Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, old Mark Scrooge sat busy in his office writing his ftm transition blog. It was very cold outside and in Scrooge’s office it was not much warmer either. Suddenly, a cheerful person entered the office. It was Scrooge’s partner, Will.

“A merry Christmas, Mark!” Will said.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug!” said the eager-faced Will. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “What’s Christmas time to you? You have to pay bills without money! You’re a year older but not an hour richer!”

When Will left, two gentlemen came in to collect money for the poor who had no place they could go. Stingy Scrooge, however, didn’t give the gentlemen any money, because they wouldn’t accept Paypal. When it was time to close the office, Scrooge talked to his clerk, Bob Scratchit.

“You want all day off tomorrow, don’t you?” said Scrooge.

“If that is okay, Sir,” answered the clerk.

“It’s not okay,” said Scrooge, “and it is not fair. After all, my YouTube stats will still need compiling. But if it must be, I want you to start work even earlier the following morning.”

Scratchit promised that he would; and the two went home.

Scrooge lived in an old house. The yard was very dark and scary that night and rather spooky, but Scrooge was not frightened easily. “Humbug,” he said, opened the door and walked in. He locked himself in, however, which he usually didn’t do. But then he felt safe again and sat down in front of his computer, powering it up whilst pondering on what to Tweet about his day.

Suddenly, Scrooge heard a noise, deep down below, as if somebody was dragging a heavy chain. The noise came nearer and nearer, and then Scrooge saw a frumpily dressed, but strangely familiar ghost coming right through the heavy door.

“Who are you?” said Scrooge.

“I am the ghost of your younger self, Markina Scroogetta.”

“But why do you come to me now?”

“I must wander through the world and I wear the chains because I was so unhappy in life. Three spirits will come to you. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one.”

When she had said these words, Scroogetta’s ghost disappeared; and the night became quiet again. Scrooge went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep immediately.

When Scrooge awoke, it was still very foggy and extremely cold, and there was no noise of people in the streets. Scroogetta’s ghost bothered him. He didn’t know whether it was a dream or not. Then he remembered that a spirit should visit him at one o’clock. So Scrooge decided to lie awake and wait to see what happens.

Suddenly, the clock struck one. Light flashed up in the room and a small hand drew back the curtains of his bed. Then Scrooge found himself face to face with the visitor. It was a strange figure – like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it.

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge asked the ghost.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. Rise and come with me.”

The ghost took Scrooge back in time, to a place where his younger self, Scroogetta, was a child. There Scrooge could see a sweet-natured girl reading books, playing with friends and listening to music on a record player. Scrooge shook his head – those really were the Stone Ages before Kindle, Skype and Spotify. How had he made it through childhood – no wonder he was so messed up these days.

The spirit also took Scrooge to a University, where Scroogetta was a student. Scrooge saw the merry times they spent in the student bar. There was drink and music and dancing and Scrooge could see Scroogetta spending the night before essays were due in drinking copious amounts of Thunderbird and typing up her work on a twin-floppy machine. The thought of those days before available Internet made him shudder. “THIS is why I’m so mean”, he thought to himself before the Ghost of Christmas Past led him onwards.

Then the spirit took Scrooge to yet another place. Scroogetta was older now. She was not alone, but sat by the side of a wholesome young husband.

“It is sad to see,” he said, softly. “that another love has displaced me – the love of The Sims. I think it is better for us to part.”

“Spirit,” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “Take me back! I cannot bear it any longer. Stop rubbing all these memories of my broken past in my face!”

He struggled with the ghost to take him back. And finally Scrooge found himself in his own bed again. He was very exhausted and sank into a heavy sleep.

Scrooge woke up in the middle of a snore, just before the clock struck one again. He sat up in his bed and waited for the second ghost to come. And there it was – the Ghost of Christmas Present. It had curly brown hair, sparkling eyes and it wore a simple green robe with white fur, endorsed with the logo ‘iGhosts’. Its feet were bare and on its head it wore a holly wreath with a single green apple on the crown, one bite missing.

The ghost took Scrooge to Bob Scratchit’s house. In the kitchen you could see Mrs Scratchit preparing Christmas dinner. Her children were cheerfully sitting playing Gears of War on the Xbox. Then the door opened and Bob Scratchit came in with Tiny Tim upon his shoulders. Tiny Tim was Bob Scratchit’s youngest son. He bore a little crutch and had an iron frame around his limbs. He stared intently at the screen of his mobile phone.

“Come away from Facebook for a while, Tiny Tim”, said Scratchit, “You’re starting to remind me of Mr Scrooge”.

“In a minute, Dad, I’m just poking some hot girl in America.”

“Ok, Tim, but no Angry Birds while you’re at the table. And kids?” he called to the other children, “You’d better not be playing that on my profile!”

Then Christmas dinner was ready, and everyone sat down at the table. As the Scratchits were very poor, it was not much they had for Christmas dinner. But still everyone was joyful and you could feel that they all had the Christmas Spirit in their hearts.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present visited many homes in many places: they saw sick people who were cheerful; couples whose love spanned the miles, poor people who felt rich that day – all because of the Christmas Spirit.

“Maybe,” thought Scrooge, “Just maybe, Christmas Spirit is more important than all the technology that I thought I couldn’t live without?”

The bell struck twelve. The Ghost of Christmas Present disappeared. And at the last stroke of the bell, Scrooge saw the third ghost coming towards him.

Slowly and silently the ghost came nearer. It was very tall and wore a deep black piece of clothing, which covered its whole body and left nothing of it visible but one outstretched hand.

“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” asked Scrooge, “I fear you more than any other spirit.”

The ghost did not say a word, and Scrooge was really scared. They wandered through the city and Scrooge heard some men talking about a massive Facebook server meltdown. Scrooge felt a pain in his guts and wanted to find out what they were talking about. But the ghost moved on, and Scrooge thought once more of the Christmas Spirit.

After that, the ghost led Scrooge through streets that were familiar to him; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Scratchit’s house and found the mother and the children by the fire. Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Scratchits were as still as statues. When Bob Scratchit came in, the children hurried to greet him. Then the two young Scratchits got upon his knees and laid their little cheeks against his face and said, “It’s the Red Ring Of Death, father. What shall we do?”

The ghost moved on and took Scrooge to the window of his office. The spirit stood and solemnly pointed to a dark hunched figure sat at the desk. Scrooge slowly went towards the window, and following the ghost’s finger saw himself, weeping incoherently, clawing at a computer screen that read only “Application returned no data. This may be expected or represent a connectivity error.”

“Spirit!” Scrooge cried, “hear me. I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must have been so far! Why show me this if I am past all hope? Good Spirit, I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year, rather than spend all my time online! I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall be within me. I will not ignore the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me that I may change my fate!”

Full of fear, Scrooge caught the spirit’s hand. But the spirit suddenly changed – it shrunk and faded and finally turned into a bedpost.

Yes! And the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, and he could make the best of it. Scrooge immediately hurried over to his PC to write a blogpost about his experiences, or at least post a Facebook update, then stopped himself.

“I will live in the past, the present, and the future.” Scrooge repeated, walking away from the computer without turning it on. “I don’t know what to do! I am as happy as an angel! I don’t know what day of the month it is. I don’t know how long I’ve been among the spirits. Hallo! Hallo there!”

He ran to the window, opened it, and put out his head.

“What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“Today?” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day! Are you mental?”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it! The spirits have done it all in one night. Hallo, my fine fellow! Do you know the Wholefoods at the corner? And do you know whether they’ve sold the big tofu log that was hanging up there?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy. “It’s still hanging there now.”

“Is it!” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it! I am in earnest. Go and buy it and come back with the man that I may give them the direction where to take it. I’ll give you £50 for it. Come back with the man in less than five minutes and I’ll give you a copy of the X factor winners album!”

The boy was off like a shot, returning briefly only once as the tofu log was £85.

“I’ll send it to Bob Scratchit,” whispered Scrooge cheerfully. “It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim.”

Scrooge then went to church, which had been turned into a beautiful art gallery, and looked at the pictures for a while, then walked through the streets, and watched the people. He had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness.

But Scrooge was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only catch Bob Scratchit coming late. And he did it; yes, he did. Bob was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come in.

“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his usual way. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day? I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, jumping from his stool, “and therefore I am about to raise your salary. A merry Christmas, Bob.”

“Well actually, Mr Scrooge, I just came in today to hand in my notice. PC World is looking for staff, pays much better than you, and frankly I’ve always hated this job. Sorry, mate.”

Scrooge was shocked. “But what about that wonderful tofu log I sent you?”

“Mrs Scratchit sold that on eBay last night. We bought an Iceland Prawn Ring, and the rest of the money’s going towards the new Xbox. Cheers, anyway. See you.” And at that Bob Scratchit left Scrooge’s life for good.

But despite all of these setbacks, good reader, did Mark Scrooge become a better person? Did he learn that Christmas Spirit was far more important than social networking? You will have to decide for yourselves, by reading his future blogposts, viewing his YouTube videos, or catching him on Facebook.

Merry Christmas, one and all, wherever you and your loved ones are.

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