Scrooge 3000 is a short story, originally published in my short story collection LITTLE CREATURES. That collection is out of print now. Then I reprinted it in A HELL OF A JOB, which is also out of print. Short story collections are hard to keep in print because of the lack of sales. Please show your support and buy one of my collections at the end of the story.
“Scrooge 3000” was inspired by a dream. In my dream, Charles Dickens was in my office swigging down martinis and smoking a big cigar. He said to me, “Mike, I think you should take a character from one of my books and throw him into a science-fiction story of the far future.”
“That’s a great idea, Charles,” I said. “Still, tossing together such wildly different elements…. Will it work?”
“You’re questioning Dickens?” he said, taking another sip of his martini. “Trust me.”
So I did … and wrote this story.
By Michael McCarty
Mr. Scrooge looked down at the megalopolis from his three-hundredth-floor office window. From that high up, the city below looked like a Dali painting, skyscrapers melting into an endless sky.
“There are too many zeppelins these days,” the CEO of Scrooge Computers mused to his subordinate, Mr. Cratchett. “Of course, it’s the only decent way to get around in the sky-cities. I vaguely remember my great-great-grandfather once talking about an automobile… It was a funny story.”
“I can’t believe Wall Street will be closed tomorrow. I’ll lose so much money!”
“It’s Christmas, sir. They shut down to honor the holiday.”
“Do you want me to send some flowers to Mr. Marley’s funeral, the day after Christmas?”
“Certainly not! Mr. Marley bailed out of this company a long time ago. When the chips were down, he said, ‘I’m not shredding any evidence for a Senate subcommittee subpoena hearing.’ Bah! I don’t care if Mr. Marley was one of my biggest financial supporters at the beginning of this corporation. We revolutionized computers by having them built into the human skull. No more screens or monitors – just close your eyes and you can see everything! No more keyboards, just the glorious thought process. But Mr. Marley didn’t want to lie under oath – that was the last straw. The man was a traitor, pure and simple – a gutless, spineless traitor!”
“Do you mind if I leave a little early? I still have some Christmas shopping to do for my family,” Mr. Cratchett said.
“How’s the missus and your kid? What’s his name again?”
“Yeah, Tiny. That one-foot-tall clone of yours. Sorry you couldn’t afford a bigger one.”
“We love Tiny, all twelve wonderful inches of him.”
A zeppelin floated in front of the office window with the words Merry Christmas From Scrooge Computers flashing from the side of the airship.
The airship stopped at the eight-hundredth floor and Scrooge stepped off the vehicle and into his penthouse suite. He turned on his hologram cat, Toogles.
At one time, Toogles had been a real cat. Scrooge used to order his servants to feed him and change the kitty litter. When the cat started to want affection from the old man, he had the animal put to sleep and replaced with a three-dimensional feline replica.
“Hello, Toogles,” he mumbled.
The hologram tomcat meowed.
Scrooge looked through his telescope, adjusting the lenses he could make out his office 500 floors below. He poured himself some gin and turned on the Free-Vee.
Free-Vees had started out as a curio – a distant, promotional cousin to televisions. But with time, TV viewers ended up enjoying the commercials more than the programming, so the shows were abandoned and new one-hundred-inch curved 3-D screens were given away for free – all you had to do is watch the commercials.
Scrooge sat with his drink, watching ad after ad. He chuckled at a sexy one about a robot cocktail waitress trying to get frisky with an automatic vacuum cleaner.
The old man drifted off to sleep.
Suddenly he found himself staring at a black man wearing a red cap, a multi-colored satin shirt, Bermuda shorts and floppy sandals.
“Hello Scrooge. I’m Marley,” the man said in a thick Jamaican accent.
“You’re not Jacob Marley!” the old man cried.
“No, mon. I’m Bob Marley, the Ghost of Reggae Christmas.”
“I don’t know anyone named Bob Marley…”
“Jacob Marley was too busy, so he asked me to step in. If I can unite my country of Jamaica, then I can certainly help a fellow ghost. Besides this time of year is when we’re the busiest.”
“Christmas Spirits Union 312.”
“There must be a glitch in my computer programming,” Scrooge said, hitting the side of his head with his hand. “Maybe I need to have my hard drive adjusted.”
The ghost rolled his eyes.
“I just need a Phillips screwdriver–”
Bob Marley pulled a screwdriver out of thin air.
“How’d you do that?”
“We don’t have much time, you old fool. This is overtime and a holiday on top of that!” The ghost grabbed Scrooge by his vest and dragged him into the past.
Bob Marley and Scrooge rematerialized in a college dorm room. The walls were decked with 3-D posters of famous rich people of the past – Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Gates, and T.J. Hoy, the man who brought the airships to the megalopolis.
“My old dorm room in college,” Scrooge said.
Sitting at a desk was a teenage Scrooge counting a pile of money. “999,999,997 … 999,999,998 … 999,999,999 … one billion!”
“Ah, yes,” said the older Scrooge. “My first billion, and I was just a freshman in college.”
The ghost frowned. “My entire country of Jamaica didn’t have that kind of money, mon.”
“They must invest badly.”
“We didn’t come here to talk about finances. Look around, what do you see?”
“Money?” Scrooge said, confused.
Scrooge simply saw a younger version of himself, piles of money in high stacks, some books, posters, and a Free-Vee set. Finally he shrugged.
“You are alone, all alone!” the ghost cried. “And what lesson did we learn here today?”
“That it takes a long time to count to a billion?”
“No, mon! As The Beatles once observed, money can’t buy you love. You dig?”
“Dig? I’m not a laborer!” Scrooge said. “And what’s all this nonsense about talking insects?”
Scrooge and the ghost of Bob Marley materialized on an enormous airship. The only passenger to be seen was a middle-aged version of Scrooge, lying on a hammock and scanning speculative stock options.
“I remember the day well!” Scrooge said to the reggae ghost. “It was my twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of creating Scrooge Computers. I rented an airship and took a voyage from New York City II to New Seattle. I think the ship was called the Air-Titanic – but it didn’t run into any icebergs.”
“A celebration? Then how come you’re the only one on the ship, mon?”
“What, and give those lollygaggers a paid day off? Never!” Scrooge said angrily. “Besides, it was my party – and as you can see, the guest list was perfect!”
Marley shook his head. “Alone as always.”
Next, Bob Marley’s ghost and Scrooge materialized in front of a monstrous skyscraper.
“Where are we now?” Scrooge said, confused. “All this zipping around is giving me a sick headache.”
“The future headquarters of Scrooge Computers. You end up buying the state of Rhode Island and using it as the foundation of the world’s greatest skyscraper.”
“Sounds like something I’d do!” Scrooge said. “Except maybe the Rhode Island part. I never really cared that much for that state. It must have been on sale.”
“Look at the side of the building, mon.” The ghost pointed to a bas-relief, bronze mural depicting a scrawny old man seated on a throne, surrounded by piles of money and rows of computers. “Your body is entombed in the side of this building, just under your metal image.”
“How delightful! Such a nice big tombstone!” Scrooge looked up. “Why, I bet you can see this building from Mars….”
“Don’t you see, mon? Even in death, Scrooge, you are alone. All alone!” A single tear rolled down the ghost’s cheek. “Now I suppose I should take you back, so you can change your life, you sad, lonely, pathetic, skinny-assed bastard. Have you learned your lesson yet, mon?”
“Yes, I have: the one with the most toys wins! And I’ve won!” Scrooge performed a victory dance that resembled a praying mantis having an epileptic seizure. “Yes, I want to go back and work harder, so I can make more money and buy a bigger state than Rhode Island!”
“No, mon! That isn’t what you’re suppose to learn–”
“However, I didn’t like that part about dying!”
“Ah! Now, mon, you’re starting to see the light.”
“Yes, I will have to do something about that.”
One week later, Scrooge was busy in his penthouse suite. He had been working, constantly working, ever since Bob Marley had dropped him off after their Christmas travels.
“Happy New Year, mon!” the ghost of Bob Marley said as he reappeared in Scrooge’s living room.
“Ah! You’ve returned,” Scrooge said. “I’m so glad you showed me my future. I’m going to change it for the better!”
“That is good, mon!”
“I’m not going to die now.” Scrooge hit a silver button on a remote control clutched in his bony hand. A sturdy stainless-steel cyborg marched into the room. “As soon as this old carcass of mine passes away, I’m going to have my brain implanted in this indestructible metal body – and I will live forever!”
Scrooge paused, gazing out the window at the falling snow, and then said softly, “God bless the rich – and Bah, humbug! to the poor.”
Michael McCarty Short Story Collections:
Available Amazon, Barnes & Noble or could be ordered at your favorite book store:
DARK DUETS by Michael McCarty (Wildside Press)
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FIENDS by Michael McCarty (Wildside Press)
DRACULA TRANSFORMED & OTHER BLOODTHIRSTY TALES by Mark McLaughlin & Michael McCarty (Wildside Press)