Jacob had read too much Dickens as a child. Each Christmas he barely slept in the run up to the big day, worried that ghosts would come and haunt him at night. Even now he was in his 60s and nothing supernatural had even happened at the festive season, he still worried this might be the year they chose to visit him.
He tried his hardest to make his life and his home as least like Scrooge’s life and home as he could. He was good and benevolent, made sure his employees were well cared for and given adequate leave to spend holidays with their loved ones, and he took advantage of invitations extended to him. He lived in a modern penthouse apartment, operated out of a minimalist but warm office and had no curtains around his bed chamber.
But during his years on this Earth, Jacob still hadn’t met someone with whom to settle down and make his wife. It wasn’t that he had rebuffed any young ladies or even that he had misinterpreted anyone’s overtures. He simply hadn’t met anyone who wanted him and who he wanted in return. And this is what he feared would lead the spirits to his door one Christmas Eve night.
This Christmas, Jacob was as nervous as any previous year. With relief he greeted Christmas Eve itself as the final instalment of this year’s annual self-imposed torture. He planned, as usual, to stay awake all night long installed in his winged armchair in front of his faux-coal fire, with a woollen tartan rug about his legs and drinking tea from a flask. He would leave the main lights on and tune the television to an all-night channel with the noise turned up just a little too loud.
Jacob watched his television screen countdown the seconds and announce midnight as Christmas Eve turned into Day. Portentous times like midnight were the ones he feared the most. He muted the sound for a moment and listened. Outside he could hear merriment on the street, carols being sung and Merry Christmases being swapped by friends and strangers. But there was no sound of a ghost arriving, no clanking chain, no glowing lights and no hooded figures.
Jacob sat for two hours more, three hours, four, and began to feel perhaps his worst fears were not going to come true this Christmas. At 6.18am he heard a gentle but insistent knocking on the door to his balcony. It was inaccessible from anywhere but inside his own apartment. He decided to ignore it but it continued, louder this time. He could see nothing of outside through his curtains then he heard a swish and the curtains billowed into the room. Three shapes stepped out from behind the dark and into the room.
The first shape was willowy and white, the second huge and rosy, the third skinny and grey. Together they advanced on Jacob in his chair, stopping a few feet from him. They addressed him as one, two voices and a bony finger.
“You were right to expect us, Jacob. We have been planning a visit for many years and are sorry to have kept you. We had so many others to attend to, so many who needed us more than you.” Jacob was petrified, unable to speak and unable to look away.
“You do not need us to observe the Christmas spirit, Jacob. You are already a good man, a better man than most. You are already an example to man on how he should live well. But you lack just one thing Jacob. What is that?”
Jacob mouthed his reply but no sound left his lips.
“Yes, a wife and a child. You have no family to share your life and your love, do you Jacob?”
Jacob shook his head.
“And that is why we are here, Jacob. To take you to her. To take you to the woman who should have been your wife.”
The three spirits looked kinder now to Jacob. They glowed with a golden light from deep inside and when they held out their hands to Jacob, he went towards them without fear. Together the four figures walked through the open balcony door and outside.
“Where is she?” asked Jacob. “Where are we going?”
“Her father was a mean and violent man, Jacob. He beat her mother before she gave birth and the baby, your wife, only lived a few hours. She never grew up to live the life she had been destined for, so she never met you. You would have been together at university and inseparable ever after. You would both have been so happy. But we can take you to her tonight, Jacob. If you want to come with us.”
“I do,” he said. “Please take me there. I’ll come with you willingly.”
The three spirits took Jacob to the edge of his balcony and together the four of them walked off the side. The spirits hovered and Jacob plummeted six floors to the pavement below. Neighbours with children waking early for Christmas morning saw him fall past their windows, horrified that he must have fallen or worse, jumped.
As he landed Jacob felt his body and his spirit rip apart. His body lay broken on the floor but his own spirit rose to see the three spirits already waiting for him, accompanied by a beautiful young woman.
The spirits faded away and left them together. Jacob took her hand and smiling, they stepped around his earthly body and walked away.