I am excited about my next writing project, and I almost can’t wait to get it out to readers. I am currently working on the sixth chapter, and my outline seems to keep growing in length and breadth every time I sit down to write.
There is much more work for me to dot, and there will be much more to come. But for now, I will share the first chapter with you:
Before the Ghosts: A Christmas Carol Love Story
My chains were already longer than Jacob’s, or so his spirit told me on that fateful Christmas Eve night. Like him, I had forged them myself link by link and yard by yard throughout a lifetime of selfishness and indifference to the suffering of others. And so too had I been damned to carry those chains for eternity, wandering through the world among my fellow humans, both living and dead.
Jacob told me that no amount of regret after death can make up for the opportunities missed in life. And he sent ghosts to my bedside to show me the mistakes I was making in the past and the present and inspire me change my ways and be a better person in the future. He tried to bestow on me the wisdom that had been revealed to him after only he left the mortal world – that we must share our goodness and love with others and experience happiness and contentment in life before the opportunity to do so is gone.
I do not know what that visit cost Jacob in the afterlife, and I feared – I still do – that he was forced to suffer more in exchange for the chance to spare me. On that Christmas morning, when the last of the ghosts had left me and I knew that Jacob would not return, I vowed to make the changes he begged me to do. I would not allow Jacob’s suffering to be wasted. I assumed, since Jacob had made that immense effort to reach out to me, that my cause was not completely lost. It must be possible to undo some of the damage I had inflicted on the souls of others, as well as my own.
I made a promise – to him and to myself – to shorten the chains I would have to carry in the afterlife, not to ease my own eternal torture, but so that I could help alleviate some of Jacob’s burden. If my own chains were lessened, I could help Jacob carry his while I walk beside him throughout eternity.
But that Christmas was seven years ago, and my time is nearly up.
I am dying. I know that, and I do not fear it. Although the physical pain of this process is striking me in waves of sharp pangs that overwhelm what is left of my senses and cause me to stop breathing, albeit temporarily, until they pass. Despite the obviously failing state of my body and my willingness to succumb, I am finding myself unable to pass over to the world of the spirits.
But why? Why can I not simply die? I know it is there waiting for me, which is more than most anyone can say. I know I can not escape it.
Perhaps this suffering is further shorting my immortal chains. If that is so, then I will gladly endure this bodily agony until death finally takes me. I hope that it is so, as there seems to be nothing I can do to speed this inevitable death.
Curiously, my mind appears to be strengthening while my body is failing. I find that I can not quiet my thoughts, and my memories are coming visiting me in vivid detail. At times they are comforting, but then the next brings me pain that is even more palpable than the physical pangs. My mind seems to be sorting through these memories, attempting to make sense of my life that has spanned misery and happiness, selfishness and altruism, isolation and kinship, bitterness and love. Perhaps I need to make sense of the meaning of this life I’ve lived before I am allowed pass on to the next. Instead of resisting the onslaught of these memories, I should embrace them and recall, if not relive, the moments that define me. And so, surrendering to this apparently inescapable penance of remembering, I look back to the Past.