A Final Meeting

By Brent King On November 30, 2015 Under Short Stories

beautiful-cemetery-fog-gothic-graves-graveyard-Favim.com-90568Ragged leaves shifted and gathered against the tombstone. The last glow of evening highlighted the script:

Ebenezer Scrooge

My father laid his arm across my shoulder and squeezed. “It’s nice they got it here so soon. It’s a fitting tombstone Tim, for a great man.”

“I’ll be along soon,” I said.

Dad disappeared through a host of headstones, silhouetted against the western glow. I squinted through the twilight, shivered, and pulled deeper into my overcoat.

I cocked my head. What was that? It came to me across the hills, distinct and drawing nearer on the evening air: the rattle of chains.

“Timotheeee Craaaaatchit…”

An unearthly voice drifted toward me across the monuments. I stepped back toward a holly tree, as if it could protect me.

“Jacob?” A whisper is all that escaped me, and a chill spread through my heart, the same chill that must have gripped Uncle’s long ago.

“At least you believe in me…” The phantom floated nearer, between crypt and cenotaph. Its death-cold eyes bored through me as it settled on Uncle’s headstone.

I nodded, scarcely believing my eyes. Jacob stared straight through me, and I shuddered.

“Just a week it’s been,” I said, “since Uncle’s death.” I mustered all my courage. “I’ve heard your story many times, but how…I mean…why do you still walk the earth, and why have you come to me, here upon his last remains?”

“You know.” Jacob Marley’s hair wafted in a surreal dance, and his voice troubled my bones. “I’m here at Ebenezer’s dying behest. I’m here at last for comfort.”

“Comfort?” I scrutinized the apparition as it loosened the kerchief bound about it head and chin. “It was for my comfort that you came to Uncle all those years ago. Why come again?”

“To see you Tiny Tim, the sacred consequence of Ebenezer’s transformation, the chance of my procuring.” Marley beckoned me. “Yes, now at last I’ve come for comfort, my comfort. Come closer.”

I ventured near the specter.

A smile crept to the corners of Jacob’s mouth. “All these years of traveling—with no rest, no peace, and incessant torture of remorse. All the endless miles, and now I’ve come at last to peace.”

The spirit’s shadowy hand touched mine. To my surprise, I felt it.

It trembled. “That night, so long ago, I was given another chance. My response was much like Ebenezer’s. ‘Go and redeem some more promising man.’ Yet I stretched for strength beyond despair and found your uncle waiting there.”

“I’m glad you did,” I said. “The Christmas spirits changed his heart, and changed so much more—including me.”

Jacob gripped my hand. “You didn’t need change like we did.”

“I’m not so sure,” I said, my spirit trembling. “If Uncle taught me anything, it’s that we all need redemption.”

Marley gazed at me, and there was no more torment etched upon his face. “It was your uncle’s reclamation that brought my future hope, and you’re the proof of that…”

Marley’s hand slipped from mine and he sank, like a shifting fog, toward the place of Uncle’s last repose. “Farewell,” he said. “I shall rest at last, in perfect peace, until that final day.”

The tomb received the spirit, and just before his last remains withdrew beneath the deep, I fell upon my knees and cried, “Bless you Jacob Marley! You’ve made us all so happy!”

I sat back as Jacob Marley’s shackles, flung about the churchyard, dissolved one by one and left me gaping in the night. The fading light still lit the name upon stone before me:

Ebenezer Scrooge

I lingered, peering through the dusk, and just below its script it seemed I saw another name:

Jacob Marley

Maybe Jacob heard me as my eyes filled up with tears. Maybe he did not.

“Rest in peace dear Jacob, Uncle’s friend. It’s a fitting tombstone indeed,”—I whispered as I left—“for a great man.”

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