sleep.
A wind blew into the bedroom and consumed the fire, drowning the room into darkness. The cold seeped into Sarumezer’s mind and he shivered under the blankets.
Then came the dreadful sound of rattling chains clanking against the ground as someone ascended the stairs. Sarumezer awoke with a start, cold sweat pouring down his face. “Who’s there?” he called, lifting his staff. “Show yourself or I shall blast you to smithereens!”
A faint blue glow appeared in the room, and a figure emerged forth from it. The figure was as blue as the glow. Sarumezer could see the figure was a wizard but he looked incredibly aged. Chains, locks, and money boxes were wrapped around the body that sagged beneath the weight. And yet, Sarumezer could see through the figure.
“Do I know you?” Sarumezer growled.
“In life I was your partner,” the phantom moaned, “Gandalf Marley.”
“Marley has been dead for seven years!” Sarumezer shot back. “I say, bah, orcbug!”
Gandalf raised a wispy brow. “Orcbug? I liked ‘humbug’ a lot better.”
“Get over it,” Sarumezer retorted.
Gandalf sighed. “So, you don’t believe in me, then?”
Gandalf gave a great shout and Sarumezer quivered in fright. “Mercy! Mercy!” he wailed.
“Do you believe in me or not?” Gandalf demanded.
“Yes, dear Gandalf, I do!” Sarumezer exclaimed. “But I must inquire about the chains. Are those the chains you forged in life by your acts of greed and heartlessness?”
“No, I bear these chains because they are the fashion over the Sundering Seas,” Gandalf replied. “A little heavy, yes, but fashion has its price. Now enough talk. I’ve come to warn you, Sarumezer Scrooge. You still have time to repent. Tonight, you shall be haunted by three more spirits.”
“Uh…I think I’d rather not,” Sarumezer replied nervously.
“Without their visits you cannot hope to avoid forever watching episodes of Barney as payment for your crimes,” Gandalf moaned. “Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one.”
Sarumezer shivered. “Can’t I meet them all at once and get it over with?” he pleaded.
Gandalf shook his head and shrugged. “Sorry, that’s the way it has to be. The first ghost’s bedtime is at two, the second ghost doesn’t wake up until two, and the third ghost is the least hyper in the dead of night.” With a cry, Gandalf vanished into the glow, his voice echoing against the walls, “When the bell tolls one!”