by D. Thorsson
The Spirit Temp Agency sends the Ghost of Christmas Past to the wrong era.
|Amelia emerged from the light pillar into a dim London alley and glided to the street. This didn't feel right. It didn't sound right. She wished she could smell, but only ghosts of utmost dedication and retraining after death ever achieve that state of non-being.
She glanced at her continuum positioning device. December 24, 1843, London, England, Earth. Amelia stepped from the alley and into the path of an electric tram. She sighed and waited for the inevitable swirling. It took a full three minutes for her to coalesce again. The time was in direct relation to the mass of whatever object passed through the ghost's ectoplasm.
Amelia sighed again. She noted she had been doing that a lot lately. She double-checked her device, Same date. She was at least in the right place. The architecture and the vehicles were correct for London. IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY!
The ghost floated through the streets periodically studying the street signs. She had no idea how the addresses worked here, but she was pretty good at figuring out patterns. She chose streets seemingly at random, yet she knew her subconscious was guiding her.
Amelia rounded a corner and blew straight through a drunk college student. For the tiniest fraction of a second her mind connected with the human's. Ghosts cannot read minds, but the occasional accident occurs and the two beings register something about the other. She knew she was precisely 169 years late, and that the young man was going to drink himself unconscious because his girlfriend dumped him on Christmas Eve.
And she knew she was heading to the city-center. It was not where her temp service sent her, but it was something she had always wanted to see, Trafalgar Square. Do they actually use real trees? By the time Amelia had been born the cutting of trees for mere decoration had been criminalized. All Christmas trees were artificial or made from recycled ashes.
She quickly glanced at her temporal device. She had been told that if she dallied too much she could miss her appointment. Even CPDs had to follow a given time stream. The countdown was still in the green zone.
The ghost followed the growing sound of revelers and brightening light. Suddenly it was only a few blocks away. She stopped and gazed. Never had Amelia Deckard seen such a wonder, in life nor in death. She slowly moved toward the huge tree, filled with lights. She was oblivious of the party-goers she passed through or the fearful looks one or two people cast her way.
It was said among mortals that ghosts cannot shed tears, but was a myth. Amelia burst into sobs. She didn't know if it was from joy of this 2012 or from being heart broken for her own era. She wiped her misty eyes and looked for the plaque. She found it on the other side of the evergreen.
This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.
She felt fresh tears welling up. It was one of her ancestors who had helped to cut the first tree in Norway in 1947.
“It's a beautiful thing isn't it”
Amelia turned to the old woman. “I never thought it would be so wonderful. er..How can you see me?”
“I'm an old woman. My family has a Christmas tradition. It's a bit morbid, but I see it's my time to carry it out.”
“When the first tree came across the sea there was an incident on the ship, the woman said. “My uncle on my father's side was a sailor returning home. He died of mysterious circumstances. His ghost appeared to his own uncle at this very site. The same new year's eve my great uncle passed over. Every Christmas Eve at this spot a ghost appears to a sick or elderly person, usually a relative, sometimes not. That person will then be taken on new year's eve.” She smiled at the young ghost. “Don't be sad, I've been waiting for you. I've had a good and long life. I'm ready.”
“But, that's not my assignment. I just work for a temp agency. I'm only here because I was sent to the wrong year.”
“That may be so, but I've never believed in coincidence, and I don't see any other ghost in this mob.”
Amelia's CPD began to beep. “Crap, I have to go. I'm so sorry.”
“Don't worry about me, child. I'll be fine. My name is Delores Melbourne. I hope to see you again.”
The ghost brushed her ephemeral hand across the woman's wrinkled cheek. “I'm Amelia Deckard. I promise to look for you.”
Amelia did some minor calculations and activated the positioning device.
She was hovering in the same place, but smelled heavy coal and smoke. She heard the clopping of horse-drawn coaches, and the first tree would not arrive for another 104 years. Amelia flitted to the address on her CPD. Apparently it had received a program upgrade because she now had a map.
A very irritated ghost was sitting on the stoop. He stood up in a clanking of heavy chains. “You're late,” he moaned. “Now I have to do your job too. I'm waiting for a disguise right now.”
“I'm sorry, Mr Marley. The CPD the temp service gave me sent me to the wrong century. It just now updated the coordinates. I can take care of this Ebenezer Scrooge guy.”
“You are to report to Spirit Resources.”
“Am I in trouble for messing this up?”
“No, you've gotten a permanent job. For your 'empathy and honor'.” You are to spend the next seven days in training.”
Amelia donned her Valkyrie uniform and checked her first “real” assignment on the CPD. She grinned from ear to ear. “Well, Delores, I hope you had a wonderful week.”