Part: the Third and Concluding. (Read Part I)
In unnerving silence the Third Spirit approached Scrooge. It was clad in a shapeless hooded gown of the deepest black which covered its entire form leaving nothing visible but for one outstretched skeletal hand and occasional glimpses of a mouldering, grinning skull.
Scrooge fell to his knees. "Are you the Ghost of Commsmas Yet to Come?", he quavered. "Are you here to about to show me things that have not happened yet, but will happen later?" The skull nodded, once, and with a bony finger beckoned Scrooge to get to his feet and follow.
They materialised in the Stock Exchange where groups of screaming fellows dressed in multi-coloured jackets and speaking in tongues were yelling and shouting. "It's no use", someone bawled, "the Great Abacus Company is a busted flush. Bankrupt! Finished! The shares are worthless. What are we to do?". All the while and all around men were moaning, weeping, tearing at their hair and rending their bespoke loincloths in twain - a ghastly sight to be sure, but grist to the mill for the tailoring community and ecosystem.
All too soon the scene soon dissolved and Scrooge found himself standing with the Third Spirit at a meeting of something called "Receivers R'Us (Asset and Royalty Strippers Extraordinaire). "Hurrah!, chortled the Chairman of A.R.S.E., a grisly looking fellow with bolts through his neck, "it's an ill-wind that blows no-one good and, by following the British model we stand to make pretty penny from this by sacking all the workers on Christmas Eve and leaving the tax-paying public to pick up the cost of statutory redundancy payments and other administrative expenses. What a cracking wheeze."
That scene too quickly faded even as the Board of Directors of A.R.S.E. bayed their approval and delight and kissed their autographed photographs of the Arch Angel Gideon. And now Scrooge found himself transported to a seemingly endless district of narrow and foul-reeking alleyways crouching under an eternal churning covering of acid-yellow clouds.
This then was The Valley in years to come; a polluted slag heap of filthy rookeries and and grim hovels that were home to a diseased and benighted population of the unwashed, drunken, ugly and half-naked living in abject misery after, on Commsmas Day last, distraint had been levied on the only remaining coffee shop and the abandoned Segway showroom had mysteriously burned to the ground.
Even Scrooge was a bit taken aback. "But I know what these creatures are! They are consumers, subscribers, customers and suppliers. What has brought them to such an terrible pass?"
The Ghost of Commmsmas Yet To Come turned to Scrooge and, at last, in in a rasping, creaking voice that carried with it the sweet and foetid stench of Fat Danny's Organic Cheese and Chocolate Shop, it spoke.
"You", the creature groaned, "you did this Scrooge. Think on your misdeeds, enumerate them and tell them to me now. It is your last hope."
"O Spirit, I cannot", wheedled Scrooge, "for they are so many and so egregious. I shall be damning myself out of my own mouth if I speak out."
"You must tell me now or you will be doomed for all eternity", rejoined the Grinning Skull. "Start with your over-pricing and go on from there."
Wringing his hands, Scrooge reluctantly began. "Yes, there is the over-pricing, of course. Everyone knows that but there is also the built-in-obsolescence, the all-but-worthless warranties, the product lines discontinued without warning, the bug-riddled software, the structural lack of customer support, the patent law-suits and the under-the-table deals with other manufacturers to prevent the free movement of labour."
And yet there is more to tell", intoned the Spirit. "Yes, yes, I cannot deny it" quavered the wretched Scrooge, "there is the ceaseless lobbying, the contempt of regulation, the currying of favour with those in power, then there are the spin doctors and the bullying of suppliers, the misleading advertising, the dissembling and the general ducking and diving. I am so ashamed I cannot go on."
"There is no escape", moaned the the Ghost, "do you finally admit that the poor, deluded, deranged people you see before you have been have been crammed, slammed and wham-bam thank-you ma'am-ed into madness and misery by your business practices and overweening greed."
As Scrooge slowly nodded his head and grovelled at the Creature's feet, for one final time the scene shifted and Scrooge found himself standing in a dark and overgrown cemetery not far from Prunedale. Before him was a neglected grave, the headstone worn and blotched all over with leprous, wormy, lichen. He crept gingerly towards it and read upon the stone, "Here lies the final iteration of the Overpriced Abacus. Buried with a holly wood stake through its CPU to ensure it stays rotting underground where it belongs."
Below, in brackets, another line read. ("This erection was paid for by voluntary pubic subscription"). Obviously the stonemason had been overdoing the over-oaked chardonnay on the day he chiseled those so deeply meaningful words. (Roland Milk, the wine correspondent of the Sunnyvale Sentinel Independent Bugle Tribune had described the vintage as "A presumptuous little wine with just a hint of cosmic awareness"). The anonymous stonemason had proven that he was right.
Scrooge could take no more. He again fell to his muddy knees and clutching tightly at the Being's rotting robes he cried "Spirit! I swear I am not the man I was. Why show me this if I am past all hope of redemption? I will set things to rights. I will change. I will. I will, I will, I promise, I promise...
Even as Scrooge wailed and writhed in shame and fear he became dimly aware that the last vision had dissipated and that he was making his penitential promises to the pillows he was so obsessively kneading.
He realised he was back, safe and well in his master bedroom. It had all been a dream! He was alive! He was well, he was still rich and powerful! But the Spirits of Commsmas Yet To Come had not quite finished with Scrooge even yet and the mansion echoed with a last ghostly wail as the Spirit cried. "Stop it at once. Those aren't pillows."
Scrooge fell back in terror and for some considerable period remained lying in a foetal position upon his bed sucking a dirty thumb that had, apparently, been left behind by the departing Spirit Of Commsmas Yet t To Come. Eventually, though, he began carefully to move. He felt his limbs, his face, his hair. He looked in the mirror. He was uninjured. He ran over to the window and throwing it open he put out his head. It was a glorious morning. Blue sky, no fog, no pervasive atmosphere dirt and poverty and despair but sweet fresh air and golden sunlight abounding.
Quickly dragging over to the window and standing atop of one of his set of antique Vuitton packing cases that he had picked up for a song from a financially embarrassed New York chanteuse, Scrooge could just see over the top of the razor wire and down on to his neighbour's 18-hole golf course where a small man with a leaf-blower was hard at work.
"Hallo there, my good fellow", shouted Scrooge. "What day is this". "Que?", answered the gardener. Scrooge changed tack. ¿Qué día es hoy?" he bawled. "Es el dia de Commsmas", came the reply. "Wonderful", said Scrooge. "It's Commsmas Day. I haven't missed it after all. The Spirits have done it all in one night."
Scrooge, stopping only to take a huge bundle of hundred dollar notes from the floor safe, capered down the avenue of pleached lime trees to his front gate. A small lad on a skateboard was scooting past and Scrooge called out to him, "Hello there young feller-me-lad, do you know the Walmart down at the Mall?" The skateboarder nodded, suspiciously. "What a remarkable and intelligent youth", gushed Scrooge. "Do you know if they still have that top-of-the-range abacus in the window." The lad nodded again.
"Here, my fine fellow", said Scrooge, "take this money, hasten down there, buy me the device and bring it back here within the hour and there'll be a sawbuck in it for you." The skateboarder took the proffered cash and adjusting his billed cap with the propellor on the top to a particularly rakish angle he scooted quickly away into the distance.
Scrooge waited and waited for his return. By the time the sun set it was evident that the boy on the board has done a runner with the cash and wouldn't be coming back with anything, ever.
Scrooge thought on this for a while and then said to himself, "Well, it is what I would have done. I have tried to turn over a new leaf and been spurned and diddled for my altruism. I have reviewed the situation and there'll be no transformation. That whole ghastly, ghostly experience was down to a surfeit of truffle oil. Bah, Humbug. Onwards and upwards".
He was early at the office next morning and was waiting, in considerable anticipation, when Pealy Scratchit eventually rolled-in to work, fully six and a half hours late, and festooned all around with monogrammed shopping bags.
"Scratchit. I observe that you have been to Rodeo Drive and have been shopping and carousing on the company time." said Scrooge. "Oh. yes Sir, I'm sorry, Sir", simpered Scratchit, "I am a little behind my time but it's only four or five times a week and after all, it is Commsmas." Scrooge leapt across the office, pulled his PA from the calfskin divan on which she was reclining and hurled her headlong into the street fracturing her elaborate coiffure into several parts as he did so. "That's a fine excuse for picking a man's pocket week-in-week out over all these", he growld, "you're fired."
Scrooge then quickly moved to outsource his operations to various tax-free havens around the globe and the Great Abacus Company went from strength-to-strength and grew to become the most valuable business the world had ever seen.
People in their millions queued up hill and down dale for days on end just to take out a mortgage to be able to purchase one of the Scrooge's devices, and if a couple of dozen of them were crushed to death or mutilated in frequent sales stampedes or hundreds committed suicide on learning that the latest abacus (the one with the with the go-faster titanium bearings and 27 carat gold rods) had sold out and that no new shipments would arrive for at least two weeks, most of the world's population people reckoned it was worth it
In the end Little Ben never did attain complete fluency in English and Pearly Scratchit failed miserably in her political ambitions. She failed even to become Mayor of Gilroy and was last heard of playing the maracas in a Jamiroquoi tribute band that once did a gig at the Last Chance Saloon, 1 Mobius Strip, Cupertino.
"Hurrah", said Scrooge.
"Gawd help us, everyone", said everyone else. How right they were.
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